WTB tires have come a long way in the last few years in terms of reliability and reputation, and I was looking forward to logging some trail time with the latest and greatest from the Mill Valley based brand. Upon the recommendations, the Vigilante and Breakout in 29 x 2.3 sizes were dispatched for my trail shredding pleasure.
I’ve had the opportunity to chat with several of the crew at WTB and torn tires were a known issue. Their test riders and racers wanted to run lower pressures for maximum grip, but were having issues with flats at enduro race speeds.
To address durability, they made the casings heavier, and added material. Instead of choosing a target weight out of a hat, they kept adding material until their riders stopped having issues. The goal: durability when you needed it and performance for competitive riding.
Out of the Box
These babies don’t feel light rolled up in their ball, but I’m over feeling concerned about weight. They feel meaty, reassuring, and ready to rip some shit up. The trails here in the Pacific Northwest destroy light tires, wheels and being a weight weenie here means you’re riding XC trails on a hardtail. Example – the Cold Creek Trail. Some of the best all mountain riding near Portland, it’s full of loamy turns, roots and rocks. The best way to ride this trail is to pin it, and when you get to a burly rock section, you send it over the ugliest looking rock and land on a bunch of other rocks.
The philosophy behind these tires matches my current mindset: go fast, shred hard, don’t worry. I want reliable, durable, long wearing and I don’t want to change have to change another damn tubeless tire for a while. I’m pleased to say these treads do this job very well.
Vigilante 2.3 29″ TCS Light/ High Grip.
At 947 grams, this tire isn’t feather weight, but its one of the lighter casing options WTB offers. Featuring the WTB Gravity DNA rubber and Aramid bead, it has proved plenty tough. Front tires don’t take the abuse of rear tires, and after six month of use it is holding up well. (It’s also now available in 2.5 and 2.6 rock crushing widths)
The tread has slightly ramped center knobs and uses a centerline tread compound, sticky, with lower durometer (soft) side knobs over a lighter casing. WTB positions it as aimed for all mountain/ enduro usage, in wet to dry, loose, rocky, mud conditions. So pretty much everywhere.
The aggressive, moto-like knobs with lots of open space mean this tire does well in the wet stuff and bites pretty much everywhere but hardpack. It’s isn’t a fast roller though, so I paired it with the Breakout Tread in the Rear.
Breakout 2.3 29″ Fast Rolling TCS Tough.
I initially was going to try the Trail Boss, but the Breakout’s knobs are a bit more spaced out, making it a better all season tread for the Pacific Northwest. It still rolls quickly, but is far more shreddable. Avoiding the lighter casing, I went with the TCS Tough Fast Rolling Casing. With a listed weight: 1075 grams, it’s a bit heavier, but rear tires get far more abuse. I’ve found this setup is common among the WTB crew as well.
TCS is WTB marketing speak for Tubeless Compatible System. The dual durometer, longer wearing (Tough) rubber is laid across two full layers of casing, with the Breakout performing reliably on dry to wet, hardpack to loam conditions as claimed.
I specifically sourced the set of WTB treads for use with FSA’s Afterburner WideR wheelset on an Evil Following. While they installed quickly and easily, it was clear from the start that these two products weren’t an optimal pairing. The Afterburner WideR has a 27mm internal width for a faster, racier feel and would be a better pairing with a Tallboy over the Following. The lighter Afterburners with a light spoke count were a bit flexy for the holiganism encouraged by the Vigilante and Breakout on the Evil.
The heavier casings need a stiffer rim to fully take advantage of their potential for getting rowdy so I swapped them over to a slightly wider and stiffer DT wheelset.
On the Trail
It’s been a while since I’ve run WTB tires. I’ve always like the treads, but after a few issues with flatting rear tires I moved on to other option. I’m pleased to report the current generation of WTB tires are all business. Whereas the older models tried hard to balance performance, weight and reliability, the new philosophy is reliability and performance, weight third. And its a solid bet.
Although the WTB combo is a bit more weigh to lug around, the big rides I enjoy doing on my aggressive trail bikes necessitate reliable rubber. They have been solid choices on our local go-to missions at Cold Creek, Sandy Ridge and Post Canyon.
I’ll admit that they were a bit much doing 26 mile “IMBA Epic” Hurricane Rim Loop, but I assumed that trail would have been far more “epic.” If I did that ride again though, I’d take a hardtail anyway.
The next day of that trip though — when we returned to St. George — having the durable and reliable treads made the trail experience better. With zero flats, leaks or issues, I enjoyed sending it down the rock drops and jumps littering the Barrel Trail.
The knobs on the Breakout are spaced closer together in comparison to the Vigilante, which help them roll and perform well on hardpack. The shorter treadblocks go fast and still deliver round house kicks and the enduro casing keep it from blowing apart like the wimpy treads it replaced.
Overall, I’ve been pleased with the performance of the Vigilante/Breakout Combination on the varieties of trails and conditions I’ve subjected them to. From the rocky terrain in Las Vegas and Utah to the loam of the PNW, they’ve been solid and reliable all around performers.
They also allowed me to experiment with what for me were low tire pressures during our wet season. (25 psi in the rear with 22 in the front) I found myself loving the traction I was finding in the wet roots and rocks of our local trail systems. I could probably drop a few psi more but I find I have plenty of traction and would prefer to protect my rims.
Solid performance and reassuring, I’m currently running the combination on my “heavy” wheelset on my Transition Sentinal for shuttle and bike park use.