No matter how nice the build kit, a bike’s performance can be undermined by tire selection. Too little tread and you’ll push in corners, too much and you’ll push uphill, so finding that happy medium is essential.
We’ve learned this lesson time and time again unboxing review bikes. Consumers want light, so many manufacturers skimp on grip, in order to claim a weight on their website.
In order to get accurate impressions of these bikes, I frequently swap out at least the front tire for something more aggressive, and recently the tire I’ve been reaching for has been the WTB Vigilante. Find out why after the break.
The Vigilante is available in 26″, 27.5″, and 29″ versions. It’s an All Mountain tire, so it is only sold in a 2.3″ wide version.
WTB does offer two versions. The TCS (tubeless compatible system) has a dual DNA compound, with a 60a top, and 50a base. The race oriented team edition utilizes their Gravity casing which has a 45a top and 60a base, paired with a tougher sidewall that features their cut-resistant Silver Lining. Prices start at $64.95 for the TCS model and tops out at $79.95 for the Team Issue.
The weight is not light when compared to the faster wearing options from Schwalbe, but are competitive with similar offerings from Maxxis. Our 27.5″ TCS tire came in at 835 g on the scale, which is 45 g over the claimed 790 g weight. The Team Issue should tip the scale at 985 g, but in my experience WTBs claimed tire weights are not always very accurate.
The tread pattern is wide with siped square lugged knobs that shed mud well, and really dig in on loose terrain.
The casing on the TCS model tested is not as rugged as that found on the Team Edition, but we had no issues with torn sidewalls, and the tires didn’t squirm or burb under hard cornering.
As a front tire, traction is on par with perennial favorites like the Maxxis High Roller 2, but they’re a bit faster rolling than more downhill specific tires. The well spaced knobs also offered predicable traction when cornering and could be leaned over aggressively without breaking loose.
Hitting the brakes hard on steep chutes, the tires offered solid breaking performance, and didn’t cause the front end to slide. Running a set of these tires front and rear did feel like overkill on everything but the burliest of trail bikes, particularly going up hill, but offered nothing but smiles when squaring up berms.
We have had several of these tires on rotation throughout the past year and wear life for the harder TCS compound appears to be good. While some of the knobs have begun to show wear from hard cornering and breaking, none have ripped off.
Due to superb traction, stiff sidewalls, and mid pack rolling resistance, the WTB Vigilante tire has found itself a treasured home in our tire farm. On bikes with 5″+ of travel, it offers a great balance between performance and wear life. Heavier riders in rocky terrain who are looking for the utmost in reliability might want to consider the burlier sidewalls and sticker compound of the Team Edition tire, but everyone else should find something to love about the base level TCS version.