European bicycle, wheel and tire companies may have been slow to the 29er game but they're certainly not sitting on their hands this time around. Continental is adopting the resurrected 27.5in format in a big way, producing its four most popular mountain bike treads in the 'tweener size for 2014.
Continental's 27.5in range will include the fast rolling Race King, the more versatile X-King, and two all-purpose trail treads: the Mountain King and the Trail King. Of those two, the Mountain King features a more rounded profile and bigger gap between the center tread and shoulder blocks for more of an 'on-off' cornering feel while the Trail King's more squared-off shape and evenly distributed blocks should provide a more predictable and forgiving personality according to Continental North America brand manager Brett Hahn.
Four 650b for 2014 (l to r): Race King, X-King, Mountain King, Trail King
The Race King will be offered only in a 2.2in width but the rest of the range will be available in 2.2 and 2.4in sizes. Continental also plans to release the new 27.5in tires in its tubeless-ready ProTection casing and ultralight RaceSport versions – both with Black Chili rubber compounds – plus lower-priced Sport variants with wire or folding beads.
All of the new 27.5in tires should be available in August and suggested retail price for premium versions is $64.95. Claimed weights are still TBD.
Meet the Kaiser Projekt
Continental also showed off its latest downhill tire, the Kaiser 2.4 Projekt, which was developed in cooperation with GT racer Gee Atherton. As compared to the existing soft-conditions Baron 2.5, the Kaiser Projekt 2.4 is meant as more of a all-conditions tire with a more linearly arranged shoulder tread and aggressively ramped center blocks for a faster roll.
Underneath, a two-ply casing with additional sidewall reinforcement helps ensure the tire will survive to the end of the run, too.
The Kaiser Projekt 2.4 was developed with Gee Atherton
As with all of its higher-end tires, Continental molds the Kaiser Projekt 2.4 with its Black Chili rubber compound, which has been tweaked for the specific application. Hahn wouldn't characterize the compound as simply being harder or softer, however – and in fairness, our previous experiences with Continental's Black Chili rubber does reinforce the idea that it behaves a bit differently than normal.
"We don't play the durometer game," he told BikeRadar. "We control the performance at the molecular level, not with hard or soft."
The Kaiser Projekt is available now with a suggested retail price of $90. Claimed weight is 1,150g.