We put two of WTB‘s latest treads to the test, from the fast and furious Bee Line to the heavyweight Vigilante.
WTB Bee Line 27.5×2.2
by Karl Rosengarth
Intended to fill a light-weight, fast-rolling niche in the 27.5 market, the Bee Line 2.2 is aimed at applications ranging from XC racing to all-mountain riding on cleaner tracks. The low, evenly-spaced tread (with slight ramping on the center knobs) is designed for dry hardpack conditions. Soft and/or muddy conditions—not so much.
Thanks to WTB’s Tubeless Compatible System, the tires installed effortlessly on WTB Frequency i23 Team rims, with a dose of Stan’s NoTubes sealant. Once inflated, I noted a rounded profile, and a higher volume (i.e., taller) than I had expected for a 2.2 tire. The scale reported a respectable 676 grams.
On the trail, the Bee Lines felt fast and provided ample grip in dry conditions. They accelerated quickly, but deceleration was a challenge. I found myself exceeding their traction limit under hard braking. Coming off beefier treads, I had to recalibrate my braking to avoid marking my passing with a dreaded skid mark.
My biggest surprise was a pleasant one, however. I’m so used to smaller-block treads drifting through corners, that I was shocked by how well these tires held their line. Lateral grip was impressive when leaned over and pushed hard in the turns.
As advertised, these tires don’t like muddy/soft conditions. They lacked traction, and the tiny tread packed up quickly. On the other hand, I was pleased with their grip on wet rocks and roots (around here, those slimy suckers infest otherwise dry trails, just from the humidity in the air).
All in all, the Bee Line is a fast rolling tire that inspires confidence on dry, firm trails.
WTB Vigilante 29×2.3
By Adam Newman
You can say what you will about pro-level enduro racing, but it sure is pushing some amazing products to market. Case in point is the new Vigilante tread from WTB, designed and bred for the rigors of team rider Mark Weir’s Euro-crushing descents.
WTB’s tread patterns have long favored V-shapes and angular patterns, but no more. The Vigilante has good-old-fashioned square knobs, with lots of space for them to do their thing. That’s not to say it’s a simple tread, the siping allow for a bit of wiggle and the cornering knobs are angled to compensate for direction changes. As you would expect these days, they’re available in all three wheel sizes too.
The last WTB tires I tried didn’t quite measure up to their claimed size, but the 29×2.3 Vigilantes ($70) are large and in charge. I installed them on the Diamondback Sortie 29 I’ve been riding and it was time to get in the fast lane, grandma. Never has a tire swap so dramatically changed the personality of a bike for me (at least in a good way). In dry corners you can lean them over and I SWEAR you can hear them tear through turns with the most spine-tingling riiiiiiiip sound. The dual density rubber likely has a lot to do with it: a 50a durometer layer that sticks like glue covers a 60a durometer base.
Keeping me in my trail-zen mode is Inner Peace. No, I’m not talking kumbaya, I’m talking about WTB’s all-mountain reinforced casing. Inner Peace is a teardrop shaped strip of rubber integrated into the tire sidewall that protects the casing from damage, reduces sidewall flex and dramatically reduces pinch flats. It’s only available on WTB’s AM TCS series tires.
Sure you’re sacrificing a bit of rolling resistance, but I gare-yun-tee I am faster with these than any slimmed down XC tire. And hell, if I’m not, at least I’m having more fun.