This tread definitely looks promising. The siped side knobs are reminiscent of a Maxxis Minion DHF, and the lower profile centre tread that reminds us of a Specialized Purgatory, both of which are which are great tyres, so that’s a good starting point.
The tyre is tubeless ready of course. The sidewall recommends a minimum tubeless pressure of 29psi, which is much higher than we’d usually run, so we’ll see how that plays out.
What’s special about it?
The big selling point with this tyre lies in the compounding. There are four different rubber compounds used in the tread layup, to provide the right blend of support, protection and compliance, as well as the magic ingredient of graphene. Don’t worry, we had to Google it too. Most of what we read went over our heads, but the key point is that it’s super strong (200 time stronger than steel apparently) but also perfectly flexible.
So, nutshell here, the use of graphene apparently allows Vittoria to make a tyre that is durable and fast rolling but without resorting to using hard, inflexible rubber compounds to achieve that longevity. It’ll definitely be a good trick if it works as promised on the can! The compound certainly feels nice and malleable – let’s see how it likes a bit of punishment from Sydney sandstone.
We’re running the 29 x 2.3″, but there are options for 27.5 wheels as well, with a 2.3″ or whopping 2.8″ widths. Our tyres tip the scales at a reasonably heavy 935g, but they do have a pretty robust looking sidewall which bodes well for resistance to damage. Expect a full write up soon once we’ve logged some miles,
Saying the two words ‘carbon’ and ‘wheel’ would send your credit card running to hide under the couch, with brands like Reynolds, ENVE doing wheels around and above the $3K mark, yikes! Sure, there is carbon, and there is ‘carbon’, and there is also a myriad of lesser-known or even imitation brands selling wheels for under $1500.
The Line 30 are a $1698 pair of wheels for the trail/all-mountain/enduro segment, available in 27.5″ and 29″ in Boost hub spacing only.
Bontrager’s name is a very reputable one; they only do quality stuff, found primarily on Trek bikes. Though over the last few years we’ve seen products like their tyres, saddles, shoes, helmets and wheels become some of the best, and worthy to fit on any brand of bike. We doubt we’d have the same confidence with many other bike brand’s in-house componentry lines.
Cool, so they aren’t over the top expensive, and we dig Bontrager’s stuff. How did the wheels ride?
Stiff, very stiff. We fitted the Line 30s to our Norco Sight after an excellent term riding the Wheelworks Flite Wide Alloy wheels; a 35mm wide aluminium wheelset handbuilt in Wellington, NZ. The Wheelworks wheels felt great, they had a huge air volume and we relished in running lower tyre pressures for traction and feel. Swapping to the narrower profile Bontrager wheels which measure 29mm internally, the bike instantly felt less supple, but definitely more direct and laterally stiff.
The freehub in the rear wheel feels nice and solid with great engagement and a sophisticated sound of quality. We only serviced it once, and give the sealing and ease of serviceability two thumbs up. And after five months of hammering, they are straight and true, never requiring any attention with a spoke key to tension or straighten.
Stiff is good, right?
Well, yes, and no, the best wheels achieve a balance. We’ve ridden wheels that are too stiff that lack feel and compliance, and on the other hand, we’ve found plenty of wheels with underwhelming performance due to their lateral rigidity.
We’d say they the Bontragers are on the stiffer end of stiff-o-meter providing a very direct feeling when you move the bike around and jump hard on the cranks. Holding a straight line through a rock-strewn trail or sliding the wheels sideways with the rear brake on displayed a wheel with good feel and a nice balance of stiffness and compliance.
Rolling along the 1700g set of wheels feels light and fast, a worthy upgrade to add some speed to your steed, for sure.
Arrgh, the terror of the tubeless rim strips!
In our first impressions piece on the wheels, we praised the hard plastic tubeless rim strips. We expected them to be robust, removable without the need for sticking tape, and to provide a firm connection between the bead of the tyre for a strong bond between tyre and rim. But my-oh-my was that last part true. The tyre and rim strip practically glued together after three months of use, the Schwalbe Performance Nobby Nic and Magic Mary with a standard dose of Orange Seal tubeless sealant were stuck on the wheels, no matter how hard we tried.
We did find the thick plastic strips to make tyre installation a little tight, but it was the removal that had us swearing and bringing out unconventional techniques in an attempt to release the tyre’s bead from the inside of the rim strip. It broke us. We eventually (many failed attempts) broke the tyre away using a thin tyre lever, and have since removed the supplied strips and installed plain old tubeless rim tape, and we’ve not encountered any issue since. No rolling tyres off at low pressures, leaking air or anything. Maybe it was an unfortunate combination of Orange Seal sealant and Schwalbe tyres? We don’t know, but that’s just what happened.
Yay, or nay?
Our great experience with the Bontrager Line 30 wheels on the trail was a little marred by the tubeless strip saga; we can’t say the same for everybody experiencing what we did.
We like their understated appearance, stiff and precise feeling on the trail, the easy to service and well-sealed freehub and of course the impressive pricing, under $1700.
Want more specs, pricing and compatibility options?
What the hell? How can it ‘sort of’ stop punctures?
Whilst testing the Huck Norris, we did get one puncture, but we would’ve had a whole heap more had we not been running the system.
We did get one puncture, but we would’ve had a whole heap more had we not been running the system.
How do we know we would’ve had more punctures? Well, when we swapped the Huck Norris between wheelsets after one month of use, there were numerous dents, tears and punctures in the strip that indicated the tyre had bottomed out onto the rim, and that the Huck Norris took the blow as opposed the tyre’s bead or sidewall.
The second indicator for us was line choice. With Huck Norris on board, we could just be more reckless. Running our regular pressures with a set of trail tyres, we could take lines that would’ve have almost certainly been rim bending tyre deflators without the system.
So, where did we get a puncture?
The puncture we had was on a rocky downhill track, where we went full whack into some pretty nasty rocks. Keep in mind too, that we were using trail-weight tyres, not downhill tyres.
The one and only puncture occurred with a hole punched through the tread are of the tyre. When we removed the tyre we saw that the puncture had occurred directly above one of the holes in the Huck Norris strip (the strip isn’t solid, there are cutaways). Talk about bad luck!
As we mentioned before, the numerous dents and tears in the Huck Norris when we removed it proved it was doing its job most the time. But it’s not bullet proof flat protection if you hit something hard and it happens to line up with one of the strip’s holes, where there’s not a layer between the tyre and rim.
Did Huck Norris save our rims?
Much like preventing punctures, the Huck Norris does an admirable job of protecting your rims most the time. Running a set of Bontrager Line Elite 29” wheels, there were marks on the Huck Norris that did not correspond with a ding in the rim, indicating that the system has indeed protected the rim from a nasty impact from the trail.
One of the touted benefits of Huck Norris is that you can run lower pressures. This is true, but the lower you go, the more you tempt fate. Our test trails are very, very rocky, and so we ultimately decided to keep our pressures the same as normal but then relish in the fact that we could ride harder and faster with more confidence.
During the course of testing, we did get a couple of dents in our rim, but the impacts that caused them were very harsh, and we hate to think what would have happened without Huck Norris installed. At the minimum, we’d be looking at a flat tyre, at worst, a properly dinged up rim.
Does Huck Norris make inflating tubeless tyres easier?
It sure does! We inflated tyres with Huck Norris on five different occasions, and each time they went up with no fuss, including when we used a regular track pump. The pressure the Huck Norris places on the tyre does seem to force the tyre into the bead, and as we take lots of tyres on and off here at Flow, that attribute was greatly appreciated.
Is it easy to swap a Huck Norris between wheels?
Yep! Swapping the Huck Norris between wheels was very simple indeed. We covered the installation process in our First Bite, and the only difference when swapping a used Huck Norris into a new rim is to check for damage to the strip, and making sure you wipe down the strip to remove excess tubeless sealant, especially if you’ll be using a different brand of sealant than you used in the previous wheelset.
If my Huck Norris is damaged, will I need a new one?
Potentially. As you can see from our photos, after a month of regular riding our Huck Norris is already showing signs of wear, and some solid tears are emerging, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out to make sure it hasn’t torn completely, as if it does the system you’ll need a new strip.
Do you need more sealant than you would with a regular tubeless tyre?
Yes. The strip does absorb some sealant, so it’s probably wise to use about 1.5 times as much sealant as you regularly would.
This also means that you’re adding more weight to the system, so for us, the added system weight (with 1.5 times as much sealant and the Huck Norris) was about 280 grams. Not an insignificant amount, but if you’re riding hard, or racing enduro, then it’s an acceptable penalty for some much-needed added security.
So, is Huck Norris worth it?
Huck Norris is sold per wheel or in kits for both wheels. Prices start from around $49 per wheel or $89 for a kit, in both 27.5″ and 29″ size in size small, medium and large depending on rim width.
We think so, it’s not too much to fork out for about $89 for a whole lot of insurance. Despite the product not completely eradicating punctures, it does a pretty good job of stopping more than its fair share of them. Similarly, whilst the Huck Norris doesn’t keep your rims in showroom condition, we’d far prefer the added protection when your expensive rim is about to meet something immovable on the trail, usually at high speed.
Our only complaint about the Huck Norris would be the wear ours is showing already after only a month of use, but we’ve got plenty more riding in store aboard our Praxis Works wheels, so stay tuned for further updates!
Here at Flow, we’ve got one of these riders who works with us, and he’s an each way bet to get a puncture or damage a rim on every ride.
Other than the annoyance of having to stop, get tubeless sealant on everything and pump a tube up to flat-proof pressures, having a habit like this can be costly, both in terms of lost riding time and the dollars handed over for new rubber and rims.
Where are we going with this?
You’re probably wondering right now if this is a First Bite for a product or an opinion piece about how annoying getting flats is, so let’s jump into what instigated this rant in the first place.
This is one of those ‘why the hell didn’t someone make this earlier?’ kind of products.
Huck Norris is a very exciting product for anyone that runs tubeless and hates flats and dinged rims. Described as an ‘Anti-Flat Tubeless Protection System’, it utilises a closed cell foam insert that goes on the inside of your tyre and acts as a barrier between the tyre and your rim. Sounds pretty simple? It is! This is one of those ‘why the hell didn’t someone make this earlier?’ kind of products.
The foam is a fair bit thicker than your average yoga mat, and it springs back into place quickly upon impact- we mucked around whacking and stabbing it using things like forks and hammers before installing it into our tyres and we were pleasantly surprised with how sturdy it is.
What does Huck Norris do inside the tyre?
The benefit to having this additional layer between tyre and rim is when the tyre bottoms out onto the rim (as it tends to in reckless hucking situations, hence the name), the tyre won’t pinch against the rim and cause a flat.
The secondary benefit is that the offending rock, root or piece of usually immovable trail that’s caused your tyre to bottom out won’t ding or destruct your rim. It’s a rim-win situation!
How does the Huck Norris go on the trail?
We’re yet to give the Huck Norris a solid thrashing out on the trail, but if anyone is going to see whether Huck Norris allows you to run lower pressures without the risk of pinch flats and rim demolition, it’s our very own Destruction Dan here at Flow, so stay tuned.
What wheelsize options does it come in?
All of them! Huck Norris comes packaged in the 29” size, but to adapt the strips to 27.5” or 26” wheelsizes simply cut the inserts at the marked spots and strap them together with the attached Velcro- simple!
Huck Norris is also available in three different width sizes for different sized internal rim widths. See below for the available options:
Size S: 21-28mm internal rim width
Size M: 27-35mm internal rim width
Size L: 34-45mm internal rim width
As an added bonus, Huck Norris also comes packaged inside of a fender for your fork, a very inventive use of packaging indeed!
How do you install the Huck Norris?
The installation of the Huck Norris is pretty simple. If you’re putting the system into an existing wheel/tyre combination, you’ll need to take one side of the tyre off the rim and slip the Huck Norris in (you’ll have to cut it to size if you’re running 27.5” or 26” wheels).
Once the strip is pressed against the inside of the tyre, simply reinstall the tyre, add tubeless sealant (you’ll need to add a little more than usual as the strip will begin to absorb drips and drabs over time) and pump your tyre back up.
The inventors of Huck Norris claim that because the strip pushes the tyre outwards and therefore forces the bead into the side of the rim that only a track pump is required for installation, and in our experience this was the case, with our Bontrager tyres sealing up easily with a floor pump.
If you’re still struggling, or you just want to watch Huck Norris’ funky homemade installation tutorial, see below.
How much does it cost?
The Huck Norris retails for $99.95, which might seem a bit steep for what is essentially foam rubber, but if this system saves just one tyre or rim from destruction, it’s paid for itself already. If you’re rolling on an expensive set of carbon hoops, it would seem that Huck Norris is a total no-brainer – $99 seems like a very cheap insurance policy for a $2000 set of wheels!
Adding to this, Mountain Bikes Direct, who’re the exclusive distributors of Huck Norris in Australia are having a sale on Huck Norris products, making it an even more appealing purchase.
Where to now?
As we said at the outset, we have the perfect person in our team for testing the Huck Norris. He combines an apparent magnetism to solid objects on the trail with a fast riding style, and we’re looking forward to seeing if the system can hold up to the abuse he dishes out, so stay tuned!
Compared to almost every other product we test here at Flow, tubeless sealant only has a few performance indicators by which it can be judged, and often the less we have to say about sealant, the better it is. But (pardon the pun), what if they’re not actually all so similar after all?
Orange Seal aren’t a well know name in the Australian market yet, but that could all change considering the claimed benefits of their products over their competitors.
We’ve listed the key questions we ask ourselves about any sealant, followed by a description of how the Orange Seal offerings stack up.
How long does Orange Seal work for?
Across the board, most sealants claim to last for about 3-6 months before requiring replacement. Orange Seal differ here by offering two products in their line up- “Regular Sealant” and “Endurance Sealant”.
If, like we were, you’re a bit confused about what exactly would be different about the two sealants, see below for the word from Orange Seal:
“Orange Seal’s Endurance Sealant lasts 2-3 times longer, seals a little slower, and doesn’t seal quite as large a hole as regular sealant. Endurance Sealant is for the less technical rider looking for longer sealant time.”
“Orange Seal’s Regular Sealant is proven to seal large punctures up to 6.35mm. For riders that race, or check their tyres frequently, ride gnarly trails and want fast acting sealant.”
So, one lasts longer but apparently doesn’t seal as well, the other dries up faster but will hopefully seal a bigger hole. We’ve got to say, as riders who place a premium on reliability above all else, this Endurance Sealant better last a long time if it’s not going to seal holes up as effectively. Given how frequently we find ourselves changing tyres too, we might not be the exact target market. But if you’re the kind of rider who leaves their tyres on for 12 months at a time and doesn’t want to stuff about topping up sealant, it might be up your alley.
Despite being unnerved somewhat by Orange Seal’s disclaimer on their Endurance Sealant about its slower puncture sealing, we’re giving it the benefit of the doubt and currently testing it on several bikes, so keep an eye out for feedback in the near future.
The Regular Sealant, however, is a proven performer, and we’ve been using it in many of our demo bikes for some time now. Unlike other products, which dry up into a funky, snotlike ball after a few months, Orange Seal’s Regular Sealant remains in liquid form for many months, and has sealed some solid sized holes out on the trail. Check out the videos below to see the Regular Sealant in action.
2. How much sealant do I need to use?
Orange Seal recommend using between 90-120ml per 27.5” or 29” tyre, which is around what we would use with other products, regardless of the claims made by some manufacturers that you can use far less. Having the 118ml bottle with the injector makes installing the sealant very simple.
Can I top it up without unbeading the tyre?
Yes you can. One of the big benefits of the Orange Seal sealant is the very simple installation and top up system. The 118ml bottles come with an injector that attaches perfectly to the bottle and the valve with the valve core removed, allowing you to simple squeeze in the desired amount of sealant to your tyre without unbeading it, or to prepare the tyre for installation without the potential of spilling sealant all over yourself. The video below demonstrates the simplicity of the injector system.
What sizes does it come in?
Orange Seal (both Regular Sealant and Endurance Sealant) comes in a variety of sizes, from 118ml to 473ml (4-16 ounces). We would recommend buying the 118ml bottle with the injection system, and then buying the more economical larger bottles to refill the smaller bottle with.
Overall, we can strongly vouch for Orange Seal’s Regular Sealant as a solid performer in terms of installation, longevity and effectiveness at sealing punctures.
In terms of the Endurance Sealant, only time will tell if Orange Seal’s funky product description is simply a display of nerves after making the big claim of having a product that lasts twice as long as its competitors. Watch this space!
Coming from the automotive industry, this technology isn’t exactly new, but Dynaplug have adapted it for the purpose of tubeless mountain bike tyres, and we have a kit to review.
Before we wait for a puncture to happen or sacrifice a tyre to create one ourselves, let’s take a look at what it is, and what it does.
The Dynaplug Micro Pro is engineered to repair leaks in the tread and side wall of a tubeless mountain bike tyre. Using a sticky rubber plug on the end of a pointy insertion tube, you push it into a puncture hole and leave the rubber in place to block the hole and seal the tyre. Multiple plugs can be used, and in conjunction with tubeless sealant it’s sure to help loss of air and is said to be a permanent repair.
The repair plug, spare plugs and associated accessories are stowed inside a machined aluminium container.
The High Roller II and Minion SS are two popular treads from Maxxis. As the name implies, this is the second generation of High Roller. The Minion was the downhill tyre that was a serious ‘must-have’ for a number of years (cheers to Sam Hill for cementing its popularity), and the SS is a semi-slick version of the tread. It scores the same cornering knobs as the regular Minion DHF, just shaved down in the middle.
Compounds and construction details?
EXO is Maxxis’s lightweight sidewall reinforcement. 3C stands for triple compound, naturally. It’s soft on the sides (42a durometer), firmer in the centre and firmer still underneath, for good rolling speed and excellent grip. The Minion SS is dual compound, not 3C, which is why it’s a little cheaper too.
How do the weights and prices stack up?
Pretty well. Maxxis tend to be good value, and at $64.95 for the Minion SS and $79.95 for the High Roller II, they’re much cheaper than an equivalent from Schwalbe, and in line with what you’d pay for a Specialized or Bontrager tyre. Weights are quite reasonable, 850g for the High Roller and 773g for the Minion SS.
What bike did you fit these to?
Our Maxxis High Roller II / Minion SS combo has found a home on our Giant Trance test sled (the same bike we’ve been using to review Shimano’s SLX groupset).
This bike is going to play host to plenty of test parts, so we want a set of reliable tyres that are up to the job – we don’t want to be worrying about flats when we’re trying to concentrate on the performance of other products.
Will they fit my wheels?
Yes, you can get both of these tyres in 26, 27.5 and 29” versions. The Minion SS is 2.30” only, while the High Roller II comes in 2.30” plus 2.40” in the 27.5”diameter.
Mixing and matching:
On paper, these tyres looked like the perfect combo for this bike – we wanted something fast and whippy out back, to get a little loose, but with bite we could trust up front.
Mixing and matching tyres is nothing new, and we do it a lot. Other grippy front / rippy rear combos that we’re very fond of include the Schwalbe Rock Razor/Hans Dampf, the Specialized Slaughter/Butcher and the Bontrager XR3/XR4.
How have they gone?
They’re quick! We hoped these would roll well, but they’ve surpassed expectations in that regard. At the same time, they’re great in the corners, in a wide range of trail conditions. The High Roller excels on hardpack and or slightly sandy corners, or in the loamy stuff too. In fact, it’s an awesome all-rounder. For such a speedy tyre it handles hard braking brilliantly, which is good because the Minion SS does not.
Not cuts, flats, tubeless leaks or other worries have arisen either, and Maxxis are traditionally rather indestructible.
For a 2.30” they feel a little skinny. Maybe it’s just the relatively narrow Shimano XT rims they’re mounted to, but Schwalbes and Bontragers in the ‘same’ size look a fair bit bigger. The smaller volume makes them less impressive in really wild conditions with lots of loose rock.
As you’d expect too, there’s not a huge amount of rear braking traction, so the line between braking and skidding is easy to overstep.
Would we recommend them, and why?
100%. If you like the ride feel of a rear tyre that encourages a bit of fishtailing, but you still want the front end grip to stop you crashing onto your face, then this is a great combo. The value for money and reliable construction is just the icing on the performance cake. These tyres mightn’t be new in the market, but they still deliver.
Where can I get them?
Maxxis tyres are available across Australia at a number of preferred dealers. Take a look below to find a dealer in your state.
Stan’s No Tubes may have cut their teeth in leading the charge in the early days of tubeless tyre conversions, they reinvented themselves as manufacturers of some of the lightest and most advanced rims and hubs, and are very highly regarded by riders in the know.
The ZTR Bravo is their latest all-mountain/enduro wheelset, used by the likes of Martin Maes on the Enduro World Series circuit. There’s a lot going on in these wheels, aside from their low weight the rim profile and construction is designed to reduce likelihood of pinch flats and improve compliance for a faster rolling wheel.
The BST (Bead Socket Technology) refers to the low profile rim sidewalls with no bead hook, this is said to help prevent pinch flats as the tyre won’t fold inward as far when compressed to the limit, when compared to a traditional hooked bead rim. There’s also the benefit of increased air volume to let the tyre conform to the terrain with greater ease.
The rims are 26.6mm wide inside, which might not sound as wide as many of the current trend of wheels coming out, but they claim there’s a point where too wide is not ideal.
For more background on the features, check out this video from Stan’s No Tubes:
On the trail
The Bravo wheels went onto our Trek Remedy 27.5 test bike with a pair of WTB Trail Boss 2.4″ tyres, they sealed up with a cup of Stan’s Sealant and with only a track pump they went up just fine.
Whether it was the WTB tyres or the wheels, it was quite a tight fit but with a bit of elbow grease and tyre levers we got them on and lit up the trails straight away.
These wheels certainly do feel very fast there’s no doubt about it, the low rolling weight is clear as day when you get on the pedals, the bike responds to your braking and pedalling energy instantly. Get the bike up to speed and it’s easy to keep it there, quite the ideal scenario really.
They don’t have that harsh stiffness that some carbon wheels have, kick the bike out sideways and the rear wheel doesn’t skip across the surface of the trail with a chattering sound, they feel slightly softer in this instance and maintain contact with the dirt nicely.
In the name of testing we put these wheels through absolute hell, there was never a tentative moment on the rocky trails, we wanted to see if we could pinch flat the tyres, dent the rims, put them out of true or worse. But despite our trying we never had one issue, nothing.
The rear hub is a rear loud one, whilst some love the noise of a loud freehub we’re divided.
The ZTR Bravo’s are not cheap, but we rate these wheels very highly, they have massive appeal to the rider looking to upgrade from classic narrow aluminium wheels, these will lift your ride to the next level.
The Trail Boss is WTB’s fast-rolling dry conditions tyre available in 29″ and 27.5″ and a few different compounds and casing configurations. We’ve reviewed the TCS Light, the 844g version. It’s a fairly square shape with low side knobs and a very supple sidewall casing.
TCS: WTB’s TCS system is given to a select range of rims and tyres that is Mavic UST certified, requires the use of tubeless sealant and is designed to be inflated easily without the need of a compressor.
Installation: Fitting the tyres was a bit of a painful task, paired with the Stan’s No Tubes Bravo wheels we were reaching for the tyre levers to get them on, it’s a tight fit, but that sure helps contribute to the remarkable easy inflation. A couple of cups of sealant and up they went with just a few quick strokes from the track pump.
On the trail: Almost straight away we were able to feel the rolling speed and quick acceleration compared to the bulky Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres that we previously had fitted on the trek Remedy. With a closely packed bunch of knobs across the centre of the tyre they zip along with little resistance.
Just by looking at this tyre we expected it to feel quite predictable in the corners – low-profile tyres tend to be that way – and we were not surprised at all when we really got the hang of its strengths and weaknesses pretty quickly. Rather than serving up loads of ‘bite’ the Trail Boss makes up for it with loads of ‘friction’ on the trail surfaces, and when it did break free it wasn’t sudden. Cornering hard with the bike leant over on to the sides of the tyre on wet trails or softer soils isn’t an area that the Trail Boss is most comfortable, but on hardpack trails and bare rock its tacky compound really sticks.
After a few months of solid riding in dry conditions the rear tyre was showing signs of wear, but nothing out of the ordinary for a soft compound tyre. We never had one flat tyre, despite many likely incidents, and never did we burp or lose any pressure on the trails.
Used as a pair the Trail Boss’s big air volume creates a smooth ride, we’d love to try it paired to the WTB Vigilante tyre on the front for extra bite on softer soils through the wetter winter months. As a rear tyre the Trail Boss will please just about anyone that shreds hard and appreciates fast and tacky tyres.
We’ve got mixed feelings about this, especially when it comes to tyres. While the feeling of zippiness and responsiveness that you get from lightweight tyres is nice, we’ve seen far too many rides and races ruined through fragile tyres getting sliced to pieces. Consequently, we’re usually happy to carry around a bit of extra heft for the security and reliability of tougher treads.
The Textra series of tyres aims to mitigate this compromise, with new sidewall technology which adds a lot of protection with minimal weight gain.
The new Mitas (formerly Rubena) Textra series of tyres aims to mitigate this compromise, with new sidewall technology which adds a lot of protection with minimal weight gain. We’ve been running a pair of these treads on our 29er for the past couple of months; out back we’ve had the zippy 2.25″ Scylla Textra, and up front the more knobbly Kratos, also in a 2.25″.
Mitas (nee Rubena) tyres have a strong following in cross country racing circles, where they’ve won a stack of National Championship and been raced by Australian Olympians. The cross country heritage is clear when you pop them on the scales – even with the Textra sidewalls, these are quite a lightweight set of treads, especially the Scylla which is just over 620g. The Kratos with its more aggressive tread blocks is still only 750g.
Mitas clearly have a lot of faith in the technology as they’re offering a 100-day sidewall guarantee on a Textra tyres!
The Textra sidewalls are these tyres’ real point of difference. The sidewalls are hatched with the pattern of an ultra-tough rubberised fabric which greatly improves the tyre’s resistance to slashes, but without making the sidewalls overly stiff or thick, which can affect the ride quality. This is the genius of the Textra tyres – greater protection, but preserving the supple performance of the 127TPI casing. In fact, to touch, the Textra sidewalls don’t feel noticeably thicker than a regular Mitas tyre. But Mitas clearly have a lot of faith in the technology as they’re offering a 100-day sidewall guarantee on a Textra tyres! You can do a lot of riding in 100 days, so that kind of reassurance is gold, as anyone who’s had to bin a near-new tyres with a slashed sidewall will attest. And apparently, this faith in their product’s performance is justified – the local Mitas distributors promise us they haven’t had one report of a slashed sidewall on a Textra tyre yet, and we certainly didn’t experience any issues. Taking a look at the wording of sidewall guarantee, it’s a very honest, no bull-shit assurance – if your Textra tyre gets slashed in normal riding conditions, you’re covered. You can read more here.
We set our Mitas tyres up on some Stan’s Crest rims, which suited the cross-country intentions of this rubber perfectly. They’re definitely a ‘true’ 2.25″ tyre – compared to the generous dimensions we’re used to from the likes of Schwalbe and Bontrager, the Mitas treads are a bit narrower. The compound on the Textra treads is also quite firm. For now, Mitas only do Textra rubber in their CRX compound, which is really designed for durability and rolling speed. There are plans to introduce their dual compound Greyline rubber to the Textra range in the future, which we’d welcome for the increased side knob grip.
We’ve probably logged about 100km on these tyres to date (which is as far as many people on these tyres will ride in a single race) so we can’t claim to have ridden these tyres into the ground, but we’ve certainly got our head around how they perform. They’re a very fast set of treads, but with good bite in hardpack and sandy conditions too. If we were racing, we’d be very tempted to run the Scylla front and back, as it has sensational straight line speed, but with enough bite that you don’t approach every fast corner with your heart in your mouth. If conditions are looser, using the Kratos up front is a good option. Even though it has a chunkier tread pattern, it’s surprisingly fast too as the centre blocks are quite low profile. We were particularly impressed with its braking performance.
If you’re looking for new rubber, that won’t leave you stranded in a pool of tubeless sealant as everyone else rides away, then give the Mitas Textra tyres a crack.
Both tyres have a really compliant ride quality too, conforming nicely to the terrain when we ran our pressures in the 25-27PSI range. Given these tyres don’t have a huge air volume, that suppleness is really important, helping keep a good footprint on the trail rather than skipping around.
If you’re a cross country or trail rider, then the 100-day sidewall guarantee alone makes these tyres a sound investment, especially if you’ve gone through the wallet emptying pain of binning near-new tyres in the past. These are great cross country treads, with performance characteristics that will be ideal for dusty, sandy Australian race tracks this summer. If you’re looking for new rubber, that will definitely go the distance and won’t leave you stranded in a pool of tubeless sealant as everyone else rides away, then give the Mitas Textra tyres a crack.
The biggest thing to happen to your wheels since tubeless is the development of Schwalbe Procore. There is good reason this system comes at such a high price – the amount of research and development in getting it right would have been huge. In our review we aim to determine if it achieves all that it sets out to do, but most importantly ascertain what type of bike and rider will benefit from this technology the most.
Developed by German tyre gurus Schwalbe in conjunction with component and wheel manufacturer Syntace, Procore is a special dual chamber system that fits inside regular tyres and onto regular rims (some limitations do apply).
We’ll be putting Procore to a test over a couple months, here is our initial thoughts after fitment and a couple weeks riding.
[divider]What is it?[/divider]
Procore is a dual air chamber system that fits inside the tyre. It’s compatible with any brand of tubeless compatible tyre, in three wheel sizes (26″, 27.5″/650B and 29″) and will fit any rim (even non-tubeless rims) with a minimal internal width of 23mm. You’ll need tyres at least 2.25″ (but we found out bigger is better) wide and rims with valve stem depth no more than 20mm.
It’ll add about 420 grams to an existing tubeless wheel set, and retails for around $400.
[divider]What does it aim to do? [/divider]
In a nutshell, Procore aims to reap all the traction and control benefits of running super-low tyre pressures, without the usual downsides. Motorcycles use a similar technology, the theory certainly stands up well on paper.
Less chance of tyre roll/burping: The inner chamber locks the tyre bead to the rim.
Reduced chance of rim damage: With the high-pressue inner chamber, your rim is protected from impacts.
Less chance of tyre pinching: The cushioning of the inner chamber makes it near impossible to pinch your tyre against the rim.
[divider]Who is it for?[/divider]
The way we like to think about it is not what type of bike it suits the best, but instead what type of rider. Procore aims to enhance ride quality and also reduce tyre failure, so anyone can benefit from these things.
Because it adds about 420 grams to you wheels, it’s certainly not one for the weight conscious cross country riders with narrow tyres, it’s more suited to gravity hungry riders, hard charging enduro riders and downhill racers. Or quite simply a rider who wants more traction and less flat tyres.
Enduro racers who ride hard on rough tracks on bikes that still need to light and efficient could really benefit, and downhillers that can’t afford to risk flats or tyres or rolling tyres off the rim will also appreciate the appeal of Procore.
We fitted Procore to our Trek Remedy long term test bike, with Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.25″ tyres (which we found to be too narrow) and Shimano XTR Trail wheels.
The process was fairly straight forward, and armed with just the paper instruction manual we got it done with no problems at all.
For a crystal clear comparison we drove the Trek Remedy out to the trails and blasted around a familiar loop of rocky, loose and tricky trails. We then fitted Procore in the carpark and headed straight back out on the same track.
With the two chambers set to 85 and 15 psi the bike was transformed into a traction generating machine. The low pressure tyre allowed the tyre tread to conform and mould around the terrain underneath you, which both made it feel smoother and grippier.
Then we turned our attention to the gutter, and repeatedly rode straight at the sharp concrete edge in an attempt to pinch the tyre, but there was no loud bang or any flats at all. The hard inner chamber guards the rim wall from hitting the terrain below you. Top marks in that area so far.
At the time of testing the Australian Schwalbe distributor didn’t have stock of a suitable tyre for the Trek Remedy over 2.25″ and while Schwalbe state that Procore can be used with tyres at least 2.25″ wide we found them not ideal at all. Whilst they fitted up fine and the traction was excellent on the trail we found the ride quite harsh on faster rough descents, with such a small volume of air in the main chamber of the tyre. Plus we noticed the inner Procore chamber actually bottoming out against the inside of the tyre when rolling along tarmac or hardpack trails, this led to a bit of a strange ‘self steering’ effect and it all just felt wrong.
Ideally we would have liked to test Procore with a bigger tyre. At least we found out why you need fairly big rubber to make the most of the system. On hand was a set of Bontrager XR4s in 2.35 so on they went. Whilst the XR4s don’t offer a massive difference in width, the overall volume of the tyre is bigger and that worked a treat giving a bigger space between the core and the top of the tyre.
That also gave us the chance to experience a tyre change, and in the aim of experimenting we changed the inner tube too, and wasn’t that a bit of a pain! With sealant all over the place, we were forced to use tyre levers to remove the blue core, and the whole process was a lot messier and very complex when compared to a regular tubeless setup. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that too often.
With the bigger tyres fitted we were able to really feel the benefits even more, and we’ve been very happy with the performance since.
Trying as hard as we could to roll the tyre off the rim or burp it by deliberately landing sideways, we just couldn’t do it. The high pressure chamber pushes outwards firmly on the tyre’s bead, locking it onto the rim with a level of security that no other tubeless system can give.
We plan to experiment a little more with the two tyre pressures, and will aim to try even bigger tyres to see if that helps with that harsh feeling on the really rocky descents.
We couldn’t help but draw comparisons between Procore and the recent 27.5+ bikes we have been testing lately, like the Scott Genius Plus and Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie. Whilst Procore is something that you can fit to your existing bike, the new breed of ‘plus bikes’ are aiming to achieve similar things. Procore might well deliver the holy grail of increased traction without going for the massive 3″ tyres of plus bikes.
We’re very impressed so far at how well Procore rides, and even more impressed that Schwalbe have managed to make the system work. The way it fits easily regular wheels and tyres is impressive, and it’ll be a great solution for riders who want the best, or those who struggle with slippery terrain or irritating pinch flats.
But does it out-perform a regular tubeless setup? Is it worth the cash and hassle?
Anyone who has experienced the wallet-emptying frustration of a slashed sidewall will appreciate these new tyres from Rubena.
The Czech manufacturer is so confident of resilience the new TEXTRA versions of their Scylla and Kratos tyres that they offer a 100-day sidewall guarantee! Looking into the detail, it’s a pretty generous guarantee too. You can find the full details here, but in a nutshell, if the damage happens in Australia, under normal conditions, and the load on the tyre is under 140kg, then you’re covered.
We’ve got two TEXTRA tyres to test, both in a 29×2.25″ size. There’s the fast-rolling Scylla, which weighs in at 625g on our scales (significantly lighter than the 690g claimed weight on the packaging!) and the more aggressive looking Kratos, which is no heavyweight either at 754g. In terms of pricing, the TEXTRA versions of these tyres run at about $10 more than the regular tyre, which is a bargain really for the extra peace of mind.
While Rubena are still a lesser known player in Australia, they have a good following in the marathon and cross country racing arena; the Scylla in particular has a proven racing pedigree, with Bec Henderson, Dan MacConnell and many others racking up a load of titles on these treads.
Fitting these tyres to a set of Stan’s Crest wheels, the reinforcement of the sidewalls was clear, and it took a little more effort than usual to get the stiffer construction mounted to the rim. We’re going to run the Scylla out back, the Kratos out front. Stay tuned for a review in the coming weeks.
Jon Cancellier has managed the BlackBox Program for the past 7 seasons. This includes choosing the athletes, working with them on custom projects, as well as being at the races to make sure that they have everything they need. An athlete on the SRAM BlackBox Program has access to all the engineering horsepower that we have to offer and Jon is the link between racer and company. Earlier this year he travelled to Finale Ligure, Italy with 2013 Enduro World Series Champion Jerome Clementz to test wheels.
We asked Jon some questions about the test, and what it meant for Jerome as he put in his first miles on SRAM wheels.
Explain the test with Jerome.
JC: The goal of the test was to give Jerome time on three models of SRAM wheels and let him evaluate the benefits of each. We chose one track and had him ride it twice for each set of wheels. The tires, tire pressure and rotors were carried over each run to eliminate as many variables as possible. While the runs were not timed, Jerome tried to carry the same pace each run to keep his feedback similar.
How often does a test like this happen?
JC: We tend to test products with athletes at the beginning of the year to set baselines for the upcoming season. If we are working on something new that we are looking to get athlete feedback on, it can happen as soon as we have a ridable prototype. As wheels are a relatively new area for SRAM as well as the BlackBox Program, this is only the second time we have conducted this kind of wheel test with an athlete. The first was with Nico Vouilloz last year. As we create new wheels or have new ideas we want to test, I see this being a very valuable tool for our development process.
What can a test like this potentially yield for both the athlete and SRAM?
JC: Testing in this way allows the wheels to be broken down to their unique parts, each being a different variable. We can then pick apart the results and see which variable created the feeling the rider is after. For Jerome, he was able to feel the differences between rim width, rim material as well as spoke thickness. This way he can feel how one variable can affect the ride and we as a company can learn more about how all the wheel components add up as we strive to make the fastest wheels.
What did Jerome learn during the test? JC: Jerome discovered all three wheels to be winners. He found that all three offered him such strong unique characteristics that he couldn’t put one ahead of the others. He was able to conclude that the hugely varying terrain of the EWS will allow each of these wheel’s characteristics to shine at key races throughout the season. Knowing that he has three wheels that he can confidently choose between will give him a competitive advantage every weekend as he looks to regain the Enduro World Series title.
So based on that conclusion, what will Jerome’s wheel choice strategy be? JC: He will choose the wheel that best suits the conditions and terrain he is faced with on a certain weekend. For example, he found the wider rim of the Rail 50 to add more volume to the tire, so this might be his first choice on a weekend where the terrain is very rough. Jerome found the carbon rim on Roam 60 to be very responsive. This is especially beneficial for tracks that demand quick acceleration, like those found at last year’s EWS round in Scotland. Roam 50 offered him a strong balance of all of these variables and will be a great option most weekends of the year.
Beyond wheels, did you learn anything else? JC: As you would expect from an Enduro World Series Champion, Jerome is meticulous about his setup and is very in tune with what he expects from his bike. He can feel very small changes in product that can mean big differences for both him on the bike and for us as we develop our wheels.
ROAM AND RAIL WHEELS
THE EXTRA MILE. AND BEYOND.
FEATURES / BENEFITS
Available in all 3 wheel sizes: 26, 27.5 and 29″
CARBON TUNED™ unidirectional and woven carbon fiber, asymmetrical rim profile
Profile: 21mm inside, 28mm outside rim width
Available with 11-speed XD™ driver body, 10- or 9-speed driver body
Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
SOLO SPOKE™ design with double butted, stiff stainless steel spokes
Durable hub internals with Star Ratchet 36-tooth system
SIDE SWAP™ easy conversion to all axle types
DOUBLE-DECKER™ hub shell design
Technologies: CARBON TUNED™, TAPER CORE™, SOLO SPOKE™, SIDE SWAP™, DOUBLE-DECKER™, STAR RATCHET™, UST
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that only a decade or so ago, most mountain bikers assumed that a flat tyre or two each ride was just part of the sport! But then along came Stan Koziatek, with an idea that would revolutionise mountain biking: ditch the tubes.
His ‘No Tubes’ system took off and inspired countless other brands to offer their own tubeless solutions and now just about every bike out there now is either tubeless ready or can be converted to tubeless without much fuss. Thanks to Stan, our bikes are now smoother, faster, have more traction, weigh less and are far more reliable than ever before. We caught up with this quirky inventor to learn a bit more about the development of tubeless technology.
[divider]Stan the Man[/divider]
Given that thousands of riders already refer to you on a first name basis, it’d be good to learn a little bit more about you; can you describe yourself in one sentence? What are your top three passions?
Sure, I seem to see things differently to other people. And passions? I love designing new products, golfing and bow hunting (Flow: he’s serious about the hunting – punch Stan Koziatek in Google Image Search and you’ll see).
Are you glad you called the product Stan’s or do you sometimes wish you were anonymous?
I never actually planed on using my name for the product. But after a few months of sales, customers are the ones that started calling my products Stan’s, so we had to stick with it.
Where did your inspiration for No Tubes come from?
It’s a long story over many years. It all started with me finding a way to convert my standard rims to tubeless. Once I found a way to convert the rim I then needed a tire. At that time their were only two tubeless tires and the tread patterns were not good for my area, so I then started working on a sealant that would seal a non-tubeless tire.
Once I had a sealant started I started thinking: ‘If I can seal hundreds of holes within minutes, we can most likely seal punctures as they are made’. Then the rim companies started sending me their rims asking if I could make their rims tubeless. After working with many different shaped rims, I realised some rims would inflate tyres easier than others etc.
I then contacted two of the largest rim companies in the US and offered to design a rim for them, at no charge. They basically told me they have the best rim designers and did not need my help. After a few months I could no longer wait. I found extrusion companies in the US and a small rim roller and welder in California. I then designed my first rim and was not happy with that crappy design. I never sold one and started designing another rim.
My second rim was very good and won a bronze medal at the Olympics, but I still was not completely happy with this design. It still needed a rubber rim strip to make it tubeless. My third design was much better and worked great. Then with each rim design I improved the air taping, tire inflation and most importantly tire performance. I try to make all of my designs user friendly – I want my rims to mount tires with your hands and inflate either with a floor pump or with a small air compressor.
Tell us about developing the sealant – where did you look to as a starting point? Were there other industries/applications that you could draw from?
I designed my sealant from scratch, trying thousands of additives and related products until I found something that worked. I still test different products trying to make my sealant better and last longer.
We spend so much time looking at suspension technologies but comparatively little focusing on tyres, when arguably the tyre as the point of contact is where we stand to make the most improvements.
Definitely. Now that we can run tire pressures so low, and with my rim designs making the tire stable under high speed corning, we can change the tire designs and get more traction with much smaller knobs. Large knobs create lots of wind resistance and drag, and we can gain a few miles per hour with the same physical effort by smaller tyre knobs and dual rubber compound construction.
You had a foray into tyre development with the Raven. Will we ever see more tyres from Stan’s? Is it correct to say that the Raven a bit of a showcase of what’s possible when combining tubeless tyres at low pressure with gummy compounds?
The only reason I designed my Crow and Raven tyres was because none of the tyre companies were willing to make a sealant-ready, lightweight tyre. I told them all years ago we were running sealant in their tubeless tires and soon most tires would require sealant to make them tubeless. As you see they are all making sealant ready tires. Tires that require sealant to run tubeless.
The 52mm Hugo is designed so you can mount a fat 4.7″ tire with your hands and inflate it with a floor pump. I also extended the tire side of the rim upwards to help customers still running tubes have less pinch flats.
What ARE those little coral shaped clumps that sometimes develop inside a tubeless tyre?
We call them buggers. They form like a pearl, when a small part of dirt or dried sealant starts rolling around in your tyre, these clumps develop. They will get larger and larger and should be removed. Part of this is caused by the additives in my sealant. My sealant is force-activated and will harden underwater if enough force is applied! I must keep the percentage of this additive really precise, or my sealant would not work as well. If I add too much to a mix it will all harden in the drum!
Traditional tubeless systems haven’t been so successful in downhill. What are challenges here?
Rim designs are to blame for tyres burping when used for DH. Most rims are not designed well enough to trap air under the forces of DH, but my rims have no problem running DH tubeless. My Flow and Flow EX rims have won many World Cups on the pro circuit – in fact, the Flow EX just won the World Championships a few weeks ago in the men’s division and got second in the woman’s.
What are your thoughts on the Schwalbe Procore system?
For top riders I feel it will be too heavy. Most DH races are won or lost by thousandths of a second. You need the tyre and wheel to be as light as possible to win on the pro circuit.
Will road tubeless ever be widely adopted?
No question, it will take over for racing and for riders who ride several times a week. All the riders in my area have been running road tubeless for years and they would not go back. We sponsor two road teams: my racers tell me they have always raced on deep dish carbon tubulars. Now they are racing on my aluminum rims with tubeless tires and they are winning many races. They tell me they would never go back to tubulars.
What is it about Stan’s sealant that you feel makes it still an industry leader?
The additives that prevent it from freezing, even at -28 C, and which allow it to last longer that 24 hours in an open air test are expensive. There are companies out there making a lot of money with these sealants that freeze and don’t last a long time. I could make a less expensive sealant, but it would not be as good.
Is this be the next evolution of tubeless? A system that allows more traction than ever before, but without the risk of burped air, snake bites or tubeless tyres rolling off the rim? Or is this complication we don’t need, especially with the new generation of super wide rims?
Schwalbe have finally given us a look inside the belly of their new ‘dual chamber’ tyre system, Procore. We’ve know about the existence of this system for some time, especially since riders on the World Cup circuit began riding around on bike with two vales on each rim, but the exact particulars haven’t been known until now.
The system is actually a collaboration between Schwalbe and Syntace; both companies had been working on the concept independently but have pooled their knowledge and resources to bring this project to fruition.
So what’s it all about? Procore is ultimately aimed at allowing riders to run lower pressures for a smoother and grippier ride, at the same time as nullifying the risks of either a puncture or rolling the tyre off the rim.
The way it works is actually pretty simple. Procore is a high-pressure, secondary air chamber that is located inside a standard tubeless tyre. This chamber is run at between 55-85psi and serves a few purposes; it provides an extra layer of protection against punctures, it help protect the rims from damage normally associated with running lower pressures, and it helps lock the tyre to the rim protecting against any risk of rolling or burping the tyre. Furthermore, should you still somehow get a flat, Procore offer an emergency ‘backup’ keeping some pressure in the tyre.
In testing, Schwalbe claim that riders have been running pressures as low as 14psi without issue, and relishing in the extra grip and control this provides. That’s an impressively low figure, though not that much lower than some riders are currently achieving using a standard tubeless setup on a super wide rim.
Schwalbe claim the system will only add 200g to a conventional tubeless setup, and that some of this weight will be offset by the ability to run lighter tyres than in the past. Until Eurobike, we won’t know further details about compatibility or pricing. We’re certainly intrigued – it’s a cool concept, but is it more complex than your average rider will accept? We can definitely see it appealing to racers, and perhaps that’s where this technology is primarily aimed. In that vein, Nico Lau, Sam Hill and Emmeline Ragot have all had success on the Procore system already, so it clearly works at the highest level of competition.
Aaron Gwin qualified second in Leogang at the fourth round of the World Cup, but he flatted during his final race run. Not wanting to miss out on points contributing to the overall season win, he rails the rest of the course on just his rim and salvages what he could.
Stiffer than your legs after a 100km race and packing a freehub that engages faster than Christian high school sweethearts, the new Bontrager Rhythm Pro carbon wheels are amongst the finest trail / all-mountain hoops we’ve seen.
We’ve been running these glamorous wheels on our Giant Trance SX long-term test bike since March, and while the Giant’s stock wheelset is certainly not to be sneered at, the Bontrager Rhythm Pros are a very desirable upgrade.
Carbon wheels are admittedly still expensive, but they’re no longer a pro-only item as once was the case. When they’re built right, carbon wheels can really change a bike’s performance. And Trek, Bontrager’s parent company, have long been a leader the carbon game; their OCLV carbon road frames redefined performance and that experience has all been brought to bear in the mountain bike world now too.
The Rhythm Pro TLR wheels use Trek’s OCLV (optimum compaction, low void) carbon to form the very stiff rims which are at the core of this wheelset’s performance. Trek haven’t gone down the super-wide route that we’re starting to see from a number of specialist carbon rim manufacturers – the Rhythm rims measure up at an external width of 29mm and just shy of 23mm internally. While wider rims do have some benefits, we think that the Rhythm Pro hoops strike a pretty good balance between width and weight, tipping the scales at 1620g.
We have been running 2.35″ and 2.4″ rubber at very low pressure on these rims and enjoying mountains of grip. Even with the tyres in the low 20 psi range, burping or tyre roll hasn’t been an issue. Such low pressures aren’t going to be suitable for all riders (our test rider is not a large unit), but we felt happy running the Bontrager XR4 rubber in this pressure range.
Our confidence to hammer these wheels at low pressures stems from a couple of areas. Firstly, the Bontrager tubeless rim strips hold onto the tyre bead tenaciously, so it’s very hard to roll the tyre off the rim or burp any air. The flip side is that changing tyres requires hands like a Bulgarian coal miner. Secondly, the rims seem to be completely bombproof – even when we’ve felt the rim smack into a rock, the sound is more of a muted thud than a ‘ping’ like you get with an alloy rim, and when we’ve inspected the rim for wobbles or signs of the impact, there’s never been a mark. We’ve done some serious damage to alloy rims (including Bontragers) before with this kind of treatment, but we can’t draw a whimper from these guys.
With 54 engagement points, the take up under power is rapid and positive. Every quick stab at the pedals, be it mid-way up a techy climb or getting a half pedal stroke in between corners, results in forward drive. Shimano and XD freehub bodies are available, and pulling the freehub off for a quick clean or preventative lubing is easy – just give it a tug. For what it’s worth, these wheels do sound good too – like someone is chasing you down the trail ripping up a bed sheet!
We’re incredibly impressed with the stiffness of these wheels too. This perhaps the area where we noticed the biggest and most immediate difference when compared to the stock wheelset on our Giant. The offset spoke design means there’s more consistent tension across both sides of the wheel, and the spoke tension is very high out of the box. Couple this with the robust rims themselves you’ve got a wheel that goes exactly where you tell it and which allows your suspension and tyres to work their magic effectively.
On the durability front, we’d recommend regular cleaning and lubing of the freehub pawls and drive ring. The freehub mechanism isn’t as well sealed as some, so after really wet rides, a 30-second wipe out and re-lube wouldn’t hurt. In terms of rim/spoke/truing maintenance, we’ve not needed to so much as look at a spoke key yet. These wheels are straighter than an accountancy convention and still packing more tension than a hostage negotiation.
With an ever increasing number of options for riders looking for carbon trail/all-mountain wheels, we feel that the Bontrager Rhythm Pro rims are much more than just ‘me t00’ wheelset. Whether or not these wheels can steal some glory from the likes of Enve will have to be seen over the longer term, but our initial three months would suggest these hoops could be a serious contender. We’ll endeavour to keep these wheels in the family for another six months or so and report back again.
SAM is a military abbreviation for Surface to Air Missile, which we guess means this bike is good at jumping and blowing stuff up.
We first clapped eyes on the SAM 1.0 at the 2014 Focus Bikes presentation two months ago. In a room full of road bikes and 29ers, it looked like one mean bastard of a bike – matte black, angry looking geometry and plenty of travel. We knew right away that we had to get this one in for a full review.
The SAM is an alloy framed 160mm-travel all-mountain weapon, yet it weighs in at less than most similarly positioned carbon bikes, tipping the scales at just 12.91kg. Admittedly the XX1 drivetrain and Reynolds carbon wheels help keep the bike svelte, but when you consider the Pike fork, Reverb stealth post and big Schwalbe rubber it’s an impressive figure.
A black anodised finish is hard to beat, and with internally routed cables it all looks very sleek indeed. We’re overwhelmed by how smooth the fork feels straight out of the box – fingers cross the Monarch rear shock can match the performance of the front end. We’ve converted the wheels to tubeless and we can’t think of another change we could possibly wish to make before hitting the trails.
We’ll be taking the SAM to Thredbo this week and giving it a few laps down the new Flow track to see how it all fares, before bringing it to our home trails for some ill-treatment over the Christmas period.
Looking for some rubber with bite? Feast your eyes on these four tyres – treads that roll fast but fill you with confidence in corners and when it gets rough.
Sizes available: 26, 27.5 and 29″ diameters in 2.25 and 2.4″ widths.
The Ardent has been part of the Maxxis lineup for years. It’s a trail tyre, through and through, sitting somewhere between the Crossmark and legendary Minion in terms of rolling speed/grip stakes. As an all-weather, all-rounder, we rate the Ardents very highly.
In a 2.25″ size, the Ardent has a good, tall bag to it, offering plenty of cushion and encouraging lower pressures. It’s also available in a 2.4″ which we’d consider as a great front tyre option for looser or sandier conditions; 2.25″ out back, 2.4″ up front = aggressive trail riding perfection.
The tread pattern is pretty unique. It’s a fast rolling pattern, thanks to the sloped centre tread, and the side knobs offer good support whilst still retaining enough sensitivity for grip on wet roots thanks to extensive siping. The intermediate zone, between upright and full leant over, is a little vague – the knobs in this space are sparse and fairly flexible. We noticed this most on hardpack or sand, while in loose conditions it didn’t seem to affect the tyre greatly. In a nut shell, this tyre works best if you’re fully committed to a corner and tip it in!
Strengths: Fastest rolling of this bunch. Lightweight. Durable compounds. Good range of sizes.
Weaknesses: A bit vague in intermediate corners.
Sizes available: 26×2.2″, 26×2.35 and 29×2.3″
Bontrager have really hit the mark with the XR4 tyres for all round aggressive trail use. The XR4s are quite voluminous for a 2.35″ tyre and exhibit a wide footprint. That, in combination with a round profile, make for a lot of traction and predictable cornering behaviour.
The blocky tread is somewhat of a wonderment, being very grippy on the loose stuff as well as equally adherent on bare rock – something we weren’t expecting. This property in a tyre can often result from a softer, faster wearing compound – not so with the XR4s. The XR4s actually surprised us with their durability and resilience considering the irreverent treatment we gave them.
We only had one small gripe with the tyre in that we had to use a bit more sealant than we were used to prevent them losing air during the ride. Otherwised they ticked all the boxes. Overall a well mannered tyre and a better choice for those whose trail choice is more rocky road than caramel slice.
Strengths: Meaty, moto-style tread digs into loose surfaces. Great under brakes.
Weaknesses: Not the best for tubeless use.
Continental Trail King
Sizes Available: 26×2.2″
The most aggressive trail tyre in the Continental line-up is the Trail King (previously known, rather kinkily, as the Rubber Queen). It’s a blocky tread that reminds us vaguely of the pattern found on Schwalbe’s Hans Dampf – that can’t be a bad thing – and was developed with input from freeride guru Richie Schley.
There are UST or ‘Revo’ Tubeless Ready versions of this tyre – unless you’re very hard on tyres, we’d suggest the Revo version is fine. With the Protection reinforced sidewalls the casing is very tough and while the lovely logos of our test tyres are pretty scuffed up, we haven’t experienced any sidewall cuts or tears.
Conti’s Black Chili compound seems to improve with use. The grip afforded by the Trail Kings got better with a bit of trail time, the tyres losing their coating and the knobs becoming more pliable (but still supportive). Given their robust almost ‘paddle-style’ centre tread blocks, the Trail Kings aren’t sluggish at all, something we can only attribute to the Black Chili compound. Compared to some of the other tyres here, the Trail Kings are a little lean on air volume. They are available in a 2.4″ as well, but not in Australia at present.
Strengths: Resilient sidewall. Black Chili compound wears well.
Weaknesses: Not available in 27.5 or 29″ in Australia yet. Skatey at first.
Like crack cocaine, the Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres are expensive and addictive. Billed as a Jack of all trades tread, we’d have to agree that this is some of the best all rounder rubber available and we’ve used these tyres on multiple bikes now.
The sheer size of these tyres comes as bit of a shock. Marked as a 2.35″, they dwarf just about all other non-downhill specific tyres out there. But despite this, their weight is reasonable and their rolling speed remarkable too.
At low pressures, the Hans Dampf has a large footprint that floats beautifully over sand and delivers mountains of climbing traction. All round grip is superb; from hardpack to rubble to mud, the Hans Dampf is versatile like few other treads we’ve ever used. They’re very tough too, particularly in the Snake Skin sidewall option.
The harder-wearing PaceStar compound is recommended for the rear or you’ll be shelling out for new rubber very quickly. On the front, we’ve found the durability fantastic, even with the softer TrailStar compound. The tyres in the shot above were installed at the same time, and you can see how pronounced the rear wear is.
Strengths: Huge volume at a reasonable weight. Grippy compound. Stable sidewalls.
Specialized have really done an amazing job with their tyre range. On any Specialized bike we’ve ridden, reviewed, or tested over the past few years, we’ve always been completely happy with the rubber, and we’re normally fussy buggers.
No matter what style of mountain biking you like or what type of terrain you ride, it’s pretty likely Specialized have a tyre to suit. The new Purgatory sits towards the trail/all-mountain end of the spectrum, and we’ve been testing the 29×2.3″ size in the Control guise.
The Control designation simply means it’s a little heavier, but also tougher, than the more expensive S-Works version. It uses the same compounds, tread pattern and is ‘2-Bliss’ tubeless ready as well.
We would easily rate the Purgatory as one of the best all-round trail tyres on the market.
It’s not the lightest tyre, but this far it has proven tough and it holds air very well when set up tubeless. There’s clearly a bit of weight in the tread blocks themselves, as they’re well supported and hardwearing. In rubble or sand, the Purgatory strikes a great balance of floating when you want it to (thanks to a decent footprint) but biting in too.
The unique tread pattern rolls well. With a harder compound of rubber (60a) through the centre tread, it’s nice and fast. The side knobs have a durometer of 50a, but they don’t feel as gummy as many similarly rated treads. Still, they hang on tight, even in situations where we’d normally have favoured a softer compound tyre. While we’ve been using this tread on the front, we’ll be looking for another to pair up on the rear.
There are size options for 26 and 29″ riders, but being a Specialized product, 27.5″ riders won’t be catered for. Sorry!
Specialized bikes are a little different in that they often come off the showroom floor with different tyres front and rear; a meaty tread up front with slightly faster-rolling rubber out back.
This mixing of tyres is seen more commonly on the bikes of experienced riders who know exactly what they want out of their rubber, so it’s pretty cool to see Specialized offering this setup from stock. One of the common pairings on their trail bikes is a Purgatory up front and Ground Control out back, so we thought we’d give this selection a try too.
We’ve opted for the ‘Control’ version of both treads, rather than the lightweight S-Works version, as we’ve found the S-Works options a little fragile in the past. The Control versions are said to offer 15% more cut resistance, however the hell you measure this!
Both tyres are 2-Bliss Ready (butyl wrapped tyre bead) and sealed up tubeless very easily on SRAM Roam 50 rims. For a 2.3″ tread, the volume of both tyres seems smaller than we’d anticipated, but that’s probably because the Schwalbe rubber we’ve been using is notoriously oversized. Weights are 793g for the Purgatory in a 29×2.3 and 723g for the Ground Control in the same size.
We’ve done around 15 hours on the treads to date and we’re completely sold on the Purgatory in particular thus far. We’ve been running pressures in the mid 20s (far lower than the stupidly high 35psi recommended on the sidewall) and while we’ve burped the front tyre once, the grip is excellent. Testing conditions so far have included lots of rock and sand, but also a smattering of dark root trails. The Purgatory has proved both supportive and tacky enough to hold an edge on the rocks, but also sensitive enough to find grip on the roots.
The Ground Control feels great too, rolling nice and fast with a 60a compound. We’ve pinged the rear rim a few times so far without any damage to the tyre, so that’s a good sign in terms of durability.
We’ll continue to run these treads for the next couple of months to get a better idea of their performance once some wear sets in.
While you’re here, check out some of the other tyres we’ve reviewed recently!
Fast climbs and fast descents—from sun up till sundown. Truly made for the modern mountain biker, ROAM wheels use a special balance of low-inertia design, weight and strength to excel on a wide variety of terrain. They’re durable enough for hours in the saddle, yet light enough for race day.
It’s everything the modern mountain biker could ask for. One of the lightest alloy trail wheels in the market, ROAM 50 delivers a smart balance of weight, inertia and stiffness—making for a very responsive and predictable wheel. Thanks to our WIDE ANGLE rim, its tire profile delivers superior traction.
• Intended use: XC/TR
• Available in all 3 wheel sizes: 26, 27.5 and 29in
• Lightweight aluminum rim with asymmetrical TAPER CORE profile
• WIDE ANGLE profile: 21mm inside, 25mm outside rim width
• UST compatible
• Available with 11-speed XD™ Driver Body, 10- or 9-speed driver body
• Aluminum nipples with nylon lock ring
• SOLO SPOKE design with double butted, lightweight steel spokes
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• DOUBLE-DECKER hub shell design
• Weight: 1475g (26in), 1530g (27.5in), 1610g (29in). Wheel pair in lightest configuration