We have reported back in May that the legend has returned: the WTB tires are again available in shops nationwide. Following the relaunch, we got hold of two MTB tires from the American brand’s extensive range, the WTB Vigilante and Trail Boss. The first is a classic trail model, while the latter answers the requests of the new emerging enduro riders. Let’s see how they perform side by side!
Before setting out on the trails, we should explain WTB’s well-visible logos on the sidewalls. Based on this information the buyer to make a more informed choice, hopefully ending up with exactly the type of rubber that is best suited to his or her riding style and trail conditions.
By default most WTB tires can be set up as tubeless, using what the manufacturer calls Tubeless Compatible System. Hence we have the TCS™ logo on both these tires.
Then comes the choice of different sidewall constructions. WTB offers Tough (TCS TOUGH CASING) and Light (TCS LIGHT CASING) variants, and the latter is available with the new SLASH GUARD technology. It’s a thin nylon insert to prevent slashes and pinch cuts, weights next to nothing, nevertheless it manages to increase durability by quite a margin. For most type of riding the SLASH GUARD offers sufficient protection. I’d say that the “Tough” casing is for special riding environments, hardcore enduro, where the rider has no or little control over the chosen lines. Those tires are likely to be bombproof at the price of adding some weight to the wheel. But as Boris “the Blade” Yurinov said in the film Snatch: “Weight is sign of reliability!”
If you see the “TriTec” logo on the tire sidewall, you have a WTB tire featuring 3 different rubber compound. These are of varying hardness, used for different part of the tread. Within the TriTec realm, you have a choice of “High Grip” and “Fast Rolling” variants. The former is tuned for better cornering, the latter for low rolling resistance. WTB managed to employ these compounds for the knobs as well as the base tread, which decreases the chance of the torn or damaged knobs. I found the Fast Rolling version to be the better alternative for most local riding. Even with the harder compound, the side knobs are very soft, providing adequate traction in most conditions. If you ride a lot on dry rocks and other hard surfaces, you have no choice, since the “High Grip” causes very fast wear. The latter is a nice option to have, but mostly for wet trails littered with rocks and roots.
WTB Vigilante 29×2.3, TCS, Fast Rolling, Light
Hopefully the reader can now interpret the above information! There is the size, the tubeless technology, the compound and the casing type for the tire in this review. The WTB Vigilante is a truly all-rounder model, relatively light and rolls well. Mounting the tire on the rim was a breeze, it fit perfectly, and I could set it up tubeless with just a floor pump. That’s an attribute few “Tubeless Compatible” tires possess!
The Vigilante’s tread pattern features distantly placed large knobs. This certainly helps mud to clear, but it’s not a mud tire per se, since the knobs are not as tall and scarce enough. Hence rolling resistance remains at an acceptable level. On a 30mm internal width rim it measured exactly as specified (2.3”), making it both sure-footed and comfortable. The weight is average for this size at 880gr. As mentioned earlier, I received the “light” casing version, which gave me no trouble during the test period. I felt the casing to be stiff enough to avoid squirm. When cornering at high speed with extreme low tire pressure I felt a bit of wobble, but in average use and more sensible pressure the Vigilante “Light” was sufficiently stable.
The taller side knobs kept traction in corners. When there was some slipping, it was predictable and easy to correct. Although the “Fast Rolling” compound was mainly designed to provide low rolling resistance, it was soft enough to allow for good traction. Muddy roots and rocks were handled quite well, and the tire was still fast on dry hardpack without any wondering due to knob flex. Naturally the Vigilante is no match for the dense and shallow tread of the fastest tires on the market, on the other hand it offer much wider scope of usage covering many different trail types and conditions. I found this compound to be one of the best compromise between rolling and traction where I tend to ride. The Vigilante could be mounted both front and back.
WTB Trail Boss 29×2.4 TCS, Light, Fast Rolling, Slash Guard
Once again the technology can be nippily deciphered based on what we learned at start of this write-up. When I was asked which tire I’d like to try from the WTB lineup, this was first I mentioned. The reason being that I was having a lot of difficulty finding the right rubber for my Alpine and bike park adventures. There you’ll certainly need a tough casing, and the Slash Guard sidewall protection technology also intrigued me. When I got the test samples and held them in my hand, I immediately understood the concept behind the Trail Boss. The sidewalls are burly and it has the weight (1260gr) to match the seemingly indestructible construction. So even before mounting I had little doubt that the sidewalls would be stiff enough to run extreme low pressures!
The tread features more closely spaced knobs than on the Vigilante, so it’s fast rolling despite the weight and the overbuilt construction. Traction is excellent in a variety of conditions, in fact the Trail Boss is one of the most stable and predictably tires I ever used. In some cases I felt it to be too stable for my liking. Why? Well, I needed to play around with handling in corners, since it’s so difficult to make it skid. It simply refuses to diverge from the line, so you have to do some “magic”. Maybe a more skilled rider knows how to make such a sure-footed get a tire “misbehave”! So on one hand I was very grateful to the Trail Boss for providing such stability and solving the challenging trail situation for me, on the other hand I was a little frustrated that I’m not skilled enough to “boss” it around.
When riding in Sölden, Austria we got some wet weather, and I’m happy to report that the Trail Boss is very apt in these kinds of conditions. The compound is again spot on for traction and rolling resistance, the knobs – despite their density – tend to clear the mud quite well. Maybe in wetter, stickier conditions I would change it for a proper mud tire, but for light surface muck it’s perfectly suitable.
The sidewalls are truly beefy, thus tire pressure can be easily lowered to insane values. I was running the Trail Boss at 1.2-1.4Bar pressure for four days in the Alps, enjoying fantastic traction with great comfort without much wondering or squirm. Although I weigh 90kg, I had no problems with sidewall cuts either at these pressures, even when I was riding fast on the trails littered with rocks and roots. While they were on my bike I had no flats, and mounting them tubeless was the easiest of tasks. I mounted the tire on the rear, but it could be used for both wheels.
Based on my experience with these tires, I can honestly say that WTB is at the top of their game in 2019. They offer a wide variety of treads using several excellent rubber compounds and casings, allowing the rider to use the most suitable for the trail conditions and personal preference. I have nothing but praise for these two tires!
For more information and pricing please visit the Hungarian WTB distributor’s website.