WTB-verdict-tire-1.jpg
Rubber Review

WTB Verdict 29 x 2.5 Front Tire Reviewed (w Judge Rear)

Words Cam McRae
Photos Cam McRae (unless noted)
Date Feb 14, 2020
Reading time

There was a time when my experiences with WTB convinced me their tires weren't made for riding in the the dank forests of Cascadia. As I recall, the ones I tried felt stiff and the knobs were too small, plentiful and close together. This was a long time ago but those early impressions left a mark. Despite seeing some good reviews about other tires, I remained skeptical about the Verdict 2.5 (regular rather than wet) I had installed along with a Judge 2.4 in the rear, despite the promisingly burly tread patterns.

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The Verdict 29 x 2.5 TCS Light Casing, High Grip w/Slash Guard weighs 1198 grams.

Often tubeless tires I've installed lose a little air over the first few days and sometimes they don't start to seal well until after they've been ridden. The Verdict and Judge aired up and seated easily, and then sealed perfectly from day one. It's a treat to check your pressure before a ride and find it still in the sweet spot.

I opted for the TCS Light casing up front which comes in the High Grip TriTec compound only, which is a combination of three durometers; firmer in the base, transitioning to soft midway up the knob, and then capped with a firmer compound on the tops of the centre knobs for rolling speed. Side knobs are uncapped with the soft compound.

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Lots of grip for braking or cornering up front, but also for climbing rooty single track. My next mission will be to try these front and rear. I have a hunch they will excel out back as well.

One of the first things I noticed about the combo was accurate steering. The front tire grips so well laterally and so consistently that it effortlessly seems to go where you point it. When you can easily stay on course it ramps your confidence and encourages more difficult line choices. Next up was grip. Straight line braking traction in steep situations, mainly from the front tire, is monstrous. But it's also nicely consistent so there are no surprises.

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Here is the Verdict (foreground) compared to the Verdict Wet. You can easily see how much taller the knobs are on the Wet version.


Why not the Verdict Wet?

When I saw the Verdict Wet at Sea Otter I was smitten. The tall knobs were begging for steep loose trails and various wet weather adventures. When it came time to test the tires, an industry insider I know and trust steered me toward the regular Verdict. He felt the knobs on the wet version made the tire squirm and become indistinct. Considering the pinpoint accuracy of this version and the ample grip, I'm glad he pointed me away from the Verdict Wet. I'm still keen to try one, particularly on loamy trails, but I fear I'll lose some of the Verdict's best characteristics.

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Another shot of the Verdict Wet (left) compared to the Verdict... damp?

The Judge

I decided to disregard my inner weight weenie and go for the TCS tough casing for the Judge 2.4 in the rear. That and it isn't offered in the TCS Light casing. Immediately I was pleased with my non-decision. The supportive feel made me want to smash through rock gardens and let things go. The 29 x 2.4 Judge in the high grip compound weighs 1295 grams. You can read AJ Barlas' impressions of the Judge here.

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Nice and round and despite the channel, there's no discernible moment when grip disappears before the side knobs take over.

Treads

The pleasingly round and plump 2.5" girth of the Verdict is right up my alley. This tire measures every tenth of those 2.5" and looks beastly from the cockpit. The casing profile is quite round, but the taller side knobs square things up some. The siped centre knobs appear similar at first glance but they alternate in many subtle ways. The first pair have a straight and slightly rearward angled leading edge, while the second's lead chevrons rearward midway. The first set tapers to the rear, has a single sipe parallel to direction of travel in the middle, and it tapers toward the trailing end, is slightly larger and is there is a few millimetres more space between pairs. The sipes on the second pair are angled slightly. The side knobs are siped and cut away on the exterior face to allow them to deform smoothly when in contact with the trail.

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The centre knobs look aggressive, and I could easily discern which pair of knobs was in contact each millisecond because of the information they relayed to my hands, under braking or acceleration. (#notreally, but they do work great).

If I had to wager, I'd bet there isn't a rider alive who could tell the difference between a tire with this alternating centre knob pattern and another with either one of the knob pairs repeating continuously. Tire moulds are expensive, so it seems highly unlikely companies would make multiple versions of centre knob patterns to figure out which one is best. It seems to me that tread patterns may be as much art and marketing as they are science.* And if it works well, who am I to object if it looks good too? Of course some trimming and snipping can change a tire's performance during testing, and those changes can be replicated in a mould, but in that case you are building on an existing design rather than trying out something entirely new. I suspect this is the case to a certain degree with all tire manufacturers, and I'm in no way singling out WTB.

*I would love to have my amateur theory proven wrong, and be amazed at what can be measured, or felt by test riders, so please have at 'er tire product managers.

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The tall side knobs are siped and cut away on the outside face.

On the trail

In the beginning I was pleased that the Verdict and Judge combo delivered much of what my favourite tires do; braking bite, generous volume, grippy compound and strong directional grip. I've been braking later and rolling into things with confidence knowing I can slow the pace or stop when with ease. Lately We've been starting rides in snowy conditions at the top of the mountain with frozen rocks and roots poking through. I've been amazed at the off-camber root lines I've been able to hold an edge on. All those characteristics would be enough for me to recommend this front tire and this combo for challenging terrain in any kind of weather. There were a couple of pleasant surprises however that reach for the next level.

Lately I've been feeling unusually confident in situations that often get the better of me. The first is pebbly loose sections, or ballbearings and other loose over hard conditions. These tires manage to cut through the loose stuff or settle it so I don't feel the bike is caroming left and right as I normally expect. Traction is consistent and ample in these nasty bits.

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I've ridden the Verdict/Judge combo in just about every weather you can think of that isn't dry or frozen. Photo - Trevor Hansen

My other weakness that seems to have improved with these tires is cornering on harder trail surfaces, including those with kitty litter (etc.) on top. I've never been able to consistently feel what the side knobs are doing on a pair of tires the way I can with these. I've been leaning the bike over more than usual and actually playing with the edge of adhesion. The grip is so consistent, and the edge is so forgiving, that I've been able to feel the bike drift a little without experiencing terror. Don't get me wrong though; I am quite certain you wouldn't have noticed any sliding if you'd been following me, but I can feel it and the sensation is a beautiful thing.

As I mentioned in my recent piece about being a picky bastard when it comes to tire selection, tires that do well on the Shore rarely excel in loose over hard or cornering on hardback, and this combo nails both of those along with everything else that's essential for riding anywhere with steep, wet, rooty and challenging trails. About the only things on my wish list are to make these available in 2.6" both front and rear, and to add a light casing for the Judge to go with the higher volume version.

The Verdict and Verdict Wet (which seems to be out of stock at wtb.com) in 29 x 2.5 (TCS Light/High Grip/Slash Guard) retails for 72.95 USD and can be found online here.

The Judge 29 x 2.4 (TCS Tough High Grip) retails for 86.95 USD but you can find it here for 75.95.

Bike - Yeti SB150 (Large)

Rims - WeAreOne Faction (27mm internal)

Pressures - 16 front 18 rear during wet season

cam@nsmb.com
Cam McRae

Age - 54

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 165lbs/75kg

Ape Index - 0.986

Inseam - 33"/84cm

Trail I've been stoked on lately - Fifth Horseman

Bar Width - 770mm

Preferred Reach - 475-490mm

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Comments

Timer
+1 Dan
Timer  - Feb. 14, 2020, 12:35 a.m.

"It seems to me that tread patterns may be as much art and marketing as they are science." That is my suspicion as well. Just look at Moto tyres, they all use basically the same, very simple, tread pattern and block shapes with minimal variations. With bike tyres getting better and better, we also see a convergence towards similar and simpler patterns across manufacturers.

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Feb. 14, 2020, 1:19 a.m.

Cam - what were you running before the WTBs?

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 14, 2020, 8:16 a.m.

Most recently on Minions and e13s

Reply

smcmain
+2 Cam McRae Dan
Samuel McMain  - Feb. 14, 2020, 3:38 a.m.

I ran both the Verdict and Verdict Wet this winter and definitely feel that there is squirm from the Wet version. However, in the PNW winter, I don't feel it much unless it's on a hard berm or g-out, and the traction from the Wet in the wet is even more than the regular Verdict. It's even better on rock and roots too, somehow. I'll probably take it off come spring though, but for winter the Wet is a new favorite!

Reply

DobberDoo
0
DobberDoo  - Feb. 14, 2020, 4:30 a.m.

Cam - can you confirm the internal rim width you were using for the test period? I'm a fan of i35mm so just curious about tire profile on this width. Thanks.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 14, 2020, 8:19 a.m.

Sorry, I meant to add that.  27mm internal We Are One Factions.

Reply

Shinook
0
Shinook  - Feb. 14, 2020, 6:15 a.m.

That's a really good note on the Verdict Wet, I would've ordered that one off the bat, so good to hear that feedback. This is one of the main tires I still haven't had a chance to try, but really want to, as my experiences with the other WTB tires have been really good lately. I just wish they lasted longer, the Trail Boss in particular.  

I may have missed it, what pressures did you find yourself running compared to other tires? The only thing I struggle with a bit on the Judge is the added harshness in the back from the casing, I haven't had a ton of time to experiment with the pressure yet, though.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Shinook
Cam McRae  - Feb. 14, 2020, 8:20 a.m.

In the chilly, snowy conditions lately I’ve been running 18 rear and 16 front.

Reply

Shinook
0
Shinook  - Feb. 16, 2020, 5:55 a.m.

Thanks for the info. How does that compare to pressures you've run with other tires/casings?

Reply

nouseforaname
+1 Shinook
Nouseforaname  - Feb. 14, 2020, 7:03 a.m.

@Cam - what['s the mileage on the tires in the main article photo? It looks like the side knobs are well on their way to going off and the centre tread looks untouched.

Reply

Shinook
+2 Cam McRae Dan
Shinook  - Feb. 14, 2020, 7:26 a.m.

Most WTB tires I've had start to show a bit of side knob cracking like that after a few hundred miles, but it doesn't seem to negatively impact traction until they start getting massively undercut. For me, that happened around 1100-1200 miles or so. 

In other words, they start looking worn sooner than other tires, but seem to continue holding on fine despite this. That said, some of their tires do seem to wear rather quickly.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 14, 2020, 9:55 a.m.

I don’t track distance NUFAN but I’d estimate I’ve had 30 rides on these. Lots of Cypress and aggressive Seymour. A little wear showing on side knobs but I don’t think unreasonable for the amount and type of use.

Reply

skyler
+4 James Vasilyev twk Cam McRae Dan
Skyler  - Feb. 14, 2020, 7:10 a.m.

I've been running these tires and have also been blown away by them. Lots of people are put off by the weight, but a 2.5 WTB is bigger than a 2.6 Maxxis. The 2.6 WTBs I tried were actually 2.7 on my calipers. Also, the Light casing is closer to a DoubleDown in feel and thickness, than any other Maxxis casing. (I've been running Tough rear though, cause I love that.) The weight is there for a reason...lying about tire volume is the only real way for tire companies to compete on weight, and WTB isn't playing that game.

I ended up switching to a Vigilante 2.5 as my rear tire. I like that it's a little less extreme than the Judge, rolls a tiny bit faster, and has the same casing volume as the Verdict.  Verdict 2.5 front, Vigilante 2.5 rear feels like it could be my forever/wherever tire combo.

Reply

Pnwpedal
+2 Cam McRae Dan
Pnwpedal  - Feb. 14, 2020, 9:03 a.m.

Nice to see WTB getting some good press! In SW WA state, many of us have loved the Vigilante in TCS Light/high grip for a front tire that works great in 99% of our conditions. The new Verdict is promising and I'll definitely give one a try on the next bike.

Reply

jitenshakun
+1 Cam McRae
Jitensha Kun  - Feb. 14, 2020, 9:35 a.m.

That you're comparing to Minions is really helpful.  Thank you for the review Cam!

Reply

cyclotoine
0
cyclotoine  - Feb. 14, 2020, 10:52 a.m.

The side knobs looks like they are already disintegrating in the close up photo. That was my experience with the vigilante I ran for about 8 days of riding in Sedona (yes Sedona is super hard on tires), but I can easily get a season out of a maxxis tire without the knobs decaying like that. Since I can see the decay in your photo I'm still going to look elsewhere, but it maybe that's the cost of performance. I don't know. I'm curious to try some of the new Vittoria offerings.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 18, 2020, 12:17 p.m.

I wouldn't say disintegrating, but there are beginning signs of wear, nor would I say they are worse than other soft rubber I've ridden recently.

Reply

Jawzzy3
+1 twk
Jawzzy3  - Feb. 15, 2020, 10:03 a.m.

Have you ridden the Vigilante up front? Curious how the two compare as a front tire. Thanks for the review.

Reply

smcmain
+2 Dan Cam McRae
Samuel McMain  - Feb. 16, 2020, 1:01 a.m.

Vigilante is a great cornering tire, on harder surfaces or in dry weather it pulls into turns harder. But it doesn't hold a candle to the Verdict in wet, sloppy stuff.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Feb. 24, 2020, 8:11 a.m.

I have not. Samuel's conclusions above match my hunch though.

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