Editor’s Note: Grannygear has been piloting his bike around SoCal with the Continental X King tire on-board. (The first post on these tires can be found here.) This is Continental’s latest 29″er tire offering. How did it do for him? Read on…
Continental X King 29″er Tires: Final Review: by Grannygear
I have been rolling on some X Kings for a couple of months now, both on the single speed and on the Epic as well. In both cases I have been running them as a front tire only and I think it is time to sum it all up.
First, I had them on front only just because I paired them with a 2.2 Race King rear on both bikes. I did have it front/rear at first, but I was pretty convinced that the X King would play very well with the faster rolling Race King rear and it did. I really liked that combo, but if I was looking for rear wheel traction in looser, steeper soil conditions, then an X King front/rear would be just fine. I am a fan of the Race King as a rear tire anyway, so I knew what to expect from it. So, all comments here will be referring to front tire use only.
When I first began on the X Kings, we were full on in spring and things were pretty soggy. Mud here is pretty much unrideable as the clay content makes for clogged frames and broken parts very soon, but there were some wet rides in stream bed areas and sandy, saturated soils. I found them to clear well (although it was not that sticky to begin with) and the tire seemed to pierce into the trail nicely.
As things progressed to dryer and tackier, the X Kings just ruled, turning with no bad habits or odd quirks. I did a long and challenging single speed ride on the X King on single track with very sketchy and tricky surfaces consisting of acorns, oak leaves, pine needles, and off camber corners of de-composed granite. It allowed me to be precise, controlled and to tread lightly.
As things continue to dry out, the sand gets deeper and the loose rubble becomes a common covering over the hard packed clay. Here is where the X King began to lose a bit of its composure. The smaller knobs and relatively narrow casing did not quite make me feel bulletproof, especially compared to something like the Specialized Purgatory, with its blockier knob design. On heavier rubble overburden, it just seemed a bit overwhelmed, but this is not advertised as an All Mountain tire.
I really only had one issue during the use of the tire. I had it tubeless on two kinds of rims: A Stan’s Flow on the single speed and a Roval rim on the Specialized Epic. Mounting them took an air compressor to get them to set, but that is typical of the non-tubeless rated casings on the Conti 29″er tires. They take a couple of days to seal up the sidewalls, but they eventually do become air-fast for the most part. However, I had one blow off the front rim of the Roval as I was on a downhill crossing a rut with the front brake on, ruining the casing of the tire in the process. It was the typical side loading of the tire scenario that might cause a ‘burp’, etc, but at 30psi and the moderate speed I was traveling, it should not have happened. The fit on the Rovals is loose when you compare it to the newer tires we are seeing with the UST type beads and Tubeless Ready ratings. In time Conti will be offering the better casings that the 26” versions have and that will be welcome. In the meantime, I ran tubes in the Roval-X King-Race King combo from then on. However, I kept the Stan’s-X King-Race King combo tubeless as the tighter fit of the Stans rim design makes for a more secure bead interface.
Overall I think the X King is a really good tire in harder conditions, forest-type trails, and looser soils as long as they are not too chunky or sandy. It is not a very big casing size, so although it is the same width as a 2.2” Race King, it gets there with the knob height where the Race King does it with casing size. Note that if you are looking for maximum air volume on a rigid bike, etc, perhaps upgrade to the 2.4” version. It does not seem to have any bad habits or eccentricities, demanding that you steer a certain way, etc. It rolls well, steers neutrally, and pretty much does its job, allowing you to focus on the ride at hand.
I have a lot of tires to test right now so the X King may get bumped onto the shelf, but unless something really grabs my attention, it will likely stay on the single speed and the Stans Flow combo through the summer.
Note: Continental Tires submitted these tires to Twenty Nine Inches for test/review at no charge. We are not being paid, nor bribed for this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.