WTB – Rubber and Rims
Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Abner Kingman
In all honesty, WTB (Wilderness Trail Bikes) hasn’t been the first brand I think about when my tires are worn and ready for replacement for many years. After spending some quality time on their new rubber, that is no longer the case. Did they need to fly me to Silver Mountain Bike Park in Kellogg, Idaho to change my mind? Probably not, but hot damn, I’m sure glad they did!
WTB flew out several media outlets as well as athletes Mark Weir and American EWS shredder, Marco Osborne to partake in a few days of all things sacred and loamy – a closed bike park with freshly cut trails that only we had ridden! WTB was excited to show off their impressive new line of rubber and rims and couldn’t have picked a better way to do so.
Two of the three tires in attendance have been around almost as long as Mark Weir. Don’t let the legacy names rob your attention though. About the only familiar thing in the hotel conference room was Mark Weir’s moustache.
The new Vigilante and Trail Boss treads have seen major revisions in just about every way imaginable. Modified knob layouts make both tires completely unique from their predecessors. Modified knob heights and new rubber compounds further separate the new from the old. The Judge now joins the Trail Boss and Vigilante as WTB’s aggressive all-mountain ready tires.
The Trail Boss G2 has considerably taller (and thicker) side knobs. The supported knobs offer better penetration without the squirm that sometimes comes with tall knobs. Overall the Trail Boss knob spacing was increased to make for a more open tread pattern. The tires have great bite and clear mud quite well. We experienced some slop on Day 2 and were quite impressed at the overall performance.
Available in 2.4” or 2.6” in either 27.5 or 29.
The Vigilante sees volume, size and height increases. Mostly notably in the massive side knobs. The center bears resemblance to the original Vigilante 2.3, but with larger spacing and updated patterning to further improve mud-shedding abilities.
Available in 2.5” or 2.6” in either 27.5 or 29.
The Judge made its debut to the public at Silver Mountain and certainly flexed its power over the jury. If you’re looking for a serious, big biting rear, the Judge may be worth checking out. It’s available in a 2.4-in width for both 27.5- and 29-in diameters. The aggressive knobs are designed to for demanding terrain, wet conditions and those looking for the ultimate in traction and braking control.
Casings and Compounds
As most riders know, big knobs are only as good as the rubber and casings that support them. Along with the redesigned tires, WTB has been hard at work developing a triple compound rubber they’re calling Tritec. Like many other triple compound tires, WTB now has the ability to offer the ultimate combination of durability and grip by layering each of their three different rubber durometers.
WTB has gone anti-bike industry jargon and will be offering just two lines of wheels and tires– “Light” or “Tough.” They made it so easy we probably don’t need to explain what each product is or who it’s designed for. Thank you WTB!
The TCS Tough tires will all be 60tpi, 2-ply carcasses while the TCS Light tires will all feature Slash Guard nylon insert technology. The protective nylon insert spans the entire sidewall and helps increase protection without the weight penalty of a dual ply tire.
As you probably guessed, WTB now has, KOM Light and KOM Tough versions of each rim. You know what kind of rider you are, so pick your poison. All of WTB’s rims boast the new TCS 2.0 tubeless system. In short the new system makes seating, installing and removing your tubeless tires much easier. The updated bead hook design offers a more natural junction between rim and tire to improve the quality of the seal and tire retention. It also makes the area more robust, which WTB claims makes it less susceptible to rim dings and dents.
TCS 2.0 also uses WTB’s new Solid Strip rim strip, which keeps the bed of the rim smooth at the spoke holes and prevents broken spokes from puncturing the rim tape. If you’ve ever had one of those mysterious inner flats, you’ll appreciate this! Over the Solid Strip lies Flex Tape, the clear and vital second component of this two-part system that is said to be air tight.
Another added benefit of TCS 2.0 is the Dropzone. The wider, redesigned KOM rims have a downward slope from the bead seat to the center of the rim that helps the tire slide in either direction depending on your task at hand. This feature is only found on KOM rims with inner widths of 40-45mm.
Available in 32h, 27.5 and 29’’ diameters with inner rim measurements of i25-i45.
Available in 32h, 27.5 and 29’’ diameters with inner rim measurements of i23-i45. A 26” version is available with an i40 width.
Willy Bartlett and the crew at Silver Mountain Bike Park were kind enough to fire North America’s longest gondola up early just for our group and we eagerly piled in. The huge mountain sat in front of us and the fresh, black, sticky tires were dying to do their job. Most of our group had never ridden the mountain so our excitement grew as we climbed higher and higher under the blue sky.
The mid-travel 29er I was riding sported a Vigilante up front and Trail Boss at the rear. As the day went on I slowly aired down in attempt to combat the somewhere harsh ride of the test bike, which did lead to a rather significant injury to my KOM rim as I sent a blind step down a little too deep into some sharp rocks. The catastrophe was most likely exacerbated by the fact WTB was unable to get their 60tpi, dual casing tire there in time for the camp and the soft 120tpi tire just didn’t have the juice necessary for that kind of action. Nevertheless we put a tube in, pumped up the tire to about 28psi and finished out another long day! Impressive for lightweight tires.
Typical media camp photo-jackery took place for about nine minutes– a record if I recall. Or maybe I just didn’t listen to instruction well and got distracted trying to chase Marco Osborne and Mark Weir’s roost.
That first “photo run” was about the only time we spent that day on any sort of groomed bike park trail. From there on out it was Marco and Mark’s mission to find the steepest, rootiest, most natural trails on the mountain. As to be expected, they succeeded. I named my Strava ride (‘cuz otherwise it didn’t happen) Hand Death and after sacking more than 12,000 vertical feet of descending, that’s what it felt like.
Normally as media guys we use the old faithful barometer that a product works well when we say, “I wasn’t even thinking about XYZ-thingamajig, I was just able to focus on the ride.” Well, that tired old saying didn’t come up once during my two days and 20,000 feet of descending. Instead, I was constantly thinking about the tires… Instead thoughts like “Holy shit, this trail is so off camber and fresh, there’s not even a line yet. There’s no way we can hold on,” or “Okay, for sure the knobs are going to squirm in this corner,” or “Dear Lord, how is there so much traction everywhere!?” were racing through my head as I tried to chase the scent of Mark’s man musk down the trail.
It’s been a while since I’ve flown home from a media camp with such a positive opinion about a product. WTB’s new tires kick ass. In fact, I’m a little bit bummed that I’ve been home for almost a month now and my test pair still hasn’t shown up.
Obviously two days riding a gondola and shredding down a hill aren’t the best way to test all angles of a tire, but they certainly gave me a jumpstart in several categories. I look forward to spending a lot more time on these tires in my local dirt, pedaling them up hills and coasting on slightly flatter trails to see how efficiency and rolling speed come into play. Until then, I’ll anxiously be waiting for my tracking info from WTB.
To learn more, visit WTB.com