Pacific Northwest Winter 2015 Tire Comparison Test 2: 2015 Nobby Nic, Mountain King II, Trail King, Vigilante/Trail Boss, Magic Mary & Hans Dampf REVIEWED

Pacific Northwest Winter 2015 27.5" Tire Comparison Test 2

Session 2 of 2, December 14, 2014


About Dirt Merchant Bikes:

Dirt Merchant Bike conducts testing to help us determine which products will work best for our customers and their riding style. We are the exclusive Seattle/Tacoma area dealer for Turner Bikes and have the new Turner RFX available to reserve for demo at Duthie Hill Park in Issaquah, WA:

Testing Overview:

Our first tire comparison test session for Winter 2014 established the Schwalbe Hans Dampf and Schwalbe Nobby Nic (2015 version) as our front and rear tire benchmarks for the second tire comparison test.  Four additional tire combinations were tested in this second comparison test by 4 product testers recruited from the Seattle area via a Facebook posting and myself.  Each of the test riders rode either a Turner Flux (120mm rear travel) or a Turner Burner (140mm rear travel) for the duration of the comparison test.  Each rider rode the five tires combinations both uphill and downhill.    Tires/wheels were switched to the next rider after an uphill/downhill loop so that test riders rode each of the tire combinations once.

Tires Combinations Tested:

Tire Dimensions based on mounting on a Stans Arch EX rim (21 mm internal width)

Continental Mountain King

1.    Continental Mountain King II 27.5” x 2.2 ProTection, Black Chili compound, Front & Rear
•    Claimed Weight: 700g
•    Actual Weight: 700 g (avg of 2 tires weighed)
•    Tire Height: 53 mm
•    Casing Width: 51 mm
•    Knob Width: 48 mm

Continental Trail King

2.    Continental Trail King 27.5” x 2.2 ProTection Apex, Black Chili compound, Front & Rear
•    Claimed Weight: 770g
•    Actual Weight: 780 g (avg of 2 tires weighed)
•    Tire Height: 56 mm
•    Casing Width: 53 mm
•    Knob Width: 52  mm

WTB Vigilante

3.    WTB Vigilante 2.3 27.5” TCS Light, Fast Rolling Compound: Front
•    Claimed Weight: 900g
•    Actual Weight: 740 g (1 tire weighed)
•    Tire Height: 57 mm
•    Casing Width: 57 mm
•    Knob Width: 59 mm

WTB Trail Boss

WTB Trail Boss 2.25 27.5” TCS Light, Fast Rolling Compound: Rear
•    Claimed Weight: 750g
•    Actual Weight: 780 g (1 tire weighed)
•    Tire Height: 57 mm
•    Casing Width: 57 mm
•    Knob Width: 57 mm

4.    Schwalbe Magic Mary: 2.35 Trailstar compound, Snakeskin casing: Front
•    Claimed Weight: 835 g
•    Actual Weight: 950 g (average of 2 tires weighed)
•    Tire Height: 59 mm
•    Casing Width: 61 mm
•    Knob Width: 55 mm

Schwalbe Hans Dampf:  2.25 Rear, Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing: Rear
•    Claimed Weight: 680g
•    Actual Weight: 700g (avg of 4 tires weighed with range of 680-730g)
•    Tire Height: 53 mm
•    Casing Width: 57 mm
•    Knob Width: 58 mm

Schwalbe Hans Dampf

5.    Schwalbe Hans Dampf: 2.25 Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing: Front
•    Claimed Weight: 680 g
•    Actual Weight: 700 g (avg of 4 tires weighed with range of 680-730g)
•    Tire Height: 53 mm
•    Casing Width: 57 mm
•    Knob Width: 58 mm

Schwalbe Nobby Nic

Schwalbe Nobby Nic:  2.25 Rear, Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing: Rear
•    Schwalbe Claimed Weight: 610 g
•    Actual Weight: 670 g (avg of 4 tires weighed with range of 660-710g)
•    Tire Height: 55 mm
•    Casing Width: 56 mm
•    Knob Width: 56 mm

The rationale for the tire pairings was to have a more aggressive tire up front for better cornering traction with a faster rolling rear to minimize impact on rolling resistance.  In practice, riding impressions from the comparison test confirmed that this pairing of a more aggressive front tire with a faster rolling rear tire worked well for optimizing both cornering traction and rolling speed.

Testing Methodology:

Location: Grand Ridge Trail in Issaquah, WA going southbound after the boardwalk. The climb/descent has a 200 foot vertical gain.  Grade on the incline ranges from 6-16 percent.  One-way distance is 0.75 miles (1.5 miles for the round trip).

Trail Conditions: The weather was clear with generally high traction trail conditions.  There had been heavy rain ending two days before the day of the comparison test.  There were a few spots with muddy corners, but no deep mud on the trail.  The trail has good drainage overall.  The test riders experienced no problems with rear tire traction overall, but front tire traction was more important with a good number of higher-speed turns as the trail traverses across the fall line.  

Product Testers: Test riders were myself & 4 other riders that had signed on to be product testers with Dirt Merchant Bikes were participants in this comparison test.  All test riders were competent climbers & descenders with some faster on the uphills and some faster on the downhills.  The number of climbs completed during the course of the comparison test were well within the stamina limits of the recruited testers.

Test Bikes: The testers rode either a Turner Flux (120mm travel) or a Turner Burner (140mm travel).   Each rider rode the same bike for all 5 tire combinations tested. (Tires/wheels were switched between bikes)

Wheel setup: Stans Arch rims (21mm internal width) on DT350 hubs.  Tires were run tubeless with 30 psi except for the Continental Trail Kings.  I had pre-ridden the Trail Kings and didn't find the level of cornering grip that I expected.  Also,, the Continental Protection Apex casing seemed particularly stiff (e.g., I had a hard time when mounting the Continental tires with the casing wanting to stay flat and kept popping out of the rim).  As a result, I decided to drop pressure a bit down to 26 psi.

Testing Procedure:  Each rider rode each of the 5 tire combinations up the course and then back down.  Wheels/Tires were changed after each uphill/downhill round trip.

Evaluation Methodology: Tires were evaluated based on subjective comments & a quantitative rating of multiple factors on a 1-5 scale with 5 being the best score, 3 being an average score and 1 being far below expectations. The average quantitative rating was calculated as an average of the 5 individual rider scores on each attribute & test riders’ subjective comments were added to provide more in-depth understanding of the quant ratings.

Quantitative Rating Scale

5 stars - Absolutely outstanding
4 stars
3 stars - Solid performance, meets expectations
2 stars
1 star - Misses expectations by a wide margin

Notes on Interpretation of Results:

I suggest reviewing the subjective comments in conjunction with the quantitative data for a general understanding of each tire’s strength/weaknesses.  Please note the following caveats when interpreting the results from this comparison test.

1. This is not intended to be a scientific test:  Though this test includes quantitative data, the numerical data is intended only to help interpret rider feedback.

2. Difference between tires in the quantitative results are not statistically significant: With only small sample of riders rating each tire, differences in quantitative ratings should be interpreted as directional and not as statistically significant differences.

3. Projectability of results to other Trail conditions: This comparison test was conducted in typical Seattle area winter trail conditions.  These conditions include wet leaves/rocks and mud that increases that typically favors larger tires with more aggressive tread patterns.  These perceptions of tire performance are generally not projectable to dissimilar trail conditions in other geographic areas.

Testing Results – as a Front Tire


Front Tire Quantitative Testing Results


Subjective Comments – Front Tire

Continental Mountain King 2.2 Black Chili (as front tire):
Summary:  In tight corners, riding the Mountain King feels like carving corners on a road bike (on the road). The Mountain King had a precise steering feel with good cornering grip, but doesn’t have as confident handling as some of the larger, more aggressive tires.  

•    Cornering Grip:  “Surprisingly good grip for a narrow tire”
•    Steering Feel: “Feels very sharp and precise in its handling”, “Very quick & easy to maneuver”

•    Lack of communication from the tire at traction limits: “Traction limits were high, but breakaway felt sudden.” “Washed out a couple of times going downhill”
•    Not as good in more slippery conditions: “Never slid out, but could come close”, “Not as good in mud”
•    Requires more concentration to ride than more aggressive tires: “I felt that I needed be more deliberate in choosing a line.”, “Needed to ride this tire more carefully than some of the bigger tires”

Continental Trail King 2.2 Black Chili (as front tire):
Summary: Given that the Trail King is presented as the larger, more aggressive sibling of the Mountain King, it was quite surprising that the Trail King felt nowhere as predictable and confident in its cornering characteristics as the narrower Mountain King.

•    Predictability at traction limits: “Got into a two-wheeled slide without any notice from the tires.”, “Hard to predict.  Would lose traction quickly” “Never knew when this tire would wash out so I took it easy when cornering.”
•    Cornering Grip: “Grip felt very tenuous. Side knobs did not provide a solid feel.”
•    Steering Feel: “The TK would take an extra millisecond before responding to steering inputs.  Steering felt muted.  Tire felt slow to react and clumsy.”

WTB Vigilante 2.3 27.5” TCS Light, Fast Rolling Compound (as front tire):
Summary: One tester billed the Vigilante as the “assault vehicle” of tires and that certainly was an apt description.  With a burly feel, the Vigilante felt solid rolling over obstacles and trail debris and being pushed into corners.  While the Vigilante was solid overall, but lack of liveliness/communication made this tire less satisfying to ride than the Hans Dampf and the Mountain King.

•    High cornering limits: “  I can roll them into anything, over anything, and push them into corners with confidence"

•    Not as predictable at cornering limits: “Not terribly predictable” and “Not as sure on off-camber corners” but, “High traction limits mitigate not knowing how much traction is left”
•    Less lively and communicative steering feel: “Didn't have the playful aspect that I enjoy”, “Didn't get  much communication as to how much grip was remaining”

Schwalbe Magic Mary 2.35 Trailstar (as front tire):
Summary: The Magic Mary was evaluated by the testers to have the absolute best cornering and braking traction in the test, but that ability came with noticeable weight disadvantage over most of the other tires (other than the WTB Vigilante) even when used as a front tire.

•    High cornering limits while maintaining responsive steering feel: “Provided great traction while still maintaining the "fun" factor.”, “OMG!”, “Completely Sure”, “Fantastic Grip in a totally different league than the other tires tested”
•    Predictable grip: “The tire just eats it all up.”, “ Fun to push through corners” “Rock solid due to its exceptionally high traction limits and decent communication of available grip.”

•    Weight:  The Magic Mary feels heavy even as a front tire

Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.25 Pacestar (as front tire):
Summary: The Hans Dampf combines high cornering grip levels with a “lively, fun-to-ride feel” that noticeably “improves the bike's feel” compared to other tires.

•    Good cornering grip: “Held well, cornered well”, “Less grip than the Magic Mary, but more than enough for most riding.”, “Handled well in everything I threw at it.”
•    Predictable cornering traction: “Very predictable, almost playful”, “Great feel through trail features”, “Great communication of grip limits and ease of regaining traction if it did break away”
•    Playful Steering Feel: “Lots of feedback on trail conditions/features”, “Fun to push since they made me feel confident in their handling”, “Lighter feel than the Magic Mary made this tire feel more lively and fun to ride.”
•    Balance of Attributes: “Great balance between speed and traction, stability & great feel” “Love this combo.  Light enough for extended uphill pedaling.  Felt nimble, playful going downhill.”

•    Possible faster tread wear and tearing of side knobs (from other online reviews):  We do not have any evidence of this from our recent testing sessions, but will provide an update after long-term use of these tires for our demo fleet.  The reports of faster wear and tearing of side knobs may be connected with use on rocky terrain.  At this time, it is unclear whether our softer Western Washington trail conditions with loamy soil and fewer jagged rocks might result in less rapid tire wear.


Testing Results – as a Rear Tire


Rear Tire Quantitative Testing Results

Subjective Comments – Rear Tire

Continental Mountain King 2.2 Black Chili (as rear tire):
Summary: The Mountain King was a fast rolling rear tire with decent cornering grip and sharp handling.  Cornering grip levels were good, but testers commented that this tire required attention as it approached traction limits.

•    Rolling Resistance: “On the climb, I didn't notice any discernable drag. Playful, fast rolling.”, “Rolled surprisingly well for a tire with full knobs “, “Felt very fast up and down”,
•    Handling: “Feels very sharp and precise in its handling”, “Sure feeling in choosing and following a line.”

•    Predictability at Cornering Limits:

  •  “Slid around corners nicely, but a little shaky through mud & rocks”
  •  “I felt that I needed be more deliberate in choosing a line.”, “Good traction, but needed to choose a careful line”
  •  “Gripped well but not much warning as to when the tire would slide”
  •  “The MK did feel like it needed to be ridden more carefully than some of the larger volume tires which reduced its fun-to-ride perception.”

Continental Trail King 2.2 Black Chili (as rear tire):
Summary: The Trail King did not fare much better as a rear tire.  Rolling resistance on this tire was noticeably higher than the other tires test.  Testers also had low faith in its cornering ability as a rear tire and this was the only tire that received several comments on its lack of braking ability as a rear tire.

•    Rolling Resistance:

  • “Wow, almost as slow as a soft compound High Roller II, but with a lot less traction.”
  • “Slow! Feels like an anchor when you hit any mud.”
  •  “I would rather take the 200 gram weight penalty of riding the Magic Mary on the front than to climb with the Trail King as my rear tire.”
  •  “I rode these tires first in the test.  Based on how slow I was climbing on the bike with the Trail Kings, I was sure that I wasn’t feeling well.”

•    Cornering traction: “Slid out in corners. Slippery in wet spots”, “Would slide out early”,
•    Handling: “Couldn't tell what the back tire was doing and didn't feel secure on it.”, “Sketchy”
•    Braking: “Lost traction early on”, “Locked up and slid quite a bit”

WTB Trail Boss 2.25 27.5” TCS Light, Fast Rolling Compound (as rear tire):
Summary: In this test, the Trail Boss was a solid, but not exceptional as a rear tire.  Testers provided mixed commentary on its rolling resistance (“They felt like a bit of a slow rolling tire both up and downhill.” vs. “Rolled decently well.”), but not many comments overall that provide enough of a consistent trend to be reported.

Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.25 Pacestar (as rear tire):
Summary: As a rear tire, the Hans Dampf was solid feeling, but only average in their rolling resistance

•    Cornering Grip: “Slides, but predictably.” Very solid feeling”
•    Handling: “Had a good sense of what the tire is doing at all times.”

Weaknesses: Rolling resistance is only average

Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25 Pacestar (as rear tire):
Summary: The Nobby Nic had the best balance of cornering traction and rolling resistance of any tire in this test.  Though the Nobby Nic was slightly slower rolling than the Mountain King, it feels like a much more substantial tire with much better predictability at cornering limits.

•    Rolling Resistance: “Felt like a faster rolling tire.”, “Rolled surprisingly fast”, “Light enough for extended uphill pedaling .”
•    Cornering Grip: “didn't lose any traction even under harder riding”, “Felt comfortable pushing it downhill.”
•    Handling: “Good communication of grip limits.  Breakaway characteristics are gradual.”, “Felt nimble, playful going downhill.”


Comparison Test Summary:

All five test riders selected the Schwalbe Hans Dampf and Nobby Nic tires as their top all-around choice in this comparison test for wet Seattle winter conditions requiring a greater emphasis on traction than in drier summer conditions.   The choice for the second all-around pick was more mixed with the Mountain King receiving three votes as a rear tire & two votes as a front tire. The fundamental performance attributes common to all of the more preferred tires were good cornering traction and predictable steering/handling for front tires and a balance of rolling resistance with predictable handling for rear tires.  

The surprising factor that came out as a key driver of preference differentiating the most preferred tires was the liveliness of the top tires’ ride and handling.  The Hans Dampf and Nobby Nic both had a good balance of the fundamental attributes, but the consensus among the testers was that this combination of tires were also able to add a unique level of liveliness that increased the responsiveness of a bike’s handling.  This liveliness provided a more sports car like feel to a bike’s handling, while not impacting traction.  The increased feeling of liveliness also provided increased feedback on available traction limits which provided riders with greater confidence to ride more aggressively.

Among the other front tires, the WTB Vigilante had a solid cornering and braking feel but lost out to the Hans Dampf in feeling less lively and communicative.  The Mountain King had good cornering grip, but was perceived to require more care in choosing lines than with other larger, more aggressive tires.  The Magic Mary was highly rated on objective factors, but was judged to have more traction than needed for general trail riding with a commensurate increase in rolling resistance.

Among the other rear tires, the Mountain King was the fastest rolling tire in this test, but had less predictability when cornering hard than the Nobby Nic.  The Panaracer Neo-moto was another exceptionally fast rolling tire from the previous tire comparison test conducted in November.  We’ll look to test both the Mountain King and the Neo-moto in higher traction summer conditions along with other fast rolling tires such as the Maxxis Ardent and Schwalbe Rocket Ron.

A side benefit to the Schwalbe tire lineup that came out in the comparison test was the consistency in handling feel between these three tire lines. The Nobby Nic, Hans Dampf and Magic Mary all handle in a predictably similar fashion.  Traction increases as you go from the less aggressive Nobby Nic to the Magic Mary along with rolling resistance, but how the tires respond to steering input remains consistent.  As one tester put it, “The Schwalbes all have the same handling characteristics only with varying degrees of traction and rolling resistance.”  The benefit to you if you have multiple bikes is that switching from the XC-oriented Nobby Nic on your XC/race bike to a heavier duty Magic Mary on your Enduro/All-Mountain bike doesn’t require you to change up your riding style to adapt to the change in tires.  The only downside to the Schwalbes may be faster tread wear due to softer rubber compounds and side knobs that are less well supported.  We have not seen faster tread wear in our demo bike fleet so far, but we’ll confirm or deny this possibility as the season progresses.  The more organic nature of our trails compared to more rocky trails elsewhere may be mitigating any tendencies that Schwalbes have for faster wear.   For sure, much of the Schwalbe’s performance advantage over the other tires that we tested and their predictable handling do come from the softer rubber compounds and side knobs that extend beyond the casing.  Consider this as similar to high performance tires for sports cars which also wear faster than typical passenger car tire, but offer better traction and response due to their soft rubber compounds.   Schwalbe tires may not be the best value tire on the market, but we believe after our testing with multiple testers with different riding styles that they are among the best riding tires available.

Based on the results of our two recent tire comparison tests, Dirt Merchant Bikes will be using the Hans Dampf (front) & Nobby NIc (rear) combination on all of Turner demo bikes (Turner Flux & Burner bikes) and will be carrying the Schwalbe Nobby Nic, Hans Dampf and Magic Mary in all wheel sizes and widths for the winter season.


The Schwalbe tires that we carry & our pricing is:

Schwalbe Nobby Nic (new HS 463 version) Evolution Line –26”, 27.5” & 29” tire sizes: Regularly $67.99, 

Schwalbe Rocket Ron Evolution Line –26”, 27.5” & 29” tire sizes: Regularly $67.99, 

Schwalbe Magic Mary Evolution Line –26” & 27.5” tire sizes: Regularly $67.99, 

Schwalbe Hans Dampf Evolution Line – 26”, 27.5” & 29” tire sizes: Regularly $67.99,

Typically, we will have the Pacestar (normal) and Trailstar (soft) compounds with Snakeskin/TL-Easy casing in stock with VertStar (softest compound) available to ship in 2 days.


The Maxxis tires that we carry & our pricing is:

Maxxis Minion DH-F 3C MaxxTerra EXO/TR

  • 27.5 x 2.3: $62.99
  • 27.5 x 2.5 Wide Trail: $63.99

Maxxis Minion DH-R 3C MaxxTerra EXO/TR

  • 27.5 x 2.3: $62.99
  • 27.5 x 2.4 Wide Trail: $63.99


Ordering:  Tires can be ordered from Dirt Merchant Bikes at: 

If you have any questions/comments about this tire comparison test or questions about tires, please e-mail Dirt Merchant Bikes at


Our 1st Winter Tire Comparison Test Report is located at: