The Californian company WTB might not necessarily be the first brand that springs to mind when you’re thinking about replacing your tyres or rims, but with some seriously well-considered updates and additions to its line-up, maybe it should be.
WTB was showing three tyres at the press camp. Two of which you’re bound to recognise, the third you won’t and that’s because it’s totally new.
The Judge is WTB’s latest tyre aimed at those hardcore trail riders and enduro racers looking for something that will work at its best in soft or loose conditions, though we think it should be a pretty decent all-rounder too.
WTB has created the Judge as a rear specific tyre and limited its width to 2.4in only, stating that it’s designed to work with inner rim widths of 29–35mm.
Designing its new breed of tyres around wider rims means higher tyre volumes for a more forgiving ride and improved traction, along with a well-supported tyre, even at lower pressures.
Alternating centreline tread blocks are designed to balance braking traction and rolling speed, while the tall shoulder treads are there to eke out the most grip possible as you carve the turn.
Though WTB says the Judge is rear specific, it is available in the both the Fast Rolling and High Grip compounds. These both use its new, triple compound offerings (dubbed TriTec by WTB), whereby a higher durometer rubber is used across the base of the tread blocks, a medium durometer rubber is used throughout the centre tread block tops to ensure there’s grip but without too much in the way of rolling resistance, while a softer durometer rubber is used on the shoulder tread blocks in a bid to maximise cornering traction.
Naturally, the ratio of rubber durometers used varies between the Fast Rolling and High Grip compounds. And while there’s the choice of compound, being a rear specific tyre means you’re limited to WTB’s Tough two-ply casing option only, which is designed for maximum abuse and puncture protection.
WTB uses a 60TPI casing, claiming it offers better durability and the ability to run lower pressures. WTB claims a Judge 27.5×2.4in TCS Tough/Fast Rolling tyre weighs 1,305g.
Like the rest of the tyres in the line-up, the Judge is offered in either 650b ($76.95) or 29in ($79.95) sizes.
While the Vigilante may not be a brand new tyre, WTB has given it a good working over and now offers it in wider 2.5in and 2.6in widths, which have been designed specifically to work with wider rims, just like the popular i29.
The Vigilante is still designed to tackle soft dirt, mud and loose trail surfaces, but subtle tweaks should make it even more effective than before. The tread pattern has been altered slightly, with bigger gaps between the siped central tread blocks in a bid to improve their mud shedding credentials and to help create a cornering channel.
The shoulder tread blocks have increased in height for more bite during the early stages of cornering.
The Vigilante comes in WTB’s TriTec High Grip or Fast Rolling rubber compounds and is offered with either the heavier, more puncture resistant Tough casing or the Light casing, which now gets what WTB has dubbed the Slash Guard.
This is a nylon insert that spans the entire sidewall in a bid to stave off flat tyres that bit better. While the Slash Guard means the single-ply Light casing tyres are now a touch heavier, they should at least be a little more capable when the going gets rough.
WTB claims a Vigilante 27.5×2.5in TCS Light/High Grip tyre weighs 1,102g.
The Vigilante comes in either 650b ($67.95 — Light High Grip/Fast Rolling or $76.95 Tough High Grip/Fast Rolling in either 2.5in or 2.6in widths) or 29in (($69.95 — Light High Grip/Fast Rolling or $79.95 Tough High Grip/Fast Rolling in either 2.5in or 2.6in widths).
WTB Trail Boss G2
Another tyre to get somewhat of a makeover is the Trail Boss, a tyre designed to work well on sketchy hard pack surfaces in the dry or wet. Now available in 2.4in and 2.6in widths and designed to work with wide rims, the Trail Boss has seen its shoulder tread blocks grow in height and width to ensure they’re well enough supported when being pushed hard through a turn, along with overall tread block spacing increase in a bid to up bite and avoid too much in the way of clogging when the going gets muddy.
Shoulder tread and central tread blocks are staggered to create more consistent cornering contact too.
The new Trail Boss G2 tyre uses WTB’s TriTec triple compound rubber and is available in its High Grip or Fast Rolling offerings. Just like the Vigilante, you can choose between the heavier Tough or Light casing too.
WTB claims that a Trail Boss G2 27.5×2.4in TCS Tough/Fast Rolling tyre weighs 1,097g.
The Trail Boss G2 comes in either 650b ($67.95 — Light High Grip/Fast Rolling or $76.95 Tough High Grip/Fast Rolling in either 2.4in or 2.6in widths) or 29in (($69.95 — Light High Grip/Fast Rolling or $79.95 Tough High Grip/Fast Rolling in either 2.4in or 2.6in widths).
Keeping things compatible
It’s not just tyres that WTB was showing. Its Tubeless Compatible System (TCS for short) has been around now for eight years and was one of the first to embrace the ETRTO (European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation) standard. TCS 2.0 is made up from a number of design elements and products in order to create a well-sealed tubeless wheel tyre combination.
WTB’s latest TCS 2.0 is claimed to be a more robust system and that’s thanks in part to the new Solid Strip, which WTB says “creates a better sealed system”.
This new solid red strip wraps around the centre of the rim bed, covering the spoke holes. It’s taught enough that it’ll not sag into spoke holes or shift around once in place, and tough enough that it’ll prevent spokes pushing up through the rim bed when under seriously heavy compression and breaking the tubeless seal, causing the tyre to deflate. It’s said to also smooth the interface between the rim and tyre, which helps when it comes to set up.
Then there’s the new Flex Tape. This clear tape is applied over the Solid Strip to provide the air tight seal required to ditch your inner tubes. WTB claims this Flex Tape is easier to apply than regular tubeless tape thanks to its pliability.
The other TCS elements remain more or less the same and include Beadlock (rim profile designed around ETRTO standards, which provides a tight, secure tyre fit) has been tweaked slightly to create, as WTB puts it, a more natural design between the rim and inflated tyre, as well as being made slightly tougher to ward of dings and dents better, On-Ramp (design of the rim profile which is said to help with tyre installation) and of course its WTB sealant, which is essentially the final piece in the puzzle.
It’s not just the tyres that have been overhauled though, WTB has made some changes to its rims too.
To help simplify things, rims are under the KOM badge but split into Light or Tough categories.
KOM Light rims are designed for everything from adventure road and gravel riding, to cross-country and trail riding, and use an open cavity design. The KOM Light rims get all the latest updates courtesy of TCS 2.0 and made from AL6069 alloy.
Inner rim widths vary from 21–45mm, while there are offerings in 26, 650b and 29in sizes. Pricing ranges from $105-$110.
For those looking for a rim that’s a little more robust, the KOM Tough (which would have formerly have been the Frequency) could be the answer. Like the KOM Light, the Tough is made from the same grade alloy and gets all the benefits of the new TCS 2.0 and updated Beadlock design.
Sizing isn’t quite the same though, with available width ranging from 25mm–45mm. The I-Beam construction has progressed though and now features two additional supporting beams, which are said to increase strength and stiffness.
Naturally, this bumps the weight up a little (WTB claims the KOM Light 650b i29 rim weighs 476g while the KOM Tough of the equivalent size weighs 490g, but then these are designed to withstand the rigours of enduro racing and multi-day, fully loaded bikepacking trips.
Prices range from $105–$110 and the KOM Tough comes in either 650b or 29in sizes.
Finally, in a bid to help with tyre removal on wider rims, WTB has introduced something it’s calling Dropzone. This is essentially a downward slope from the bead seat to the centre of the rim bed which should help the tyre slip into centre of the rim for the easiest possible removal. Dropzone is only found on KOM Light and KOM Tough rims that have an inner rim width of 40–45mm.
Initial ride impressions
I’ve only spent a couple of days (a day shuttling at BikePark Wales and a day riding off-piste trails in the Forest of Dean) aboard the new Vigilante 2.5in Tough/High Grip and Judge 2.4in Tough/Fast Rolling tyres, which were fitted to a set of KOM Tough i29 rims (which were laced to some beautifully made White Industries AMR+ hubs — a collaboration we’re sure to see more of in the future) and slotted into my Whyte G-170 C Works bike.
This short amount of time is by no means enough to give an accurate account of how these tyres and rims perform. And while BikePark Wales features some seriously fast, rocky sections, and the Forest of Dean offers more in the way of natural trails, the conditions remained dry throughout, so I’m unable to pass comment on wet weather performance.
It was just about enough time to get an initial feel on how the tyres behaved though and how the rims held up after some abuse in the rocks.
There was certainly enough bite when cranking the bike over through loose, powdery turns, where things felt predictable and consistent throughout.
The Vigilante bites in well wherever it’s given the opportunity and feels secure when tackling loose off-camber lines. There’s support too when slapping high speed turns, where the tyres seemed to hold their shape well without squirming.
I actually dropped my tyre pressures to 20psi up front and 23psi in the rear — I usually run 22 or 23psi in the front and 25 or 26psi in the rear — and had no issues with burping or flatting, even after some seriously messy line choices through a number of different rock gardens.
On really hard packed, flatter turns, you can find both tyres’ limits if you’re pushing. At this point, it feels like the shoulder tread just can’t hang on any longer and breaks traction. Thankfully the slides have, so far at least, been predictable and controlled because you can feel the point at which lets go.
As for the rims, it’s hard to say just how durable they’ll be. On closer inspection, I have noted one very shallow dent in the rear rim but nothing major as of yet.
In terms of how they felt, I certainly came away impressed. While they’re more forgiving than the carbon rims they replaced, I never felt like I was lacking stiffness when loading the bike up through the turns.
Keep an eye out for a full review of the tyres and rims in the coming months.