Reviewed: WTB Trail Boss and Riddler

Words Tim Coleman
Photos Tim Coleman (unless noted)
Date Jul 12, 2015

WTB isn’t the first company that comes to mind when I think mountain bike tires. I’ve always associated WTB with high quality saddles, and WTB has been my choice in saddles for last couple years. It seems as though WTB is making a bigger push into the tire market lately, and if their tires approach the quality of their saddles, they’re probably worth checking out.

The test steed with the Trail Boss mounted to the front wheel and the Riddler mounted to the rear wheel.

Since I’m reviewing two tires here I’ll first cover off the common characteristics. Both tires feel well made, with a tight fitting folding bead, tread that lines up evenly, and a fairly stiff robust feeling casing. Installing the tires on my rims, Stan Flow EX, was on the tighter side, and they inflated easily with a floor pump on a tubeless setup (YAY!). The casings feel stiffer than a Maxxis EXO, but softer than a Schwalbe Super Gravity, and I inflated the tires as such. In B.C. I’ve seen these priced at CDN$ 95.

The WTB tire styling is simple and understated. I also approve of their naming convention with “High Grip”, “Fast Rolling”, “Tough Casing” all easy to understand. Take note Schwalbe.

Next the specifics of the WTB Riddler. The Riddler is intended as a fast rolling rear tire, but with more aggressive side knobs to complement use with a more aggressive front tire. I tested the 2.4 inch width 650b / 27.5 inch version with the Tough Casing and Fast Rolling rubber. I measured the casing width to be 57.6 mm and the width across the outer knobs to be 58.6 mm. I measured the compound as brand new to be 61 Shore A down the center and 43 Shore A on the shoulders. The side knobs on the Riddler feel soft and supple with a slow rebound characteristic. The center knobs are noticeably firmer. Side knobs are shorter in height, and as a result they feel well supported with my calibrated finger test. The siping direction on the side knobs makes sense and will give an additional edge for improved cornering traction. The center knobs offer many edges for braking and have a short profile. The tire profile is overall nicely rounded, but the center knobs are fairly flat.

The Riddler has small and short blocks down the center. Well supported and nicely siped side knobs.

The first thing you’ll notice when riding the Riddler is how fast and quiet the tire is. This isn’t much of a surprise considering the short and numerous center knobs, but it’s faster than I expected. Unsurprisingly there are compromises and that fast rolling characteristic comes at the expense of braking traction on any surface that is remotely loose. I spun out easily in loose conditions when climbing, and the firmer rubber down the center provided weak traction on wet rocks and roots. The upside however is the Riddler maintains gargantuan speed on anything where you can let the brakes go. The braking traction may be sub-par, but the cornering traction was surprisingly good. With most semi slicks I’ve ridden you need to be off the brakes before even thinking of cornering or else your business goes sideways in a hurry. Unusually the Riddler allowed quite a lot of braking / cornering overlap that made the Riddler easier to ride at the limit.

Riding the Riddler. There ain’t much off the brakes pinned riding in North Vancouver, so semi-slicks aren’t common around these parts. That said the Riddler held its own and managed good results on the Riddler at local enduro races. Photo by: Dave Leblanc

Talking of limits, overstepping the limit of traction on the side knobs resulted in a progressive and predictable loss in traction. These qualities summed up to me feeling comfortable riding the Riddler aggressively, knowing that exceeding the limit wasn’t going to result in a sudden and dramatic loss in grip. I’ve ridden the Riddler as a rear tire in Whistler and on the Shore, both renowned for chunky trails, and no issues with punctures or casing damage.

Image of the worn Riddler after 100 km of riding. The firmer center knobs look pretty good, but the side knobs have definitely lost their sharp edges. Cornering traction was still surprisingly good.

Now on to the Trail Boss specifics. The Trail Boss is a neat tire, it appears to be aimed as something right between a semi-slick and an aggressive tire like the Schwalbe Magic Mary or WTB’s Vigilante. I tested the 2.4 inch width, 650b / 27.5 inch diameter, Tough Casing, High Grip rubber variant. Weight came in at 1100 grams. I inflated and ran this tire at roughly 26 psi front, and 28 psi on the rear. I measured the casing width to be 54.4 mm and 56.2 mm across the outer knobs. I measured the rubber durometer as 49 Shore A down the center and 44 Shore A on the shoulders. I found it slightly odd that the more aggressive Trail Boss in the same casing width as the Riddler measured up narrower on the same rim.

Sidewall styling is similarly understated as the Riddler

The Trail Boss has a neat tread design with numerous blocks and appropriately directed siping.

Both the side knobs and center knobs feel soft and sticky. Similar to the Riddler, the side knobs on the Trail Boss feel well supported and the siping direction on all the knobs makes sense. Overall the Trail Boss has a nicely rounded tread pattern without much gap between the center knobs and the side knobs. This profile results in no loss of grip when transitioning from the center knob to the side knob. There are numerous center knobs on the Trail Boss which aids its fast rolling nature, but the compromise to that is it doesn’t have as much shear braking bite as a more aggressive, slower tire. The side knobs work well, and felt confident through both loose and slippy conditions.

Racing with the Trail Boss up front was surprisingly good on the North Shore. I have since been using the Trail Boss as a rear tire, and really liking it. Photo by: Brian McCurdy

I ran the Trail Boss both as a front and rear tire, and in the right application I thought the Trail Boss was great at both. This is a versatile tire that is a jack of all trades, master of none. If your trails are predominantly hard pack, and less steep the Trail Boss offered up good braking and cornering characteristics as front tire. Paired with a Riddler on the rear the bike accelerated quickly, and maintained great speed. I can see some folks running the Trail Boss front and rear; with the High Grip version up front and the Fast Rolling variant out back. For more aggressive trails, like around these parts, I preferred running the Trail Boss as a rear tire with an aggressive front tire like the Magic Mary or WTB Vigilante. The Trail Boss rolls well, offers adequate braking traction, transitions easily from braking to cornering, comes in good compounds, has a sturdy casing and seems to lose grip in a graceful manner. All reasons that add up to the Trail Boss possibly being my new favourite rear tire on the trail bike.

The Trail Boss seems to wear more gracefully than the Riddler, even when being used a rear tire.

Overall I’m impressed with both tires. I think that WTBs range of the Vigilante, Trail Boss and Riddler offers a good mix of intended uses and can be paired up in different ways to best suit your local trails. I give credit to WTB for coming up with an easy to understand convention to identify different casing and compound variations. The tires aren’t cheap, but they’re well made, offer good grip and seem to hold up better than most competitor’s tires. WTB tires aren’t too different to their line of saddles then, and I think that’s a strong compliment.


The Trail Boss (US$39.95-$76.95 comes in 2.25 and 2.4 in 27.5″ and 29″ in four different casings.
The Riddler (US$67.95)  named after our friend Nathan Riddle) comes in 27.5″ x 2.4 only with two casings.


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Comments

andrewbikeguide
0
AndrewR  - July 15, 2015, 9:55 a.m.

I recently threw a set of Breakout 2.5s on my Nomad as a "why not try something different experiment?". There was nothing wrong with the Continental Trail King 2.4s I was running but I guess I had tinkered with every other part of my bike and was curious about WTB and their newer patterns and casings.

I am pretty impressed by them. Yes they are heavy (Tough Fast Rolling Rear/ Tough HIgh Grip Front). I certainly noticed the extra 200 gr per tyre over the Trail Kings.

I considered running the 2.3″ on the rear but the weight difference (about 50 gr) did not seem worth the volume loss especially on the Nomad. I have not had a lot of miles on them yet due ACL surgery and certainly not been able to push them really hard but they were pleasantly predictable in off camber rocks and roots. Worth a try if you are considering a WTB dabble. Certainly agree about the tough casings, easy to seat and inflate tubeless too. Nice work WTB.

For comparisons sake I have run Maxxis (Ardent, High Roller, High Roller II, DHF and DHR) and whilst I like some of their tread patterns, I don't rate either the side wall strength or the tread wear (their grippy compounds wear out too quickly). I also think Schwalbe wears so much quicker than the Conti Blackchilli Protection versions, so heavier and more expensive tyre which starts loosing side knobs within 2-3 weeks. All tyres are mounted on ENVE M70 rims (25mm inner width) for those that are comparing foot prints) and I generally run 24 psi front and 27 psi rear (I weight 215 lbs with gear).

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boomforeal
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boomforeal  - July 14, 2015, 11 a.m.

great review tim. glad to hear the big trail boss lived up to my expectations of it

most aggro tires seem to have vertical sipes on their outside knobs and lateral sipes on the inside - which you describe in your review as "appropriate" and sensible - so i'm interested in your thoughts on the lateral siping on the outside knobs of the WTB vigilante

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Timmigrant
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Tim Coleman  - July 15, 2015, 7:21 a.m.

Thanks Boom. Neat comment regarding the Vigilante, I hadn't noticed that. From a nerd perspective I would think you'd want the siping in the same directions as the Trail Boss to maximizing cornering traction on the side knob. The siping in the direction on Vigilante would maybe allow for a bit more use of the brake when on the side knob, but obviously at the expense of some cornering traction.

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boomforeal
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boomforeal  - July 15, 2015, 3:53 p.m.

my inner nerd figured the same thing. it's how i explained morgan's experiences with the tire relating to washout when we discussed; i only found that trait when i pushed the vigilante really hard. given how we ride (him: aggressively / me: conservatively) it seemed to make sense

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 15, 2015, 6:12 p.m.

It's true: the Trail Boss was a touch too grippy to fully exploit my tendency towards earth based kickouts and freeride flicks. Possible that grip increased the Vigilante's understeer.

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 13, 2015, 8:57 a.m.

Have you ridden the Vigilante 2.4, Tim? I had the 2.3 on my front Flow EX and found it was great until it was leaned over - at which point the front end had a tendency to wash out. I know Maxxis' 2.4s have meatier blocks than their 2.3 counterparts and I assume WTB is the same. The only downside of WTB's Tough casing tires is the weight.

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Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - July 13, 2015, 9:31 a.m.

Hey Morgan. Yeah I've ridden the Vigilante 2.3, I don't believe there is a 2.4 option. Did you use the High Grip or Fast Rolling option? I liked the 2.3″ High Grip version. That and the Magic Mary are my go to front tires right now. They excel in all loose conditions, but when riding on hard pack conditions I'm finding the side knobs, especially on the Magic Mary / HR2, are a bit squirmy. I find that using more lean angle on the bike than normal helps a lot. Alternatively for firm conditions where you're finding something like the Vigilante, Magic Mary or High Roller 2 are too supple I'm really like the Maxxis DHR 2 as a front and or rear tire.

As for the casing. The Tough Casing tires are heavy, but they've been flawless. I rode the Trail Boss as a rear tire at the Penticton Enduro this year (almost all year actually). Loads of dudes were slicing 3 finger gashes through their Super Gravity Schwalbes / EXO Maxxis and I've had zero issues with the WTBs.

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 13, 2015, 9:54 a.m.

Ah, I guess I just assumed there was a 2.4 Vigilante to complement the tires as tested here.

I'm a big fan of the DHR2 front and rear. The Vigilante 2.3 / Trail Boss 2.25 replaced my DHR2s for a short time last year, but the Trail Boss rear out- gripped the front which exacerbated my feeling that the Vigilante side knobs could have been spaced wider on the casing. My local conditions are primarily dry loam (woe is me…) without much hardpack. The Vigilante was a High Grip with regular casing and the Trail boss was a Fast Rolling TCS Tough casing. Both were heavier than claimed by a significant amount and heavier than my DHR2s by more than I liked, so I put a DHR2 back on the front and a Purgatory Grid on the rear for the short time before I started riding the Ice Cream Truck full time.

Reply

D_C_
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DMVancouver  - July 13, 2015, 9:59 a.m.

Morgan, weight aside, I'd be interested in your thoughts on the Trail Boss and Purgatory as a rear tire. How does rolling speed and cornering grip compare? The both look like good candidates for slightly faster rolling tires to run in the winter on a trail/AM bike.

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Timmigrant
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Tim Coleman  - July 13, 2015, 10:15 a.m.

Interesting! Did you have a special Vigilante? I thought the High Grip version only came in the heavier Tough Casing.

I slightly preferred the Vigilante in the soft stuff, and the DHR2 on the hard pack, but they both have fairly densely packed side knobs. For soft dry loam I would personally run something more aggressive like a High Roller 2 front and something like the Trail Boss rear. Side knobs on the Trail Boss are excellent, but I haven't found them to out grip Vigilante or Magic Mary, then again I do ride fairly aggressively over the front of the bike, and as I'm sure you remember they aren't many dry loamy trails around these parts. Neat to hear a different perspective!

I found weights on the tires I tested close to the claimed weight, but all the tires I have are the Tough Casing wider variants. It looks like their might be some variation in claimed weight for various sizes / constructions.

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 13, 2015, 10:18 a.m.

The Purgatory and Trail Boss are in different leagues. The Purgatory Grid is an aggressive XC tread with a more robust (800g) casing. Compared to the 750g Purgatory Control it is a far more suitable tire for aggressive riding as the casing doesn't fold nearly as easily. The Purgatory is fast and relatively light, but low on grip compared to the more common Enduro tires. I was happy with dual Purgatory 2.3s on my XC bike for Shore riding but for bikes that will let you push the limits of a Maxxis EXO casing (anything with a Pike?) I would consider them undergunned. The Trail Boss is high on traction, especially laterally, to the point that Tim is happy using it on the front. 1100 grams though? My fat bike has 1200 gram tires!

Reply

morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 13, 2015, 10:31 a.m.

Actually now that you mention it, the Vigilante probably was a Fast Rolling (though there was no sidewall marking), and the casing was TCS Light. It looks like WTB has updated their claimed weights since I rode and weighed them last year.

I believe our opinions differ on the HR2. I find the 2.3 squirmy and slippery in most conditions, AND slow rolling. I would never choose it over a DHR2 - and that's without mentioning that the HR2 is 100g heavier in the same casing. The 2.4 is one of those tires with significantly larger knobs than the 2.3, and I know it has different characteristics.

Dry loam is, in my opinion, a plentiful summer staple on the Shore, but not when you're pre-riding Enduro courses 😉

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Timmigrant
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Tim Coleman  - July 13, 2015, 11:01 a.m.

It sounds like our opinions are pretty much the exact same! I only ran the 2.3 HR2 on the rear and I was underwhelmed. The High Roller 2 is super slow rolling in both 2.3 and 2.4. All comments on the High Roller 2 above are regarding the 2.4, which as you noted is very different to the 2.3. I like the 2.4″ HR2 on the front on the shore in the wet, not such a big fan in the summer.

Dry loamy trails are all soft and slow and boring. So I usually just do laps with my endurbros on CBC and Neds.

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Faction
0
Derp  - July 13, 2015, 11:06 a.m.

I love the Vigilante for loose over hard terrain. Its hard to find fault with it. It also works well out back for riding in that stuff. Almost too good as it is hard to drift when you want it to (I guess that's not really a fault). Its one of the few front tires that I can trust in blown out kamloops trails. I had the MM trailstar as a front tire here in Kamloops and hated it. It just collapsed in hardpacked corners. I got gun shy riding it. I suspect though it would have been better mounted to a massively wide rim. The DHR2 is spectacular in the rear as you said. Its a very versatile tire that does well in almost any condition (except maybe deep mud?).

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 13, 2015, 12:01 p.m.

Before the DHR2 came out, the HR2 was the most aggressive 27.5 tire Maxxis made and the 2.3 became the de facto tire on both ends of many OEM builds. I can't believe so many people run them.

Re: Neds and CBC, I prefer the Sounds of Silence as Simon and Garfunkel famously said…

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brock-fisher
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Brock Fisher  - July 13, 2015, 11:19 a.m.

I'm surprised you had that problem, I have the Vigilantes on my bike and i find unless I get over on their edge they want to wash out haah, the strangeness of the biking world.

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 13, 2015, 11:58 a.m.

What rims are you running?

Reply

brock-fisher
0
Brock Fisher  - July 13, 2015, 12:17 p.m.

WTB i25 Teams

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 13, 2015, 12:44 p.m.

Huh. I thought maybe they might wash less on narrower rims but the difference between i25s and Flow EXs is less than 1mm.

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brock-fisher
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Brock Fisher  - July 13, 2015, 12:49 p.m.

What pressure you running in them and are you running tubeless?

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 13, 2015, 12:57 p.m.

Usually 25 and 28, only ever ran the Vigilante on the front. Burped the Trail Boss once at 28 so began running 30 in it.

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Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - July 16, 2015, 9:35 a.m.

Interesting. I'm on my second Trail Boss on the rear of my Range. I run it at 28 psig most of the time. It's always been mounted to a Stans Flow EX rim. I've been backing that thing in to corners all year and I've never burped it that I'm aware of.

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agleck7
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Agleck7  - July 13, 2015, 7:53 a.m.

Seems like the fears of new tire development not including 26 is happening.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - July 13, 2015, 8:09 a.m.

I think we're well past wondering if that's going to be the case, Agleck. 26″ is definitely being left out of wheel and tire development.

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agleck7
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Agleck7  - July 13, 2015, 8:31 a.m.

I suppose you're right. For some reason I was hoping I'd scroll down and see a 26″ option. Oh well. Luckily still lots of good existing tires which I'm sure will stay in production since they have the molds. Should get me through until I can afford a new bike in a few years…

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agleck7
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Agleck7  - Aug. 31, 2015, 8:07 a.m.

I was pleased to see newly offered Specialized Slaughter in 26 and the new Maxxis Tomahawk in some 26 too.

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ashwin007
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