Mr. Wolf first started appearing on my facebook feed a few weeks ago, a strange Stig-like man in a fake tux and a Tesla. At the Bike Festival Riva, the Banger was shown to the public for the first time. "Isn't that just a foam tube? Motocross riders have had those for years."
It is, and it isn't, and at €249 for a pair, they had better be more than a pool noodle from the local baths.
First impressions at the show were interesting, and it did feel
like it could do a good job, it's squishy to the touch but soft and almost malleable with controlled rebound. Mr. Wolf wouldn't tell us any more than this: It's a high-end, dual-compound polymer, and they have spent over five years researching and testing to find the perfect material and manufacturer.
Setup Mr. Wolf Banger Details
• Dual-compound polymer 'mousse' designed to prevent punctures, rim damage and improve ride characteristics
• Weight: 330 grams (each)
• Sizes: 26" / 27.5" / 29"
• Four widths to suit tire and rim size
• MSRP: €249 (pair inc. valves and tubeless fluid)
The Banger is simple to install, adding a small amount of extra effort to fit a tire, but nothing compared to installing a ProCore system or CushCore. T-head tubeless valves are provided in the kit, to help the air pass around the foam for inflation.
The actual weight of the 27.5+ Banger was 330 grams, a horrific lump of rotational weight to consider adding to a wheel for some people. But, Mr. Wolf is determined to make a point that the Banger isn't only to protect against rim damage and punctures, but more importantly to improve ride quality, grip, safety, and speed. It's also claimed that only 20-30ml of tubeless sealant is needed per tire, I normally run at least 100ml, so that would offset some of that added weight.
Without any air, the feeling of the tire with the Banger installed is said to be around 0.7 bar / 10psi, so not enough to ride on properly, but enough to continue along the trail in case of emergency. Mr. Wolf suggests the tires should be run at 0.1 bar / 4psi less than standard tubeless to gain a similar feeling.
There will also be a mobile app available, where riders can input their wheel and tire dimensions and be informed of which size they would need. The Banger is an oil-based product, but is 100% recyclable. Following our test ride and questioning about this, Mr. Wolf got back to me this week to say they are looking into a recycling program where they can use the material to make new Banger's and even give a discount to customers who return the old ones.Ride Impressions
Mr. Wolf came to visit last week for a short test ride. I did a number of runs, on an (electric) plus-tire bike, and on a standard 27.5" bike with 2.4" tires. There is a marked difference in the feel of the bike. During the initial rides, the bike seemed to track the ground better, the tires felt calmer in the really rough stuff and it was easier to hold a line and to track corners. Even though it added damping, and I was running less pressure, it also gave the feeling of more support, making the bike more playful and giving extra pop.
The Banger does heavily damp impacts against the rim, but using a 40mm rim and 2.8" with a square profile it was still possible to hear metal pinging on rocks, a couple of times, but the frequency of this was reduced. This is also more common with a wide rim profile as the tire provides less protection for the rim.
I couldn't burp the tire despite my best efforts. Although the risk of burping is diminished, I think there is still a possibility it could occur. Mr. Wolf argued that with the weight of the rider on the tire, the Banger will push outwards and help to keep the tire locked on to the rim.
We checked all four Bangers after the test runs and they were still intact, minus a couple of slices. It seems that it would be possible to cause lots of damage to the Banger, but still maintain most of the performance.
My initial impressions after that one day of riding are positive, and I am very interested to see how they perform in the long run. Of course, there are still questions that need to be answered: Will still it be possible to burp the tires? How long will they last against the limestone of Liguria? Will the tubeless sealant be able to flow freely enough to seal tire cuts? Will it be possible to use lighter weight tires and still have the required feeling and support? Hopefully we will have production Bangers in for long-term testing soon.