Project 1.1: Vredestein’s Spotted Cat and Black Panther Xtreme 29er tires
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At both Eurobike and Interbike this fall, Vredestein’s new line of 29er tires caught both Tyer’s and my eyes. Available in tubed, tubeless ready, and tubeless casings, the Dutch tires are now being distributed in the US by Move Sport– and we’ve just had a few come in for test.
While I was looking the other direction, $70- exactly what Vredestein and Move Sport are asking for these- became a very reasonable price for premium tires. With triple-compound rubber, what Vredestein call “Integrated Protection” baked into the tread compound, and competitively light weights, the Spotted Cat, Black Panther, and Black Panther Xtreme all qualify. Click through for my initial impressions of Vredestein’s fastest and knobbiest tires…
Out of the box and onto the scale: The Spotted Cat 29×2.0 came in at 555g with the tube casing and 620g tubeless-ready. The knobbier Black Panther Xtreme 29×2.2 came in at 635g with the tube casing. Not at all bad for true-to-size 29er tires. After weighing the tires, I spent about 20 minutes working one of each on to a Stans ZTR Crest wheelset- I haven’t taken them off to look, but the rim tape certainly bears some tire lever scars… If nothing else, the bead bundles certainly are strong. Hopefully they’ll stretch a bit before get the inevitable flat.
For starters, I chose to run the tubeless ready Spotted Cat for a bit of extra protection at the rear wheel with the bigger/knobbier Black Panther Xtreme on the front. Both tires inflated very easily and, with 2 scoops each of Stan’s liquid, have held air for three weeks. The tube-casing Black Panther didn’t show any bubbling to speak of. All very good signs.
There aren’t a lot of tires that inspire confidence in the loose-over-hard decomposed granite of Albuquerque’s foothills. A bit of sliding is to be expected, and the way in which a tire breaks loose is as important as its ultimate grip. Tires that let go without warning don’t last long. For spirited desert riding, the Black Panther Xtreme and Spotted Cat make an impressive pair.
The tires combined to remove 1/2lb from my singlespeed which, combined with the Spotted Cat’s low tread, made for a fast feel right out the door- and on every ride since. Not unlike Geax’s AKA, the sheer number of gripping edges give the Spotted Cat plenty of forward traction. At least when new, the Vredesteins felt as able to deliver forward motion as well as anything else I’ve ridden in the area. Unsurprisingly, care needs to be taken while braking- as much a function of orientation as anything else (and given my mounting struggles, I’m not really tempted to turn them around just to find out). Arrayed along arcs (rather than in rows), the Spotted Cat’s T-shaped knobs seem better able to resist sideways slides than most similar tires and the round profile means that the tire can be leaned pretty far before braking loose. When the tire’s traction limits are approached, it seems to settle into a controllable drift before letting go altogether, giving the rider plenty of time to respond and recover. On the rear wheel, the Spotted Cat isn’t just fast- it encouraged me to play with its limits and is a fun tire to ride.
Up front, I didn’t necessarily expect great desert performance from the Black Panther Xtreme. With considerably larger and more widely-spaced tread, the bigger Vredestein seems to subscribe to an entirely different design philosophy. With more space than knobs down the tire’s centerline, I expected a rumbly ride. Though I might sing a different tune with the Black Panther Xtreme on a rear wheel, on the front of my race-oriented 29er single speed, it has hardly drawn attention to itself. In fact, though it’s not a combination I’d have chosen on looks alone, the Black Panther Xtreme is remarkably capable in Southwest kitty litter, maintaining traction slightly longer than the Spotted Cat rear and encouraging all sorts of drifty fun. I’d love to get the 26in version on a 140mm trail bike and see how it handles itself in truly rough terrain.
All in all, I’ve been very impressed by the Vredesteins so far. The price is right, the weights are reasonable, their performance has been good, and they’re a fun combination on local trails. Of course, most tires feel good when new- we’ll keep on riding the Spotted Cat and Black Pather Xtreme through the winter and let you know how they fare…