SCHWALBE WICKED WILL
First Ride by Nic Hall
Schwalbe’s Wicked Will is their latest release and is “A mountain bike tire with no limits.” The goal was to create a tire that wants to make little sacrifice in downhill performance but also wants a fast-rolling and efficient tire that will roll fast on flatter trails and while climbing. It is quite a bold claim, and while we realize brands and marketing teams need to create slogans for their new products, the reality is, nothing comes without compromise. Over the next couple months, we intend to find out where and what the limits of these tires are and will report back in our long-term review. For now, we will give you some stats and info on these new trail tires along with our impressions after the first 50 miles of testing. The Schwalbe Wicked Will tires are going to be a great option for “Down Country” riders, aka those who like pushing the limits on trail bikes and look for speed advantages wherever they can. We mounted our 29 x 2.4” tires on an Ibis Ripley as it seemed like the perfect fit for a tire that blends uphill efficiency with downhill capabilities.
Blending the treat tread depth of a cross-country tire with the proportions and block shapes of more aggressive enduro/DH tires, the Schwalbe Wicked Will is a very attractive looking tire. Upon close inspection, riders can see that the new tread pattern is a tightly spaced grid of semi-ramped knobs with deep siping. Each lug has two sipes to provide extra contact and grip and features an extended braking edge. The ramping and low-profile lugs have been used to both decrease weight and increase rolling speed. On the shoulders of the tire, more spaced out and aggressive lugs see inspiration from Schwalbe’s downhill tires and provide long grip edges and help provide traction when leaning the bike over. Schwalbe have literally pulled design elements and knowledge from both ends of their tire-building spectrum and combined them in the Wicked Will. Years ago, we thought the Hans Dampf was the do-it-all dream tire, but it seems this new offering may be even better for certain applications.
Available in three different variations, Super Race is their lightest carcass, coming in at 820g with maximum speed and flexibility in mind. The Super Ground is a classic XC carcass weighing 830g with increased puncture protection. If you are like us and tend to put yourself and your bike in bad situations, then the Super Trail tire is probably best for you. This is the most supportive construction weighing in at 920g. This would be a great rear tire option for riders looking for a fast-rolling rear tire on an aggressive trail or even enduro bike. As of right now the tires are only available in the Addix SpeedGrip compound, which seems like the reasonable option for riders looking at this kind of tire.
For our testing purpose we selected a down-country dream bike, the Ibis Ripley with a 130mm fork. It is a bike with capable geometry and suspension that allows us to push it beyond the XC-bike limit but is still fast and light enough that we use it for longer trail ride days.
It has been unseasonably dry this spring in Central Oregon, so we were able to test the Wicked Will in the loose and soft conditions we normally only see later in the summer. With the softer, compliant Super Trail carcass and kevlar beads, mounting was no issue on any of our wider profile carbon rims. We tested the Super Trail build in 29×2.4 on both the front and rear of our test bike and all testing was done at 25-27psi.
On the uphills and rolling terrain, the Wicked Will is quick to get up to speed and maintains that speed with ease. While riding with a mixed group of riders on various bikes and tires, the Wicked Will-equipped Ibis Ripley was pulling away while coasting down the trail or on flatter sections of trail with less pedaling effort. Climbing traction is outstanding on dust covered rocks, polished roots, and in loose conditions thanks to the plentiful knobs and siping. Only on some loose-over-hard terrain did we encounter issues with a lack of penetration that led to some tire spin. It is a hard place to find traction, especially with faster rolling tires that have tightly spaced knobs. We will continue experimenting with air pressures and seeing how they do on more trails.
On the way down, the Wicked Will helped us set some PRs on our local test tracks with blistering straight-line speed and low rolling resistance. That speed comes with a slight compromise, however. In dry, powdery corners the front end that searches for grip and is a little drifty on top. In loose corners and loose-over-hard terrain with loose marbles and baby heads, the rear lacks braking performance as the tight knobs and shallow depth just do not quite penetrate enough. It is a very tough terrain to make a tire work on, we understand that and have spent a lifetime riding on dry, loose-over terrain so we would know. Typically, riders in these conditions accept the drifty, floaty feeling or they compromise on rolling resistance by going with a deeper, more aggressive tire.
If you ride on hard pack trails like those in SoCal, or if you ride on proper soil that is soft, these issues will not be a concern. The little bit of riding we did on the rainy side of Oregon proved to be much different as the tires stuck impressively to roots, and had plenty of bite in loamier, richer soil conditions.
The Wolf’s Last Word
While we would not say that Schwalbe’s line up was missing anything, we think the Wicked Will does add a great option for riders who want something between a Nobby Nic and Racing Ralph. It’s a versatile tire that could be a great front and rear tire combo or could be run with another Schwalbe offering depending on your demand. It could be a solid front with a super-fast pinner XC rear, or it could be run as a Super Trail rear with a more aggressive front tire on it for enduro riders looking for that extra bit of speed. We really see this tire doing well in areas like Laguna Beach, Los Angeles area where hard-pack fire roads and singletracks could yield a huge speed gain as well as areas in the PNW, East Coast and central States where soil is soft, sticky and the rocks are large. In those conditions the tires will have enough knobs to give great traction but are tight and short enough to roll faster than some other offerings out there. If you ride loose-over-hard, marbly terrain or deep, dusty trails, then this probably will not be your best bet, unless you are about that dirt surf life and like feeling the bike move around underneath you, in that case, high five!
Disclosure: Our team selects all of the products we review and do so with honesty and objectivity in mind. Some of the products we receive come directly from Competitive Cyclist, who also value our readers and have offered them a 15% discount (exclusions apply) on their first purchase by using LOAMWOLF15. Through this program we may also receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support, TLW.