nic cut 1This review was supposed to happen ages ago and then the dock strike in LA happened, holding up cargo for ages with container ships bobbing about the sea like little corks, all stuffed with…well…stuff!  And it was stuff we could not have and that included bike tires.  So we waited until supply caught up with demand and then we suffered through an ugly summer that began in March; one hot, dry, and brown year.  So most of the time I was on either my road bike or my gravel bike so I could get some kind of a breeze going and avoid the blasted-out and dusty trails of So Cal’s summer.

But finally it was time to get back to MTB rides again and with a couple of wheelsets to review, I grabbed the much revised Schwalbe Nobby Nics and mounted them up.  I have had them on for a good many rides in summer conditions now and I can say without any hesitation that these are not your father’s Nobby Nics, if you will.  First though, some details.

Nobby Nic is Schwalbe‘s tire with the widest range of applications. Tour and All Mountain riders love them. Suitable for fast XC races and technical Enduro competitions. Schwalbe now presents the third generation of Nobby Nic.

The new Nobby Nic is Tubeless Easy. It comes with a new monofilament SnakeSkin fabric on the sidewall. Therefore the tire is even better protected against sidewall cuts, but most of all it makes tubeless conversion extremely easy.

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The tread design has been completely revised. It is now even more versatile and is the complete tire for all conditions. To achieve this Markus Hachmeyer, Schwalbe’s chief R&D engineer, optimized every single block on the tire. Size, shape, surface, position. Every detail has an influence on the riding performance of the tire.

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The vision was to make a perfect “do-everything“ tire. Markus Hachmeyer describes it like this:

“It‘s not the fastest Cross-Country tire, not the toughest Enduro tire and also not the most grippy mud tire, but if you are looking for a tire that works in every situation, a tire that is never the wrong one, when it doesn’t matter what the weather is like, and no matter what kind of terrain is awaiting you, there is no better choice than the new Nobby Nic”.

Markus Hachmeyer, Schwalbe’s chief R&D engineer.

The versions I have are the full-boat, Evo (Evolution…the upper end tire line from Schwalbe), TLE (Tubeless Easy), and Pacestar 3 way tread compound build with a slightly harder overall rubber durometer(s) compared to the Trailstar blend tires.  They are the 2.35″ 29er tires and I weighed them at 747g and 744g per tire.  I do not have figures for the older version of the Nobby Nics but it is assumed by me as well as called out by Schwalbe that these new versions are a bit heavier. However the gain seems to be due to the inclusion of the Snakeskin sidewall which I will get to later on.  The MSRP is $93.56.

The tread design is quite a bit different as well.  I do not have an older version around to compare, but the new tire has more side knob support as well as a staggered row of knobs in that transition zone when going from straight up to leaned over.  The knobs are siped in a simple manner and the center row has some pretty good open areas where it alternates from two knobs to one.  At first glance it did not strike me as a fast rolling tire for smooth surfaces, but it sure looked like it would hook up.

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I mounted them on a set of American Classic Carbonator 29 Tubeless wheels which are a 33mm outer and 26mm inner width.  So those are decently wide but not ‘way’ wide rims.  I set them up tubeless and that was a first rate experience, mounting well and catching and inflating with a floor pump.  There was not one hint of sidewall seepage and they have held air exceptionally well, requiring a little tending with a pump now and again.  I began at 22PSI F/R as a starting point and I am down to 15PSI now, which is just a bit sploshy.  18-19PSI is about where I would call it done as a bottom limit for my 190lbs and trail conditions. It is amazing what wider rims and tubeless tires have done for that metric.  They measure just over 2.35″, almost being a full 2.4″ wide on the AC Carbonator rims.

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For a while there, it seemed like a lot of test bikes were coming through shod with the older version Nobby Nics on them.  I can see why as they rolled fast, were light for a 2.35″ full knobbied tire, and they went tubeless pretty well.  But I really did not like them much and often would swap to a different tire to finish the review.  Why?  Due to the cornering which generally, and on hard surfaces specifically, was pretty awful.  Whether it was the tread design or the compound or the lettering on the sidewall hot patch, I am not certain, but they were just spooky when leaned over on hard, scrabbly dirt.  And they were a bit fragile for something often sold on a trailbike, with sidewalls that would not stand for much of a spanking before giving up.  But they were light.

These new Nobby Nics are like a completely different tire, with a casing change, revised tread pattern and so on.  First of all, the lack of seepage when sealing them up tubeless is very nice and that new sidewall is to thank for that.  Secondly, and this is just seat of the pants here, I think they roll slower on pavement than the old ones.  Just a feeling.  But.  Get them in the dirt and all Hell can break loose and the Nobby Nics will just dish Hell back.  The grip is very good and cornering on hard, crappy, sandy, bombed-out trails is very secure.  Point and go.  They will hold the line.  I will have to take the word of Schwalbe about this being a tougher sidewall with the Snakeskin happening, but I never hurt them.

My Gold Standard for a So Cal front tire on a trail bike is a Specialized Purgatory 2.3.  The newer ones are fast rolling and are super solid on hardpack, weighing a bit more than the new Nics.  I typically run a Ground Control 2.3 rear in combo which gives me a faster rolling, slightly lighter rear tire and allows me to finesse the rear brake a bit, sliding with some hip ‘english’, something that a Purg or Nobby Nic on the rear makes a bit more difficult.  Another tire in this league is the WTB Trail Boss, but it is heavier still or a Vigilante for even more grip.

IMG_3483So if I were to compare the new Nobby Nic to the Purgatory, my go-to front tire for a more aggressive 29er experience, I would give the ribbon to the Purg for rolling speed…it just feels smoother and faster…and I would declare a tie for tubeless use and overall trail ability for my dry and harsh conditions.  The Nics get top podium spot for weight, being a bit lighter, and I might venture a guess that they might be a tougher sidewall too since the typical 2Bliss Specialized casing is only mediocre in that regard.  Then again, the Big S wins the prize for cost…$55.00 a tire vs. the nearly $100.00 for the Nobby Nic.

If I were to run these full time, say like on my Camber with the 120mm fork, I would keep the Nobby Nic on front and go to something a bit faster rear-wise.  If I were on an even more aggressive bike, say longer travel, or the soils were very loose or deeper/rockier, than F/R would be great.

I have not even come close to wet dirt with these, so that is an unknown to me, but I never live for mud tires anyway.  The Nobby Nics went from a tire I never trusted to one I would run without any hesitation and that is saying something!  They are worth a good looking-at if you are in need of a new set of shoes for your trail bike 29er.

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Note: Schwalbe sent over this product at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.