Riding WTB's New 2019 Rims & Tires
WTB is most well known for saddles. They can be found on the Santa Cruz Syndicate team bikes and on your local shop floor aboard brands like Kona and Yeti. But WTB has been making tires and rims for years and have been working hard on updates for 2019.
Kicking the new treads and hoops into orbit, WTB hosted media in Idaho, at Silver Mountain. Don’t be concerned if you haven’t heard of Silver Mountain, because none of us had either. Round 4 of the North West Cup DH series was also held there shortly after our visit as well as the North American Enduro Cup. The secret is out!
Silver Mountain Resort & Kellogg
Silver Mountain is located in the small town of Kellogg, Idaho. Located about 90 minutes east of Spokane Washington, the town’s population is small, at roughly 2,100 people. Its history is steeped in silver mining, with claims that more silver was pulled out of the area than anywhere in the world, and the metal's influence lives on. The area was subject to martial law after riots, mining disasters and massive wildfires that have each shaped the people and the town.
In the 1990s the town began a push to reinvent itself, pursuing tourism as the new business model. Silver Mountain Resort was established and a gondola claimed as the “world’s longest single-stage gondola” was built, linking Kellogg with the resort. The gondola upload takes about 20 minutes and drops riders 1,736m (5,600ft) above sea level. Here riders are left with 1,036m (3,400ft) of vertical to descend.
Until staff presented the bike park idea, the resort didn’t think it was possible. Keen riders have built the trails, rather than the likes of Gravity Logic, and they've done a bang-up job. On offer is an excellent variety of technical single track trails with rough, sharp rock gardens, high-speed corners and root-infested sections littering the mountain. While they have jump trails and some good hits spread around the mountain, don’t come here expecting the next A-Line or Dirt Merchant; do come here if tech off-camber singletrack is your jam.
WTB’s New Rims
WTB brought the media circus to Kellogg to try their new rims and tires. Their rim range currently consists of a variety of options from the Asym (Asymmetrical…, gah, you get it) to the Frequency, which features their classic I-Beam design. 2018 marks the simplification of the selection, moving to two lines each under the KOM label. They’ve updated their proprietary TCS (Tubeless Compatibility System) in the process. TCS first arrived in 2009 and combined ETRTO, ISO and UST standards with lightweight tubeless designs meant to reduce rotational weight.
Close to ten years on, the system has been updated to the new TCS 2.0. It features a “more robust, easily installed, and dependable tubeless system”. WTB’s Beadlock*, On-Ramp* and sealant remain part of the system but tape updates see two new products finishing it off. In the spoke bed of the new KOM rims is their new Solid Strip; a narrow and durable strip claimed to produce a tighter, longer lasting seal. WTB note the material’s durable nature prevents the tape snagging spoke holes and it helps prevent spokes from popping through in the event of a big impact.
*Beadlock provides a strong fit thanks to the design making use of ERTRO standards
**Makes installation easy with a consistent fit between the rim and tire
Their new Flex Tape - a super thin easy to mount tape - completes the package. This covers the Solid Strip which slots into the spoke bed, and WTB claims it’s considerably easier to install than other tapes.
The simplified range is broken down to two labels: the KOM Light and KOM Tough. Light rims are constructed with an open cavity, dual wall design. They feature seven width options from 21 to 45mm, and construction is completed with a sleeve.
- Seven rim widths (Internal: 21, 23, 25, 29, 35, 40 and 45mm)
- Open cavity, dual wall construction
- Sleeved seam
- AL 6069 Alloy
- Available in 26”, 27.5” and 29” diameters
- Weight: 423–642g
- MSRP: 105–110 USD
The KOM Tough rims include five widths; a 25, 29, 35, 40 and 45mm. WTB’s I-Beam technology has evolved to feature two beams. Dual Beam is integrated into the Tough rims to provide increased stability and durability. The wider rims include another new feature called Dropzone; a downward slope from the bead seat to the center of the rim. It’s intended to improve tire installations/removal on wheels with an internal width of 40—45mm. All wider rims, including the light range, feature the new Dual Beam construction. WTB claims that their new rims are ~5% lighter — between 80 and 100 grams — than equivalent predecessors.
- Five rim width options (Internal: 25, 29, 35, 40 and 45mm)
- Dual Beam, dual wall construction
- Sleeved seam
- AL 6069 Alloy
- Available in 27.5“ and 29” diameters
- Weight: 466—700g
- MSRP: 105—110 USD
Tire Updates & Ride Impressions
WTB had three new treads to show — two updates and one brand new design. The Vigilante and Trail Boss have been in the range for five years now. WTB focused on increasing tire volume, improving the rubber, and making them more durable. They’ve also created a brand new tire called the Judge. It’s intended as a rear tire but you could run it up front if you choose.
All three of the new tires are available in two constructions; TCS Light and TCS Tough. The light tires are aggressive and tip the scales toward the thousand gram mark (several are over). They feature Slash Guard, a nylon insert positioned around the entire sidewall of the tire. Tires with the Tough construction are built with a 2-ply casing and can get up above 1,300 grams. All tires feature a 60tpi construction, with WTB riders Mark Weir and Marco Osborne noting 120tpi tires result in a greater risk of flatting.
WTB introduced a new rubber compound with the updated tires. Tritec — a triple compound mixture — offers what WTB feels is the best blend of compounds for durability and traction. Two different mixes are available; High Grip and Fast Rolling, and each feature a firm 65 durometer foundation that bumps halfway up into lugs. The High Grip Tritec features 42 durometer side lugs with 48 durometer center lugs and the Fast Rolling blend consists of 48 durometer side lugs and 60 durometer center.
THE UPDATED WTB VIGILANTE
The Vigilante is WTB’s aggressive tire. Comfortable running up front or out back, it will have the most options available. Optimized for 29mm internal width rims, it’s available in 2.5 and 2.6-inch widths. Available in their Light and Tough casing, and Fast Rolling or High Traction compounds. The new Vigilante also received updates to the tread. Space between some of the lugs has increased, improving the tire’s ability to shed mud and keep the tread biting into the ground.
Side lug height has increased, making them more aggressive than the predecessor. The intermediate lugs have moved out toward the side lugs, creating a larger channel in hopes of improved traction and mud-shedding.
During two days of riding Silver Mountain, the Vigilante in the 2.5 Light, High Traction guise took control of steering duties. It never skipped a beat and instantly had me feeling at home, confident the tread would hold in a variety of conditions. Whether on hardpack or loose off-camber terrain, it proved a versatile and reliable option. The taller side lugs never felt skittish, providing great support and a positive feeling.
The Updated TRAIL BOSS
The second tire to receive a facelift was the Trail Boss. Like the Vigilante, it has been optimized around a 29mm internal rim width and the tread pattern has received more spacing. Side lug height has increased by 1mm and the surface area was made larger to avoid squirming. The Trail Boss is a rear specific tire available in 2.4 and 2.6-inch widths, Light and Tough casing, and Fast Rolling rubber compound (no High Traction option is available).
On day two I had the 2.4 Trail Boss mounted to the rear of the Evil Insurgent demo bike. Conditions were moist thanks to overnight rain, but the Trail Boss immediately gained my approval. Providing great traction on the greasy, hardback corners of our first trail made it easy to feel at home with the tire. Braking traction felt good, with the rear of the bike tracking well.
In looser conditions, the tire performed admirably. Diving into fresh trails further down the mountain, the tire surprised me with how well it shed the wet dirt. Only on the longest of loose, off-camber sections did it get nervous — easily corrected for with rider weight adjustments.
The All-New JUDGE
New kid on the block, the Judge hits with some serious attitude. Developed specifically as a rear tire, it’s only available in the new Tough construction in a 2.4-inch width. Both the Fast Rolling and High Traction Tritec compounds are available.
The tire resembles the Minion DHR. Upon closer inspection though, the side lugs are identical all the way around and it has two centre lug variations compared to the DHR’s three. The Judge also features small, oval bumps between the lugs, said to help clear the tire of dirt. Designed to dig into loose terrain, the side lugs measure 9mm, the tallest of WTB’s range.
Rolling into the first trail, the Judge was presented with terrain that isn’t its strong-suit. The hardpack, bermed section was too much for the tire. Its tall side lugs mixed with the firm carcass caused it to squirm and break loose unpredictably. Lowering air pressure improved the tire's ability to flex on the hardpack, buying time for the tall lugs, but for some riders that’s not an option. Anywhere else on the mountain, the tire provided great traction. Braking slowed the bike quickly in the loose terrain. This tire is designed for loose dirt, and that shines through on the trail.
The tire showed its strengths on the resort's newest loose and off-camber trail, which we dubbed Loamer Simpson. I’ve never ridden anything like it before. Long off-camber sections snaked across the lower mountain, mixed with steep corners and roots to keep riders on their toes. In dry and loose conditions the Judge, mixed with the Vigilante up front, granted confidence to play with the wild terrain.
With only two days on the new tires — one on each rear tread — this is by no means a conclusive review. However, the new treads from WTB are very impressive, providing good traction and heaps of support. They’re no lightweights, but for any aggressive rider interested in something different, they’re worth considering.
Keep an eye out for more on the tires in a future review. Until then, if you want more information on the new tires and rims head to the WTB website.