19 January 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: WTB ExiWolf 29x2.3 tire

Anyone who has read any of our tire reviews in the past knows that I, for one, value predictability above nearly all else in a tire. Why? If you can't trust a tire and know its limits, you can't push it to those limits. Of course, tires are very subjective and region- and riding style-specific, but WTB's ExiWolf has to be my favorite 29er tire, hands down. Here in the desert southwest, we have lots of sand, plenty of big rocks, and not a whole lot of either roots or mud. Most of my local (single speed friendly) trails are fairly hard packed with a nice layer of gravel-y sand over the top. It took ages after moving from New England to trust the bike and let it drift a bit in corners. Unlike on the roots on which I learned to ride, a bit of lateral movement on the local isn't a big deal, and allowing it (to a point) can actually help you carry speed through the corners.

The first thing that folks notice about the ExiWolf is that its big. Even mounted on a narrow road rim (19mm wide Sun ME14A), it does a good job filling the arch of a RockShox Reba fork. This volume can help to protect the rim from rocks, allowing lower pressures and/or higher speeds (I'm running this tire at 25psi front/30psi rear). Mounted on a narrow-ish rim, the tread of the ExiWolf continues a fair distance down the side of the tire, aiding in cornering and helping to prevent sidewall cuts (see second picture). The small, low-profile knobs are nice and stout (with wider bases than tops) and closely spaced, so roll without much resistance.

As a rear tire, the ExiWolf works very well. It has plenty of traction to run on a single speed race bike and allows me to charge into rocky descents without worrying (too much) about pinch flatting or destroying a not-designed-for-29er road racing rim. Durability, as with the Geax Saguaro, has been excellent, with about 18 months and acceptable wear (about 6 months on the rear, 12 on the front). The sidewalls are in excellent shape and certainly sturdier than those on the Specialized FasTrak, which were a bit less robust than I'd have liked. The multitude of small knobs provide fantastic cornering- grippy with a reliable break-away point. They would much rather be leaned than turned into corners. All of this adds up to a very flattering tire that can give you the confidence to ride quickly and aggressively (in their native environment).

All sunshine and flowers? The number and size of the clouds would depend on your perspective. The downside to all that rubber and casing is weight- the ExiWolf runs about 825g- some 150-200g heaver than its (admittedly narrower) competitors. It's also not inexpensive- similar tires from Geax and Specialized run around $35- the folding bead ExiWolf runs around $50 in shops (though it is available online for a fair bit less). Still, given its durability, an extra $10 or $15 may be worth it.




Anonymous said...

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bikefix said...

Rockin' it old skool! Those were a $.99 eBay score... see more purple in our On-One Scandal review at http://www.bikefix.net/2007/11/bikefix-exclusive-review-on-one-scandal.html


Anonymous said...

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