Tired of slipping and sliding on your mid-summer dust? WTB's hyper-aggressive Verdict (left) and Judge combination will settle the score in your favor.
This review is about one of WTB's most aggressive tire combinations, but it begins with a similar tire from another brand. Schwalbe's soft and spiky Magic Mary is one of the best tires for dry conditions in Southern California. For the same reason that DH and enduro racers often resort to cut spikes for dry, off-camber courses, the Magic Mary's pointed tread blocks poke through the loose soil where the sticky rubber can find grip on the harder surface below. No surprise that it has been one of the most blacked-out racing tires in recent history. Now, the folks at WTB may have one-upped the Magic Mary with two of the most aggressive tires they have offered to date: meet their new Verdict and Judge.
I asked the folks at WTB for a tire combination that would tame the loose-over-hard pack, moon dust, and boulders that I wrestle with during the long Southern California summer. A few days later, I received a pair of tires that can only be described as "over the top," in both weight and design. The front was their 2.5-inch, front-specific Verdict in the TCS Light casing and High Grip tread compound. It weighed 1170 grams and bristled with tread blocks that could shame Monument Valley
29" or 27.5" in 2.5" casing Configurations:
TCS Tough /TCS Light casings, High Grip treadRubber:
Three-compound "Tritec" treadWeight:
1066 to 1291 grams (29" TCS Light tested @ 1170g)MSRP:
$80.95 USDMore infoWTB JudgeUse:
29" or 27.5" in 2.4" casing Configurations:
TCS Tough casing, Fast Rolling or High Grip treadRubber:
Three-compound "Tritec" treadWeight:
1281 to 1427 grams (29" Fast Rolling tested @1360g)MSRP:
$80.95 USDMore info
Next out of the box was the Judge rear-specific monster in the 2.4-inch, WTB's TCS Tough casing and Fast Rolling compound. The Judge had even larger tread blocks and weighed 1360 grams. Over the top? WTB's hyper-aggressive tires made my test bike look like a warhorse.WTB Technology
WTB's nomenclature is intentionally straightforward, but it's worth a walk-through to get an idea where the Judge and Verdict tires fall into line in their range.
Verdict: Front Tire
TCS: Simply means "tubeless compatible technology." WTB adheres to the European ETRTO tire standards for tire sizing and bead design, which means that they mount up best to rims that follow the original UST tubeless specifications.
Tritec: Three rubber compounds; a stiffer layer under-tread that supports the tread blocks, a medium-hardness for the center blocks and a sticky rubber for the edging blocks. WTB manipulates those durometers to suit specific terrain.
Slash Guard: Available on WTB's Light casings, it's a later of nylon cloth that protects the sidewalls and stiffens the casing without resorting to a double-wall DH configuration.
TCS Tough: Two-ply casing, 60 threads per inch
TCS Light: Single-ply casing, 60 Threads per inch
Fast Rolling/High Grip: Self-explanatory, softer, tackier tread compounds for maximum traction, harder, tougher rubber for faster rolling and longer wear.
WTB makes a wet and dry version of their front-specific Verdict tire. Click here
, if you want to explore the wet compound version. This show is about the other one, which is noted by WTB as an all-condition design intended for maximum grip on loose dry, loamy soil and for roots and rocks. Reportedly, the tall, widely spaced tread blocks also help to shed mud in wet conditions. That's about as clear a description of an enduro racing tire as it gets.
Our review tire used the High Grip version of the "Light" single-ply casing, which is reinforced with a nylon layer to keep air in the correct side of the tire through rock gardens. Actual weight was 1170 grams on the scale, slightly more than WTB's estimate. That's heavy for a trail tire, but squarely in the green for gravity sports.
Mounted to a WTB 29-millimeter inner-width rim, the actual dimensions of the stated 2.5-inch tire were 63 millimeters (2.475") at the casing and 76 millimeters (2.63") at the widest point of the tread. The height/diameter of the 29-inch-wheel tire was 29.55 inches when inflated to 23psi. At that pressure, the single-ply Verdict feels and acts much like a dual-ply-casing.
Mounting up the Verdict tire earned a seven out of ten score on the Marin's aluminum rims. I needed a blast from my Topeak reservoir pump to get it seated, and it took a second inflation before the Stan's Pro sealant stabilized the air pressure. (FYI: airing the same tire on a WTB i-29 rim required a similar effort.)
There's no ignoring that this tire is weighty once you get rolling - and you're going to suffer a little on long stretches of pavement, where the grippy rubber compound offers up enough rolling resistance to suggest a downshift from the gear that you'd normally be cruising in. Once you hit the dirt, however, that rolling resistance melts away, even on hard-pack surfaces. I've noticed this with similar designs, like Schwalbe Magic Mary and e*thirteen tires as well.
WTB's rounded profile and the wide spaces between the top and side blocks should result in a lag in traction as the tire is leaned into a turn. That, however, is not the case. The massive edging blocks transition smoothly and begin to dig in well before I anticipated they would. How that occurs is a mystery. Luck may be as important as science when it comes to designing a successful tire.
An unexpected advantage of that empty space is that it tends to keep most of the surfaces of the edging blocks out of the way while rolling in a straight line - at least on hardpack - which seems to reduce the tire's rolling resistance. I played with tire pressures and found the desired effect began at 23 psi and above. Hit the brake, and the tire squats down on the edging blocks, providing instant and ample stopping power.
WTB's 2.5" Verdict dwarfs a 29-inch wheel.
As promised, the Verdict grips corners insanely well. When I eased my way around a fast turn, it responded with "very good" traction - similar to a brand new Maxxis DHF. The key to getting the most from this tire, however, was to push into the apex with the cranks and pressurize the tires. Do that and the Verdict delivers the pizza with extra toppings. Similarly, the Verdict digs in to deep, sandy turns until it finds enough resistance, then it settles in for a smooth apex and exit.
Steep rutty descents and mixed soil - the fluffy, unstable mixture created by rear-wheel skidders, deposited in heaps that camouflage edgy ruts and slippery stone slabs. That's where the Verdict becomes the bacon saver. Somehow, the tire finds enough grip to replace pernicious angst with hopeful anticipation. Braking is far less sketchy and the edging tread sticks predictably to off cambers, especially well to rocks, where wiggly wet-condition tread blocks often lose grip.
Reliable grip in iffy dry conditions +
Secure feel in ruts and off-cambers+
Super tough rubber
Heavy feeling under acceleration-
Bogs down on paved surfaces
Judge: Rear Tire
The Judge is WTB's "Oh yeah?" rear-specific tire. "Our rowdiest rear tire," they state, and they don't make any excuses about its weight. It's listed at a whopping, 1427 grams in the TCS Tough, Fast Rolling version we review here, and it's clearly advertised as an enduro and downhill racing tire - you're not buying it to improve your pedaling game.
There's some interesting science built into the Judge. Its profile is flatter, which better matches the reduced lean angle of the rear wheel as the bike is set up for a turn and that gets the edging blocks digging into the earth well before the G-forces build up in the turns. That flatter profile also means it has more tread available under braking when the tail end is lighter and rounder profile tires are under-utilizing their edging tread.
The Judge is also a little narrower, which mutes some of the effects of its heavier TCS Tough, dual-ply casing, and allows WTB to move more material to the tread, where it can provide more grip. Finally, those tread blocks are wider than we usually see, and that puts more rubber in contact with hard surfaces - an essential dry-condition component to establish traction on rock slabs and hard clay.
According to WTB's recommendation, the proper rear tire for the job was the TCS Tough casing, paired with their harder compound, Fast Rolling tread. It only comes in the 2.4-inch width which, when inflated to 25 psi, actually measured 55.2 millimeters (2.175") at the casing and 60 millimeters (2.375") at the widest part of the tread, again, mounted to a WTB 29-millimeter inner-width rim. Actual weight in the 29-inch size was 1360 grams on the scale, where WTB's stated weight is well over 1400. In case you wanted to know, the height/diameter of the Judge at the stated pressure was 29.3 inches. Performance
Again, airing up the Judge required extra effort: the assistance of a compressor, for rims that mounted comparably sized Maxxis Minion WT tires with no issues and a standard floor pump. Afterward, the Judge continued to weep a small amount of sealant near the bead seats but created no problems beyond that. To its credit, I was able to mount the dual-ply casing by hand. I would discover later that the Judge is impartial to pressure as long as you stay within sensible boundaries. I chose my usual 25 psi and it was good from the get-go. (Nothing bad happened at 28 or 20 psi either.) It's a stiff, DH-strength casing with average volume that makes for a very stable tire.
True to its advertised traits, the Fast Rolling compound impeded progress much less than the softer and larger Verdict up front, and besides the feeling that I was accelerating a Mississippi Riverboat out of slow corners it maintained momentum surprisingly well - probably because the larger row of medium-durometer center blocks act as a sort of ridge when the tire is rolling straight and level.
Should you be worried about the weight? I don't use inserts and rarely resort to DH-strength tires for my trail bike, so all that rotating mass is foreign to me. Trail riders who do, or big bike owners, should find the Judge to be on par with, or a faster rolling alternative to the most popular gravity tires of the moment.
You'll appreciate how well the Judge performs under braking. That nearly flat tread pattern drives a lot of
WTB's 2.4" Judge has a distinctly flatter tread profile and beefier crown blocks than the Verdict.
rubber deep into the soil, so if there's traction to be found, the Judge will latch onto it. When most of your descents are loose over hardpack, that extra bite, however small it may be, offers up a significant measure of control.
Rear tires that perform well under braking usually deliver the goods on tricky climbs. WTB's judge claws up steep chutes like a brute. The flat profile acts like a paddle wheel in loose soil, and when those chunky blocks catch hold of anything hard, the bike ratchets forward in a series of short accelerations. I found the most useful aspect of the Judge was its near-seamless transition from soil to rock or wood. No need for
subtle weight shifts, just find a sweet spot, keep pedaling and let the Judge sort out the traction. There's no hiding its weight, however, and unless you're race-fit, the novelty wears thin in a minute's time - begging the question, "When will WTB make this tire in a lighter version?"
Saving the best for last, the Judge is the first WTB tire that I have ridden worry-free in the corners. With rare exceptions, WTB's aggressive trail tires stick like glue - until they don't. They do have a predictable release, which showcases riders with drifting skills. Look no further than WTB test rider Mark Weir, one of the world's most adept drift-meisters.
The Judge breaks that longstanding tradition with a
stalwart row of edging blocks, carefully siped to add some sensitivity, and a flat tread profile that sets those knobs into the soil well before you arrive at the apex of the turns. I never blew out of a corner. There were times when I missed the entrance completely and still carved a decent line through the woods. I could blast deep, sandy berms and somehow carry speed through the exit. There was enough control to plant the rear wheel in a rut, and enough grip to hack out of one on command. I expect this level of confidence from a dedicated race tire. The fact that WTB makes it is the pleasant surprise.
Ultra dependable dry-condition grip +
Corners like a boss+
Long wearing rubber