Though little known on these shores, Dutch company Vredestein has been producing both bicycle and automobile tires for over 100 years. The Black Panther XTREME is one of the company’s newer designs- a thoroughly modern trail tire designed for “heavy conditions.” Having had good experience with the 29er version as a racy front XC tire, I jumped at the chance to get the 26in version into some rougher and more varied terrain.
At just over 2.1in wide, the tubeless ready Black Panther Xtremes certainly look the part. Despite easily mounting by hand on either tubeless-ready (Roval) and UST (Mavic) wheels, the Vredesteins sealed right away with the help of a couple of scoops of Stan’s sealant. Amazingly (alarmingly?) coming in 75g under their advertised 680g weight, both the tread and casing have largely held up well against the indignities of desert riding and in two months has yet to show any wet spots or sidewall scrubbing. (A pointy and perfectly-angled stick did cause a fluke puncture under the tread- but that took a tubeless patch and hasn’t caused any trouble since.)
The tread pattern itself is capable in a wide range of conditions and faster-rolling than might be expected. Both steering and cornering are very good on rocky terrain and in loamy conditions. Forward and braking traction are excellent on everything they’ve been exposed to. Quietly competent, the Black Panther XTREME are in fact pretty easy to forget on most rides.
It’s only in loose-over-hard ‘kitty litter’ that I’ve experienced any trouble with the Dutch rubber. When pushed hard in these conditions the front tire has a tendency to break free earlier than I’d like- which can be a bit unnerving. This is odd given the 29er version’s excellent performance in similar terrain- the difference between Black Panther XTREME wheel size performances is much more pronounced than with other tires.
Though it’s not necessary in most conditions, when paired with a less-aggressive rear tire, the front 26in XTREME’s tendency to let go is easy to control, with the rear letting go before the front and allowing for the fun, drifty performance I enjoy with my 29er set: both the company’s Black Panther and Black Panther XTRAC look like good rear tire candidates.
With new US distribution courtesy of Magura Direct (who also handle Magura and Uvex), Vredestein tire availability should be improving. As far as performance tires go, the Vredesteins’ have held up exceptionally well- something that will please anyone who’s worn out a high-end tire in under two months. At $70 the Black Panther XTREME should suit trail riders in loamy areas and those who push the front tire especially hard well. Anyone who rides in desert conditions or likes a bit of oversteer would do well to pair the tire with a less-tenacious rear.