Many 29-inch devotees, citing the increased traction delivered by larger wheels, believe they can run skinnier, faster-rolling tires without sacrificing performance. In a way, this is like putting all-season tires on a monster truck—they might work fine on a dirt road, but would lose their grip while smashing over a row of cars. Likewise, even 29ers benefit from some extra traction on tricky terrain.
Enter the 2.4-inch-wide Continental Mountain King 29er. I switched to the meaty tire after losing control on rough terrain one too many times with my racier tires. The large casing allows the tire to be run with slightly lower pressure without worrying about pinch flatting, and even took some of the sting out of riding a hardtail. The lower pressure—combined with the tall, widely spaced knobs—found traction in even the loosest conditions, especially while climbing.
The tires performed even better while braking and cornering on loose dirt. The tall side knobs penetrated through the loose stuff and locked in the traction. If the Mountain Kings did break free, it was smooth and predictable. I rarely felt out of control.
The only hiccup came on hardpack, where the tires' tall knobs squirmed slightly during braking and cornering. Those tall knobs, together with the wide footprint, also added a bit of extra rolling resistance, but less than I had expected.
The Mountain Kings aren't feathers, but at 770 grams each, they are some of the lightest high-volume 29-inch tires available. More importantly, they delivered solid performance across a range of terrain and liked to be pushed through loose, rocky surfaces. At the end of the day, the increased traction and performance were worth a slight weight penalty, and the Mountain Kings could benefit anyone looking to add a bit of meat to their wagon wheels.