When it comes to tires, I’m lucky enough to have a lot of options along with an extra pair of wheels that allows me to have different setups ready to go at a moments notice. This allows me to run tires with very specific characteristics that are able to be swapped out at a moments notice. While ideal, this set up is certainly not realistic for most riders who tend to run only one, or possibly two sets of tires the entire year.
That leaves most riders searching for a solid all purpose tire, one that doesn’t suck in any one condition, but rather excels in most if not without a few sacrifices. Recently, Schwalbe introduced some changes into their tire line up including the new Triple Star Evolution casings, and more importantly to me, a tubeless-ready bead. These additions coupled with the proven all around tread pattern of the Nobby Nic could add up to one of the best all purpose tires out there on paper.
How do the new Nobby Nics stack up in the real world?
More on that, after the break!
Previously, Schwalbe only offered two rubber compound options, Triple Nano and Gooey Gluey. As mountain biking branches off into more and more sub categories, Schwalbe felt the need to increase their compound offerings to better suit the wider range of needs. What emerged were 6 distinct rubber compounds that ranged from hard, long wearing rubber with fast rebound, to soft, faster wearing rubber with slower rebound. The three new rubber designations, PaceStar, TrailStar, and VertStar, all feature a unique combination of three out of the 6 rubber compounds based on use:
PaceStar – for MTB Race, All Mountain and Tour. Super-fast with a combination of low rolling resistance and durability. The tire shoulders were made appreciably softer to improve handling on rough terrain.
TrailStar – for Enduro and Freeride. Triple Nano compound was unsuitable performance-wise and the rolling resistance of Gooey Gluey was too high. TrailStar has substantially more grip, better damping and handling control. Nevertheless, the compound is not overly heavy, making it suitable for climbing too.
VertStar – for Downhill and Freeride. It is a further development of the Gooey Gluey compound, but now even softer with extremely good damping properties.
For the duration of the review, I was aboard the Nobby Nics which are in the PaceStar category. The front of my bike was equipped with a 2.35 Nic without Snakeskin sidewall protection, while out back I was running a 2.25 Nic with Snakeskin. Snakeskin is basically a reinforced sidewall, which I am all to happy to run on the rear to prevent sidewall cuts and abrasions. The front tire without Snakeskin is scary thin, though after a few rides through some rocky trails I never had an issue.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t interested in the weight of the Schwalbes. I typically run wider tires than most XC riders in the area because I like the increased traction in sketchy sections, but I don’t want to sacrifice weight to get it. With a claimed weight of under 600g for both tires, I was excited, especially since they are quite voluminous.
After actually getting the tires on the scale, the weights are above the claimed, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. I initially weighed them straight out of the box, and I’m nearly certain that both tires were quite a bit lighter. Unfortunately, through a computer error, I no longer have the pictures of the initial weigh in. These shots are weighing the tires after they have been run tubeless for months with Stan’s Tire sealant which leaves quite a bit of dried latex after a while. The larger front tire is actually the lighter of the two, but I believe both tires were under 600g to start. (just heard from Marc, and his Nobby Nic 2.25 Snakeskins came in at 600g even, which is only 20g heavier than claimed. QUite a bit lighter than my 685g tire. He also mentioned that he has been running the Nic on the front with a 2.25 Racing Ralph on the rear and it’s a good combination. A bit of understeer on the front in powdery conditions, but otherwise great.)
In addition to the weight of the Stan’s, the rear tire also includes the weight of a Hutchinson Tubeless patch, after a particularly bad landing on rocky trail with much too low of tire pressure. This was in fact the very tire I used to review the patch kit, and while it sucks that I flatted, I can’t really blame the tire this time. I happened to forget my pump before we left for a big road trip, and let me tell you, riding Green’s Lick trail with about 20 psi is not a good idea. The accompanying dent in the rim can attest to the fact that I was not JRA. Once patched though, the tire sealed up tubeless, and hasn’t given me any problem yet.
Schwalbe actually refers to the Nobby Nic as their “all grounder” so you would think that it would be geared towards all types of trails and conditions, and well, it is. The Nic’s tread is made up of widely spaced squarish knobs that have a distinct center, intermediate, and edge spacing, all of which have some type of relief to allow the knob to deform slightly for better traction. By looking at the tread pattern you wouldn’t expect the Nobby Nics to roll well, but when compared to other trail bike tires of the same size, the Nic’s roll extremely well. Hands down, the best rolling tire that I feel still offers adequate grip. This generation of the Nic even seems to roll better than the previous version which would lead me to believe a lot of it has to do with the new PaceStar compound.
I’ve ridden the Nics in just about every condition imaginable from mud soup, to sand and rock, to North Carolina mud, snow, etc. The Nics performed incredibly no matter what the circumstance. Traction was always available in spades, allowing for frightening confidence through some of the worst sections of trails. In all but the heaviest, peanut butter mud, the tread quickly clears any debris which leave you with a clean grippy tire. When you are really pushing it through corners, the Nics do tend to give a bit which will cause you to run slightly wide, although at ~600g for a tire you can’t exactly expect DH tire performance. More importantly, any give that the Nics exhibit is very predictable allowing these tires to be ridden fast and loose with confidence.
After somewhere around 500 miles of riding on this pair of tires, tread wear is still hardly noticeable. Most of my riding has been on dirt trails with little rock, although there have been a few trips to much more abusive trail systems, and the Nobby Nics are still no worse for wear.
Not much to say here other than the Nobby Nics are now tubeless ready, and it works. Brilliantly. The tubeless ready addition is probably the biggest difference between the new and old Nics as it completes the package. Seriously, other manufacturers who aren’t building tubeless ready tires need to take notice. The Schwalbes seated up perfectly with no leaks or hassle, and offer a tubeless ready tire that is crazy light that doesn’t burp.
From the beginning, the Nobby Nics have been a joy to have on my bike due to the fact that I knew I would always have the right tire for the conditions. At nearly $89 retail though, many riders will balk at the price though it might be worth a second look. Priced at retail, a pair of Nobby Nics will run you roughly the equivalent of two pairs of your average tire, but if you are getting the one tire you will run all year and won’t have to bother to change it out, isn’t that worth something? Honestly, if I were forced to have one pair of tires on my bike at all times, it would definitely be this pair of Nobby Nics. They’re light, they grip everything, and they are long lasting, what more could you want?