Time for a set of new tyres for the Rockhopper. Even though they had last season off and hardly saw any riding at all during 2009/2010 the 6yr old Specialized Resolution’s that were on the bike were literally falling to pieces, the rear one was nearly bald with a torn sidewall and the front wasn’t much better…
…in step the Germans. Continental’s Black Chili Compound Rubber Queen – not sure about the name :-/ & Mountain King II tyres as a front and rear set up for some time so I eventually pulled the trigger.
These tyres retail for between £40-£50 each in the UK so was very happy to get them from the German online store Bike-Discount for €35 (£28) per tyre. They went on the Stan’s Arch EX extremely easily – tyre levers not required. And they make a satisfying loud pop! when you inflate them as they get seated in the rim.
I went for the Protection version of the Mountain King II for the rear to try reduce pinch flats and ward off some of the nastier, razor sharp Alpine rocks that seem to be common over here. Never sure what pressure to go for when fitting a new tyre. The side walls have no minimum but max. pressures of 65 psi. I started with 31 psi in the front and 35 psi in the rear and took them for a killer of a ride. It starts with a very steep climb up rough, rocky fire roads til you get to 1,757m alt. (that’s 500m alt. gain in 6km of trail…steep enough)…
…followed by a very fast decent that drops you probably over 150m in about 1km of trail. Then it’s into the forest for some pretty techy, steep & narrow singletrack with streams to cross and even the odd patch of mud to deal with. Then a hike with bike up a steep and sketchy track next to the Casse du Boeuf chair lift before more forested single track and eventually you break the forest and get to the highest part of the ride for the second time of 1,750m and then an awesome. extremely fast & rocky descent into Villeneuve and more single track through woods & fields all the way home..
…So basically the tyres got a bit of everything
In a word…these tyres are Awesome! Fast rolling on the hard stuff yet super sticky for big, fast turns and plenty of grip when climbing steep, loose trails. Also tight, fast Alpine switch backs are no problem either and the rare mud patch they encountered was dealt with easily too and they didn’t bring the wet stuff with them they left it on the trail where it should be, not clogging up the tread.
But the main thing I noticed with this setup compared to the Spesh Resolutions (and Schwalbe tyres I’ve tried); with the Resolutions you could push them pretty hard but then they would just let go, with no warning and that generally results in cuts, bruises and even the odd trip over the bars. When you push these tyres a little to hard (or in my case, just using bad technique) they give you a warning that they’re about to wash out and you have time to adjust and this one thing i.e knowing your front wheel isn’t suddenly gonna go from under you improves your confidence a hell of a lot on the trail.
It’s all about the Black Chili, baby! 😎