Today's XC and short-travel trail bikes are more capable than ever, which can make choosing the right tire a tricky proposition. Do you go with a fast rolling, low-profile tread pattern and deal with the decreased traction that typically results, or put on something slower rolling but with better grip and braking performance?
Schwalbe's new Wicked Will is designed to fill the gap between those two options, a tire that sits in between the Racing Ralph and the Nobby Nic, where it's positioned as a versatile option for downcountry and trail riders. The tread pattern is derived from Schwalbe's more aggressive options, but the tread height is lower in order to improve the rolling speed.
Wicked Will Details
• 29 & 27.5" versions in 2.6, 2.4, and 2.25" widths
• Super Race, Super Ground, or Super Trail casing
• Addix Speedgrip compound
• Weight: 892 grams (actual, Super Ground casing)
• Available first quarter 2022
The Wicked Will will be available in three different casings when it hits store shelves sometime in the first quarter of 2022. For the 29 x 2.4” version, the Super Race version weighed in at 814 grams on my scale, and the Super Ground tire came in at 892 grams. The Super Trail option is claimed to weigh 920 grams. All of the tires use Schwalbe's Speedgrip rubber compound, which places more of a priority on rolling speed and durability compared to the Soft and UltraSoft rubber used in Schwalbe's enduro and DH tires.
There are 2.6, 2.4, and 2.25” options for 29” or 27.5” wheels. Evolution line tires will be $94.99, and the Performance line tires will be $65.99 USD. Ride Impressions
I mounted up the 2.4” Wicked Wills to a set of Roval Control Carbon wheels that I'm currently running on a Transition Spur. Setup wasn't too laborious, although it did take a few extra attempts to get them seated and sealed – that thinner Super Ground casing seems more likely to collapse into itself and allow air to escape during inflation compared to the more supportive sidewalls found on Schwalbe's burlier tires.
I've been able to get in a solid handful of rides in on the Wicked Wills so far, with conditions ranging from tacky perfection to drizzly and moderately muddy. They're satisfyingly smooth rolling tires, especially if you're coming from something with a meatier tread pattern. Luckily, smooth doesn't mean sketchy, at least in this case, and I've been very happy with how predictable the new tread pattern has been.
The small squarish knobs do a good job finding traction when the ground has some give to it, sort of like the tiny cleats do on a golf shoe. Or at least the way I imagine they do... I haven't ever actually worn golf shoes before. The amount of braking traction is reasonable, especially considering the relatively small height of the center knobs. Transitioning onto the cornering knobs is a smooth, uneventful process, although it's still worth remembering that this is a relatively low profile tire. Charging into a turn at full speed and expecting the front tire to hook up like a Magic Mary probably won't have the desired outcome...
If I was purchasing a set for myself, I'd be more likely to choose the Super Trail casing rather than the Super Ground casing I've been on. I haven't had any punctures, but at 23 and 25 psi the number of times I've heard my rims dinging against the ground has been too high for my liking. Running higher pressure obviously helps, but it also reduces some of the traction that comes from the tire conforming to the ground. Terrain and riding style obviously play a role too, but for riders who tend to end up on rowdy trails with their short travel bike, choosing the thicker Trail casing and not worrying about the slight weight penalty will be the way to go.
I'm going to keep putting the miles in on these, and will report back on durability, as well as with some comparisons against other options in this category.