Tips & Tricks for installing tubeless tires

I wanted to share some tips for mounting tubeless tires that I've learned from doing 4 tire comparison tests and mounting over 60 tires over the last year and a half:

Warnings:

  • I do not recommend inflating a tire over 40 psi when seating the tire beads.
  • Wear eye protection and hearing protection in case a tire blows off of a rim during installation

Installation Process:

  1. Clean the rim bed with alcohol to remove any trace of oil or grease. Tape tubeless-ready rims with tubeless tape and install valves onto the rim. Be as careful as you can to tape rims securely as losing air through improperly installed tape seems to be the most common cause of tubeless setups not being able to maintain tire pressure.
  2. Check the tire for markings that indicate direction of rotation before installing.
  3. Install the tire bead on one side of the tire onto the rim.
  4. Install the other tire bead ending at the valve. (The valve tends to allow less room for a tire bead leading to a tighter fit if you end away from the valve.)
  5. [If you only have a floor pump] Try to inflate the tire. If you can get the tire beads to form some level of seal with the rim bed, you'll be able to get the tire to hold air. From that point keep pumping fast(!) up to 35 psi. You'll generally hear a 'snap' as the tire beads seat at about 35 psi. I don't recommend going above 40 psi to reduce the risk of tire and/or bead blowouts. I've found that about 1/4 to 1/2 of tires install easily with just a floor pump.
    1. See tips and tricks below for ways to help the bead seat with just a floor pump
    2. See below for the tire brand/rim brand combinations that I've found install easier
    3. Warning: Be VERY careful not to exceed 40 psi in the tire to reduce the risk of tire and/or bead blowouts.
  6. [If you have access to a compressor or gas station air hose] The process of installing tubeless tires is a LOT easier with access to a compressor. The high pressure that a compressor can deliver quicker than a hand pump helps force tubeless tire beads against a rim bed from which you can then add air up to the tire pressure at which the tire beads will seat (about 35 psi).
    1. Warning: Be VERY careful not to exceed 40 psi in the tire to reduce the risk of tire and/or bead blowouts.
  7. Congratulations if you are up to this point. Getting the beads seated is the most challenging part of this process. To complete the installation you need to add sealant into the tire & distribute the sealant around the sidewalls of the tire.
  8. Let the air out of the tire. Generally the tire beads will remain seated on the rim.
  9. Remove the tire valve core. Generally tubeless valves will be of the presta variety, not the schraeder valves that are typically used with car tires)This is the top part of the presta valve that screws into the larger diameter base of the valve. You can do this by using a core removal tool such as the  Stans NoTubes Core Remover Tool or an adjustable wrench if you don't have a core removal tool.
  10. Inject about 4 oz of tubeless sealant into the tire through the tire valve with the valve core removed
  11. Reinstall the valve core
  12. Pump up the tire to about 35 psi
  13. Shake the wheel/tire laterally to distribute sealant onto the tire sidewalls. Rotate the wheel/tire as you continue to do this around the entire tire.
  14. Rotate the wheel/tire held horizontally to allow sealant to work its way into the junction between tire bead & rim. Set the wheel/tire down horizontally for 5-10 minutes. A cardboard box is a good way to keep the wheel/tire level. Flip the wheel over to the other side and repeat this process. Losing air due to tire beads not being adequately sealed against a rim is another common cause of tubeless setups not being able to hold pressure.
  15. Adjust tire pressure based on your weight. This is a formula from Stans NoTubes that provides a starting point for matching tire pressure to your weight:

Rider weight / 7 = X  

Front pressure = X -1 psi
Rear pressure = X -2 psi

Example based on a rider weight (with gear) of 160 lbs
160 lbs / 7 = 22.9
Front pressure = 22.9 - 1 = about 22 psi
Rear pressure = 22.9 + 2 = about 25 psi
 

 

Tips & Tricks:

  • Use rims designed for tubeless use: Tubeless rims have a ridge next to the bead seat that will help to "lock" a tubeless tire's bead onto the rim after it is seated. I personally will not do tubeless "conversions" with non-tubeless rims. Non-tubeless rims that don't have the ridge to help lock in a tubeless tire's bead greatly increase the risk of burping (losing air in hard cornering) or rolling a tire off in corners.
  • Use tires designed for tubeless use: Tires designed for tubeless mounting have a casing that is more likely to be air tight as well as tighter fitting beads (keep reading for the benefits of tighter fitting beads for ease of tubeless installation).
  • Seat the tire beads before adding sealant: Trying to seat a tire that already has sealant added just adds potential for messiness. The sealant does not help the initial bead seating process.
  • Seating the tire beads with just a floor pump: If a tire's bead fit snugly against the rim bed, you have a good chance of being able to just use a floor pump to get enough air pressure to seat the beads. An air tight seal between bead and rim allows you to gradually build up enough air pressure in the tire until the beads seat around 35-40 psi. 
  • Tricks for seating tire beads when a tire doesn't start holding air pressure immediately:
    • Make sure the tire is covering the valve hole
    • Try to move the tire so that the beads press against the rim bed
    • Use an inner tube to strap the tire against the rim
  • Seating the bead without a compressor: A inexpensive way to get a high volume of air into a tire at high velocity is to use a gas station air compressor. If you have Presta valve, you will likely need a presta-to-schrader valve adaptor such as the one we sell at: Kool-stop Valve Adapter. The high velocity of air that is delivered by this method or with a compressor pushes the tire beads against the rim allowing pressure to build up to seat the beads.
    • Warning: Be VERY careful not to exceed 40 psi in the tire to reduce the risk of tire and/or bead blowouts.
  • Add sealant via a tubeless valve that has a removable valve core: Many instructional videos will recommend removing one side of the bead at this time to add sealant. I don't agree with this approach. You've done a lot of work at this point to get both tire beads seated properly. Why would you want to undo part of the work you've done to seat the beads? Adding sealant through the valve core is by far the lowest effort way to add sealant.
  • Easier to install tire brand/rim brand combinations
    • On Stans rims (Easton & DT rims have a similar diameter. Mavic & WTB have a slightly smaller diameter)
      • Schwalbe Snakeskin - Easiest
      • Maxxis Exo - Fairly Easy
      • Specialized 2Bliss - Fairly Easy
      • Continental Protection - Difficult to do initial seating of the beads on Stans rims
      • WTB TCS - CAN work but beads may be tight as the bead diameter is based on the tighter UST bead specification. I have mounted 2 WTB tires on Stans rims, but have heard that others have had challenges with this. Works better on WTB and Mavic rims.
      • Michelin, Hutchinson - I don't have direct experience but I believe these brands will work better on WTB and Mavic rims.

This is a great video on installing difficult-to-mount tubeless tires:

Initial Ride Impressions: New Schwalbe Fat Albert Front & Rear Tires REVIEWED

New 2016 Schwalbe Fat Albert – Front & Rear: Initial Ride Impressions

I’ve had a few rides on the new front and rear specific Fat Albert tires from Schwalbe. Given the unconventional tread design, I’ve had both curiosity and doubts about how well the tires would work for our Pacific Northwest trail conditions.

Schwalbe Fat Albert Front

Schwalbe Fat Albert Rear

 

Key questions that I had about these tires after seeing them at Interbike 2015 last September were:

Front:

1.       How well would these brake in a straight line given that there is no flat braking surface as you might see on a Maxxis High Roller II or DH-R II?

2.       How stable would braking with these tires be in a straight line?

3.       How much cornering grip would this tire have?

Rear:

1.       How well would these tires roll?

2.       How much cornering grip would these tires have with rounded side knobs and intermediate knobs?

The short answer is that the Fat Albert Front performs surprisingly well and is especially good in certain situations.  Cornering traction on the Fat Albert front seems as good or better than a Maxxis DH-F which was the top pick in our recent comparison test of enduro tires: Dirt Merchant Bikes' Spring 2016 Enduro Tire Comparison Test: Maxxis DH-F/DH-R vs Specialized Butcher/Purgatory vs Schwalbe Hans Dampf/Nobby Nic.

I am, however, quite confused about the design intent of the Fat Albert Rear and how its characteristics match up with the needs of potential target rider groups.

Test Parameters:

·       Trail Conditions: Trails were slightly damp from rain coming down a day before. Traction conditions were relatively high

·       Tire Pressures:

o   Front: 22 psi

o   Rear: 26 psi

Fat Albert Front Tire Impressions:

1.       How well would these brake in a straight line given that there is no flat braking surface as you might see on a Maxxis High Roller II or DH-R II?

The Fat Alberts had decent braking traction, though perhaps not as rock solid as a High Roller II or a Magic Mary under heavy braking pressure.

2.       How stable would braking with these tires be in a straight line?

I thought the front tire might tend to wander under heavy braking in a straight line due to the lack of a flat braking surface. Based on my riding experience, this wasn’t a problem at all.

3.       How much cornering grip would this tire have?

Cornering grip was quite good. An unexpected side benefit was the ability of the tire to change direction during hard cornering. In contrast, the High Roller II has a very solid edge feel but tends to be on-or-off in its cornering grip. The new Fat Albert Front provides much better ability to change lines during hard cornering.

4.       Other strengths

The Fat Albert Front was also especially good at braking while cornering. My guess would be that any three knobs on one side of the tire form a stable tripod for braking when the tire is leaned over.

Fat Albert Rear Tire Impressions:

I’m going to convey my impressions of the Fat Albert Rear Tire before explaining my confusion about the design of this tire:

1.       How well would these tires roll?

Rolling resistance is about average and feels higher than that of a Maxxis DH-R II and much higher than a Nobby Nic.

2.       How much cornering grip would these tires have with rounded side knobs and intermediate knobs?

Cornering grip is not that good, but it tends to slide predictably. The intermediate knobs may be preventing the side cornering knobs from digging in as firmly as would be ideal. The Maxxis DH-R II has more cornering grip while the Schwalbe Nobby Nic seems to have about the same level of cornering grip.

3.       Other strengths

Climbing traction seems good, but I generally don’t find that climbing traction is at as much of a premium as cornering grip. Braking traction is generally good.

Though the new Fat Albert Rear tire has some strengths, I am confused about the benefits of the tire for the usage profiles of likely user groups. As a design researcher focused on driving product innovation by looking at customer needs/attitudes, I typically start thinking of new product concepts or product refinement based on how products might better fit users’ needs and preferences. For a more robust, traction oriented tire such as the new Fat Albert, I can think of two potential user groups:

·       Enduro/All-mountain riders focused on grip for downhill cornering and braking, and

·       Trail riders with a need for a balance of lower rolling resistance with reasonable good cornering and braking ability

I don’t think the Fat Albert Rear tire fits the needs of either of these user groups:

1.       Enduro/All-mountain riders:

a.       Needs: Cornering grip, Braking traction to maximize DH speed and control

b.      Fit with the new Fat Albert Rear:

i.      Cornering Grip: For this group of riders, cornering grip would be lower than ideal.

  ii.      Climbing Traction: The Fat Albert’s climbing traction is good to have, but not essential as the focus for these riders is downhill speed, stability and predictability

  iii.      Braking Traction: OK

c.       My Recommendation for ideal rear tire: Maxxis DH-R II that provides better cornering grip and braking traction along lower rolling resistance than the new Fat Albert Rear tire provides.

2.       Trail riders:

a.       Needs: Lower rolling resistance that reduces energy expenditure for longer rides while not compromising cornering and braking ability.

b.      Fit with the new Fat Albert Rear:

 i.      Rolling Resistance: Rolling resistance of the new Fat Albert is higher than I would like for a tire that I might ride for longer rides

 ii.      Cornering Grip: The level of cornering grip is reasonable and the tire slides predictably

iii.      Climbing Traction: The Fat Albert’s climbing traction is good to have, but it seems that the design of this tire has prioritized climbing traction at the expense of rolling resistance.

c.       My Recommendation for ideal rear tire: Schwalbe Nobby Nic that provides significantly lower rolling resistance along with cornering grip and climbing traction that is comparable to the new Fat Albert Rear tire.

Summary:

I like the new Fat Albert Front tire a lot and will keep riding it for a while to get more experience with how it compares to the Maxxis DH-F. The focus on climbing traction for the new Fat Albert Rear tire does not make sense to me especially given that this comes at the expense of markedly higher rolling resistance than the other rear tires I have recommended. I will likely be swapping out the Fat Albert

 

How is the Maxxis DH-F 2.5 Wide Trail tire tread pattern different than the 2.3 version?

The new Maxxis Wide Trail tires are, of course, wider than their regular sized siblings, but how does the tread pattern differ? I have both the DH-F 2.3 and 2.5 in stock so I decided to take some pictures and measurements.

Overall, the side knobs on the Wide Trail version are closer to the center knobs, but the overall width of the knobs is 5mm wider.

2.3 (left) and 2.5 (right) side-by-side:

 

2.3: Center to Side Lug Spacing is 5.5 to 6mm

 

2.5: Center & Side Lug Spacing is 4.5 mm

 

2.3: Knob width is 55mm

 

2.5: Knob width is 60mm

Pacific Northwest Spring 2016 Enduro Tire Test: Hans Dampf/Nobby Nic, DHF/DHR, Butcher/ Purgatory REVIEWED

Dirt Merchant Bikes

Spring 2016 Enduro Tire Comparison Test

 

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 for demo at Duthie Hill Park in Issaquah, WA

(http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/demos)

 

Testing Overview:

 

Our Winter tire comparison test sessions conducted last November & January established the Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.25 and Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25 (2015 version) as our front and rear tire benchmarks for Pacific Northwest wet winter conditions.  The links to these reports are located at:

 

        Winter 2015 Comparison Test 1: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2014/11/20/tire-comparison-test-report-2015-nobby-nic-high-roller-ii-neo-moto-hans-dampf

        Winter 2015 Comparison Test 2: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2015/1/15/pacific-northwest-winter-tire-comparison-test-session-2-2015-nobby-nic-mountain-king-ii-trail-king-vigilantetrail-boss-magic-mary-hans-dampf

 

In this latest tire comparison test, we tested wider tires in the following tire combinations:

 

1. Maxxis Minion DH-F 2.3 3C MaxxTerra (f) / Maxxis Minion 2.3 MaxxTerra DH-R (r)

2. Specialized Butcher 2.3 GRID 2Bliss Ready (f) / Specialized Purgatory 2.3 GRID 2Bliss Ready (r)

3. Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35 Evo Trailstar (f) /Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35 Evo Pacestar (r)

 

Before testing, we expected all of the tires chosen for this comparison to be strong contenders:

 

Schwalbe Hans Dampf/Nobby Nic: The Hans Dampf and Nobby Nic tires are wider versions of the tires that have tested well in our prior comparisons. The Hans Dampf in this test is also in the Trailstar compound which should yield better cornering traction than the Pacestar compound on our previously tested Hans Dampf front tires.

 

Maxxis DHF/DHR: The Minion DHF has been a long time favorite of many riders both in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere so we expected the DHF to be a strong contender in this comparison. The DHR has also built a strong reputation both as a rear tire and as a front tire when good braking is a desired quality.

 

Specialized Butcher/Purgatory: Finally, the Butcher was of interest due to its similar tread design to the well-regarded DH-F and because it has also attracted a loyal following of riders. Paired with the Butcher is the Specialized Purgatory as Specialized’s rear tire offering for all mountain riding.

 

Product testers included 2 riders recruited from the Seattle area via a Facebook posting and myself.  Each of the test riders rode either a Turner RFX (160mm of travel) for the duration of the comparison test.  Each rider rode the three 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:

 

Maxxis Minion DH-F (front) & DH-R II (rear)

 

Maxxis Minion DH-F 3C MaxxTerra, EXO,  27.5” x 2.3,

        Claimed Weight: 870 g

        Actual Weight: 870 g

        Tire Height: 52 mm

        Casing Width: 58 mm

        Knob Width: 56 mm

 

Maxxis Minion DH-R II 3C MaxxTerra, EXO,  27.5” x 2.3

        Claimed Weight: 805 g

        Actual Weight: 820 g

        Tire Height: 54  mm

        Casing Width: 56 mm

        Knob Width: 57 mm

 

Specialized Butcher (front) & Purgatory (rear)

 

 Specialized Butcher GRID 2Bliss Ready,  27.5” x 2.3

        Claimed Weight: 930 g

        Actual Weight: 930 g

        Tire Height: 57 mm

        Casing Width: 58 mm

        Knob Width: 57 mm

 

 Specialized Purgatory GRID 2Bliss Ready,  27.5” x 2.3

        Claimed Weight: 755 g

        Actual Weight: 720 g

        Tire Height: 56 mm

        Casing Width: 58mm

        Knob Width: 57 mm

 

Schwalbe Hans Dampf (front) & Nobby Nic (rear)

 

Schwalbe Hans Dampf, Trailstar/Evo/Snakeskin 27.5” x 2.35

        Claimed Weight: 795 g

        Actual Weight: 860 g

        Tire Height: 57 mm

        Casing Width: 60 mm

        Knob Width: 62 mm

 

Schwalbe Nobby Nic, Pacestar/Evo/Snakeskin 27.5” x 2.35

        Claimed Weight: 720 g

        Actual Weight: 715 g (avg of 2 tires weighed with a range of 710-720 g)

        Tire Height: 57 mm

        Casing Width: 60 mm

        Knob Width: 58 mm

 

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.  The trail had not had significant precipitation for a week providing high traction conditions.  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 & 2 other riders that had signed on to be product testers with Dirt Merchant Bikes.  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 a Turner RFX (160mm travel).   Each rider rode the same bike for all 3 tire combinations tested. (Tires/wheels were switched between bikes)

Wheel setup: Stans Flow EX rims (25 mm internal width) on DT350 hubs.  Tires were run tubeless with 30 psi. 30 psi was the lowest pressure that I was comfortable running with rider weights varying within an 80 lb range.

Testing Procedure:  Each rider rode each of the 3 tire combinations up the course and then back down.  Wheels/Tires were changed after each uphill/downhill round trip.


Evaluation Methodology: The tire combinations were evaluated on the basis of three separate measures:

 

 

        Quantitative Rating: Tire combinations were rated on multiple quantitative 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.

        5 stars - Absolutely outstanding

        4 stars

        3 stars - Solid performance, meets expectations

        2 stars

        1 star - Misses expectations by a wide margin

 

        Subjective Evaluation: Test riders added subjective comments to the Quantitative Ratings to provide deeper insight into the quant ratings.

 

        1st & 2nd most Preferred Tires: Each test rider indicated which tire would be their 1st and 2nd pick for front and for rear usage.

 

        Timed Laps: Due to the data collection methodology introducing unintentional variability into the data, we will run further testing to get lap times for the tire combinations that performed better on the three evaluations mentioned above. The lap times that we will collect are as follows:

        Uphill split

        Downhill split

        Total Time (aggregating Uphill & Downhill lap times)

 

 

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.

 

        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.

 

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

 

        Projectability of results to other Trail conditions: This comparison test was conducted in the Seattle area in April 2016.  Precipitation about 4 days before testing provided firm, high traction trail conditions.  Perceptions of tire performance generated from this test are generally not projectable to dissimilar trail conditions in other geographic areas.

 

 

Performance Ratings – Front Tire:  

Subjective Comments – Front Tire

 

Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35, Trailstar compound, Snakeskin casing (as a front tire):

Summary:  Coming into this test, we expected high cornering traction from the Hans Dampf based on prior experience with the narrower, harder Pacestar compound version. Perhaps given the exceptional performance of the other tires tested, the Hans Dampf failed to provide as much confidence in cornering as we might have expected. The Hans Dampf communicated steering feel well but felt less solid at cornering limits than the other tires tested.

 

Strengths:

        Steering Feel was good: “Most steering feedback of the tires tested”

 

Weaknesses:

        Traction limits were lower than other tires tested: “Loose in corners.”

        Cornering felt less solid than on other tires tested: “Not as solid feeling as the DH-F when cornering hard.”

 

 

Specialized Butcher 2.3, GRID 2Bliss Ready (as a front tire):

Summary: The Butcher had decent cornering traction, but did not feel as sharp on turn-in as the DH-F or the Hans Dampf. The Butcher’s cornering traction was also somewhat difficult to access as the tire was limited in the amount of feedback that it provided on available cornering grip.

 

Strengths:

        Good cornering grip: “Grip felt more solid than the Hans Dampf”

 

Weaknesses:

        Turn-in was less sharp than the other tires tested: “Did not feel sharp on turn in”

        Less predictable at cornering limits: “Couldn’t get a good sense of when the tire might lose traction.”

        Felt less responsive than the other tires: “Didn’t provide much feedback about what was going on at the tread level”

 

Maxxis Minion DH-F, 27.5” x 2.3, 3C MaxxTerra Compound, EXO Casing (as a front tire):

Summary: The DH-F was clearly a notch above the other two tires tested in terms of both cornering grip as well as predictability at the limit. Good feedback about available traction made the DH-F easy to ride hard and confidence inspiring.

 

Strengths:

        High Cornering Traction: “Felt locked in" “Very solid feeling when on the cornering knobs.”

        Very predictable at the limit: “Feels very solid at the limit”, “Stable, predictable and Most confidence inspiring”

 

Performance Ratings – Rear Tire:  

Subjective Comments – Rear Tire

 

Specialized Purgatory 2.3, GRID 2Bliss Ready (as a rear tire):

Summary: The Purgatory was a decent tire overall, but failed to excel in either rolling resistance or traction among this group of high-achieving tires.

 

Weaknesses:

        Higher Rolling Resistance: “Felt slower than the other tires tested”

        Cornering grip felt less secure: “A bit skittish on tight loose corners under braking.” “Grip felt tenuous””

        Lacked feedback:  “Couldn't get a good feel for when the tire was close to its cornering limits”

 

Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35, Trailstar compound, Snakeskin casing (as a rear tire):

Summary: The Nobby Nic had reasonable levels of climbing and cornering traction, but felt like the fastest rolling tire in the test.

 

Strengths:

        Rolling Resistance: “Seemed Fast” “Rolled Fastest”

        Good handling feel: “Better cornering feel than the DH-R”

        Good ride feel: “Lively, fast rolling feel”

 

Weaknesses:

        Climbing Traction: “Not as secure as the DH-R” “Good at least in the dry conditions of the test”

        Cornering Grip was not exceptional: “Did tend to wash out in faster corners” “A bit skittish in tight loose corners under braking”

 

 

Maxxis Minion DH-R, 27.5” x 2.3, 3C MaxxTerra Compound, Exo Casing(as a rear tire):

Summary: Though its performance was not dominant to the same degree that the DH-F was for the front tire comparison, the DH-R was the best in the test at balancing the traction with reasonable rolling resistance.

 

Strengths:

        Good Climbing Traction: “No loss of traction at all”

        Surprisingly good rolling resistance: “Rolled surprisingly well for an aggressively treaded tire”

 

Weaknesses:

        Cornering Grip was good, but not head: “Lost rear tire grip once or twice”

 

 

Test Summary:

Front Tire Preference:

Rear Tire Preference:

All of the tires chosen for this test were known to be strong performers and this was supported by our testing experience on these tires. What this test is looking to convey is the relative strengths and weaknesses of the tested tires. Overall, the testers seemed to prefer tires that were able to best balance multiple performance characteristics. 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 good climbing traction for rear tires. 

 

Front Tire Summary:

 

In our Summer 2015 XC tire test (http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2015/7/19/pacific-northwest-summer-2015-xc-tire-comparison-test), we had introduced the idea of Usable Rolling Resistance. The idea was that the fastest XC/Race tires are those that combine low rolling resistance with sufficient climbing traction to not lose efficiency from tires spinning out on climbs. For front tires, there is perhaps a similar paradigm in which Usable Cornering Grip in which the perceived cornering ability of a tire is the result of both its absolute cornering traction limits and the level of feedback on traction limits that tire provides to help riders access more of its available traction.

 

This concept of Usable Cornering Grip was reflected in the test riders’ tire preferences that favored tires that provided both high levels of cornering grip with the steering feel/handling to be able access more of this available grip. Steering feel and good feedback on how much traction is available was almost as important as absolute cornering grip.

 

The DH-F was clearly the best front tire in the test providing high cornering grip with good steering feel and predictable handling at the limit. Unlike some other front tires with high levels of cornering traction that we’ve previously tested, the DH-F also provides a high degree of steering feel providing clear indications of when the tire is about to slide. Some other tires that we’ve previously tested have had high cornering traction, but were less communicative about the limits of that traction.

 

It was surprising that the Butcher was the least preferred of the three front tires tested, as it was rated higher than the Hans Dampf on all four front tire rating factors. The best explanation that I can give for this result is that compared to the Butcher, the Hans Dampf has a more communicative steering feel which riders appreciated. The Butcher tended to have a softer initial turn-in feel and was a bit more disconnected feeling when approaching cornering limits. This hampered test riders’ ability to maximize the Butcher’s reasonably high cornering traction.

 

The Hans Dampf provided a lively ride and cornering feel, but was let down by having lower overall cornering traction than the Butcher or the DH-F. The Hans Dampf certainly is an entertaining tire to ride when compared in isolation, but the DH-F provides only slightly less steering response with a more solid cornering feel.

 

 

Rear Tire Summary:

 

The performance of the rear tires compared in this test was closer than the results for the front tire comparison. Of the three tires tested, the Purgatory was perhaps the weakest with the highest perceived rolling resistance, lower cornering traction limits, and less communication from the tread about available traction. The Nobby Nic provided reasonable levels of climbing and cornering traction, but excelled in rolling resistance and handling feel. Having a Nobby Nic as rear tire provides an enjoyably lively and fast rolling feel that seems to be characteristic of Schwalbe tires (with the exception of the Magic Mary and other more DH-oriented tires). The DH-R had the best balance of traction and rolling resistance. Even with an aggressive tread design, the DH-R rolled surprisingly well. On balance, the testers all picked the DH-R as their number one choice for rear tire.

 

In deciding between the DH-R and the Nobby Nic, the DH-R is the best all-around choice when a higher level of rear tire cornering and climbing traction is desired. Note though that all three of these tires provide a high level of climbing traction so choice is really between a high level of climbing traction and the best climbing traction available. The Nobby Nic is potentially a good choice for riders that are seeking to have their bikes feel and be faster. More front tire cornering traction is generally always beneficial, but for rear tires, rolling resistance is as important of a consideration as cornering traction

 

Additional Considerations:

 

Ease of Tubeless Setup by Brand:

[Caveat: This is on Stans Flow EX rims so certain brands may happen to match better with the rim diameter and profile of these rims.  In particular, WTB TCS beads are known to be a tighter fit, though my experience has been that I’ve had no issues mounting a WTB Vigilante and a WTB Trail Boss on Arch EX rims. Your experience will likely vary with different rim brands/models.]

Schwalbe: Consistently, Schwalbe tires used in our tests have been the easiest to set up tubeless on the Stans Arch EX rims with 15 of the 17 Schwalbe tires we have mounted in our three comparison tests seating with only a floor pump and no additional manipulation beyond just mounting the tire and airing it up.  About 2/3 of the Schwalbe tires held air even without sealant and all tires held air after doing a shake and distribution of sealant.

 

Continental: Of the 6 Continental tires that we have mounted, only 1 of the 6 seated easily with a floor pump, 4 required additional manipulation to seat and I gave up on seating one by hand (and went to the gas station to use their air compressor). All of the Continental tires lost air pressure over time until I did a second shake and distribution of sealant to seal the bead interface.

 

Maxxis: 5 of the 6 Maxxis tires that we have tested seated easily with a floor pump and 1 required some additional manipulation to seat with a floor pump. 3 of the 4 tires held air after doing a shake and distribution of sealant and the remaining tire also held air after a second shake and distribution of sealant.

 

Specialized: 2 of the 2 Specialized tires that we have tested seated easily with a floor pump. Both of the tires held air after doing a shake and distribution of sealant. Also, kudos to Specialized for the bead design on their 2Bliss tubeless ready tires. The two Specialized tires tested with the 2Bliss design have butyl rubber coated tire beads which promotes a more airtight seal between tire and rim after tires are mounted onto a rim but before seating of the tire beads. Seating a tubeless tire with a hand pump requires the tires to have a sufficiently airtight seal with a rim to be able to use air pressure to seat the tire bead. The butyl rubber coating the 2Bliss tire beads helps create this level of seal between tire and rim.

Previous Editions of our Tire Testing Reports:

If you’re interested in reading previous editions of our tire testing reports, they are located at:

Winter 2015 – Enduro/Trail Tire Comparison Test 1: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2014/11/20/tire-comparison-test-report-2015-nobby-nic-high-roller-ii-neo-moto-hans-dampf

Winter 2015 – Enduro/Trail Tire Comparison Test 2: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2015/1/15/pacific-northwest-winter-tire-comparison-test-session-2-2015-nobby-nic-mountain-king-ii-trail-king-vigilantetrail-boss-magic-mary-hans-dampf

 

Summer 2015 – XC Tire Comparison Test: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2015/7/19/pacific-northwest-summer-2015-xc-tire-comparison-test

 

Tires slated for testing in Summer 2016 & Winter 2017:

Our tire testing plan for the rest of 2016 is as follows:

 

June 2016:

 

Dry Conditions XC or Race Tire testing – TBD based on reader interest

Benchmark: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25 (front & rear)

Other tires considered for inclusion: Schwalbe Racing Ralph, Maxxis Ardent Race, Vredestein Black Panther XTRAC, Continental Race King

-- or –

Dry Conditions Semi-Slick Rear Tire testing – TBD based on reader interest

Benchmark: Maxxis DH-F (front)

Rear tires considered for inclusion: Maxxis Minion SS, Specialized Slaughter, Maxxis Tomahawk, Schwalbe Rock Razor, WTB Riddler

 

 

 

November 2016: Wet Conditions Enduro/Trail Tire testing –

Benchmark: Maxxis DH-F (front) / Maxxis DH-R or Schwalble Nobby Nic (rear)

Other tires considered for inclusion: the new e*thirteen TRS Race (https://bythehive.com/pages/tires), Bontrager SE5, Michelin Wild Rock’R/Wild Grip’R, Schwalbe Fat Albert Front & Fat Albert Rear, Schwalbe Magic Mary, Maxxis Aggressor

 

Please feel free to reach out to Dirt Merchant Bikes by e-mail at jeff@dirtmerchantbikes.com with your preferences for tires to test.

 

Tires that we carry

Based on the results of our two recent tire comparison tests, Dirt Merchant Bikes will be carrying the Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires in addition to the Nobby Nic, Hans Dampf and Magic Mary in all wheel sizes and widths for the summer riding season. We will also carry Maxxis DH-F/DH-R, High Roller II, and Ardent tires as a value priced option.

 

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:

Tires can be ordered from Dirt Merchant Bikes at: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/tires-wheels/

 

We also welcome any other requests/suggestions for our tire testing program. If you have any questions/comments about this tire comparison test or questions about tires, please e-mail Dirt Merchant Bikes at jeff@dirtmerchantbikes.com

 

 

INTERBIKE 2015: Fat Bike & Plus-sized tires & wheels

To wrap up our Interbike 2015 coverage, here are some pictures and details about new fat bike & plus-sized tires, rims and wheels

New Plus-sized tires from Maxxis

 Maxxis Rekon+ (left) & Ikon+ (right)

Maxxis Rekon+ (left) & Ikon+ (right)

WTB Plus-sized Tires & Rims

WTB Plus Sized tires SMALL.jpg

Trailblazer 2.8 (left, Bridger 3.0 (center), Trail Boss 3.0 (right)

new ASYM i29 (29mm internal width) & i35 (35mm internal width) rims along with the Scraper i45 Plus sized rim

Reynolds/Borealis Elite Carbon Fiber Wheels (80mm inner width)

Industry 9 Fat Bike Rims in Alloy & Carbon Fiber

i9 Big Rig Alloy

Velocity Dually Fat Bike Rims

Ryde Rims Plus-sized Rims

Ryde comes from the Netherlands and has been in business since 1908. They are seeking to enter the North American market.with their line of rims.

Pacific Northwest Summer 2015 XC Tire Comparison Test: X-King, Rocket Ron, Ardent, Neo-moto, Hans Dampf & Nobby Nic REVIEWED

Pacific Northwest Summer 2015 XC Tire Comparison Test

July 19th, 2015

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: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/demos/

Testing Overview: 

Our Winter tire comparison test sessions conducted last November & January established the Schwalbe Hans Dampf and Schwalbe Nobby Nic (2015 version) as our front and rear tire benchmarks for Pacific Nwet winter conditions.  In this latest tire comparison test conducted on June 19th, 2015,, we tested the Hans Dampf/Nobby Nic combo and four additional XC-oriented tires in Seattle area dry, summer conditions.  Product tester included 4 riders recruited from the Seattle area via a Facebook posting and myself.  Each of the test riders rode either a Turner Burner (140mm rear travel) or a Turner Flux (120mm 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. 

[New for Summer 2015] In addition to quantitative and subjective ratings, we collected and analyzed uphill, downhill and combined lap times for the first time in this edition of the test.

Research Question: 

Are XC-oriented dry condition tires faster overall in Pacific Northwest loose over hardpack summer trail conditions than the more aggressive Hans Dampf/Nobby Nic established as our winter benchmark combination in our Winter 2015 tire comparison tests?

  • Winter 2015 Comparison Test 1: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2014/11/20/tire-comparison-test-report-2015-nobby-nic-high-roller-ii-neo-moto-hans-dampf
  • Winter 2015 Comparison Test 2: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2015/1/15/pacific-northwest-winter-tire-comparison-test-session-2-2015-nobby-nic-mountain-king-ii-trail-king-vigilantetrail-boss-magic-mary-hans-dampf

Hypothesis:

The hypothesis before testing was that the more aggressive Hans Dampf/Nobby NIc combination would be faster overall than the XC-oriented tires (X-King, Ardent, Neo-Moto, Rocket Ron,) on an out-and-back course with an climb going out and a descent on the return leg with few flat sections.  Basis for this hypothesis was the prediction that rolling resistance would not be much of a factor on the climb while the more aggressive tires would be faster on the downhill.  Specifically, we had found the Nobby Nic to roll fairly well in our winter testing so this test is comparing a reasonably fast Nobby Nic tires with even faster rolling tires.
[Note: This type of riding situation is pretty typical for Western Washington in which trails usually are either running uphill or downhill.]

Keep reading for the full details.  Or, skip to the end to see if we validated or rejected this hypothesis!

Tire Combinations Tested:

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

 

1.    Continental X-King 27.5” x 2.4 ProTection, Black Chili compound, Front & Rear

  • Claimed Weight: 715g
  • Actual Weight: 685 g (avg of 2 tires weighed with a range of 680-690g)
  • Tire Height: 54 mm
  • Casing Width: 58 mm
  • Knob Width: 54 mm

 

2.    Maxxis Ardent 27.5” x 2.2 Dual Compound, EXO/TR Front & Rear

  • Claimed Weight: 760g
  • Actual Weight: 730 g (avg of 2 tires with with both tires weighing 730g)
  • Tire Height: 52 mm
  • Casing Width: 55 mm
  • Knob Width: 54  mm

 

3.    Panaracer Neo-Moto 27.5” x 2.3, Front & Rear

  • Claimed Weight: 665g
  • Actual Weight: 715 g (2 tires weighed with range of 710-720g)
  • Tire Height: 53 mm
  • Casing Width: 55 mm
  • Knob Width: 59 mm

4.    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

(Though this tire is no longer available in this size in the Pacestar compound, we are using it in this test to establish consistency as this version of the Hans Dampf was used in our winter testing)

Schwalbe Nobby Nic:  2.25 Rear, Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing: Rear
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

5.    Schwalbe Rocket Ron: 27.5” x 2.25 Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing: Front & Rear

  • Claimed Weight: 550 g
  • Actual Weight: 625 g (avg of 2 tires weighed with range of 610-640g)
  • Tire Height: 52 mm
  • Casing Width: 57 mm
  • Knob Width: 55 mm

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.  Trails had not had significant precipitation for at least a month with slightly loose over hardpack trail conditions.  There had been heavy rain ending two days before the day of the comparison test.  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. 30 psi was the lowest pressure that I was comfortable running with rider weights varying within an 80 lb range.

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: The tire combinations were evaluated on the basis of four separate measures:

1. Timed Laps: Tire testing lap times were recorded for:

  • Uphill split
  • Downhill split
  • Total Time (aggregating Uphill & Downhill lap times)

2. Quantitative Rating: Tire combinations were rated on multiple quantitative 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.

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

3.    Subjective Evaluation: Test riders added subjective comments to the Quantitative Ratings to provide deeper insight into the quant ratings. 

4.    1st & 2nd most Preferred Tires: Each test rider indicated which tire were their 1st and 2nd pick for front and for rear usage.

Note 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. Differences between tires in the quantitative results are not statistically significant: With only small sample of five 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 dry summer trail conditions.  These conditions include some loose dirt over hardpack trails.  Perceptions of tire performance generated from this test are generally not projectable to dissimilar trail conditions in other geographic areas.

Lap Times - Uphill, Downhill & Combined:

(based on times recorded for 5 test riders riding each of the tire combinations once)

Notes on Interpretation of Lap Time Averages and Standard Deviations:  

1. Differences between the average lap times recorded for the tires are not statistically significant:  With only one lap time for each of the five riders for each tire, differences in lap times should be interpreted as directional and not as statistically significant differences.

2. Definition of Standard Deviation:  The standard deviation is a measure of how spread out the numbers in a data set are. A smaller standard deviation means the data is more closely clustered around the average of the data set, while a larger standard deviation means the data is more spread out.

3. Interpretation of the Standard Deviation statistic for the lap times recorded for each tire:  My interpretation of the standard deviation of the lap times recorded for each tire is that it is a measure of how forgiving a tire is of less-than-perfect riding.  In this context, tires that are more forgiving will have a lower standard deviation score. I’m defining forgiving as the ability to:

  • Communicate the amount of available traction
  • Quickly regain climbing traction after traction is lost
  • Recover easily and quickly from the front tire sliding
  • Slide the rear tire predictably

The opposite of a forgiving tire will be one that tends to break away quickly and without warning. Forgiving tires will tend to both have reasonably high traction limits and lose traction predictably thus allowing riders to more confidently explore their traction limits.

The reason why I think the standard deviation is a measure of how forgiving  or, put in another way, how accessible a tire’s performance limits are is because I believe a more forgiving tire should result in less variance in lap times.  Tires that break away more unpredictably might be expected to have larger and more variable time differences between “good” runs and “bad” runs.

This is my interpretation of the data, but feel free to post any thought you might have on my blog post on this topic at:  http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2015/7/16/measuring-tire-cornering-predictability-with-data

Performance Ratings – Front Tire:  

Subjective Comments – Front Tire: 

Continental X-King 27.5” x 2.4 ProTection, Black Chili compound (as a front tire):
Summary:  The X-King had a precise steering feel but tended to break away somewhat abruptly at the limit.  

Strengths: 

  • Steering Feel: “Nimble enough to make up for lower traction limits”, “Steering felt very sharp”

Weaknesses:

  • Lack of communication from the tire at traction limits: “Very sloppy descender with rounded tread. No confidence.” “grip felt on/off close to the limit”
  • Requires more concentration to ride than more forgiving tires: “Similar feeling to the Rocket Ron, but not as sure in the breakaway. “more abrupt breakaway than the Rocket Ron”

Maxxis Ardent 27.5” x 2.2 Dual Compound, EXO/TR (as a front tire):
Summary: The Ardent was a solid tire, but didn’t particularly stand out in this test of strong contenders.

Strengths: 

  • Steering Feel: “Grip felt solid” “Good point and shoot feeling”

Weaknesses:

  • Predictability: “less predictable at the limit than the Hans Dampf” “Darty, tended to bounce off of rocks”

Panaracer Neo-Moto 27.5” x 2.3 (as a front tire):
Summary: The Neo-moto held its own versus the other XC-oriented tires in cornering grip and braking, but didn’t quite match up with some of the newer tread patterns in the areas of steering feel and braking.

Strengths: 

  • Predictable Traction: “Allowed me to take a tighter line. Never surprised me" “Front feels good, not much squirm”

Weaknesses:

  • Not as predictable at cornering limits: “Not as confident at the limit as some of the other tires in the test”

Schwalbe Hans Dampf: 27.5” x 2.25 Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing (as a front tire):
Summary: Coming into this test, the Hans Dampf was expected to lead its competitors by a wide margin on the downhill section of our test due to its aggressive tread pattern compared to the more XC-oriented tread patterns of the other tires tested.  Overall, the Hans Dampf did not disappoint. Cornering grip, braking and predictability at the limit for the Hans Dampf were best in this test.  Though not a weakness, the steering feel and handling that had been a competitive advantage for the Hans Dampf on the wet trails of our winter testing was not as strong in summer loose over hardpack conditions while the X-King and Rocket Ron had better steering feel that had not expected before the test due to their faster rolling, less aggressive tread patterns

Strengths: 

  • High cornering limits: “Excellent traction, rolls over almost anything.”, “You can just forget about them because they just do their thing”

Weaknesses:

  • Steering Feel/Handing:  Whereas the Hans Dampf had a sharp steering response in wet conditions, the tread pattern tended to skate a bit before gripping In the dry loose over hardpack conditions.  “Tended to skate over loose material before gripping” “Not as surefooted in loose over hardpack conditions as in wet conditions”

Schwalbe Rocket Ron: 27.5” x 2.25 Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing (as a front tire):
Summary: Despite its fast rolling tread, the Rocket Ron was surprisingly competent both uphill and downhill. On average, it was just slightly slower than the X-king going uphill and faster than all other tires tested going downhill. Its steering response was fairly quick and lots of feedback about available cornering grip allowed riders to easily make the most of its reasonably high traction levels.

Strengths: 

  • Good cornering grip: “Usable grip is very high” “Good, all-around grip”
  • Predictable cornering traction: 
    • “Very surefooted, especially through dry, loose corners” 
    • “Good communication of cornering limits. Very predictable” 
    • “Hooks right back up when they break free”
    • “Breakaway was gradual and predictable unlike the X-king which broke away more abruptly”

Weaknesses:

  • Possible faster tread wear:  We do not have any evidence of this from our recent testing sessions, but will provide an update after longer-term use of the Rocket Rons.  The Schwalbe North America site notes for the Rocket Ron state that “This is an out and out competition tire! Puncture protection and durability are limited!”

 

Performance Ratings – Rear Tire:  

Subjective Comments – Rear Tire: 

Continental X-King: 27.5” x 2.4 ProTection, Black Chili compound (as a rear tire):
Summary: The X-King was perhaps the fastest rolling tire in the test, but was unable to fully exploit this on climbs due to a tendency to break free under power or on less grippy surfaces. The X-King also had a sharp handling feel but tended to have a breakaway point that was less predictable than the Rocket Ron.

Strengths: 

  • Rolling Resistance: “Rolls really well.”, “Fast!“ 
  • Handling: “Feels very sharp and precise in its handling”, “Sure feeling in choosing and following a line.”

Weaknesses:

  • Climbing traction
    • “Not tons of traction, but only gave up climbing traction on rock.”
    • “Tended to break free under power”
    • “Rocket Ron is noticeably more grippy” “Traction not as good as the Rocket Ron”
  • Predictability
    • “Grip at the breakaway point was not as predictable as the Rocket Ron”

  


Maxxis Ardent: 27.5” x 2.2 Dual Compound, EXO/TR (as a rear tire):
Summary: As with its results as a front tire, the Ardent posted solid though not exceptional performance.

Strengths: 

  • Rolling Resistance: “Fast”
  • Handling: “Nice stiff sidewalls, no squirm”

Weaknesses:

  • Braking: “Did not brake well”

Panaracer Neo-Moto: 27.5” x 2.3 (as a rear tire):
Summary: The Neo-moto got a ticket into our summer tire comparison test due to its feeling exceptionally fast among more the more aggressive trail tires that we tested this past winter.  Though the Neo-moto is not as fast or as grippy as newer XC tire designs, it remains a solid choice with one tester seeing it as being “nothing special, but has a nice feel.”

Weaknesses:

  • Cornering Grip: “Lost traction fairly easily” “Soft, flexy. Feels like the tire was coming off of the rim when cornering hard”

Schwalbe Nobby Nic: 27.5” x 2.25 Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing (as a rear tire):
Summary: While the Nobby Nic was no slouch when it came to rolling resistance, it was slower rolling than the XC-oriented tires that were tested. Coming into this test, the Hans Dampf/Nobby Nic combo was expected to be slower uphill and faster downhill than its faster rolling competitors. Defying both preconceptions, the Hans Dampf/Nobby NIc combo was almost as fast as its fastest XC competitors going uphill, but slower downhill than all other tires tested except the Neo-moto.

Strengths: 

  • Climbing Traction: “Predictable climber. Didn’t need to worry much about losing traction with these tires”
  • Handling: “Super predictable”

Weaknesses: 

  • Rolling Resistance: “Rolled well, just not as well as the X-king and Rocket Ron”


Schwalbe Rocket Ron: 27.5” x 2.25 Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing (as a rear tire):
Summary: The Rocket Ron had a good balance of skills with no apparent weaknesses.

Strengths: 

  • Rolling Resistance: “Very fast” though “Slower rolling than the X-king”
  • Climbing Traction: 
    • “Climbed best”
    • “Climbing traction is very predictable. Regains lost grip easily”
  • Cornering Grip: 
    • “Great cornering grip” 
    • “Gripped surprisingly well for such a fast rolling tire”
  • Predictability
    • “Breakaway point is very predictable”
    • “The tire breaks away gradually and regains cornering grip easily”

Test Summary:

Front Tire:

Rear Tire:

 None of the tires tested are a poor choice for the dry loose over hardpack conditions of our test. Every tire tested received at least one 1st or 2nd place vote.   The Rocket Ron received the most 1st place votes likely due to its balance of strengths. 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 good climbing traction for rear tires.  

None of the tires tested are a poor choice for the dry loose over hardpack conditions of our test. Every tire tested received at least one 1st or 2nd place vote.   The Rocket Ron received the most 1st place votes likely due to its balance of strengths. 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 good climbing traction for rear tires.  

Front Tire Summary:

The factors that came out as the key drivers of preference differentiating the most preferred front tires was their steering feel/handling and predictability balanced with adequate cornering grip. Absolute cornering grip did not seem to matter as much as steering feel and good feedback on how much traction is available.

The Rocket Ron was the best at balancing a reasonably high level of cornering grip with predictable traction and responsive steering feel.  The closest front tire competitors to the Rocket Ron were the X-King and the Hans Dampf.  The X-King had perhaps the sharpest steering feel, but tended to break away without much warning.  The Hans Dampf had predictable traction but had a slower steering response due to the tread ‘skating’ a bit before digging into the loose over hardpack conditions of our test. Among the other front tires, the Neo-Moto and Ardent have decent traction, but were more difficult to ride fast due to less predictability at traction limits 

Rear Tire Summary:

For the rear tire, the factor that was most important to testers was “usable” rolling resistance which I will define. “Usable” rolling resistance was a balance of good rolling resistance with sufficient climbing traction. A good example of how this factor came into play was the climbing performance of the X-King.  The X-King was perceived overall as the fastest rolling rear tire, but had a tendency to lose climbing traction on rocks and loose dirt even on the moderate grades of the trails used in this comparison test. The Rocket Ron, in contrast, rolled almost as quickly as the X-King but had unshakeable climbing traction on par with the more aggressive and slower rolling Nobby Nic. Though the X-King was clearly the faster rolling tire, the Rocket Ron’s split times for the uphill segment were only slightly slower than the X-King (and statistically equivalent as the difference was within the statistical margin of error).

Among the rear tires in the test, the Rocket Ron was best at balancing rolling resistance with climbing traction and cornering grip.  The X-King was fastest rolling with sharp handling, but tended to be less predictable in its climbing and cornering traction. The Nobby Nic was best in cornering grip, handling and braking but lost out on rolling resistance to its faster XC-oriented competitors though we found that slightly higher rolling resistance is balanced out by more predictable climbing traction. The Neo-Moto had no outstanding weaknesses, but was just not as fast or as grippy as the newer XC tire designs tested. The Ardent felt solid and rolled decently well, but was unexpectedly weak in braking.

 

Additional Considerations:

Ease of Tubeless Setup by brand:

[Caveat: This is on Stans Arch EX rims so certain brands may happen to match better with the rim diameter and profile of these rims.  In particular, WTB TCS beads are known to be a tighter fit, though my experience has been that I’ve had no issues mounting a WTB Vigilante and a WTB Trail Boss on Arch EX rims. Your experience will likely vary with different rim brands/models.]


Schwalbe: Consistently, Schwalbe tires used in our tests have been the easiest to set up tubeless on the Stans Arch EX rims with 13 of the 15 Schwalbe tires we have mounted in our three comparison tests seating with only a floor pump and no additional manipulation beyond just mounting the tire and airing it up.  About 2/3 of the Schwalbe tires held air even without sealant and all tires held air after doing a shake and distribution of sealant. 
Continental: Of the 6 Continental tires that we have mounted, only 1 of the 6 seated easily with a floor pump, 4 required additional manipulation to seat and I gave up on seating one by hand (and went to the gas station to use their air compressor). All of the Continental tires lost air pressure over time until I did a second shake and distribution of sealant to seal the bead interface.
Maxxis: 3 of the 4 Maxxis tires seated easily with a floor pump and 1 required some additional manipulation to seat with a floor pump. 3 of the 4 tires held air after doing a shake and distribution of sealant and the remaining tire also held air after a second shake and distribution of sealant.

 

Handling Characteristics by brand:

A side benefit to the Schwalbe tire lineup that has been a consistent theme through our three comparison tests was the consistency in handling feel between the four Schwalbe tire models that we’ve tested. The Rocket Ron, Nobby Nic, Hans Dampf and Magic Mary all handle in a predictably similar fashion.  Traction increases as you go from the less aggressive Rocket Ron to the Magic Mary along with rolling resistance, but how the tires respond to steering input remains consistent.  The Schwalbe tires all have a balance between steering response, traction and predictability that gives the tires that we tested a consistent personality. 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 Rocket Ron on your XC/race bike to a heavier duty Magic Mary on your Enduro/All-Mountain bike doesn’t require you to completely change up your riding style to adapt to the change in tires.  The Continental Mountain King II and the X-King also share a similar sharp handling feel, but the Trail King feels less sharp in its steering response

Schwalbe Tread Wear (Long-term report):

There have been online reports of faster tread wear on the Schwalbe tires, but we have not seen faster tread wear or undercutting of tread blocks in the eight months that we’ve had Schwalbe tires on our demo bike fleet.  The more organic nature of our trails compared to more rocky trails elsewhere may be mitigating any tendencies that Schwalbe tires 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 cost-efficient tire on the market, but we believe after our testing with multiple testers with different riding styles that Schwalbe offer some of the best riding tires available.

Tires that we carry

Based on the results of our two recent tire comparison tests, Dirt Merchant Bikes will be carrying the Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires in addition to the Nobby Nic, Hans Dampf and Magic Mary in all wheel sizes and widths for the summer riding season. We will also carry Maxxis DH-F/DH-R, High Roller II, and Ardent tires as a value priced option.

 

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

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

Ordering Tires:

Tires can be ordered from Dirt Merchant Bikes at: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/tires-wheels/ 

Previous editions of our Tire Testing Reports:

If you're interested in reading the previous editions of our tire testing reports, they are located at:

  • Winter 2015 Comparison Test 1: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2014/11/20/tire-comparison-test-report-2015-nobby-nic-high-roller-ii-neo-moto-hans-dampf
  • Winter 2015 Comparison Test 2: http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2015/1/15/pacific-northwest-winter-tire-comparison-test-session-2-2015-nobby-nic-mountain-king-ii-trail-king-vigilantetrail-boss-magic-mary-hans-dampf


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

Tires planned for testing in Winter 2016:

Our next round of testing will happen again in November 2015 and we will focus again on more aggressive tires for wet trail conditions. We are considering the following tires for testing though any new tires introduced this fall will also be added to the consideration list.


Benchmark: Hans Dampf Trailstar 2.25 (front)/Nobby Nic Pacestar 2.25 (rear) – This combination balances the traction of the Hans Dampf as a front tire with a faster rolling Nobby Nic as the rear tire. We will switch to the Trailstar version of the Hans Dampf as the front tire.

Tires being considered for testing are (In order of testing priority):

  1.  Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO TR 2.3 (front)/ Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C EXO TR 2.3 (rear) – As many of you have pointed out, this is been a notable omission in our testing to date. We have the options of testing one or more of the following combinations
    • DHF(front)/DHR II(rear)
    • DHF(front)/DHF(rear)
    • DHR II(front)/DHR II(rear)
  2. Specialized Butcher 2.3 (front)/Purgatory 2.3 (rear) – This is also a popular combination in our area
  3. Michelin Wild Grip’R Gum-X (standard compound) 2.25 on front/rear or Wild Rock’R Magi-X (soft compound) on the front.
  4. Continental Trail King 2.4 Protection(front)/Mountain King Protection 2.4 (rear) – The 2.2 version of the Trail King didn’t so well in our Winter 2015 testing, but some of you noted that the 2.4 version has better traction. The 2.2 Mountain King did well in testing last winter, but was a bit too narrow.
  5. Bontrager XR4 (front)/XR3 (rear)

 

If you have any questions/comments about this tire comparison test or questions about tires, please e-mail us at jeff@dirtmerchantbikes.com.

Measuring Tire Cornering Predictability with Data

In our Summer 2015 XC tire comparison test (to be published tomorrow), we started to record lap times for each tire tested. Though there was a small sample of lap times for each tires (5 test riders riding each of the test tire combos once), I decided to also take the standard deviation of the recorded times to see if I could see any patterns in whether the lap times for each tire were more clustered around an average or were, conversely, more spread out. 

[Definition of Standard Deviation:  The standard deviation is a measure of how spread out the numbers in a data set are. A smaller standard deviation means the data is more closely clustered around the average of the data set, while a larger standard deviation means the data is more spread out.]

What I found was that there indeed was a difference between tires in how spread out their lap times were. Based on a synthesis of the subjective feedback and quantitative performance ratings with the standard deviation of the lap times, my interpretation of the standard deviation of the lap times recorded for each tire is that it is a measure of how forgiving a tire is of less-than-perfect riding.  In this context, tires that are more forgiving will have a lower standard deviation score. I’m defining forgiving as the ability to:

·         Communicate the amount of available traction

·         Quickly regain climbing traction after traction is lost

·         Recover easily and quickly from the front tire sliding

·         Slide the rear tire predictably

The opposite of a forgiving tire will be one that tends to break away quickly and without warning. Forgiving tires will tend to have moderate to high traction limits and tend to lose traction predictably thus allowing riders to more confidently explore their traction limits.

The reason why I think the standard deviation is a measure of how forgiving  or, put in another way, how accessible a tire’s performance limits are is because I believe a more forgiving tire should result in less variance in lap times due to more gradual breakaway characteristics that can be caught and corrected more easily.  Tires that break away more unpredictably might be expected to have a larger time difference between a “good” run and a “bad” run.

 

Your thoughts?

2015 Tire Preferences & Riding Habits Survey Results

Dirt Merchant Bikes conducted a study in February 2015 to understand tire preferences.  As part of that study, we also collected a lot of information on riding habits.  The charts below summarize overall findings on riding habits, tire preferences as well as selected insights by sub-groupings of mountain bikers:

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail us at jeff@dirtmerchantbikes.com

To start off, the survey results were tested for statistical significance.  Statistically significance indicates that a gap between two data points is likely to reflect that a real difference exist in feedback between two different subgroups of study participants rather than that difference having occurred by chance.  Increasing the sample sizes of participants reduces the amount of variability in survey data and can thus show statistically significantly differences with smaller  gaps between two data points.  The chart shows how to read the results of significance testing as shown in the following charts. 


Riders in WA may be using smaller wheels due to the rough and tight singletrack trails prevalent in Western WA, as compared to the long fireroad climbs more typical in other parts of the country such as in California and Colorado.

Among tire brands outside WA, Specialized and WTB are maintaining share while Schwalbe, Maxxis and Continental  are increasing their share of the market.  Kenda and Panaracer are former market leaders but currently have weaker market share compared to competitors.

In Washington state, Maxxis has been a market leader and continues to hold a strong share of the market.  Part of this is likely due to Maxxis' reputation for making good downhill tires and the propensity of riders in Washington to choose more aggressive tires.  Schwalbe has also made strong gains among riders in Washington.  Kenda, WTB were former market leaders but have since lost ground.

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

1.  Continental Mountain King II 27.5” x 2.2 ProTection, Black Chili compound, Front & Rear

2.  Continental Trail King 27.5” x 2.2 ProTection Apex, Black Chili compound, Front & Rear

3.  WTB Vigilante 2.3 27.5” TCS Light, Fast Rolling Compound: Front
    WTB Trail Boss 2.25 27.5” TCS Light, Fast Rolling Compound: Rear

4.  Schwalbe Magic Mary: 2.35 Trailstar compound, Snakeskin casing: Front
    Schwalbe Hans Dampf:  2.25 Rear, Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing: Rear

5.  Schwalbe Hans Dampf: 2.25 Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing: Front
    Schwalbe Nobby Nic:  2.25 Rear, Pacestar compound, Snakeskin casing: Rear

Read More

Tire Cornering Grip: Absolute Traction vs Usable Traction

Dirt Merchant Bikes has recently started our series of tire comparison tests for our Pacific Northwest winter conditions.  One insight that I had from the tests is that Usable Traction (which I will define shortly) is more important than the amount of Absolute Traction that a tire has. I am defining Usable Traction as the amount of traction that is accessible to riders of average skill levels based on how well riders are able to anticipate a tire's traction limits.  One of the tires in the first test has a strong reputation for being a good cornering tire.  However, another tire with perhaps slight lower absolute cornering traction was unaminously preferred by testers for cornering ability.  The key factor driving this perception was how well this tire communicated the limits of its cornering traction and the amount of available traction.  For most riders, I think that how precisely a tire communicates when it is going to break away may be more important than its absolute traction limits.  Your thoughts?

Check out the results of our first tire comparison test at:  http://www.dirtmerchantbikes.com/special-events/2014/11/20/tire-comparison-test-report-2015-nobby-nic-high-roller-ii-neo-moto-hans-dampf

Our upcoming tire comparison test will include the following tire combinations:

1. Hans Dampf 2.25 (front)/Nobby Nic 2.25 (rear) – This combination balances the traction of the Hans Dampf as a front tire with a faster rolling Nobby Nic as the rear tire.
2. Magic Mary 2.35 (front)/Hans Dampf 2.25(rear) – The Magic Mary is the highest traction tire in the Schwalbe lineup short of a full-on downhill tire.
3. WTB Vigilante 2.3 (front)/ WTB Trail Boss 2.3 (rear)
4. Continental Trail King 2.2 Protection Apex - front & rear – The Trail King is similar in concept to the Hans Dampf.
5. Continental Mountain King II 2.2 Protection - front & rear:  The Mountain King is similar in concept to the Nobby Nic.

Like our Facebook page to get notification when our second tire comparison test is published in several weeks:  https://www.facebook.com/dirtmerchantbikes

Pacific Northwest Winter 2015 Tire Comparison Test 1: 2015 Nobby Nic, High Roller II, Neo-Moto & Hans Dampf REVIEWED

Four tire combinations were tested in Seattle winter conditions by product testers riding either a Turner Flux (120mm rear travel) or a Turner Burner (140mm rear travel).  The tires tested were:

  1. Maxxis High Roller 27.5" x 2.3 Front & Rear, 3C compound/EXO - Front & Rear
  2. Panaracer Neo-Moto 27.5" x 2.3 - Front & Rear
  3. Schwalbe Hans Dampf: 27.5" x 2.25 Front & Rear, Pacestar/Snakeskin - Front & Rear
  4. Schwalbe Nobby Nic:  27.5" x 2.35 Front, 2.25 Rear, Pacestar/Snakeskin
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