CONTINENTAL KRYPTOTAL & ARGOTAL REVIEW
FRESH RUBBER FROM AN OLD PLAYER
Photos & Words by Dario DiGiulio
The competition in the mountain bike tire space can seem pretty wrapped up at times, with the big two brands more or less dominating the majority of the market, especially in terms of OEM. That doesn’t stop smaller players from trying their hand in the game though, and occasionally the results are impressive. As one of the biggest names in the road tire market and a long-standing alternative to the top dogs in the mountain bike space, Continental has completely revamped their lineup of mountain bike tires, promising major improvements over their past offerings. Have they improved on a spotty track record with their newest lineup, or will they continue to roll along in the shadow of giants? Spoiler alert: they’re no longer in the shadows. Let’s get into our long term review of the new Continental Argotal and Kryptotal tires
Continental has a long history in tire manufacturing, but that doesn’t stop them from completely rethinking their approach when need be. As tire lineups get more and more complicated, with sidewall hot patches starting to read like novels, Continental Tires tried to simplify things with a series of key glyphs that convey the intended purpose of each tire. They now offer five tread patterns, listed here in order from least to most aggressive: Xynotal, Kryptotal Rear, Kryptotal Front, Argotal, Hydrotal. They might sound like budget superheroes, but like anything it’s simple once you’ve learned the lineup.
Across the lineup, claimed tire weights range from 1000 to 1290 grams, with all models available in a 2.4 width, and a few select 2.6 options throughout. You can get everything in a 29 or 27.5, so nobody but the 26” holdouts are left out. Conti is continuing the use of their Black Chili compound, with a few tweaks made to increase overall grip. The new range has 3 casing (Trail, Enduro, and Downhill) and 3 compound options (Endurance, Soft, and Super Soft). The Trail casing is paired with the hardest Endurance rubber only, to offer the improved rolling speed that Trail riders are likely to desire. The Enduro casing is shod with the soft rubber compound to offer a good all-round compromise. Finally, the Downhill casing is available in a choice of either Soft or Super Soft rubbers to tailor the grip-rolling speed-wear compromise. Each of the tread patterns is offered only in select casing and rubber options so be sure to visit Continental’s website to see which one is right for you.
Pricing ranges from $64.95 through to $99.95 depending on the casing and compound selected, with the Trail tires coming in at the cheaper end of the spectrum and the stickiest Downhill tires topping the scale.
I’ve been testing the new Continental lineup for a couple months now, on a variety of bikes in a wide range of terrain. Conditions have mostly been dry and dusty, as the depths of summer have hit just about every riding area in the West, but there have been some wet days thrown in to keep things exciting and complete the testing spectrum. From my home trails in Bellingham to a week in the Whistler Bike Park, the tires have seen a healthy dose of use and abuse, so here’s an overall breakdown on which compound and casing I prefer and why, and then my take on each tread option and where I found them to shine.
Right off the bat, I have to say I’m a big fan of all the new tires Continental has brought to market. Having tried the full range of casing options, from Trail to Downhill, I’m impressed with how usable each of them are – there’s no option I’d avoid on my own bike. Unlike the super light EXO or SnakeSkin options from the competitors, even the lightest tires in Conti’s selection are sturdy enough to hold up to real riding. I’m partial to the Soft and SuperSoft options, because I live in the slimy and wet Northwest, but even the Endurance compound sticks relatively well on rocks and roots.
Most of my time has been spent on the Downhill casing, with and without inserts, and I’m impressed with the support the tire offers without any internal support. Even the Enduro and Trail casings take hard corners well, so long as you increase pressures slightly to match. For reference, I’ve been able to run the Downhill options as low as 23psi in the rear, without an insert. Not recommended for a race run, but solid on slower-speed jank and in tech terrain. The SuperSoft compound performs just as well as the stickiest options from Maxxis and Schwalbe, and has held up impressively well to dry-weather use and rocky trails considering the level of tack it provides.
It’s worth noting just how good-looking these tires are as well, with their small classy hot patch, and a very cool embossed rubber pattern that apparently helps the tires release from their mold, improving quality control in manufacturing. The tread patterns all look purposeful and aggressive in their own right, giving confidence in their grip from the get-go.
This is the biggest and burliest soft-conditions tire in the lineup, cutting a nicely rounded overall profile made up of substantial blocks in a 2-2 pattern. The open tread pattern sheds dirt super quickly, allowing it to keep churning up soft dirt and mud as you roll. I’d consider this a front tire only, though you could run it in the rear in exceptionally soft conditions provided you didn’t want to go to the full-mud spec Hydrotal.
Despite the very prominent center and corner lugs, the Argotal is very stable and predictable on slabs and high-speed bike park berms – two areas where spiky tires tend to squirm and lose confidence. The tire truly shines when leaned hard in loose conditions, where I found it hooking up in spots, I really didn’t expect it to, and where other tires truly struggle. Thanks to the evenly distributed lugs across the profile, there’s no drift moment like you would experience on a DHF, but the spacing gives every bit as much bite, if not more.
Having swapped back to tires I know well, like the Assegai or Grappler, I think the Argotal now takes the cake as my favorite soft-conditions front tire on the market. The only option with as much raw bite is the Eddy Current from Schwalbe, but general weights are lower on the Continental offering, making a better fit for most trail and enduro bikes.
Another tire in the like-an-Assegai camp, the Kryptotal Fr tread has the now ubiquitous 3-2-3 pattern that many brands have adopted. To me, this tire is the most well-rounded of the Continental bunch, with a wide variety of applications and options to match. I actually ran it as a rear for a while, where it proved to be excellent in corners and on the brakes. As a front, it’s predictable and stable, with slightly better hard lean grip than most of the 3-2-3 tires out there. This is thanks to the stability of those edge lugs, which are quite beefy and dig in well, but with enough siping to keep things flexible.
The Kryptotal Re is a seriously meaty rear-specific tire, matched only by some of the most aggressive options from WTB. The rolling resistance is higher than most rear tires you see on the market, but the braking performance from this thing is seriously impressive to justify it and then some. It’s a bit easier to drift than the Fr option when used in the back, which makes for a nice feel when you’re trying to break traction and snap into a corner. The lug spacing is a bit tight, and can pack up in really sticky dirt, but the casing shape is round enough that you can usually find a solid edge.
This is the fastest rolling option in the lineup, but it’s no slouch when it comes to cornering and braking. Straight line braking is solid when the tread is fresh, and thanks to the hard-wearing compounds, it seems to stay fresh for quite a while. Conti was smart to offer this in the softer rubber options as well, as it’s a great tire on rocky slabby trails if you want a super firm and predictable tread. In dusty dry conditions, it drifts into corners a lot quicker than the Kryptotal Re but isn’t sketchy feeling thanks to the still significant edge lugs that are there to catch you when leant over far enough.
This would be my choice for areas where pedaling speed is trail speed, like Bend or high-country Colorado, and in rockier terrain like that found in Sedona or Moab. It’s not the best for dank loam lines, but in my experience, it was still acceptable even in that context.
The Wolf’s Last Word
With a full redesign of their casings and compounds, Continental has brought their tire lineup close to the top of the heap, with seriously impressive performance across the board. Massively improved from their previously mediocre offerings, the new tires are absolutely worth a try, if you’re interested in migrating away from the big brands.
I’ve been impressed with every tire in the lineup and will be running the stickiest options as a baseline for the foreseeable future.
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