FIRST RIDE REPORT
THE NEW SCHWALBE TACKY CHAN
For the past couple years, we’ve been spying a new tread pattern popping up on some of the Schwalbe sponsored riders on the World Cup Downhill circuit, sporting the usual “first ride” patches on the sidewall to let you know that the tire is in development. This development is now complete (at least for now..), and it’s time for Schwalbe to unveil their new gravity tire designed simply to be the fastest tire in the world – enter the Tacky Chan. Developed with the Commencal Muc-Off Downhill World Cup team and already with over 10 world cup gold medals to its name, the Schwalbe Tacky Chan promises to be a tire to support the pursuit of gold medals for the world’s best, but how does it fare under the control of us mere mortals? We were lucky enough to put a set to the test prior to their release in Leogang, Austria, and it’s safe to say we were impressed.
The development of the Tacky Chan was driven by Amaury Pierron and some of his fellow World Cup Downhill teammates, who were already hitting the top step of the podium on Schwalbe’s existing offerings, but demanded even more speed. Schwalbe was happy to work on the development of this new tire to achieve their goals of continuous improvement as one of the world’s leading bike tire manufacturers, and so the project commenced.
The Tacky Chan was not designed to be a replacement for the Magic Mary or Big Betty, only an extra option to have at their disposal when conditions called for it. That said, since the aforementioned tires have been around for over ten years, the Tacky Chan was also created with the new-school riding technique in mind, with the elite athletes riding with more aggression than ever and so demanding support and precision from their tires to match.
Schwalbe launched the project following the feedback and requests from the Commencal Muc-Off downhill race team. The highly successful Myriam Nicole, Thibaut Daprela and Amaury Pierron were to lead the development of the new tire from the track, and demanded a fast tire with high levels of precision and control.
Initial prototyping began in two different directions. Schwalbe worked on a prototype tread pattern, 3D printing a tread with ramped central lugs to promote faster rolling, and shoulder lugs with increased stability compared to the Magic Mary. These shoulder lugs were given an L shape to tune the stiffness and increase the available braking edges, and the gaps in between the center knobs were increased to improve penetration in loose surfaces and reduce the overall weight.
At the same time, on the track the athletes and their mechanics worked on development to find the ultimate compromise of stability and compliance of the shoulder lugs, taking the existing Big Betty and trimming it with 12 varieties of cut to experiment with. Through this testing, a happy compromise was found, giving increased support in the turns and increased braking traction.
Following the initial development stages in 2020, Tacky Chan prototypes were manufactured and given to the athletes for testing. The performance was so convincing in the initial races that Thibaut Daprela selected the Tacky Chan prototype for his World Championship race in Val Di Sole. After a successful practice and qualifying run, Thibaut crashed in his race run when pushing harder, with the feedback that the side knobs had been made too stiff and resulted in unforgiving cornering. This resulted in the tire being developed further, seeking increased cornering control.
Following the confirmation that the Tacky Chan was achieving the performance characteristics that the Commencal Muc-Off team desired, but still required some small adjustments, Schwalbe went into great detail to tweak the tread design to offer their exacting blend of characteristics. The shoulder lug size was reduced slightly for increased cornering control; the braking edge length was increased by a millimeter; and recesses were added to the double lugs to increase traction.
Following these small but significant changes, the Tacky Chan unlocked the performance levels that the athletes were searching for, and Amaury Pierron won the 2022 overall Downhill World Cup on it – achieving some of the 11 World Cup wins during 2022 along the way. Talking about the final product, Amaury said: “A lot of hard work went into making the Tacky Chan, and you can really feel that when you ride it. To have amazing grip and control without compromising speed is insane. We pushed new limits and that’s really cool.“
Myriam Nicole also remarked: “The Tacky Chan gives me a very direct feel. It’s unique to have a tyre that you can truly trust when you’re right on the edge, but which also gains speed and rolls so fast.“
The Tacky Chan has a tread pattern that visually sits between the Magic Mary and Big Betty, aside from the unique (for a Schwalbe tire) L-shaped shoulder lugs. These shoulder lugs are 20% stiffer than those on the Magic Mary; and the L shape offers extra braking edges to improve traction when slowing down, without increasing the stiffness too much and limiting cornering control. The center knobs are ramped to increase rolling speed, and the Tacky Chan is claimed to be 3W faster in rolling than a comparable Magic Mary.
The overall profile of the tire is more square than the relatively round Magic Mary, increasing the support and bite of the tire when pushing hard. This means the tire is more “ON-OFF” however, requiring the rider to actively load the tire to force it to bite and generate traction, especially in loose over hard conditions. Schwalbe recommends slightly increased pressures in the Tacky Chan to increase the feedback provided and aid the rider in loading the tire to achieve the increased bite and traction.
The Schwalbe Tacky Chan will be offered in 2.40” width only in 27.5” or 29” sizes; with Addix Soft or Addix Ultra Soft rubber compounds; and Super Trail, Super Gravity or Super Downhill tire casings.
FIRST RIDE IMPRESSIONS
As part of the Schwalbe launch event for the new Tacky Chan tires, I spent a day putting a set of Addix Ultra Soft, Super Downhill casing tires through their paces on a Commencal Meta TR eMTB in Bikepark Leogang, Austria. The video will tell you all you need to know about the conditions and style of terrain that were on the menu during this test period – super dry with some good bikepark turns to push the tires hard and see where their limits were. As per Schwalbe’s recommendations, I aired up the Downhill casing Tacky Chan tires 2psi harder than I’d typically run in such a tire – 29psi rear, 27psi front – to deliver the increased feedback that was intended, and it felt to be in a good ballpark.
The initial standout was how sturdy and stable the Tacky Chan felt on the ground, both when hitting the turns as hard as I dared and through off-camber compressions. Stability in a tire leads to great encouragement to push harder, and after a couple of runs it felt as if I was hitting some of the higher cornering g-forces that I ever have. With proper setup to a turn thrown into the mix, high g-forces often mean maximum speed in well built berms, which can only be a good thing for the race timer as well as encouraging extra fun to be had on a regular ride. It’s safe to say that these new Schwalbe tires hook!
Speaking of proper setup, another characteristic that continually impressed on the Tacky Chan was their ability to stick to off-cambers, such as the typical “high line” entry to a bikepark berm. Similarly, the ability to load the tire hard on the flat and generate a very abrupt turn and “pop” up to reach the high lines was notable. You can load the Tacky Chan hard on flatter ground and produce an impressively quick movement across the track, getting yourself onto the line you desire in the blink of an eye – a trait that once harnessed properly should enable the fastest lines to be found time after time.
The braking traction on offer was impressive, with the ability to yank on the powerful TRP brakes fitted to the Commencal Meta TR without locking the wheels in the hard pack. This continued into the small portions of looser dirt we encountered, where the Tacky Chan felt to dig in nicely to find the traction, though more testing of this would be required to say for sure if it would pip a Magic Mary in these conditions.
Deliberate riding absolutely yields the best out of this tire, rewarding you for the times you tip the bike in hard and load the tires up. However, especially in the Ultra Soft Super Downhill variant we tested, there’s so much traction that less aggressive riders would be just fine too, albeit not unlocking the tire’s full potential. The Tacky Chan would happily roll with a less advanced rider as they progress and grow confidence to throw the bike into a turn though. Without a direct back-to-back comparison it’s hard to tell exactly how the Tacky Chan fares in terms of rolling resistance, but when rolling on smooth road it’s not a tire that produces a lot of energy-sapping noise and vibration like the Magic Mary, which can only mean good things for rolling speed.
I’ll have to wait for less favorable conditions and terrain to assess where the Tacky Chan begins to suffer, as through the first ride in primarily dry hardpack and small patches of loose over hard, the new Schwalbe gravity tire only delivered impressive performance in every scenario. The only downfall, which was somewhat expected, was the fast wear of the tire that was very apparent after just a single day’s riding. Riding eBikes hard in the bikepark is highly abusive for a soft compound tire, but it does leave some concerns for the longevity that we’ll have to wait to compare in more varied terrain. I’m very excited to spend more time on this tire to find out.