The WTB Vigilante 2.5 and Judge 2.4 tires are some angry masses of rubber. My thought holding the ball of rolled up rubber for the first time was that this mass of meaty tire would easily kill or maim small forest creatures if propelled with force. Just holding these things, it is clear they’re about to destroy some trail — once they’re installed on my favorite off-road steed.
Needless to say, pulling them from the box, they imparted a significant first impression. It’s exactly was I was hoping for; after banging down the Top of the World trail (in Whistler) earlier this summer, I had a wild hair to mount larger treads on my Transition Sentinel, a long travel 29er. So when Clayton at WTB reached out asking if I was interested in trying some of the new wider trail offerings, I was like “oh, oh yes.”
Not plus. Meaty.
I had a great experience with the Vigilante 2.3 (see review here) paired with the Breakout rear in its 29″ x 2.3″ iteration on my Evil Following, a short travel trail bike designed for aggressive riding. When I installed the set, I had replaced a rear Conti tire that developed a tear in the sidewall after a rock strike. Great grip and reliable everywhere I rode them, I liked enought to bring them over when I migrated from the Following to my Sentinel on the new build.
The new additions to the WTB line up basically wider — dare I say wilder — versions of these already aggressive treads. Updated with 2.5 and 2.6 widths, new wider treads were designed to pair with the wider rims that are becoming the new normal. The most noticeable aspect though is the taller, bigger knobs. Just look at these things.
I’m going to have to make the obvious comparison to a motocross tire here. They just look burly. Like angry-burly.
Vigilante 29″ x 2.5″ (front) — TCS Light / High Grip
- TriTec Compound utilizes 3 rubber compounds to optimize traction, support and durability
- Slash Guard protective nylon insert in sidewall
- Optimized around i29 rims
- Listed weight: 1251 g.
Trail Boss 29″ x 2.4″ (rear) — TCS Tough/ Fast Rolling
- Tightly spaced blocky tread rolls well but still has bite when braking
Judge 29″ x 2.4″ (rear) — TCS Tough / Fast Rolling
- Massive side knobs, moto look
- TriTec compound
- Listed weight: 1427g. (not light)
Available in a few different casing/compound options, my go-to WTB set up is the TCS light/high grip for the front, and a tougher, harder rubber compound for the tire intended for the rear of the bike, which I tend to abuse the most. As you’d expect, high grip in WTB speak is essentially a softer compound.
Soapy water plus a high volume pump and I was up and running.
One of my favorite things about WTB tires in the last few years is how easy they’ve been to seat and air up tubeless. Admittedly, tubeless tire installs can often be a crapshoot, depending on the tolerance of the rim manufacturer as well as the tire casing; personally, I’ve had amazing luck with every install of WTB tires to date, airing them right up after dabbing them with a bit of warm, soapy water.
I began by installing the heavy duty rubber on my alloy wheels as these are my designated go-to wheels for rock bashing and gravity fed riding days.
After a ride on my heavier stock wheels, I decided to install the second set on some Reynolds TR 309 S Carbon Wheels that have been on loan for a product test.
Ripping Trail on the new 2.5 Vigilante/2.4 Judge/2.4 Trail Boss: your trails are not worthy
The Judge is a badass rear tire, full stop. Just look at the side knobs on this thing. Intended for “wet to dry/loose, rocky, mud” conditions, they’re designated as enduro/ gravity tires and feature WTB’s TCS Tough Fast Rolling casing. They’re optimized for the new wide rim standard as well, designed to pair with 28mm-35mm (internal width) rims. The robust 2.5″ Vigilante lead the hard-charging on the front end.
This set up destroys trail. Review over.
Oh… you wanted to pedal back uphill? For rides where you pedal up to earn your descents, they can be a lot more than needed. Fortunately, we’re blessed with a lot of diverse terrain here in the PNW, and I’m able to find trails challenging enough to get good use for the monster-truck, trail smashing combo. However, paired with my heavy stock wheels, rides with a lot of up and down were a bit draining.
Fortunately installing the combo of the Vigilante/ Trail boss on a set of carbon wheels dramatically changed the ride and neutralized some of the heavy feel. This set up has been magical for winter trail riding here.
For comparison, Clayton added the new version of the Trail Boss I ran last year, which is intended to be a faster roller. I find it has more than adequate traction for my riding style, and pairs well with the lighter rims.
Riding the paved road, gravel sections and smooth climbing trail, the weight of running bigger, slower rolling tires tires is very noticeable. Especially on heavier wheels. Rolling trail takes more effort. When the trail turns downward though, you are rewarded by bump eating, corning gripping awesomeness.
The set up with the heavier wheels and the Judge is the go-to for shuttle rides where you also have to pedal. I liked this combo so much I acquired another set in 27.5″ to run on my DH bike.
Syncline rock riding session, running the Trail Boss rear with Vigilante front on Reynolds Carbon wheels.Bottom line, its been a while since I was as stoked on a set of tires that didn’t have the name “Minion” in the title. They seem to be the unofficial tire of the PNW, and they’re good. But WTB has a combo that is more than a contender for your next set of treads, and they are worth taking a close look at for consideration.
That said, this test has completely sold me on the what and why carbon wheels exist. More on that on the long term review, but I’m finally 100% on board with carbon hoops. Paired with the light wheels I can pedal all day – you’re not winning Strava on the trips up, but you might on the downs. More importantly, the smiles are exponentially bigger and wider.
The increased mass of rubber gives confidence in two ways. One, it smashes trail. All trail. Packed corners, loamy turns. Steeps and rock gardens. It doesn’t matter.
Two, I feel like I can ride these light wheels the way they’re meant to be ridden. Lighter tires make me nervous; although these are test wheels, I don’t want to break them, I’m having far too much fun with them and regardless of the fact that at some point I’m going to have to peel them off and ship them back to Reynolds in a box, I don’t want to blow giant chunks of carbon out of them. That isn’t to say I haven’t been riding them, hard — I just hold back a bit. A bit part of that is I just hate fixing flats and ripping holes in new tires.
I’m still running a healthy amount of air pressure – I feel nervous when my tires are low on air – 30-32 in the front with 33-35 psi in the rear. For the volume of these tires, a lot of riders would ride them with less. However, I don’t feel I’m giving up anything — these tires grip turns like Alex Honnold on El Capitan. I prefer the reassuring feel of air pressure when I’m loading my tires and suspension in rocky turns.
… and here’s a video clip of these tires mobbing through the rock garden. A lot of riders have trouble just making it through this section – my pace is considerably slower on my 27.5″ trail bike…
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The rock gardens at Sandy Ridge can be challenging but setting up my #transitionbikes Sentinel with the new 2.5” Vigilante tires on #reynoldscycling carbon wheels makes it feel like I’m cheating. The new @wildernesstrailbikes rubber was so fast I had to rethink my lines as I was carrying so much more momentum than I’m used to. #hellyes #mtb #bikeskills #ridesdg #rideshimano #nwta thanks @ingabeck for 🎥! #sandyridge #mtblife #pnw #mtblife #fernhillco