14 April 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.25 UST tire

Schwalbe has been surging ahead with some great tires recently. Not only are they making some new tread patterns but they are offering many different types of tires within one tread type. If you read my reviews much, you know how I like UST tires and Schwalbe now offers most of their mountain bike tires in at least one UST model- and sometimes two or three are available.

The Nobby Nic ended-up being the default choice when I was looking to change the stock tubed tires on my Giant Trance XO for some UST. The day that I placed my order, the Nobby Nic's were the only Schwalbe UST’s available in a medium-to-large size. This was fine because, although I had tried them in the 2.1 size a while back (and thought they were okay), these were a larger 2.25 and in a triple compound rubber. I figured this version would ride differently- I was right.

This tire is pretty darn good at everything- its fast, but not the fastest available, and it has a good amount of traction but not the most either. The Nobby Nic seems to be one step closer to trail-riding than the Racing Ralph and so has a more tread (and traction). That said, it still doesn’t weigh very much at 695 grams. Its truly a versatile tire between it's low weight, fairly aggressive tread, and open spaces for mud to shed. Like any great all-around tire, its easy to find other tires that do one or two things better- but few do everything this well. As a bonus, I have ridden it as low as 30psi with no burping.

If the Nobby Nic has a weakness- it is probably its cornering ability. If you like to stretch the limits of a tire’s traction around corners then this may not be the tire for you. The Nobby Nic does give you warning when it’s starting to break loose, but the limit comes a bit earlier than many other tires- especially on loose over hard terrain. So far, this limit hasn’t kept me from successfully riding anything but it has given me a fright from time to time.

So far they have held up to some tough trails with a number of different riders other than me taking them for a spin. One of Schwalbe's technological advances is “triple rubber compound” design. Essentially, they take a harder rubber and lay it down the middle of the tire and put softer rubber down the shoulders of the tire to aid in cornering. The third compound is underneath the other two layers and has very high rolling efficiency according to Schwalbe’s website (I would think an under-layer with slower rebound characteristics to aid in control and traction would be nice). Due to the softer rubber on the shoulder of the tire however, the side knobs are showing the strain and wearing quicker than I’d prefer. I haven’t yet noticed a decrease in traction due to this wear but I’m sure it will eventually be an issue. This problem is fairly common in tires that have softer rubber on their shoulders.

I admit that one of the qualities that draws me to Schwalbe’s tires is that they are fairly light in their UST configurations (actually they are quite light across the board). This matters a little bit to me because I always know I’m going to put some sealant in the tire. Weight starts to add-up quickly and so it’s nice to start with as low a weight as you can get away with for your intended type of riding. I recently reviewed the Racing Ralph and although I love the tire, I felt it wasn’t quite tough enough for the overall riding that I do. Schwalbe did tell us later, that the Racing Ralph is really only a racing tire and that it wasn’t meant to hold up to the rigors of trail riding (something that’s not really clear from their website). The Nobby Nic is a bit heavier and its rating for protection is one “bar” higher on their website so perhaps that weight difference is enough to call this a trail tire. I have clipped the sidewalls a few times on rough rocks and so far they have held up great.

As I mentioned in the Racing Ralph review, price and durability are issues. The price is quite high at $75 -$87 (depending on size) which may be justified if you take all the technology involved into account, but it’s hard to fork over that much money when durability remains an issue. It is true that multi-compound rubber tires tend to wear quicker than single-compound (non-sticky) rubber tires- so I don’t expect these tires to last as long as those, but I have ridden dual compound tires from other manufacturers that seem to last a bit longer. All in all though, I have to say that I really like these tires. I’m not ready to part with them yet, and they are high on my list despite their small drawbacks.



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