We’ve ridden and generally liked Vredestein mountain bike tyres for 10 years but they’ve come a long way since the company hooked up with the Cannondale factory race team in the mid-2000s. The Black Panther is an all-round cross-country tyre in the style of the Maxxis CrossMark. Like the Maxxis, it has a fairly continuous centre tread and at first glance looks a little, well, tame.
In 26in form it rolls quickly and does a reasonable job of giving you confidence in fast dry or mildly rocky turns. With a fair volume of air and supple but not wafer thin sidewalls it’s a solid default tyre. It struggles in greasy, heavy mud where it loads up a little and struggles to retain the grip it displays in the dry. This isn’t a real shocker as many 26in tyres suffer this way. However, our 29in version has caused us to look again at the Black Panther’s abilities in these conditions.
While the extra diameter ought not to make a massive difference to the tyre’s ability to hold on in slippery turns, it does. The front tyre tracks and communicates its grip status more effectively in the larger size. This trait is true of many 29in tyres, which often deliver amazing grip from minimalist tread patterns. The 29er Panther’s knobs aren’t any bigger but the spaces between then seem a bit larger, giving more room for mud to flick out and a predictable transition into corners.
The Vredestein Black Panther is great news for 29er riders looking for a fast rolling, lightweight, high air volume tyre for covering ground as fast as possible. You can still overload it in slick clay soils but it’ll cope with a lot more than you think. Try one – we think you’ll like it. The Xtrac and Xtreme versions have even greater grip but lose the smooth/fast rolling central tread.