Reviewed: 29er WTB Vigilante and Trail Boss

Words Omar Bhimji
Photos Morgan Taylor
Date Jan 21, 2015

Mountain bike tires are personal, which makes reviewing them a bit tricky. So when it came time to write up some rubber I cheated, and reached out to Morgan Taylor and Jon Harris to round out my thoughts on two 29” tires from WTB. The three of us spent some time on the Vigilante and the Trail Boss.

morgan-taylor-wtb-vigilante-trail-boss-1

Not to be confused with the Trail servant, Trail Employee or Trail Peon, the Trail Boss comes in 27.5 and 29 but not 26.

For the longest time I thought of WTB’s tires as the ones with funny names and funnier treads, that probably only worked well in California. But the venerable Marin-based company seems to have stepped up its off-road rubber game recently. Both the Vigilante and the Trail Boss are newer models with well defined characters and niches, that come in a variety of diameters, compounds and casings.

For the record: John, Morgan and I rode the 29 x 2.35” TCS Vigilante, the harder and lighter version of the tire. I rode the 29 x 2.25” TCS Light version of the Trail Boss, while Morgan ran the heavier TCS tough version.

morgan-taylor-wtb-vigilante-trail-boss-9

Vigilante: a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate. The Vigilante is available in 26, 27.5 and 29.

Vigilante

The 2.3” Vigilante is an aggressive tire with lots of chunky, square lugs, and all three reviewers ran it out front. WTB calls it a tubeless compatible tire, which means that its designed and built to work well with UST or other tubeless systems, but has thinner sidewalls than a true tubeless tires and requires the use of sealant. While the Vigilante doesn’t have the heft of a true-tubeless tire, it mounted, aired up and sealed quite easily, and not one of us managed to get it to burp or fold during the review period.

morgan-taylor-wtb-vigilante-trail-boss-7

“And the inset outer lugs act like transition knobs, helping the tire grip predictably across a broad range of angles without any vagueness or drift.”

The Vigilante’s lugs are big, square, laterally siped, and arranged roughly in two rows: the center set alternate between single and paired knobs, while on the outer set every third knob is slightly inset. The aggressive lugs, lateral siping and staggered tread make the Vigilante a standout tire in most conditions. The tall knobs dig into loose dirt well, and grip well on rocks and hardpack, too. The tire provides excellent braking traction and power, even in corners. And the inset outer lugs act like transition knobs, helping the tire grip predictably across a broad range of angles without any vagueness or drift.

morgan-taylor-wtb-vigilante-trail-boss-6

The Vigilante 2.3 in the TCS Tough casing weighs a claimed 1010 grams while the TCS Light is 830.

When pushed hard into corners, the Vigilante shows its limits. It might be the presence of transition knobs, which can make it hard to transfer enough weight into the outer set to really help them bite. Or it could be the lateral (sideways) siping, which improves grip during braking but doesn’t help the outer knobs deform sideways. Whatever the cause, when leaned way over, the Vigilante has a tendency to break-away suddenly and without warning – not a confidence inspiring trait.

morgan-taylor-wtb-vigilante-trail-boss-5

An economical version of the Vigilante – the Comp – starts at just $34.95

As a front tire, the Vigilante is a great all-rounder. It provides excellent stopping power, support and damping, and grips well across a broad spectrum of angles. But if you’re an aggressive rider who likes to get well sideways, this probably isn’t the tire for you.


Trail Boss

The 2.25” Trail Boss is slimmer, rounder and less aggressive in profile than the Vigilante, and was run by all three reviewers exclusively as a rear tire. It is also designated as a tubeless compatible tire, and installation was similarly fast and easy.

morgan-taylor-wtb-vigilante-trail-boss-3

Fast rolling with ample traction? Like a Boss?

The Trail Boss has small, tightly packed knobs, and looks like it would be a fast rolling tire. In that respect it doesn’t disappoint – but the small, plentiful knobs belie the generous grip. In dry conditions, whether on hard pack or in loose terrain, the Trail Boss claws its way uphill like – well, like a boss. Straight line braking traction isn’t anything to get overly excited about, but not bad given how well the tire rolls.

morgan-taylor-wtb-vigilante-trail-boss-2

“But given The Trail Boss’ size and how well it rolls, it’s damned impressive in the corners.”

In the corners, whether you’re scrubbing speed or letting her rip, the Trail Boss’s well-defined, staggered outside knobs provide plentiful and predictable grip. It doesn’t hurt that they’re a bit taller than the center lugs, but I think much of the credit is owed to their longitudinal (front to back) siping and slightly staggered orientation. Don’t get me wrong, the Trail Boss isn’t tip-and-grip DH tire that carves hard at extreme angles. But given its size and how well it rolls, it’s damned impressive in the corners.

morgan-taylor-wtb-vigilante-trail-boss-4

The Trail Boss 2.25 with TCS Tough (Fast Rolling) casing (pictured) weighs in at a claimed 920 grams. The TCS Light version is 795 grams.

Where the Trail Boss conspicuously disappointed was in the durability department. Jon and I ran them on the Chromag anniversary ride, and afterwards we were a bit shocked at how ragged the tires looked. I kept running mine for a few more weeks until I finally punched a hole through the sidewall that the sealant couldn’t close. All told I probably put less than 20 rides on my Trail Boss before it was no longer suited for tubeless use – though it’s worth bearing in mind that I was on the Light version of the tire.

morgan-taylor-wtb-vigilante-trail-boss-2

Like the Vigilante, the trail boss can be had for as little as $37.95 in the Comp version.

Personally speaking, I found the WTB Vigilante to be a serviceable front tire, but I would go with something a bit more aggressive to avoid feeling hesitant when pushing the front end through corners. As for the Trail Boss, I’m a bit conflicted; I loved the tire’s combination of grip and rippability, but was disappointed by how quickly it wore out in the Light casing version. I notice that the Trail Boss now comes in a wider, 2.4” variant though, and am tempted to try one out as a front tire next summer.

Trail Boss – Available in  27.5 and 29, three casings, two hardnesses and 2.25 and 2.4 widths. Pricing $37.95 – $79.95
Vigilante –  Available in 26, 27.5 and 29, three casings, two hardnesses and 2.3 width. Pricing $34.95 – $79.95


Are you a shot caller or a take the law into your own hands kind of rider?

Trending on NSMB

Comments

morgan-taylor
0
Morgan Taylor  - Jan. 24, 2015, 4:31 p.m.

In the photos of the Vigilante I tried to capture part of what I think is the reason they break away so suddenly. The tread doesn't wrap around quite as far as a 2.3 Maxxis or a Hans Dampf. As a front tire I really enjoyed it at first, but once I got comfortable with it I found that edge. I would consider it a decent rear winter tire – but as mentioned in my comment about the Trail Boss below, beware of tires that are significantly heavier than claimed.

Reply

ralph_nader
0
Ralph_Nader  - Jan. 23, 2015, 10:30 a.m.

2.25, 925g & small summer knobs? Oh, well…

Reply

boomforeal
0
boomforeal  - Jan. 23, 2015, 10:44 a.m.

judge, meet book cover

Reply

morgan-taylor
0
Morgan Taylor  - Jan. 24, 2015, 4:27 p.m.

I actually really enjoyed it as a rear tire. Fast rolling, tons of traction. Unfortunately the true weight was 100 grams more than claimed at 1017 or so grams. With the Vigilante up front I never really found the lateral edge of the Trail Boss out back.

Reply

bicyclelifestyle
0
bicyclelifestyle  - Jan. 23, 2015, 9:59 a.m.

I run the 2.4 trail boss up front on my 29er trail bike. I quite like it a lot, but when the going gets muddy, the tire packs up really bad, leaving only the side knobs for traction. I ride very aggressively, and while it drifts a bit, it rolls mega fast and it's very controllable. I have the Bronson out back for maximum shrapling and braking.

I'm thinking about three vigilante for the front. I think your point is invalid, ANY tire will let loose when held at it's edge, even those squirmy ass minions. I've lost my sh*t too many times with those.

Reply

boomforeal
0
boomforeal  - Jan. 23, 2015, 9:17 a.m.

a couple of follow ups to this review, which i wrote in october before the weather hit:

  • i actually just pulled the trail boss off my bike, and it is SHREDDED. but despite its condition the decrease in performance and grip has been subtle. and it has done quite well in the wetter conditions we've seen on the shore of late. i'm doubly impressed with it now - i've gone back to my trustee ikon on the back, but when that goes i may well reach for another trail boss, especially if i can find a 2.4″ wide variant

  • ken perras pointed on out FB that the "fast rolling/tcs light" trailboss i reviewed is a dual/pretty soft compound tire. i can't find any published durometer numbers from wtb, but given how well the trailboss has continued to perform in the past few months i don't doubt his assessment of the rubber used is correct. i'm a bit nervous about how well i'll get on with the ikon after several months on the trailboss; the ikon wears more slowly and grips well in my memory, but the trailboss may have raised the bar of my expectations

Reply

Faction
0
Derp  - Jan. 22, 2015, 6:59 a.m.

The Vigilante is better as a rear tire. Thats where it doesn't easily break loose and you can push it really hard.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - Jan. 22, 2015, 11:35 a.m.

I couldn't fit a Vigilante 2.3 AM TCS in the back of my Enduro 29 (wide Derby rims).

Reply

ChampfT
0
Chris Cogsdil  - Jan. 22, 2015, 1:27 a.m.

"but I would go with something a bit more aggressive to avoid feeling hesitant when pushing the front end through corners."

"I’m a bit conflicted; I loved the tire’s combination of grip and rippability, but was disappointed by how quickly it wore out in the Light casing version."

Is this a nice way of you (or your crew) saying you didn't like them?

Reply

jonathan-harris
0
Jonathan Harris  - Jan. 22, 2015, 8:37 a.m.

I am one of the reviewers mentioned here. Both tires positively surprised us as all three of us are picky when it comes to tires. As Omar mentioned the Vigiliante is a good tire on the front but all three of us are aggressive riders and in those situations where we had the bike leaned over hard to rail a turn we felt that the tire could have given us some more notice that it was reaching its grip limits. For less aggressive riders the Vigilante gives really confidence inspiring braking and a nice transition in grip until you get them right on their edge. I liked them for that so much that I have fitted a pair to my fiances bike.

The Trail Boss is an awesome rear tire for summer conditions. It rolls fast with good traction under power. Omar and I did a big (70km) day in the saddle on our Chomags in Whistler where the tires did get crucified. We rode a LOT of rock that day and as you might guess the trail were steep and technical, so a lot of time over the rear tire on the brakes. I think any tire would have taken a beating but with the numerous small knobs maybe it was more pronounced with the Trail Boss.

Like I said up top, we are picky riders when it comes to rubber, but both of these tires have merit.

Reply

gdharries
0
Geof Harries  - Jan. 22, 2015, 9:44 a.m.

I'm intrigued as to what tires you prefer to ride on your own 29er. I've long stuck with Kenda Nevegals because they're generally a great all-around tire, but I'm in need of new rubber for next summer and am open to trying new tire options.

My Rocky Instinct came with Conti Mountain Kings which were laughably/terrifyingly bad in corners like you state with the Vigiliantes above. That's a trait I'd dearly like to avoid (and hence why I'm partial to Nevegals) with my new tires.

Reply

jonathan-harris
0
Jonathan Harris  - Jan. 22, 2015, 10:10 a.m.

I happily rode this WTB combo through the summer and will definitely throw on the Trail Boss back on when things get dry next summer. Now things are damper my solid go to combo is the Specialized Butcher up front and Purgatory on the rear. For the price they are hard to beat and last well too.

Reply

jeremy-latham
0
Jeremy Latham  - Jan. 22, 2015, 10:29 a.m.

I didn't like the Mountain Kings that came on my Instinct either. I've got Specialized Purgatory Controls on both front and back and have been very impressed with both the performance and durability of these tires.

Reply

gdharries
0
Geof Harries  - Jan. 22, 2015, 11:26 a.m.

Interesting, thanks to both of you. Do you find the 2.3's in the Butchers fairly wide or do they have a narrower profile when inflated and on the rim?

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - Jan. 22, 2015, 1:23 p.m.

The 2.3 Butcher is not what I'd call wide for its sticker size. Nor narrow. Closer to 'true'. I've spent a lot of time on the Butcher up front and Purgatory on the rear and can echo what Jon said: they perform well, last admirably, and are priced lower than some of the competition, making them easy to recommend. One thing: the casings tend to be a bit thin, so far a hardtail especially I'd recommend Grid casing, at least for the rear tire.

Reply

jonathan-harris
0
Jonathan Harris  - Jan. 22, 2015, 11:18 p.m.

Seconded. Grid for the rear tire, control for up front.

Reply

jonathan-harris
0
Jonathan Harris  - Jan. 22, 2015, 11:19 p.m.

Rode some Mountain Kings on a bike today and they are downright scary! The WTB tires are two steps ahead over these….

Reply

ChampfT
0
Chris Cogsdil  - Jan. 23, 2015, 12:55 a.m.

So, am I correct in assuming the vigilante is a good front tire for mellower riders like myself? I used to shred as hard as possible as if I was in a race all the time but middle age has slowed me down quite a bit. I still have the skills to make it around most trails without walking sections, I just prefer to cruise through the hills instead of always trying to beat my last time.
And the trail boss is a decent back tire as long as you don't skid a lot through rocky terrain or generally ride fast and aggressive? (I rarely skid unless I have to and prefer grippy tires. The Hans Dampf works great in my neck of the woods except in muddy winter conditions) I hope I didn't sound snotty, I was genuinely confused as to whether or not you thought the tires were good.

Reply

boomforeal
0
boomforeal  - Jan. 23, 2015, 8:30 a.m.

yes. i think the vig would be an outstanding front tire for the majority of riders. if you like the dampf, i think you'll love this tire

Reply

boomforeal
0
boomforeal  - Jan. 23, 2015, 9:06 a.m.

if you like nevegals, i think you'll like the vigilante. it is, as i said, a great all-round tire. i didn't and wouldn't call it laughably/terrifyingly bad in corner. at extreme angles it will give out, and doesn't telegraph this well; but in the majority of instances and for the majority of riders, i think its cornering prowess is excellent

Reply

boomforeal
0
boomforeal  - Jan. 23, 2015, 9:26 a.m.

i've already mentioned my preference for maxxis' ikon out back. my front tire of choice is the maxxis dhr2: brakes like a highroller, corners like a dhf, lighter somehow than either

Reply

boomforeal
0
boomforeal  - Jan. 23, 2015, 8:27 a.m.

no

i'm neither famous nor foolish enough to think my opinion alone would constitute a review

i've tried to outline where i think each tires' strengths and weaknesses lie. if i've done a decent job, ultimately it is still up to the reader to judge whether the item under consideration would be suitable for their purposes

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.