Kellogg, Idaho, is a middle-of-nowhere town with just over 2,000 people and one bike park: Silver Mountain. The bike park is less about berms and jumps and focuses on steep, off-camber, rooty, rocky, lift-accessed trail riding. Oh, and each run is 3,400 vertical feet. A perfect place to put WTB’s new tires and rims to the test. And that’s exactly what I did when the company invited me up for two days of riding. I managed to sneak in close to 20,000 feet of descending, and almost no climbing. Why do I mention all of this? One: Because Silver Mountain absolutely blew my mind with the quality of riding it offers and you should go there. Two: My ride impressions are going to be solely based on descending, and despite the amount of feet I was able to wrack up, these are still first impressions based on riding great dirt in one location--a.k.a this isn’t a be-all, end-all review. Look for our long-term test in the future for that. Now, onto the product.
WTB has a couple new tires outfitted with completely revamped construction. The new tires come in a Tough and a Light option. Tough tires are outfitted with the same two-ply casing as previous Tough models. Lights are single-ply now with a nylon sidewall insert coined Slash Guard to help prevent tears, cuts and slashes. Both are 60 TPI and use WTB’s new Tritec compound.
Tritec compound is WTB’s new three-layer rubber construction aimed at optimizing rolling efficiency, durability and grip. Like any tire, WTB’s offerings have a hard foundation rubber over the casing, but the company has expanded that hardest rubber half-way up the knobs of the tires. Why? WTB claims the harder rubber in the bottom half of the knobs protects against folding, tire squirm and knobs tearing off, all while boosting rolling efficiency. It also allows the company to top the knobs with softer rubber without compromising structural integrity.
On top of foundational rubber, WTB uses one of two compounds depending on the knob. Center knobs use a medium-hardness rubber, while the outer knobs are finished using WTB’s softest compound. Both Light and Tough casings are available in High Grip or Fast Rolling options. High Grip uses 65-durometer rubber for the foundation, 48 durometer on the center knobs and 42 durometer on the side knobs. Fast Rolling also uses a 65 durometer, then switches to 60 down the middles and 48 on the sides. The new tires all have a folding bead and are available in 27.5 or 29. It should also be noted that the tested tires were 120-TPI variants.
The Judge 2.4 | $77 to $80 | 1,305 Grams (27.5)
The Judge is a completely new tire for WTB and damn it’s beefy. It’s available in a Tough casing only and pairs massive outer knobs with still-pretty-big centerline knobs that alternate between long and wide. It is optimized to be used on wider rims for a flatter profile. Interestingly, WTB sells it as a rear tire, which is how I rode it at Silver Mountain, but it could have some serious potential as a front tire, especially with the High Grip compound. But that is just speculation--let’s talk about how it actually preformed. Let’s discuss my judgment.
Now that I have that pun out of the way, the Judge impressed me. How could it not? I mean look at it! Remember, we were at a bike park, where climbing wasn’t a thing. I rode the Fast Rolling Judge as a rear tire both days. I started with pressure around 25 PSI and by the end of the second day dropped it down closer to 22. Day one dirt conditions started packed with loamy sections, getting dusty by the end of the day. Heavy overnight rain mitigated any dust for day two and we were treated to soft, muddy-in-spots dirt in the morning to nearly perfect conditions by mid-day. Through all of those conditions (which, to be honest, were pretty all time) the Judge was cool, calm and composed--as any good Judge should be. It was happy to slap berms and cut corners, or straight line over off-camber roots and rocks.
The oversized side knobs offered ridiculous amounts of grip, and thanks to the tire’s square profile, they were never hard to find. Once they engaged, if my line choice was right, I could let go of the brakes and hang on. The Judge isn’t one to shrug off a challenge. Straighten the bike up again and the center knobs are still ready to get rowdy, but they didn’t hold back from heaping on speed either. If I wanted to skid, it took some effort but I could. If I wanted to hold a line and not worry about washing out, I could do that too, and it didn’t really take any effort. If I wanted to brake, the Judge offers a strong initial bite, but not so much that it can’t be controlled.
Is there any down side? Perhaps. I didn’t climb with the tire, but I can tell you it isn’t light. This is a tire that values traction above all else. If weight and speed aren’t your main concerns and you just want to get extremely rambunctious on a tire you can trust, the Judge will serve you well. That about lines up with my preference for riding, and I applaud WTB for creating a tire that doesn’t compromise. The Judge is all about sending.
The Vigilante 2.5 and 2.6 |$68 to $80
The Vigilante 2.3 has been around for a while, so this is more of an update than a completely new tire. The 2.3 option will still be available, but it won’t have the new Tritec compound or the other updates to WTB’s tire construction. Those can only be found on the 2.5 or 2.6. The new tires are available in Light or Tough casings, and High Grip or Fast Rolling compounds. Compared to the Vigilante 2.3, the knobs on the 2.5 and 2.6 have more space between each other, and the outer lugs have grown substantially to match the demands of modern trail and enduro riding. The new tires have been optimized for an internal width of 29-millimeters with a flatter profile. Weights for all casings and sizes are not confirmed, but the 2.5-inch, Light/High Grip construction weighs 1,102 grams for 27.5 and 1,122 grams for 29.
Day one at Silver I rode the Vigilante 2.5 with a starting pressure of 23 PSI which I then dropped down closer to 21 for the second half of the day. Day two I had the 2.6 installed and ran pressure right around 20 after the rain. Both were installed as a front tire with the High Grip compound and Light casing. I was initially worried a lower tire pressure paired with the Light casing might result in a flat, but my fears were unfounded. The Vigilante handled everything I threw at it easily. The bike did look odd having the widely space Vigilante up front paired with the tighter and beefier Judge in the rear, but WTB must know what it’s doing, because it’s a winning combination.
Despite the widely spaced knobs, I never felt a float zone through berms and flat corners as I leaned the bike over. I attribute this to the cockeyed intermediate knobs between centerline and outer lugs. No matter the angle of contact between tire and dirt, I always maintained control. That intermediate knob also made my preferences run toward the 2.6 option. The wider tire had a slightly rounder profile, which meant finding the outer tread required full commitment, but thanks to the intermediate knob, grip was still readily available when I was more hesitant than I should have been. When I did commit, the tread hooked up and took me for a ride.
When it came to braking, both the 2.5 and 2.6 were easy to keep under control, but the initial bite wasn’t quite as strong as I hoped. The trails were unfamiliar and steeper than I’m used to, so I was braking harder, more often, but there were a couple corners where I yearned for a stronger bite. On the flip side, through high-speed sections I could feather the brake and maintain composure without a strong initial bite messing up my flow. At the end of the day, I think I prefer the latter. I was able to ride the 2.6 on my local Southern California trails for one ride and when I knew what was coming, I valued control over power. I will need more time on the tire to get a better grasp on how it performs in different conditions, but the Vigilante is no joke, and despite its somewhat odd look, it likes getting sendy almost as much as the Judge. The Vigilante front, Judge rear is one hell of a combination. Load them up and send phat to flat. Save the tranny for your granny.
The Trail Boss 2.4 and 2.6 | $68 to $80
The Trail Boss isn’t new to WTB, but it has received some new width options. And with its new size, the knobs have also grown by one millimeter and become farther spaced out. Down the center, the tread pattern alternates between two and three knobs while the sides are serviced by larger lugs. It too has been optimized for a 29-millimeter internal rim width. The Trail Boss is available in Light or Tough casings, but only as the Fast Rolling compound. The 2.4 Tough/Fast Rolling weighs 1,097 grams for 27.5 and 1,220 grams for 29.
I wasn’t able to ride the Trail Boss while at Silver Mountain, but I did bring a 2.4 home and mounted it to the back of my YT Capra for a 10-mile spin on my local trails. I ran 22 PSI. Solely from a visual comparison, the Trail Boss is a much more traditional rear tire than the Judge. It isn’t quite as aggressive, but it can still hold its own. For day-to-day use, where climbing is a reality, I suspect the Trail Boss will strike the fancy of more people. I would be interested in trying Trail Boss rear, Judge front, but then I wouldn’t have the Vigilante, which I really did enjoy. #firstworldproblems.
No matter the combo, on my short ride aboard the Trail Boss it performed a lot like a less-aggressive Judge. The side knobs were easy to find, everything hooked up nicely, but when I wanted to break grip, it came easily. I will have to put more time in on the tire before I can definitively say if breaking traction is too easy, but it didn’t happen accidentally on my preliminary ride, and it didn’t wash at all--which is saying something considering how dusty and loose Southern California is. I am going to hold off on writing any more on the Trail Boss, since one after-work ride isn’t enough to make claims on performance. Stay tuned for more.
I didn’t get enough time on any of WTB’s new product to develop a full picture of how it performs, but preliminary testing is promising--promising enough that I am going to continue riding all the gear. And if it all works as I think it might, I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with another set of WTBs after the current ones wear out.
All tires and rims are available now. Find out more here.