Continental's latest DH racing tire is named Rammstein, and it represents a new push by the German manufacture to re-energize its off road tire program. Continental head of marketing Joerg Malcherek freely admits that their high-end tires weren’t good enough and he has pushed everyone at Continental to work hard to change that. A big part of that change has been working closely with Continental's sponsored athletes, and the Rammstein is the direct result of working with the Atherton family. In a recent PB feature, we toured the factory and captured some of the passion that Continental puts into its handmade
tires. In this continuing feature, we travel with the engineers for a first ride on the tires that may bring Continental its first World Cup DH podium. Meet the Rammstein.
Inside the Rammstein Tire
The brief the the Athertons gave Continental's designers was to create a mixed conditions tyre. Something to place in the range that the High Roller fills for Maxxis. It took a couple of years to get from the initial meeting and discussions to the final version of the Rammstein.
Continental used DNA from it existing Kaiser and Baron tires as reference points to begin the Ramstein project. Continental settled on a 2.4-inch width and there are no plans right now to offer any other sizes (although we think a smaller, enduro-friendly version could be great). The casing will only be in their heavy duty DH-flavour, with a two-ply carcass which is sturdy enough to go tubeless if you're so inclined. As for rubber compound? Well, they weren't saying much, just that like their other downhill tires it will be in the Black Chili Compound, which is designed to both be grippy and fast-rolling, and if it follows that path, we'd expect them to last pretty well too. When pushed on the compound issue, they explain that they felt a lot of people were confused by tire compounds, so they opted to keep things simple and offer the single option. Poking the tread, we'd take a guess that at least some of it is around the 40A mark, near Maxxis Supertacky/SlowReezay territory. Projected weight is 1100g per tire.
Looking at the Rammstein's tread, there are two things that are very noticeable - the consistent tread design of the edging knobs and the channel between the centre and side tread.
Many tyre companies are going down the route of using square-edged tread patterns, but as far as we know, Continental are one of the few who use a single style of block for the side tread. Specialized does something similar with its Butcher tyres, but the Rammstein has a much more substantial profile and the edges are at right angles to the centre. A consistent row of side blocks should mean that the tire will feel predictable when leaned onto its side, and that channel means you should be able to feel when you move from the centre tread to the side tread. Reportedly, when the tire is drifting, it should move in a single direction as the edging blocks are at a right angle to the wheel and thus should not deflect the tire off line.Performance
To try the Rammsteins, we stole one of the Nicolai team DH bikes and hit the DH trails at Thale and Schulenbach bikeparks - two testing grounds near the Continental factory. It had been raining on and off through the day, leaving the ground conditions a bit strange. Soil was at a midpoint between loam and clay - soft, but surprisingly slippery if we pushed too hard. What we were blown away with was how quickly we could start pushing these tyres hard. They do what the Conti engineers said they would do – feel consistent.
We quickly looked for excuses to rail the bike onto its side, because it was so much fun. When it came time to grab some photos we ended up sliding the bike out all the time because it felt so consistent going sideways that we knew when and how the grip was going to go and were certain when the soil was ready to give up. It may sound negative sliding out, but in the rainy conditions on the slick clay soil, there was a very limited amount of grip available, and the fact the tyres gave us the confidence to play to the limits of grip on a first ride simply blew us away.
Going onto the side of the Rammstein tires, the big rows of side knobs feel great and in the soft conditions we could feel them biting. Continental photo
On the second day we headed up to Thale bikepark first thing – a big, braking bump-ridden motorway. Those kind of dull, sculpted conditions don’t really ask much of the Rammstein, and it ran as if on rails there. After lunch we headed out into the sticks for the gem that is Schulenbach. This tiny little bike park, hidden away in the middle of a forest let us try the tyres out on a real downhill track. Roots, rocks and wet loam were the order of the day. It was easy to find the confidence in the grip to try high lines over wet rocks and roots, and to push the bike into the catch berms. After each session, we knew that we could do it a bit faster next time.
The Rammstein tire ruled the roots. The only negative that thing we did notice was that the tire seemed to squirm a little under heavy braking.Continental photo
Pinkbike First Impression:
Continentals Rammstein's tread design made it easy to find enough confidence in the grip to try high lines over wet rocks and roots. Continental photo
Testing a tyre over two days can only tell you so much about it. The fact that it rained on both those days means we can’t tell you for sure what this tyre will feel like in the dry, or how well it will last. For us, predictable is the one word that describes this tyre. There are plenty of good downhill tyres out there that offer a shedload of grip, but we can’t think of another one that lets you explore the limits of grip this comfortably. We are properly impressed with the Rammstein and can’t wait to spend more time with it in the wider range of conditions that this tyre was designed for. - Matt Wraggwww.conti-online.com