First Ride: WTB’s 2019 Tires & Rims

Jul 5, 2018
by Daniel Sapp  



Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB) have enjoyed a good deal of success with their Trail Boss and Vigilante tires, and KOM rims. The've been spec'd on a number of bikes and, while they may not have the following that the likes of Maxxis and Schwalbe enjoy, in my experience, WTB makes a reliable product that has always been worth considering. Building on what they already had, WTB have done a fairly extensive overhaul of their tire line. The Trail Boss and Vigilante are now joined by the all-new Judge. There are new sizes, updates to casings, and a new triple rubber compound that WTB calls Tri-Tec.

New rims: WTB are also introducing their new KOM Light and KOM Tough rims. Both designs are updated and feature WTB's revised TCS 2.0 tubeless system. The tubeless system, coupled with WTB's rims is designed to be easy to set up, while further simplifying tire installation and removal.


WTB Vigilante
WTB Trail Boss


About the Tires:

Same name, new tires: There are three new tires. Two of them, the Trail Boss and Vigilante, are revised from the previous versions with a different knob layout, modified heights, and new compounds. Both models are available in 27.5" and 29" sizes. The Trail Boss is primarily designed to be used as a rear tire in faster and mixed terrain, although it works well as a front tire too. It comes in 2.4" and 2.6" widths. The Vigilante is very aggressive and designed to be used largely as a front tire. It's similar to the previous version, but with taller knobs with slightly more spacing to help facilitate clearing muck from the tread. It is available in 2.5" and 2.6" widths.

The Judge: The Judge is all new and fits in the line as an aggressive rear tire designed to provide more control in demanding terrain, whether it is loose and rocky or wet. That's not to say it can't be used as a front tire as well. The Judge is available in either 27.5" or 29" and only in a 2.4" width.

The all new WTB Judge

Tritech compound: All of the tires have a new triple compound WTB calls "Tritec." It's supplemented by a softer rubber on top for increased traction and then the side knobs are softest. There are two versions - "Fast Rolling" and "High Grip" - that both have the harder base rubber but then either a medium or soft center rubber and soft or extra soft rubber on the side knobs.

Two casing options: The tires are also available in either a "Light" or "Tough" casing. The light casing offers less protection but also comes in at less weight. It's a single ply, but features a nylon "slash guard" insert in the sidewall to give a little bit of added protection without the weight of a 2-ply casing. The tough casing is a more robust 2-ply. All of the tires are 60tpi and TCS/tubeless ready. The tires will sell for between $67.95 and $79.95 USD depending on model and are available at wtb.com.


How the casings and compounds stack up for WTB's new tires.


About KOM Rims

There are two new rim options from WTB: KOM Light, and KOM Tough, and each option is available in a number of inner-widths. All of the rims are 32 holes and feature an updated bead hook to create a better interface between WTB's rims and tires.

KOM Light: The KOM Light rim is designed for all-around use and for applications ranging from gravel to trail. They have an open cavity profile and are available in 21, 23, 25, 29, 35, 40, and 45mm inner widths.

KOM Tough: The KOM Tough is the burlier of the two and made for heavier duty applications ranging from bikepacking and trail riding, all the way to days in the bike park. KOM Tough rims feature WTB's I-Beam construction that reinforces the rim profile with two vertical support beams. They are available in 25, 29, 35, 40, and 45mm inner widths. To facilitate easier tire installation and removal, 40-45mm width KOM rims feature what WTB calls "Dropzone"- a ramped area in the rim that drops from where the bead of the tire mounts to the center. WTB's new KOM rims will sell for between $105-$110 USD and will be available in August.




About the TCS 2.0 Tubeless System

The TCS 2.0 system uses WTB's new Solid Strip rim strip that's designed to keep the bed of the rim smooth at spoke holes and also prevent the stray broken spoke from puncturing the tape and causing an internal flat where sealant leaks through a spoke hole. The Solid Strip is paired with WTB's new Flex Tape. The tape goes on top of the Solid Strip and creates an airtight seal. The two-stage system is said to be easy to install and with the ramp designed into WTB's wider 40-45mm rims, also make tire installation and removal easier.

More stuff
TCS 2.0 explained: A hard plastic liner (3) fits into a slight recess in the rim to prevent punctures from broken spokes. The liner is overlaid by WTB's conventional rim tape (2). Re-profiled On-Ramps (4) help to trap air in the tire while the bead is seating. Improved bead hooks (5) play well with WTB's UST standard tire beads.





bigquotesThe quality of the trails, along with the friendliness of everyone we encountered, was above and beyond any other bike park I've ridden in years ...

About Silver Mountain, Idaho

Ride impressions many times are limited to whatever gear is being tested but the location we were at is worth a mention too. I've ridden a lot of places but Northern Idaho was one spot on my list that I had yet to tick the box on so, needless to say, I was stoked when the opportunity came up to spend a few days in Kellogg, Idaho at Silver Mountain Bike Park. I had heard very little about the area but have driven through there numerous times on Interstate 90 heading to the Northwest and the scenery had always caught my eye. The small town of Kellogg, in the panhandle of Idaho, is steeped in mining history. The silver mines of the area have tales that echo an old western movie...strikes, protests, buildings exploding, brothels, FBI raids, and martial law. Most of the mining has dried up in the not too distant past and normal order is back. The entire area seems to be at the start of a resurgence...tourism dollars are starting to trickle in year round and not just in winter when there's snow on the hill.

The bike park is run by a dedicated trail crew led by local Willy Bartlett and is nothing short of phenomenal. The main gondola from town, one of the longest continual cable gondolas in the world, takes you up and over one mountain and into a valley before climbing to the summit of the bike park. From there, riders can do shorter laps off of the top, riding back up on the chairlift there or a full run down the mountain, covering no less than seven miles and 3,400 feet of descending before being back at the village. The quality of the trails, along with the friendliness of everyone we encountered was above and beyond any other bike park I've ridden in years and gave me flashbacks to an early season day at Whistler years ago before it became the destination that it is now. If you're in the area, check it out or plan a trip there. I'd personally pick it over Whistletown most days just for the laid-back atmosphere.


Test Conditions

For testing and riding, we had two solid days on the mountain. I rode an Evil Insurgent - a 27.5" trail bike that's more than capable of tackling just about any terrain. For tires, I had a Trail Boss 2.4 with the Tough casing and Fast Rolling compound on the back and then a Vigilante up front with the Light casing and High Grip compound. The tires that we were using were pre-production since the final first batch wasn't ready.
Photo Abner Kingman
Focused on tires.

These tires were the same tread and compound as the production tires are but with a different tpi casing - 120 instead of the more robust and slightly heavier 60tpi that is what the production tires are. I started with around 21psi in the front and 24 in the back, and messed around with pressures throughout the day.

The terrain at Silver Mountain is natural and raw. Lots of roots, off-camber, and high speed all mixed together. There was plenty of tacky hero dirt, loam, and some freshly cut loose side hill that made for perfect conditions to test the abilities of the new tires. First thing in the morning, conditions were tacky, drying out through the day. I rode a mixture of more flowy trails coupled with a great deal of more technical terrain.

Photo Abner Kingman


Riding Impressions

Having the Vigilante up front makes for a very point and shoot tire. If I wanted to go somewhere, It didn't take a lot of effort to simply turn that direction and find traction just about anywhere I put the tire. It seemed to not have much of a limit in what it would stick to and even with its soft compound, it rolled well. I found myself struggling to find a spot where the tire didn't want to hook up and grip. Transitioning from the center to the side knobs when turning or jumping into off-camber terrain was seamless and there wasn't a bit of uncertainty that the tire would or wouldn't hold. The previous generation Vigilante was one of my favorite tires and this one is a marked improvement over it.

With the Trail Boss in the back, I was impressed at its ability to hold even in the varied and looser terrain we were in. If I was setting up the bike, I would have likely put the Judge on and initially, I thought that I would want to switch. While the Trail Boss doesn't have quite the braking power a heavier duty tire does, it holds its own, corners very well, and like the Vigilante, has a smooth transition from center to side.

I was thoroughly impressed with the new tires and had zero technical issues with them through the time I spent on them.

The new KOM rims seemed to hold their own as well. They are something that I think could bear to have a much longer-term test on but in the time I rode them, I chose poor lines, cased more than one step-down, and ran far too low of an air pressure in the back on one run. I had no dents, no issues of trueness, and no flats. All good signs. The TCS system seemed to work as it should and no one had sealant leaks or tubeless issues.








60 Comments

  • + 24
 Vigilante is probably one of the most underated tires on the market. Especially in the wet. I can’t wait to try the new one.
  • + 6
 That and the Trail Boss in the rear is the best set up I've encountered.
  • + 1
 Ive got Continentals a few weeks ago and so far they're really good. But they dont come cheap. WTB tires on the other hand are much more friendly to my piggy bank. And ive heard good story's about them.
  • + 8
 Vig is my favorite tire ever. I think it's quite comical that so many riders can't see beyond maxxis (which are of course, good too). I'm running the 2.3 front and rear right now. I've been wondering when they were going to update the widths for wider rims. I literally just put a brand new set of 2.3s on the bike so it would make perfect sense that this is announced one week later.... Oh bother
  • + 2
 Running the vigi front and rear? My front is ready to be replaced and have a new one on stand by right now and was thinking the older vigi could go on the rear. Wondering what people though of it on the rear.
  • + 2
 Guilty. And lazy. Just toss me another dhf lookin tire.
  • + 1
 At least you got a whole week of riding already. I literally just ordered a trail boss yesterday.
  • + 3
 @brncr6: do that, put the old Vigilante on the rear! That's what I have now, new V up from and old V in the back, and it works great. Plus I save a few dollars over the Maxxis.
  • + 1
 only ever used the vigilante on the back with a i35 rim. Awesome on the back, works everywhere, rolls well, brakes well, climbs well and are hard to split even takes ages before it needs replacing. Running the soft / tough by the way.
  • + 1
 @brncr6: i
I've been running the Vigilante up front for a couple years and love it. I own two and have been running the other on the rear during the wet early season. I switched it out for a Breakout which I'm not as happy with. I have a Specialized Butcher that I'm thinking of putting on the front and replacing the Breakout with the Vigilante again. You wont be disappointed,it's well worth a try.
  • + 1
 @brncr6: Vig 'fast rolling' is a great option for the rear. Tons of grip and brakes well.
  • + 7
 Per their website, they now have "our rowdiest rear tire yet" in the Judge, but still no 29" option for Convict. It's a shame they can't offer a properly aggressive 29" front with the plethora of big travel 29ers on the market.
  • + 3
 I couldn’t agree more! I ran convicts on my 27.5 not just front and rear. With high traction on front and high speed on resr and loved them. Their 29” options are a bummer, forced to run maxxis, and destroy sidewalls.
  • + 1
 What casing are you running on your Maxxis 29”? @Clifflane3:
  • + 4
 So you have tried the Vigilante 2.5 or 2.6 and come to that conclusion? @Jaylynx @Clifflane3
  • + 5
 I love WTB tread patterns, but MY GOD these things are heavy. Per their website the Vigilante 29x2.5 in the LIGHT casing is over 1100g.
  • + 4
 The judge looks strangely familiar to a company that rimes with axxis.
  • + 1
 @chunter: EXO and go through them like crazy. Even with CushCore. I just love my convicts on my 27.5, a lot more than Maxxis I ran on the 27.5.
  • + 1
 @Jsmoke: I haven’t, going to give these a try once they’re not sold out. Hope they’re the trick.
  • + 3
 @Clifflane3: well there’s your problem! Exo’s are a joke, go double down and you’ll be much better off. Cush cores don’t do diddly for tire protection
  • + 8
 The WTB site has the Vigilante 27.5 LIGHT casing at 1100 grams...More like WTF.
  • + 1
 You may have looked at the wrong tire.
  • + 5
 I find WTBs all have pretty high weights.
  • + 2
 @sevensixtwo: nope...it's the 2.5 27.5.
  • + 2
 Cause most other companies lie about their tire widths...Maxxis 2.8s actually measure 2.6. So a true 2.6 will look like it has a 2.8 weight on paper.
  • + 4
 I would have liked to see some tire width measurements (on whatever test wheel rims were used). I purchased a WTB Trail Boss 29 x 2.4 last fall that was still a 29 x 2.18 (on 29 mm internal rims) after several weeks of use. It would be nice to get some indication if the tire width descriptions were somewhat accurate.
  • + 2
 Yeah! I had a Trail Boss 2.25 Tough/Fast that was oversized for a 2.25, and a really impressive tire. I replaced it with what should have been an identical tire, and the new one was significantly smaller!? Tighter knob spacing, tiny casing to the point it literally changed the geometry of my bike. I think they make a great product, but until they get the sizing bullshit settled I'm sticking with Maxxis. As far as I can tell, they're at least consistently undersized.
  • + 4
 Da fuq WTB! Trailboss 2.25/Vigilante 2.3 has been my go to for a few years now. Not everyone needs 2.4/2.6 tires. This shit keeps up and we'll all be riding plus size tires soon whether we like it or not. Lame!
  • + 2
 What about their Asym rims? Considering I don't have boost spacing I liked the idea of the offset spoke holes to even out the spoke bracing and tension. Have they dropped this idea now that everyone but me is on boost maybe? It looks like those didn't have much interest or success from what I see here.
  • + 1
 My current ht came with wtb asym rims. The rear developed cracks on every 2nd spoke hole. I guess they weren't drilled at an angle to match the orientation of the spokes. Switched to symmetrical DT Swiss rims and been fine since. Couldn't tell if there was any advantage from the offset rims anyway.
  • + 2
 @justwan-naride: Thanks for your reply. Sorry you had an issue with the rim. Asymmetrical rims seem like a good idea to me. As you said maybe the finishing was not great on those. We'll see if the concept sticks around I guess.
  • + 1
 Vigilante fast rolling/tough is my 4 seasons rear tire in 29“. For how tough the side walls are, it is fairly light, 100g lighter than sg or dd and extremely stable.
A bit disappointed about the new triple compound, I thought those were not in fashion anymore. Never liked triple, esp. in the rear. I really like dual compound 50/60 shore as a rear tire and some softer single or dual compound in the front.
  • + 1
 Really like the design of the judge tires. but why on earth are the shoulders on the sideknobs on the backside? even though it's just a small "L" shape.
Bontragers old G4 tires once were designed the same weird way. it didn't help breaking nor cornering.
with the new release bontrager turned those sideknobs around.

other than that, i'd love to test one of those wtb rubbers.
  • + 1
 I've tried all 3 versions of the Trailboss 27.5/2.25 so far. The cheap wired one was given to me for free. it was ok, but heavy and the rubber felt too hard slippery.

The Light/fast rolling version came stock on the front of my bike. It was terrible, moved it to the rear where it was an excellent allrounder. On the heavy side for a "light" version though and the sidewalls were paper thin. Eventually got slashed by a rock.

The volume and tread pattern work for me though, so I'm currently on the Tough/fast rolling version. My favourite rear so far. It's heavy at 1050gr, but the sidewalls are pretty beefed up and it has nice riding qualities. The rear wheel feels more planted, so much that i keep stopping to check for flats. Tubeless inflation was so easy, sealed without sealant with a track pump. All of the above had identical casing sizes,pretty fat for a 2.25 and way more volume than a 2.3 Maxxis.

Happy to see they increased sideknob size though, the previous version didn't fair so well on off camber sections.

WTB please bring back the 2.25!
  • + 1
 That Judge tire is a Minion DHRII knock-off if I ever saw one... Though, maybe I'm being totally unfair and it really is just that there is a certain profile that's the optimum and all tires have to mimic it if they want to achieve the best possible performance.
  • + 0
 So is Bontrager G5 and it is fkng awesome... and cheaper than Maxxis.
  • + 1
 more like a Conti De Kasier
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Not really, they put the side knobs on backwards.
Kinda like what Bontrager did with the G4 which was their first attempt at cloning the DHF. They eventually got it right with the G5 but it took them a few years.
  • + 1
 @aerius30: G4 is just as good as DHF and G5 is just as good as DHR2. Time and time again te sparse square knob design proves itself to be the winner. Same with most tyres from Bontrager. ATM Maxxis is slowly incorporating it into their XC tyres as well but they are still behind Bonty in that department IMHO. The breaking off feel of XR2 is beyond any understanding, how a semi slick can deliver so much traction. If Schwalbe tweaked Magic Mary to have meatier side knobs with bigger base and slightly smaller center knobs, it would be great as well. But for now while it shines in wet and soft, it is too squirmy on hardpack.
  • + 1
 Mostly e13 tsr. Just the sipes on side knobs is not angled
  • + 1
 You gotta remember that cominf up with a new original tire design that works really well is kind of difficult. Even for the brightest minds.
  • + 4
 Am I going to be the first to say: 2019!??!? Why even bother with model years at this point?
  • + 4
 agreed. My 2019bike has all 2020 parts on it.
  • + 1
 Have you never shopped for a car?
  • + 1
 Yup! WTB tires are heavier! When trying the old trail boss 27.5 x 3.0 TCS fast rolling I was thoroughly UNIMPRESSED.

I gave the new tires a second go after being pursuaded by my LBS.. I was blown away! I’m not wanting to smash any strava uphill records if I’m running these... If I’m running tires like these I want reliability, durability and by god the tires better grip to any mud covered slippery roots or rocks when I’m in the backcountry.

I want to go down as fast and preferably stay on the bike and I don’t want to shred the tires..

I’ve switched from Maxxis after the WTB tire revamp and never looked back.
  • + 1
 I run the Vigilante and Trailboss TCS tough versions on my DH bikes (sender, furious and now a demo) and they hold up well in the summer. Dusty tracks they are great. Rocks too. I get such weird looks. They are fast.
  • + 4
 Yeee! Silver mtn is tight !
  • + 2
 I hope they still do the old 2.3 vigilante as it’s almost a perfect rear tyre and quite big for a 2.3. A 2.6 would be way to big for the rear.
  • + 1
 Despite what the press release says, the Vigi will still be available in 2.3. It’s just the new Tri-Tec versions which are only in 2.5 and 2.6.
  • + 1
 @andymac83: Good to know
  • + 5
 WTB tires are legit
  • + 2
 Tested 120 TPI but production versions are only going to be available in 60TPI...
  • + 2
 Exactly.. This test is useless. I don't care how good a 120tpi prototype is, how does the 60tpi production tire work? You know, test the tires that they actually sell..
  • + 1
 I just dented a Frequency Rim, I wonder if the KOM tough is basically just that with a new sticker? I've had a KOM on the front for ages and it's been great
  • + 3
 Good company, Good tires, but Heavy.....
  • + 1
 Trail Boss 2.25 rear, 2.4 front is the best setup I’ve ever ridden. They’re just too damn tight on rims.
  • + 1
 Love WTB Tyres. My Vigilante/Trail boss combo is amazing, if they made them even better that's amazing
  • + 2
 Except for where its loose
  • + 1
 My goto brand. Poor UK availability currently, at the price I paid last year anyway.

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