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.
About the Tires: Same name, new tires:
WTB Trail Boss
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
: 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
About KOM Rims
How the casings and compounds stack up for WTB's new tires.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.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.