Introducing ADDIX by Schwalbe

Words by Chili Dog // Photos by Anthony Smith & Chili Dog

When Schwalbe sat down a room full of journalists they had brought to Santa Barbara, California and told us they had a “game changing” new product to unveil, my mind immediately turned to thinking about what new super plus size tire we’d be seeing. Thankfully the launch was for an improvement far more important. Schwalbe will be updating their entire lineup of tires with four new tread compounds under the name, ADDIX. Many riders put the majority of their bike-tuning focus towards suspension set up or weight, but tire compounds actually play a massive role in the way a bike feels and rides. The damping characteristics of the rubber, compound harness, and tread pattern are all integral to handling. Creating those specific characteristics in rubber compounds however, is something of a dark art.

Even in 2017, the development of tire rubber compounds is still mostly a trial and error process. According to Markus Hachmeyer who has lead the 30-person development team for ADDIX since its inception in 2015, even though the team knows what to change in order to alter a tire’s properties, the exact amounts of each ingredient are still something that needs to be tinkered with. This means that Schwalbe spent years in their laboratory utilizing specialized testing equipment to fine-tune compounds before arriving at the final four ADDIX rubbers. Wolfgang Arenz, a master rubber compounder, is also a fundamental part of the team. His experience with the art of rubber compounding was fundamental to the creation of ADDIX. Schwalbe also made a 1.5 million dollar investment into a new rubber mixing machine borrowed from the automotive side of the industry, which allows them to precisely control the temperature, mixing time, and mixing rates of the different ingredients. The result is absolute precision in the production process, and in turn, far greater control over the tire’s end qualities.

The Ultra Soft compound is quite honestly one of the softest rubber compounds I have ever felt, and has exceptional damping characteristics and improved rolling resistance compared to the outgoing VertStar compound.

The new compound comes in four sub flavors that cater to different riding disciplines and each have a color coded bar on the tread for easy identification. For those about to ask, the cool color bar does wear off after a few rides and weights are said to be almost unchanged from previous versions. For XC racing applications, Schwalbe offers ADDIX Speed (color coded red,) which has fast rolling, hard compound. Applicable for XC front tires or trail and enduro rear tires, ADDIX Speedgrip (color coded blue) is still fast rolling, but offers 135% more grip and 162% more durability when compared to their outgoing Pacestar compound. For the more hardcore gravity disciplines Schwalbe also has an ADDIX Soft (color coded orange) and an ADDIX Ultra Soft (color coded purple.) The Ultra Soft compound is quite honestly one of the most supple rubber compounds I have ever felt, and has exceptional damping characteristics and improved rolling resistance compared to the outgoing VertStar compound. Durability is also improved 149% and 112% respectively on the Soft and Ultra Soft compounds, which will be a welcome boost in performance. While Hachmeyer refused to share all the secrets to what exactly is altered to change the feel of a tire, he did share that Schwalbe’s hardest tires (like ADDIX Speed) are made from a Silica base, while their softest are created from a carbon black base. In addition to the polymer change, the softer tires also have more oil in their mixing recipe. Beyond that, he has zipped lips as to the secret recipes behind the new ADDIX compounds.

After the tech presentation, we got some dirt on the tires courtesy of the rowdy trails in the Santa Barbara Mountains. The heavy rain that morning meant we would be experiencing prime, tacky dirt conditions and slick limestone rocks to put the new tires to the test. Our Ibis test bikes were fitted with a tubeless Soft compound Magic Mary up front and a Speedgrip Nobby Nic out back. It’s worth noting that a tire launch in this region is a brazen move. The trails here are infamously filled with sharp, jagged rocks and to my surprise the selected trails were especially rocky. Thick fog made for moody conditions as we descended back down to the city from the mountain peaks above. For the sake of experimentation, I ran the tires at pressures ranging from 35 to 18 psi, and was impressed with the grip on the wet, rocky soil. Our first run was a fast singletrack with plenty of loose corners and off camber rocks to test the limits of the tires. Grip was stable and solid whether climbing or descending, achieving traction all the way up to a predictable breakaway point that allowed for controlled slides. Though two runs is hardly enough to truly test a tire, my initial impressions were very positive. Handling was first class and even on an unfamiliar bike and trail, I still felt confident and poised through the corners. Schwalbe put in the effort to make a true improvement in their tire technology, and I’m excited to get a set to put more miles on for a true long-term test.

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