BIKERUMOR REVIEW: We received a set of Continental’s Race King tires shortly after Sea Otter, just in time to get a couple of rides in before racing the BURN 24 Hour Challenge this past May. Our official review set was the 26 x 2.0 Protection, but one of our testers also purchased the 2.2 Supersonics, so his comments are included in this review.
The key difference between the two models tested are that the Protection casing has a thicker casing to help prevent punctures and uses their standard rubber whereas the Supersonics do away with the additional casing protection and use Conti’s grippier Black Chili rubber compound. Claimed weight difference is about 50g.
We’ve run these tires for seven months, and both of us were very, very impressed with the grip in a wide range of conditions, and they live up to their claims when it comes to speed. So, are these tires right for you? Was there anything we didn’t like? Read on for the full review of the Continental Race King mountain bike tires…
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
What you see is what you get. There are the customary “warnings” about proper mounting and such printed on the inside of the cardboard case. Other info is sparse; they direct you to the website for more info. Actually, from a marketing standpoint, their packaging should list more of the technology and features of the tires to help convert customers while they’re in the bike shops.
Continental lists the weights for these tires as:
- Supersonic: 430g (2.0) and 480g (2.2) – MSRP $59.95
- Protection: 480g (2.0) and 570 (2.2) – MSRP $59.95
- UST Tubeless: 650g (2.0) and 700g (2.2) – MSRP $64.95
- Standard Folding: 480g (2.0) and 570g (2.2) – MSRP $44.95
- Standard Wire: 560g (2.0) and 650g (2.2) – MSRP $29.95
- 29er: 650g (2.2 only) – MSRP $44.95
We didn’t weigh the Supersonics, but the Protection 2.0 tires came in a good bit heavier than claimed. Now, 515g and 535g per tire (all tires from all manufacturers will vary from tire to tire, so we weighed both) isn’t exactly heavy, but it’s 35g to 55g heavier than claimed, which is a pretty big percentage.
The Race Kings features Continental’s DuraSkin, which is that reddish thread pattern on the sidewall. It’s a polyamide fabric that protects the 180 TPI casing from cuts, punctures and abrasion while only adding about 10g to the tire. It works well, and it looks cool, too.
Installation is straightforward, and they fit onto the rims easily enough. During our review period, we rode them on three different sets of wheels: King/Mavic, Sun/Ringle Black Flags and Ellsworth XC. Only on the extremely narrow Black Flags was there some slight difficulty stretching the bead over the rim, but it was minor (and it’s worth noting that 2010 Black Flags all have much, much wider rims than what we rode).
HOW DO THEY RIDE?
We rode the Race Kings throughout the Spring, Summer and very early Fall, over roots, rocks, clay and leaves. We rode them through dry heat, cold morning dew, pouring rain and wet trails during both day and night. Other than slick mud, these tires performed beyond expectations on every ride. In particular, they hooked up surprisingly well on slick roots. If you’ve ever done a 24 hour race, you know that any roots on the trail become doubly slick as thousands of tires rub across their surface as fog and dew settle on them throughout the night. By morning, they’re usually slick as snot, and while you tend to compensate to decrease the likelihood of slipping, there are times (especially at night) when you hit it at the wrong angle or apply some pedal power at the wrong instance. Despite this, neither version of the Race King’s ever slid out uncontrollably.
The post-ride wetness pictured above after a four-hour ride in which we were caught in two surprise downpours. The trail was pretty firm, but at points there was a consistent 1″ to 2″ of running water over the trail and rocks, but even at speed the Race Kings kept the bike going where it was pointed.
On a more recent ride (picture above), we were riding over a heavy dose of fallen leaves, which tend to make you slide out. They also tend to hide rocks and roots, which can attack your sidewalls. Despite the thick ground cover and the low profile tread, the Race King’s kept our bikes on track with remarkable precision. In fact, Evan and I commented more than once how surprised we were that we weren’t sliding out more often.
This are the Protection tires, and after seven months of riding, there’s little discernible treadwear. They’re not as pretty, but pretty don’t win races. The sidewalls are in very good shape, too.
TYLER – Race King Protection 2.0: I’ve got nothing bad to say about the Race Kings. They’re light, fast and grip well. I requested the 2.0 size because I’m a weight weenie and at first wished I had gone with the 2.2. But after four or five rides, the narrower size proved it had plenty of traction under my 6’2″ 178lb frame. Conti recommends running 50psi (max 65 psi) in their non-UST models, but I ran 35 to 38psi (and probably on occasion was running it lower than that) and didn’t flat a single time in seven months! For my size and weight and the speed at which I ride, that’s saying something…especially with all the roots and rocks.
The only time I had trouble getting traction was in really wet mud, but that’s to be expected for a low-profile race tire, so it’s not fair to fault the tire for it. On the narrower rim, there were a few times I was still wishing I had the 2.2 width, but once I put them on the Ellsworth wheels with the wider rims, I haven’t thought about it since.
As far as durability goes, there’s very little apparent treadwear, and other than being dirty, the sidewalls look like new.
EVAN – Race King Supersonic 2.2: They are light and roll, well, like a king. I pushed these tires to what I thought their corning limits should be, thinking that I was going to have a wash with the pace I was carrying. Answer: no! I was amazed. These tires have great grip and I love how easily they roll in and out of a turn. They track like magnets on sheet metal.
The tread has held up well, and the sidewalls still look fine, too.
The Supersonics are very thin walled and are pretty susceptible to pinch flats. I did get one and upped my pressure from 34-35psi to 38psi. That seemed to solve the problem. I didn’t have punctures during the test period.
As you can probably guess by now, we love the Continental Race Kings. If you’re looking for a fast, light tire for XC riding and racing that’ll work well for the occasional wet ride and last for a long time, here’s your tire. We give it a full Five Thumbs Up!