Tested: Schwalbe Super Gravity Hans Dampf 27.5 x 2.35 || $94
By Vernon Felton
Remember the hysteria that accompanied the release of Schwalbe's Hans Dampf tire? Riders raved that here, at last, was a tire that worked like a charm, damn near everywhere—from Moab to Upper Michigan. This wasn't mere hype: Schwalbe's Jack of All Trades does offer outstanding traction in both dry and wet conditions. Sure, there are better, dedicated hardpack models or mud tires, but if you could afford the Hans Dampf, you could count on a blissful connection with mother earth no matter where you roamed.
You see how I inserted the "if" in the preceding sentence? I did that because of this one painful reality—the Hans Dampf ain't cheap. In fact, let's just call a spade a spade…the Schwalbe is flat out expensive. Plenty of riders look at that sticker price and exclaim "I don't spend that much when I replace a tire on my car."
Well, the price tag is still high and if you bridle at boutique prices, you've probably noticed that a lot of the better tire models today are selling for $70 to $75 a pop—which sucks, especially if you live somewhere filled with sharp, jagged rocks that can eat a couple sets of tires each season. In the past, the Hans Dampf didn't fare terribly well in those conditions—it had a fairly light casing that made it a joy to crank up to speed, but which could also result in a sidewall going bust long before it should have. This model here—the Super Gravity Hans Dampf—however, is no blushing violet. In fact, it has all the traction of the past bonded to a much more rugged carcass.
The Super Gravity is Schwalbe's enduro tire and while you may be over the entire "enduro" hype, there's a lot to be said for designing products that offer maximum performance on the descents while exacting minimal pain on the climbs. What Schwalbe has done here is mate rugged (four-ply) sidewalls to a lightweight (two-ply) tread cap. The result is super stout sidewalls that fend off gashes and punctures, and also enable you to run exceptionally low tire pressures. In short, you get gobs of traction, minimal squirm and bomber durability.
What's not to love? I've already beaten you over the head with the pricing thing, but there’s also the issue of weight: you can't add all that burl to a tire without also adding grams. In this case, you're looking at an extra 245 grams per 27.5 x 2.35 tire (1,040 grams total). While the Super Gravity is much lighter than an out-and-out downhill model, it still carries an additional half-pound of rotational weight per tire (compared to the original Hans Dampf formula) and there's no way of disguising that kind of thing. Swap an old set of Hans Dampfs for a set of the Super Gravity and you’re looking at a pound of weight gain. Some people will hate that and I can’t fault them for it. I, however, will lug around a heavy-duty set of Tubeless Ready tires any day if it makes me feel like Super Man and won't fail me during the season. It's peace of mind. It's outstanding grip on that slimy rock roll in. It's pushing the front end hard in a loose corner and exiting the turn on two wheels instead of in a bull of bruised man meat.
So, yeah, this tire ain't a lightweight and it's not even "affordable", but there's still a lot to love about it. Once conditions get truly sloppy and loose this winter, I'll probably swap over to a set of treads with more aggressive shoulder lugs (hello, Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO/High Roller II combo), but for a giant chunk of 2014, the Hans Dampf Super Gravity proved untouchable.