WTB Vigilante & Trail Boss Tire Review
WTB released their new rims and overhauled aggressive tire range earlier this year. First impressions were good but the initial tires weren’t production versions. Time spent riding the final version of the tires on a wider variety of terrain and a familiar bike was also necessary. Fast forward to the end of the summer and the production-ready tires finally made it onto my bike.
A variety of the available tires were requested: the Vigilante in both the TCS Light and TCS Tough casing, both featuring the High Grip compound, as well as WTB's rear Trail Boss tire with TCS Light casing and Fast Rolling compound. All were 29-inch tires, and I opted for the 2.5 width in the Vigilante and 2.4 for the Trail Boss.
- 27.5 and 29-inch diameters available
- True to size 2.4 (Trail Boss), 2.5 and 2.6-inch widths
- Optimized for 29mm internal width rims
- Tritec triple compound construction
- 60tpi casing. Tough is 2-ply. Light is a single-ply w/ Slash Guard
- Weight: Vigilante 29 x 2.5 TCS Light High Grip – 1,137g // 29 x 2.5 TCS Tough High Grip – 1,251g // Trail Boss 29 x 2.4 TCS Light Fast Rolling – 1,196g
- MSRP: 70 – 84 USD
WTB updated their rubber compounds with the new tires. They've developed their own triple rubber tire compound that they call Tritec. It's claimed the firm base layer bumps up into each lug in the tire to add support. In practice, I can’t argue with this. All of the tires ridden provided a predictable, stable ride on the trail.
Their new casing options add more possibilities to fine tune your setup. TCS Light is a reasonably sturdy tire carcass, one that I would say is stronger than an EXO trail tire. These tires weigh within a range of 1,100–1,200 grams for the 29-inch option. The tougher TCS Tough tires weigh in on either side of the 1,200-gram mark.
While it doesn’t sound like much in weight, the TCS Tough tires do provide a firmer, more confidence inspiring ride in rough terrain. The fact they don’t weigh much more is good news for riders in need of more support and flat protection. But for riders after a lighter weight tread, the TCS Light may carry a little too much heft. While there’s no denying the scale, they are a similar weight to the Minion DHF WT and roll well on the trail.
Setting up the tires tubeless on a set of Santa Cruz Reserve 30 wheels proved tricky. After some cursing, it was off to the local service station to hunt down the compressor. Any of the newer floor pumps with the charge chamber should avoid this issue, though.
Riding the Vigilante
WTB’s Vigilante tire has been a part of their lineup for five years but the new version differs from the original. Lug positioning on the new tire was updated to increase space in between them. This and the new compounds make for a different ride quality. Despite their aggressive appearance, the Vigilante tires roll well, better than the Schwalbe Magic Mary. Cornering traction is excellent and on the front they provide a very planted feel, begging for the bike to be banked over further. Stability was greater than a Minion DHF and engaging the side lugs more gradual, similar to a Magic Mary or Maxxis Assegai. Pushing harder onto the corner lugs did little to disturb the tire, even on hardpack.
With the Vigilante in the rear, the bike tracked exceptionally. At times it actually felt like too much and made it very difficult to break loose in variable conditions. The benefit of this hold was huge, with more speed exiting corners and across the following section of trail. There’s little to be concerned about across off-camber terrain. Whenever side loads were involved, the Vigilante was rarely unsettled and very predictable.
Under braking is where things could be better. On flatter trails, damp or dry, braking is good and on par with the competition. However, when the terrain gets steep the tires lack the meaty braking edge needed to pull up. This was especially noticeable in soft conditions. In WTB’s defence, they developed the Judge for exactly this condition. Nevertheless, the lack of speed control available with the Vigilante in the rear surprised me. It tracks straight and is composed, it simply doesn’t pull up in a hurry.
Durability is okay but the Tritec High Traction compound in the rear has worn quickly. It’s proven more durable than an Addix Soft Magic Mary, however, the MM also provides more stopping power. The front tire shows little sign of wear and I anticipate it performing for a long time to come. Based on the incredible traction, opting for the Tough Fast Rolling variation in the rear would be a good choice. Especially if in need of a tread that covers a wide variety of terrain and conditions.
Riding the Trail Boss
Also in the WTB tire range for five years, the updated Trail Boss has received a similar treatment. The spacing of the lugs has been increased to improve the tire’s ability to shed dirt and the height of the side lugs has increased. This creates a flatter profile but they’re still plenty round to avoid an overly engaged side lug when not cornering. They look like an aggressive semi-slick, with lots of smaller lugs for rolling speed, but more height to increase their versatility.
Unsurprisingly, the Trail Boss rolls well and performs sensationally on hardpack. On this terrain, cornering traction was great and they only broke loose when pushed hard. When the tire did break traction it was very predictable and a heap of fun to toy around with. Where the tire surprised me most was in steep, very loose terrain. While it doesn’t feature large, tall lugs, the number of lugs and the sharp braking edge resulted in commendable stopping power. It’s close to what the Vigilante provided, but certainly not as positive as a DHRII or MM. Cornering in loose terrain was never a concern and they’re very stable across cambered sections.
Like the Vigilante, the Trail Boss is very stable and composed. It's quiet on the trail, providing a very smooth feel and I never noticed any bouncing or undamped sensations. After more time on them, I would opt for the TCS Tough construction next time. They're durable as well, with minimal wear showing. However, with conditions getting wetter it has had less time on the bike than the Vigilante. The Trail Boss is an excellent rear tire for all but the wetter months in the PNW. It would be a strong candidate as a permanent fixture in a number of other locations.
WTB has introduced a worthy competitor for the regular tires often seen at trailheads. At 70+ USD a tire, they cost about the same as the equivalent e*thirteen and less than a similar version in the Maxxis line. The construction is solid, the rubber compound is excellent and the carcass is sturdy. Riders who enjoy steep, loose terrain should look to the Judge for the rear rather than the Vigilante. Otherwise, they’re an excellent choice that provides a composed, confident ride in a variety of conditions.