Continental describes their burly Der Baron 2.4 Projekt tire as being the ''enduro baron,'' which gives you an idea of what the Germans were going for when they designed their latest offering. The Baron comes in a single 2.4'' width, and with 240 thread-per-inch (60 TPI layered four times) under the tread, 180 TPI (60 TPI layered three times) count in the sidewalls, as well as their Apex protection insert at the bead, it's clearly meant for some serious riding on equally serious terrain.
Der Baron 2.4 Projekt Details
• Intended use: all-around / soft conditions
• Size tested: 29'' x 2.4''
• 'BlackChili' compound
• 240 TPI (60 TPI x 4) under tread
• 180 TPI (60 TPI x3) sidewalls
• 'Apex' sidewall inserts
• Weight: 1,035 grams
• MSRP: $85.95 USD
All of that adds up to a portly 1,035-gram weight in the 29'' offering, so look elsewhere if you have a problem with a tire that weighs more than some cross-country bike frames do. It's also not inexpensive, at $85.95 USD but, as you'll read, grip and confidence in nasty conditions clearly don't come cheap.
Zee German's at Continental have thrown a lot of their tire technology at the Baron, including the always impressive BlackChili rubber compound that seems to be somehow as tacky as a Hallmark Christmas movie but without wearing away quick enough that you can actually see your money disappearing on the trail. Despite the name, Continental didn't actually mix chili peppers into the rubber compound, but they did infuse it with ''nanometric carbon soot particles, which are optimized in shape and surface properties for best uses for the intended tyre.'' Wissenschaft!
They're claiming that the mix makes for 26-percent less rolling resistance, a 30-percent higher friction value (grip), and a 5-percent increase in mileage, although I doubt those numbers come from comparing apples to apples. Regardless, I've found the BlackChili compound impressive in the past.
The Baron features a very open tread pattern designed to excel in soft conditions, or when things are wet and messy. When the tire was first introduced at Sea Otter, we were told that it was intended to mimic how a cut spike option performs without having to actually break out the snips. The aggressive yet open tread pattern should be able to penetrate into the ground and clear mud well, but not squirm on hard surfaces or roll like a tractor tire, two traits that a true mud tire is usually guilty of. Continental designed the Baron with this in mind, and also made sure to ramp the leading edges of the crown knobs in a search rolling speed.
As you'd expect with any tire that weighs over 1,000-grams, the Baron's casing is fairly robust. There's a 240 thread-per-inch (60 TPI layered four times) layer under the tread, and a slightly more supple 180 TPI (60 TPI layered three times) count in the sidewalls, both of which should provide a massive amount of protection against pointy rocks and possibly even gunfire. Continental also employs their Apex inserts just above the Baron's beads for some added flat protection for when you're running super low pressures, and all of the above is also tubeless-ready when combined with some sealant of your choice.
The idea of there being a 'best tire' is about as true as the Easter bunny; there's just too many different types of terrain, conditions, and riding styles, let alone when you get into what one person values over another when it comes to wear rate, rolling speed, weight, and other things you may or may not care about. One man's tire choice is another's worst nightmare, but I suspect that anyone who uses a set of Der Baron 2.4 Projekt tires in mucky conditions will find themselves to be upright and in more control than they expected. In short, this tire is unreal in wet, or even just soft, settings.
They throw sticky mud off of themselves like a wet dog shaking off water, as you'd expect given their very open lug layout, and they're just as surefooted in slick conditions as Schwalbe's Magic Mary that everyone and their cousin seems to love. But where the big Continental has an advantage over the Mary is when it's not just mud and soft dirt that you have to contend with, but also when the trail is covered in wet roots. I've been somewhat let down by the Mary's performance on slick roots, obstacles that it seems to prefer to skitter over if you don't exercise extreme caution. The Baron, on the other hand, offers more grip and control through sections that have more wood than dirt.
This won't be an issue if your trails don't have loads of roots on them, but those who are lucky enough to be constantly tested by Mother Nature's tentacles will likely be big fans of the Baron. What you might not be a fan of, however, is their rolling speed, which feels to be, despite what I've read elsewhere, about on par with what you'd expect from such an aggressive design. They're heavy, which also doesn't help matters, and the open tread pattern means that they like to make you work for your momentum. That said, this is really only noticeable when on hard packed ground or when it's dry out.
Despite their slow rolling feel on dry or hard ground, they're also very impressive when it hasn't been raining for days on end. I ran them between 17 and 23 PSI, tubeless, of course, and felt zero weird knob squirm or odd casing flex, and they're surprisingly great all-around'ers when you consider how mind-blowingly awesome they perform in the mud.
Most riders don't even change their tire pressure for the given conditions, let alone swap tires out, which makes it difficult to ever recommend a true mud tire to the average person, but the Baron acts like a proper mud option when needed but without getting sketchy and weird when it's dry.
I can't recall a single moment when the Barons let me down in the cornering department, with a consistent edge feel to them that doesn't have that on/off sensation that can lead to some scary moments. Predictable and stable - what more could you ask for? Certainly not increased braking traction, as the Barons do drop anchor well. I also suffered exactly zero flats while using them, and they're showing little signs of wear. Pinkbike’s Take:
|As great as they are, their 1,035-gram weight and slow-ish rolling speed will make them a definite no-go for some riders, especially those who don't need such a burly or mud-capable tire. But, for a guy like me who lives in the Pacific Northwest and has to deal with mucky trails on probably half of my rides, the 29'' x 2.4'' Baron is hard to beat. - Mike Levy|
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