Continental Trail King 29: First Impressions- by Grannygear
Nothing makes as much difference to how your bike performs as your tires. They are the ultimate point of contact. Between you and the dirt, those rolling hoops of rubber are what keep you driving forward, braking, and turning. I have used a few Continental tires in the past and still do. For an XC bike, the combo of a Race King rear and an X King front is quite good, but they are a bit less than you would want for a bigger trail bike. Enter the Trail King. Available in all three wheel sizes and in 2.4″ or 2.2″ versions, the Continental Trail King comes in several casing types. We have the Protection version with the Black Chili rubber and the tubeless ready bead in a 2.2″ size.
On the scale of truth and justice, the tire samples were right where Conti said they would be and a little less at just under 800g each. That is an OK weight for a trail bike tire if the size is really 2.2″. Conti has been known to, ah, shall we say…overstate the size of a tire but these were dead on 2.2″ wide and on the Wide Lightning wheels they are 2.3″ wide. Excellent.
The tread pattern is interesting with smallish knobs but plenty of them. The knobs are very siped too, and I expect all those cuts in the tread to allow for a lot of working edges and resulting traction. We shall see. The tire compound feels pretty soft using the calibrated thumbnail test. I mounted them tubeless on a couple sets of rims and at first I was having fits getting them to seat. It sucked. But once I did get them to set that bead, rode them a few days, and then swapped them to another set of rims, they seated with a floor pump. Huh. The casing on the Conti Protection tires is quite stiff and the pre-folded for packaging tires did not want to sit well on the rims right away. I bet if I had set them out flat in the sun for a bit or pre-mounted them with a tube overnight it would have less of a struggle to get them tubeless. In fact, I had three tires for the review and just for fun I took the new one and set it out on the lawn in the sun for a few hours, then mounted it with minimal fuss and one good push of air from a compressor. Lesson learned.
Once they were set and on there, I had no sidewall seepage of sealant at all from the tire, something that other Conti tires had not been so great at. Very nice. They had a pretty good shape, slightly peaked with the sidewalls wider than the tread, especially on the wide American Classic wheels.
Out in the street, and at around 30psi and mounted on the long term test mule Scott Genius 910 130mm full suspension rig, they rolled like ghosts. Really, this is a quiet, smoothie of a tire for a 2.2 with decent knobs. Not only is it quiet, it is cat-like supple on the dirt. I have felt this on all the high end Conti tires I have ridden and these Trail Kings are the best yet. After being on them for a bit, other tires can feel harsh. I am not sure if it is casing design or the rubber compound, but it is very noticeable. It is like you are jogging down a trail with socks pulled over your running shoes. The other thing I noticed on the street is a ‘grriiipppp’ sound when pedaling hard or turning. It seems like the smaller, siped knobs are distorting a bit. As you might expect, on the dirt this is not felt or heard.
On trail they have a unique feel to them. Traction is high and they feel very hooked up under climbing or braking. Turning is great although on very hard surfaces, they can feel a bit odd, especially when crossing small ruts at an angle. I think it is the tread squirming just a bit as the knobs distort. Once I had the rear tire slip down an off camber slope on hard baked dirt as the side tread let the tire crawl away. I dropped pressures to around the mid-twenties and I actually like the tire better at that psi level.
On a recent ride in hero dirt, where we had a bit of rain, they were fabulous, really. I bet these would be killer in mulchy, loamy soils, not that I have that around here. More riding to come as I tune into these tires a bit more, but I am already spoiled by the supple ride and the overall feel. As long as I can trust them on hardback, I will be riding and smiling this summer.
Continental sent the Trail King Tires to Twenty Nine Inches at no charge for test and review. We are not being bribed, nor paid for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.