Fresh Treads

Six tires to help you stay pinned

From left to right: Schwalbe Super Gravity Hans Dampf, Maxxis High Roller II 3C Maxx Terra, WTB Breakout TCS Tough: High Grip

From left to right: Schwalbe Super Gravity Hans Dampf 27.5 X 2.35, Maxxis High Roller II 3C Maxx Terra 29 X 2.3, WTB Breakout TCS Tough: High Grip 27.5 X 2.5

Photos by Van Swae


SCHWALBE MADE BIG WAVES WHEN IT debuted the Hans Dampf, one of those rare tires that seemed to work well everywhere–from the dry, hardpacked trails of the Southwest to the wet-and-gooey singletrack of the East. Yes, there are tires with better cornering bite, but few work so well in so many places. But the original Hans Dampf had one Achilles heel–its lightweight carcass wasn't bulletproof. If you lived somewhere littered with jagged rocks, you might wind up with a torn sidewall at some point. And at more than $90 a pop, a gutted Hans Dampf has made many a grown man cry like a baby. Enter the Super Gravity edition. Designed with hard-charging enduro racers in mind, the Super Gravity Hans Dampf pairs a DH-tough sidewall with the normal Hans Dampf tread and lightweight Kevlar beads. The Super Gravity's stiff sidewalls make the original Hans Dampf feel downright flimsy. I've been running the 650b version at absurdly low pressures without a single burp, rip or failure, and–no surprise–with even better traction than the original. Sure, it's not light for a general-purpose tire. At 1,040 grams, it's a whole 245 grams heavier (27.5 x 2.35) than the original version, but I'll still lug that extra half-pound (per wheel) up hill and dale in exchange for the extra durability and grip. –Vernon Felton


MAXXIS' HIGHROLLER II GETS PIGEON-holed as a gravity tire, and while it's true that the downhill-specific HighRoller is one of the best gravity treads ever to grace the bike park, it's a more versatile tire than its reputation implies. That's doubly true of the trail versions, which sport folding, tubeless-ready beads and surprisingly reasonable weights, despite their bomber construction. I've been running the 920-gram 29 x 2.3 HighRoller II (it's also available in lighter 26- and 27.5-inch versions) and was struck by how predictable it feels when cornering. The original HighRoller had great bite, but also a tendency to break loose with little warning when you reached its limits. Maxxis rede- signed the tire (hence the 'II' designation) a few years ago, and it's a better tire for it. The Maxxis isn't the best mud-shedder, but it's still my favorite fall and early winter tire. The triple-compound tread offers outstanding grip on wet roots and rocks and the tall knobs do a great job of penetrating leaf litter. Not surprisingly, the HighRoller II isn't fantastic on hardpack (the shoulder knobs aren't squirmy, but you can feel them fold a bit in hard corners), yet it's still good in dry, loose conditions. Looking for a fat, bulletproof tire that offers outstanding cornering bite and braking traction? This is it. –VF


WILDERNESS TRAIL BIKES HAS experienced a bit of a tire-designing renaissance of late, first with the Vigilante and now the Breakout. The latter is a tad less aggressive than the Vigilante (it features slightly shorter tread blocks), but this is still a big, burly tire with loads of grip in dry conditions. The Breakout isn't what you'd call a 'quick' tire (you're going to feel the 1,110 grams per tire), but it rolls surprisingly well for something this fat and tenacious. The Breakout features folding, tubeless-ready Kevlar beads mated to a seriously reinforced 'enduro' casing. These features allow you to run the Breakout at very low pressures with little fear of failure. The Breakout is available in both a firm, fast-rolling version and a super-sticky 'Gravity DNA' version, which we opted for. It's been a dry summer out West this year, so we didn't get much wet time with these tires, but we're guess- ing the Gravity DNA's tacky (45-durometer) top layer will prove to be an asset when the rain returns. As it stands, the Breakout proved good on hardpack and even better in slightly loose conditions. If you're looking for a bullet-proof, dry-weather tread that really shines as a rear tire, you should give the Breakout a good, hard look. It's more proof that WTB is on a roll right now. –VF

Specialized Slaughter Grid 2Bliss Ready 650B X 2.3 Michelin Wild Rock'R 2 Advanced 27.5 x 2.35, Onza Ibex FRC 120 27.5 X 2.4

From left to right: Specialized Slaughter Grid 2Bliss Ready 650B X 2.3 Michelin Wild Rock’R 2 Advanced 27.5 x 2.35, Onza Ibex FRC 120 27.5 X 2.4


THE REAR-SPECIFIC TREAD ON THE Slaughter is meant to maintain rolling speed while still enabling predictable cornering. Its block-shaped center knobs are short and tightly spaced, and the side lugs are tall and meaty. Specialized's Grid construction adds a layer of lightweight protection for aggressive riders who need a bit more burl than tradition- al casings provide. Grid construction is lighter and less rigid than some other enduro-type tires on the market, creating a happy medium between something like the Schwalbe Super Gravity Hans Dampf and a traditional casing. The weight is a happy medium as well, at just over 900 grams for the 650b version. The 29-inch version adds about 50 grams. This is an excellent tire for experienced, aggressive riders who have good braking skills and actively engage the side knobs by leaning the bike over. The short center knobs are positioned to grab while braking, but those little chompers only have so much bite. On dry, hardpacked terrain, acceleration and braking are very good, but when conditions get loose, so does the Slaughter–that is, until you dig those side knobs in. To like the Slaughter in the loose, you'll have to be comfortable with some skating before the tire really hooks up. It's fantastic in the proper conditions, with the proper pilot. –Ryan Palmer


THE LAST MICHELIN TIRE THAT I LIKED was that green Wild Gripper from the late '90s. So it's about time the Michelin Man came up with some fresh treads. The new lineup is considerably better than previous offerings, and I found the dry-condition Wild Rock'R 2 to be a solid choice. The tread pattern on the Wild Rock'R 2 is composed of large, square- and triangular-shaped lugs with siping to increase braking traction. The largeknobsandclosespacingrollfasterin the dry conditions that the tire is designed for, but the close spacing makes them more condition-specific. The siping allows the tire to perform well on wet roots and rocks, but any mud will quickly pack up and reduce traction to zero. The reinforced casing is designed for aggressive riding, such as enduro racing. Weighing more than a kilogram apiece, they're not lightweights, but they can take a serious beating. And the fast tread will help you get them up to speed. I chose the softer Magi-X compound in the front and the harder Gum-X in the back for increased lifespan. But I like the Magi-X compound so much I wish I had doubled up, despite the soft-rubber sacrifice in longevity. For those with the need for maximum traction, go ahead and run the Magi-X in the back and stick to the trail like Pooh Bear's hand in the honey pot. –RP

ONZA IBEX FRC 120 27.5 X 2.4

ONZA HAS BEEN MAKING A SOLID PUSH with its tire program, offering a wide variety of tread patterns in several different casing weights and rubber compounds. My favorite of the bunch so far is the Ibex. The FRC, or 'freeride casing,' is a great option if you ride aggressively or simply want to benefit from the added security. There are two FR casings: one with 60 threads per inch and one with 120. The threads in the 120tpi casing are thinner, but closer together, meaning that less rubber gets impregnated in the gaps between them. This creates a tire that is lighter and suppler but slightly less robust than the 60tpi. However, the FR casing adds some of that tear resistance back. The result is a durable-yet-pliable casing. At similar pressures, the Ibex FRC 120 dampens the trail much more than other tires in this category. Grip is handled by nicely spaced and buttressed rectangular knobs and a dual-compound rubber for fast rolling and cornering traction. These things could have even the most timid of bike handlers railing turns in no time. The Ibex is one of the best-performing tires I've ridden this year and also has made our staff shortlist of favorites due to its supple feel and predictable and solid performance in all trail conditions. –RP