Schwalbe’s Wicked Will returns as a Downcountry specific option available in 3 casings to deal with fast XC riding, light trail rallies or Enduro.
I opted to test the Super Ground casing iteration on what is one of South Africa’s more popular enduro bikes, the 146mm travel, Giant Reign.
| WORDS: Thomas Rood | IMAGES: Gary Perkin | LOCATION: Missing Link Trail, Cape Town |
These days there seem to be more tyre models available than ever before for a variety of riding styles and terrain as brands strive to align their tyre model ranges with the latest industry developments and marketing trends. Mountain bike tyres that in the past would simply be cross-country, trail or downhill-specific are segmented into different compounds, casings and width options with some brands creating elaborate combinations that it could become overwhelming to choose the best tyre for your riding style and terrain.
Schwalbe is one of those brands that has always been synonymous with quality tyres, offering a huge range of options with an array of marketing terminology that would have NASA engineers scratching their heads. Lately, the brand has been listening to the market and re-designed some of its range to create a simpler, more focused offering catering to modern riding requirements.
Enter the Schwalbe Wicked Will – originally launched as a heavy, aggressive 26″ downhill tyre more than a decade ago, the new iteration is focused on the trail and down-country markets with a focus on faster rolling speed than an aggressive trail/enduro tyre but with more grip and cornering traction than a cross-country tyre, all whilst keeping the weight down. This typically suits the requirements of bikes with 100-150mm of travel being ridden over a variety of terrain, whether it’s a cross-country bike that’s being pushed hard, a down-country bike with a little more suspension travel or even a trail bike that doesn’t need big, heavy aggressive rubber to keep traction in check.
|| Name: Schwalbe Wicked Will|
|| Size: 29″ x 2.4|
|| Casing: Super Ground Casing|
|| Compound: Addix Speed|
|| Weight: 873g (actual)|
|| Intended Application: Fast trail, Downcountry|
The new Wicked Will is offered in Schwalbe’s Addix Speedgrip rubber compound with a choice of 3 casings. From the lightest (more XC-focused) to heaviest (a Trail/enduro focused) they are the Super Race (820g), Super Ground (873g) and Super Trail (920g). We tested the Super Ground version that came in at 873g, but still very competitive at 60g less than our Maxxis Dissector EXO 29 x 2.40WT control tyre.
First impressions were that it was identical in width to the Maxxis 29 x 2.40WT casing when installed, so those familiar with Maxxis tyres don’t have to worry about the width coming up short or being wider than what they may be used to, however, they did require a little more effort to fit to the rim than the Maxxis but inflated without hassle with a floor pump.
Out on the trail, the improvement in rolling speed over the Maxxis Dissector/Assegai tyre combination I had been running was immediately noticeable and meant that less effort was required to get the bike rolling and keep it moving quickly. Whilst maybe not as quick as a true XC race tyre in straight rolling speed, when it came to traction on the climbs and in turns, it had more to offer on loose over hardpack terrain than an XC focused tread pattern such as Schwalbe’s Racing Ralph.
The tread pattern offers a fairly rounded tyre profile with little break between the side cornering knobs and center rolling knobs due to staggered placement of the intermediate knobs, which meant a seamless transition between the knobs as the tyre was leaned over into turns with no risk of breaking traction unexpectedly. Careful siping (grooves) cut into the lugs offer even more contact with the ground for each knob and allow the knobs to conform to the terrain in a very controlled manner that doesn’t slow you or break traction unpredictably.
As a front tyre, it suits hard-charging XC/down-country and trail bikes well but aggressive riders may want to opt for the updated and slightly more grippy Schwalbe Nobby Nic for better cornering traction when you really lean the bike over, offered by its bigger side knobs that do however add a slight weight penalty.
As a rear tyre, it delivers exactly what it says on the box and I will be keeping it on the Giant Reign test bike through winter as it suits the trail conditions in the Western Cape perfectly, offering great rolling speed with just the right level of traction needed.
The mid-weight Super Ground casing suited our trails well but XC-focused riders may want to save a few grams by opting for the lighter Super Race casing while enduro chargers should opt for the improved sidewall strength and support on offer in the heavier Super Trail casing.