Son of Hans Dampf
Schwalbe brought the Hans Dampf to market with great fanfare back in 2011. The name roughly translates to "handyman," fitting for a tire that can do a good job of finding grip in just about any situation. Its designers intended the tire to perform at the pointier end of cross-country trail riding, so they kept the weight down using a new aerated rubber compound and a slim, flexible casing. Hans Dampf was well received, but times were changing...
Schwalbe's team must not have predicted an oncoming wave of aggressive all-mountain bikes and a wholesale shift towards the gravity side of the sport. High-amplitude riding eclipsed the cornering grip of the original Hans Dampf's edging tread, and if its sidewalls did not rip, new-school shredders could, um, shred the tread into oblivion in a few rides. Schwalbe's Jack-of-all-trades was not up to to the task.
Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2019
• All-purpose, multi-terrain, trail tire
• Aggressive reinforced edging blocks
• Addix rubber compound options: Soft, medium (Speedgrip), and hard (Performance}
• New tread pattern, bi-directional
• Available in Apex, Snakeskin, and Supergravity casings
• Sizes: 29 x 2.35, 29 x 2.6, 27.5 x 2.35, 27.5 x 2.6, 27.5 x 2.8, 26 x 2.35
• Reviewed: Speedgrip EVO, 27.5 x 2.6, Apex Casing (970 grams)
• MSRP: $82 USD
• Contact: Schwalbe Tires
German designers don't give up easily. Schwalbe's team responded by developing "Addix," a series of tougher, longer-wearing and grippier rubber compounds, and then revised both the Hans Dampf's casing and its tread pattern. The result was a much more robust design that could thrive in the brutal landscape that sprung forth from today's super-capable long-travel all-mountain bikes. Fittingly, the new tire is called by the same name, but I'll refer to it here as "Hans Dampf II" for clarity. At first glance it may appear to be the same as its predecessor, but it is far from it.New Tread:
Hans Damp II departs from the original's design with a taller tread made up of sturdy rectangular blocks. Its stiff, reinforced edging tread is arranged in rows, like Schwalbe's Magic Mary, which should make the tire corner with authority. By contrast, the original Hans Dampf featured an array of small, radially-placed tread blocks, many of which were triangular, and its staggered edging blocks were quite flexible. It was designed to be a fast-rolling tire that that would break traction gently in a more controllable manner. Finally, the original's crown tread was arranged in semi-circular patterns, while Hans Dampf II's tread is lined up more conventionally. The circular theme is repeated, but the tread lies predominantly in bands across the carcass.Addix Speedgrip rubber:
I have no idea what magic is going on inside of Schwalbe's Addix rubber, but the Speedgrip compound has to be one of the longest wearing substances ever used in a performance tire. I seldom lock up a wheel, so I get a lot more wear from a tire than your typical bike park skidder, but the Hans Dampf II set a new benchmark - on par with the indomitable Maxxis Minion DHF. Addix Speedgrip is a medium-durometer compound and is designated with a blue line on the tread. An orange stripe designates the soft compound, which was developed for DH and enduro, according to the official literature. Schwalbe's more affordable Performance range of tires feature a harder compound that is designated with a gray stripe.
How Addix rubber compounds stack up. The gray compound is for the lower-priced "Performance" range.
EVO versions of the Hans Dampf II offer three casing options: Supergravity is a heavy duty DH casing with four-layer (dual-ply) sidewalls and a more flexible two-layer crown area. Snakeskin is a conventional two-layer casing with an additional layer of nylon cloth to prevent tears and punctures. Their Apex option (reviewed here) uses the Snakeskin casing, reinforced with a double thickness of tough rubber laminated to the sidewalls.Lots of options:
Customers can order the Hans Dampf II in either a 2.35 or 2.6" size for 29" wheels. If you ride 27.5" wheels, you can choose between 2.35, 2.6, or 2.8" widths, and Schwalbe offers 26" riders a single, 2.35" option. Based upon a 30mm inside-width rim, Schwalbe's casings measure within a half millimeter of their claimed sizes. My 27.5 x 2.6" samples measured 2.55" at 22 psi.Riding Impressions
Earlier this year, I reviewed the 27.5"-wheeled Diamondback Release 2, which was fitted with the original Hans Dampf design in the slightly harder Addix Performance rubber compound. I used the same bike to review the new Hans Dampf, which provided me an opportunity to make direct comparisons on the trail. Well, nearly direct; the originals were 2.35" wide, while the tires in this review are wider, 2.6" models. Without spoiling it, the new tread design retains most of the original's smooth, fast-rolling characteristics, and puts an end to the "waiting for disaster" cornering anxiety that those first Hans Dampfs instilled upon their owners at speed.
Aired up to 22 psi (R) and 20 psi (F), the casings measured 2.55", while the tread widths were right at 2.6". On the bike, the 2.6" casings look less over-sized than I expected, but meaty nonetheless. Mounting them tubeless required a reservoir pump to encourage the beads to seal, but one try was all each tire needed. Initial impressions were that the Apex casings are noticeably stiffer than the original's Snakeskin versions, but a magnitude more flexible than Schwalbe's Supergravity tires. Tire pressure becomes more critical as air volume increases, but less so as casings become stiffer. As such, Hans Dampf II tires can tolerate one or two pounds of pressure in either direction without suffering a critical change in grip.
Rounded tread profiles, like the Hans Dampf II has, transition more smoothly into turns, but the price paid for that gentle entry is that it takes a little longer for the edging blocks to bite in. The good news is that when the new tire's edging blocks meet the dirt, they actually grip the surface. Cornering on hardpack, I learned to anticipate a substantial drift while the original Hans Dampfs were searching for something to hold on to, and then I'd take a wait-and-see approach as the turn progressed. Pushed hard, the new versions enter a corner with an ever-so-slight drift as the transition blocks handoff to the edging tread, after which, the tires lock in and hold their line quite well. I'd never choose them for a dry, hard-pack tire, but they are predictable to the point where they are enjoyable to ride in those conditions.
Almost any tire feels like it can do no wrong in moist, loamy soil. If that's where you ride, you'll enjoy these tires for their predictable braking and all-situation traction. The tread also grips well on rocky slabs, root gnarls, and clears quickly and grips well in the mud too. That said, don't expect the tenacious grip of a single-purpose AM/trail tire like the Magic Mary - the Hans Dampf II falls short by about ten percent in the traction department. Its saving grace is that its rounded tread pattern and harder rubber compound roll much faster. This is the tire you'd want for a long ride on smooth, fast-running trails, interspersed with technical sections.
Few tires, however, perform well in shifting sand or gravel, and this is where the new Hans Dampf moves to the front. The tread is aggressive enough to maintain drive while climbing, and its flexible casing keeps the tire floating on the surface, where tires with stiffer DH casings would be bogging down and plowing furrows. The zone where I do much of my testing is infamous for its sandy berms, and the big Schwalbe tires aced them while maintaining excellent exit speed. Good to know if you ride desert locations.Pinkbike's Take: