Bikerumor Review: WTB Prowler MX 2.1 Mountain Bike Tires

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BIKERUMOR REVIEW: When winter rolled around, we started talking to WTB about some good tires for our typically wetter weather.  North Carolina has a solid mix of rocks, roots, dirt and clay, making our trails a great testing ground for many things.  Heck, there are even a few trails around that get some sand in spots.  And when things turn wet, our trails tend to be a mix of damp, fast draining sections and thick, wet muddy sections…and some slick, slippery roots that like to throw you off the trail or stop your upward moment with a quick tire spin.

So, for the past six months, we’ve ridden the WTB Prowler MX tires in everything from mud to snow to gravel to hardpack, and they’ve managed to impress us in every instance.  WTB labels the Prowler as a cross country tire suitable for wet to dry, loose to rough, and the tire can certainly handle that spread.

Is it the right tire for all those conditions, though?  Read on and see…

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

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Like most mountain bike tires, packaging is minimal (thankfully) and it’s cardboard so it’s easily recyclable.

HOW DO THEY MEASURE UP?

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WTB provides two measurements for their tires: width in inches (2.1) and casing/knob width in millimeters (49/52), which is a European standard.

The Prowler MX tires have a 60a durometer rubber and Aramid folding bead.  Being a “Race” level tire, it gets their 60tpi lightweight casing.  MSRP is $50, which is inline with competitor’s XC tire offerings.

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Our test tires measured in at 2.125 inches (about 53mm) wide at the casing, but I’m running them on 29mm-wide Ellsworth XC rims (they rock, BTW), so they’d probably be a bit narrower on the more standard 25mm-ish XC rims out there.

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These were tested on an 200 Trek Fuel 100, which is a pure XC race bike.  Inside width of the seatstays at the widest part of the tire is about 2.6 inches.  We never had any clearance issues, even on our nastiest ride.

WHAT DO THEY WEIGH?

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WTB’s claimed weight is 585g for the non-tubeless Prowler MX, but both of our test tires weighed in heavier, 598g and 615g.  This sort of variance is normal for tires, as is the lower-than-what-you’re-likely-to-get claimed weight.

HOW DO THEY PERFORM?

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I can sum up this review pretty quickly by saying there wasn’t anything we rode these tires on where they didn’t perform better than expected.  That’s not to say we had low expectations, afterall WTB arguably came out with the first true bad-ass multi-performance tire back in the early ’90s with their original Velociraptor tires.  Rather, it’s that the Prowler tires performed exactly as we wanted them to when riding in good conditions and managed to surprise us in foul conditions, like those shown above.

On this ride (above) at Warrior’s Creek, three of us rode trails that were alternately covered in four inches of snow and fallen leaves to dry hardpack, depending on which side of the hills we were on.  Our little game was to see who could plow into the snow-covered trail the farthest or hang on in the white corners, and hands down the WTB Prowlers outperformed other XC tires.  In fact, Daniel (who was riding them that day) was about the only getting any traction.

Daniel was also the rider that used them the most in wet, muddy rides, and he constantly remarked at how well they hooked up while we were sliding around.  If you’re road-tripping to a ride or race and the weather’s iffy, you probably won’t go wrong putting the Prowlers on.

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I generally rode these tires in more tolerable conditions, and numerous times on dry or mostly-dry hardpack, and they’re fast.  I’m about 178lbs and normally run about 36psi (with tubes), but even on rides with as little as 30psi, the tires never pinch flatted the tubes.  They did feel a little squirmy at the lower pressure, but at about 36psi for my weight, they provided a great mix of traction, compliance and efficiency.

Despite taller knobs and about 50g to 80g more heft than low profile racing XC tires, the Prowlers never felt slow.  In fact, they seem to roll about as fast as lower profile tires we’ve tested, but the more aggressive tread made them much more capable when conditions went in the crapper.

On very firm hardpack, you will notice a bit of vibration/hum from the tread, but it’s a small price to pay for the solid and predictable grip.  That predictable performance is especially noticeable in the corners, and super-especially when those corners involve transitioning surfaces, like say rolling from hardpack singletrack onto gravel-and-dirt fireroads.  The knobs follow the curve of the tires, which lets you lean hard into a turn without coming off the knobs and slipping out.

Lastly, they brake well, helping you shed speed without losing control as that tree your eyes are fixated on gets ever closer.  While this may be pure imagination, in straight line braking, it seems like they held on a bit longer before skidding, and in corners they kept control of the situation under moderate braking (hard braking in a corner isn’t going to end well regardless of tire selection).

DURABILITY:

The Prowlers have held up well.  We didn’t flat once during the test period, and there is no unusual wear on the sidewalls or tread.  In fact, I’d say they’ve got quite a life ahead of them.

BIKERUMOR RATING:

If you’re looking for an all ’round performer that’s light enough for all-day rides and occasional racing, look no further.  WTB’s Prowler is one of those tires you can put on your bike and ride virtually year ’round.  It hits the sweet spot between weight and performance, and to be honest, we never felt like it could have or should have done better in any of the cross-country or “trail” conditions we put it through.  It corners and brakes confidently, grips predictably and rolls fast.  What more do you want in a tire?  Five Thumbs Up!

bikerumor-thumbsup-5NOTES:

Weight weenies may be willing to give up a bit of control for lower weight, but for most riders, the Prowler is a great choice.

WTB also makes a UST Tubeless version of the Prowler MX 2.1 Tire.  Claimed weight is 820g and MSRP is $60.

Here’s the official description of the Global Measurement System that WTB uses in addition to the “inches” width, as provided by WTB:

Global Measurement System is WTB’s concise definition of ETRTO (European Tire and Rim Technical Organization) and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) tire measurement systems. The first number refers to the nominal tire section width, which is the widest point in the casing of the tire. This measurement is made in a defined rim width with a consistent tire pressure. The second measurement in GMS refers to the overall tire width, or the widest point of the tire at the tread. Tire size designation (52-599, for example) refers to the tire’s section width and the bead seat diameter.

Comments

[...] In my opinion, the traction is so good, and they roll so fast in a straight line, that like the WTB Prowler tires we reviewed earlier this year, they make you faster.  And more confident, which just makes [...]

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