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Continental Trail King Tire

Noah Bodman reviews the Continental Trail King Tire for Blister Gear Review

Continental Trail King Tire

Tire: Continental Trail King

Stated size: 27.5” x 2.4”

Measured Width on 25mm (internal) rim: 2.4” / 61mm

Features: Black Chili Compound, ProTection Apex casing

Casing: 4/240 tpi casing, folding bead

Blister’s Measured Weight: 989 grams

Intended Use: soft dirt grippiness

MSRP: $65

Wheels: DT Swiss E1700 Spline TWO

Bike: Devinci Spartan

Reviewer: 5’9” 155 lbs

Duration of Test: ~12 rides

Test Locations: Helena & Whitefish, MT; Fernie, BC

Background (Trail Kings & Rubber Queens)

Continental has been making tires for quite a while, and they’re certainly not new to the bike game. Continental is a thoroughly German company, and many of their tires (including the Trail Kings I tested) are handmade in Germany.

The Trail King sits at the knobby end of Continental’s tire spectrum, with only a few DH treads being more aggressive.

(Incidentally, the Trail King is known as the “Rubber Queen” in Europe. Maybe the American market isn’t mature enough to ride the Rubber Queen?)

Options

Since the Trail King is a fairly knobby tire, it should generally be compared to fully knobbed, “all mountain” type tires, like the Maxxis Minion, Schwalbe Hans Dampf, etc.

And like most of those tires, the Trail King comes in a couple of casing and bead options, ranging from the less expensive “sport” version (low tpi, non-folding bead), to the higher end ProTection Apex version that I tested, which has a folding bead and a reinforced, high tpi sidewall.

There are also a few options in the middle, including a couple of UST variants.

The higher end versions are made in Germany, while the lower end ones are made in an unspecified location that I’m guessing is in Asia.

The ProTection Apex casing is noteworthy as one of the highest thread count casings in this genre of large, knobby tires. It has four layers of 240 tpi material under the tread, and three layers of 180 tpi material in the sidewalls.

Generally speaking, those higher thread counts will make for a lighter tire that can conform to trail obstacles better, but it can also cause some durability issues.

Initial Impressions

Holding the ProTection Apex tire in my hands, it’s pretty beefy. Not quite DH-tire beefy, but the sidewalls don’t feel inclined to tear. Presumably due to the higher thread counts, the Trail King still weighs a bit less than, for example, comparable WTB tires that have a similarly thick casing but a lower thread count.

I’d generally categorize the tread as moderately spaced out and paddley. There’s an alternating pattern of knobs down the center, and both “sets” of knobs are fairly broad and blocky. Great for digging into the dirt while climbing or braking, not so hot for minimizing rolling resistance.

Tubeless Setup

I’d had issues with setting up some Continental tires tubeless in the past. They’d sort of work, but the sidewalls were particularly porous and they lost air quickly.

The Trail Kings are marked as being tubeless friendly for Continental’s Revo sealant, but I just used my normal home-brew sealant. Initially, it took a bit of work to get these to seal up; I definitely needed a compressor, and I ended up having to put substantially more sealant in than I use on some other tires (Schwalbe, Maxxis, and WTB, to be specific).

It seems that the Trail King’s bead is just a bit looser than other comparable tires. While this makes it a bit easier to get on the rim, it also means that it doesn’t have quite the death grip on there once it’s seated. Even once they were seated and I had a few rides on them, they still seemed to bleed air a bit more quickly than I’m used to.

Size

On my DT Swiss E1700 Spline TWO wheels, which have a 25mm internal rim width, the Trail Kings are spot on, true to size at the widest point of the knobs. The casing actually bows out even wider than that, making the Trail Kings look like a really big tire. Most other brands seem to run a little on the small side, so compared to other tires that are marked as the same size, the Trail Kings are pretty big. I’d say they’re slightly larger than a Maxxis 2.5” tire.

They’re also relatively tall tires, which again, adds to the visual impression that these are big tires. I had to endure more than one person asking me if they were “those new 27.5+ things.”  The Trail Kings are large enough that they actually start to make my Pike look like it’s a bit low on clearance.

The Ride

My very first ride on the Trail Kings turned into a horrendously wet, muddy ride—the kind where you feel guilty for being out on the trail in such conditions (and yes, I feel guilty, but it was a race and they fixed everything the next day, so it’s sort of okay).

Noah Bodman reviews the Continental Trail King Tire for Blister Gear Review

Noah Bodman on the Continental Trail King Tire.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the Trail King was really, really good in the mud. It’s not quite a mud spike, but for a tire that functions well in non-muddy conditions too, they’re one of the best I’ve ridden. They clear mud about average for a spaced out, knobby tire, but more importantly, they provide consistent grip that, as far as sliding around in the mud goes, is confidence inspiring.

As things dried out a bit, I got a chance to ride in a relatively diverse selection of soils: dry dust, some gravelly crap, duffy brown pow, and plenty of hardpack. I didn’t ride much in the sand, so I don’t have any specific comments on that front.

In anything soft enough for the knobs to get some purchase, the Trail King hooked up quite well. That said, it’s pretty different from something like a Maxxis DHF, which is the sort of tire that I’ve spent the most time on.

A DHF has a defined channel between the center knobs and the side knobs, so as you lean into a corner, there’s an angle where you’re in between the rows of knobs, and the tire is pretty drifty. Lean past that angle and the side knobs engage with their full force, and you can go around a corner really fast.

On the other end of the aggressive, knobby tire spectrum is something like a Kenda Nevegal. It has a set of “transitional” knobs in between the center knobs and the side knobs. Those transitional knobs keep the tire from feeling as drifty during that partially leaned stage of the turn, but they don’t let the side knobs really sink in on a corner, so they generally won’t corner as hard. In the worst cases (again, like the Nevegal), those transitional knobs can make the tire fairly unpredictable–their death grip on the ground is prone to unexpectedly releasing mid-corner.

The Trail King falls into sort of a weird middle ground between these two. It’s definitely not a drifty tire–the middle knobs are wide enough so that there isn’t really a defined channel. But it also doesn’t really have any transitional knobs, and more importantly, it doesn’t ride like a tire with transitional knobs. As you lean into a turn, the Trail King locks in pretty early. But you can keep leaning more and more, and it continues to hold. It doesn’t quite hold all the way to the lean angles that you can get out of a DHF, but it gets pretty close.

What I found difficult to get used to was the lack of drift. I can’t think of another tire I’ve ridden that locks into a corner as well as the Trail King, but that doesn’t also have that drifty area at mid-lean angles. It actually took some adjusting on my end to get them to do what I wanted; I’m so used to that drifty feeling in good tires that I had to adjust how I went around a corner to suit the Trail King. Instead of coming into the corner with the expectation of a little bit of drift-induced oversteer, I could really just ride the turn locked in from start to finish.

But all of that talk of drifting and hooking up is in soft dirt.

On hard dirt, the Trail King was less compelling. The tires were very inclined to get caught in little ruts and dragged off line, and the balloon-ish casing felt pretty vague.

Even in softer dirt, that big, supple casing just felt strange at times. On a number of occasions, I’d pause and look down thinking I had a flat, but each time I was still at full pressure. (I experimented with pressures between the high 20’s and low 30’s).

A bit more tire pressure might have fixed the squirmy feeling, but I was running a similar pressure to what I run in most other tires. Also, my testing was cut a bit short (see below under “Durability”), so I didn’t get to experiment with different pressures as much as I would have liked.

NEXT: Climbing, Braking, Durability, Etc.

8 Comments

  1. Mr. P June 5, 2015 Reply

    The Trail King 2.2 Protection Black Chili was my favorite rear tire. Like you wrote, it just stuck, climbed amazing, braked well, and rolled quite well for what it was… and it could handle loose over hard valley trails and soft high Sierra trails. A rare feat. It thought I had finally found my perfect rear tire.

    But the side knobs dissolved in 10 rides. :(

    P

  2. Mr. P June 5, 2015 Reply

    Did the knobs on your Trail King wear at an accelerated rate?

    P

    • Noah June 5, 2015 Reply

      In the short time I was on the Trail King before the casing died on me, the knobs seemed to be holding up about average; similar to a Maxxis DHF, better than anything Schwalbe. They showed some wear, but nothing super concerning. But my ~12 rides were mostly in soft dirt, and didn’t include a ton of rock, so the knobs led a relatively easy life.

  3. Marcel June 16, 2015 Reply

    “On hard dirt, the Trail King was less compelling. The tires were very inclined to get caught in little ruts and dragged off line, and the balloon-ish casing felt pretty vague.”

    Totally agree with the above, I’ve been experiencing my tire loosing grip in the middle of turns a lot these season, too much rain in the spring washed out the trails, nothing but hardpack, dust over hard and sandy in some spots right now!

    What do you like to ride for tires in these conditions? After a nasty wipeout I decided I need new tires, I’ve been happy with the trail king 2.4 on my sb66 for a season, so was thinking I’d try xking 2.4/race king 2.2. I’ve really concerned to use anything too aggressive since I don’t think I’m gonna find too many good conditions this season, if I do I can always use trail/xking combo! or put back the trail king combo.

    • Noah June 16, 2015 Reply

      Hey Marcel,

      It’s always a tough call when you’re looking for an aggressive tire that’ll corner well, but when there’s a lot of hardpack involved and a big knobby tire is kind of overkill. Lately, I’ve been liking a tire like a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.4 up front with something like a WTB Riddler or Specialized Slaughter in the rear; they roll fast but still corner reasonably well. Those semi-slick type tires definitely give up some ground in the braking department though.

  4. Vik August 27, 2015 Reply

    I’ve used 2.4″ TKs for years. First on my 26er and now on my 27.5 bike.

    I’ve noticed that are much less vague on a wider rim. I now run them only on 35mm rims. They are laser precise with more sidewall support.

    The newest 27.5 x 2.4″ TKs I got seem like they are narrower than the older 26er version. On the same width rim the older tires have a much rounder profile. The new 27.5 tires are more squared off. I prefer the feel of the rounder tire.

    I find they wear very well. No knob tear. They just evenly wear out which is great.

    Through 6+ sets of TKs I’ve never had a failure like you describe. They’ve been bulletproof through lots of BC riding and weeks in Moab/Sedona. Having said that it’s happened to my buddy twice and we ride the same trails. The only difference is I ride a bit smoother/lighter than him.

    Until this latest set of 27.5 tires that seem smaller I would have told you I’ll be riding TKs as long as they are built, but I’m not as stoked about the square profile. I’m not buying new rims to make ’em work so I’ll probably try a different tire on my 27.5 bike once these wear out.

    Great review. Thanks. :)

  5. Blister Member
    Slim September 24, 2015 Reply

    Continental tpi:
    Continental does NOT use 240 tpi fabric in their mountainbike tires. Just like everyone else they use 30~100 tpi fabrics.
    They list their TIRE tpi as the total number of threads per inch, thus, like most mtb tires, this has casing made by folding a layer of 60 tpi fabric over the beads. On the sidewalls there are 3 layers of 60tpi, for a total of 180 threads per square inch of TIRE, and in the middle there are 4 layers of 60 tpi fabric, adding up to a total of 240 tpi of TIRE.
    Every other brand just calls this 60 tpi.

    Also, when listing the tire width, please list the tread and casing width separately. One width number is useless.

  6. Vik September 9, 2016 Reply

    I posted above that I didn’t have TK casing failure issues that Noah described in his review. Sadly I have to post an update and take that back. Since Dec 2015 I’ve blown out 3 rear TK casings to the point they were unrideable. Of those 3 failures one was an operator error jump landing onto a square edge rock that I can’t blame the tire for. The other two failures I don’t recall any specific incident that would have caused them beyond lots of riding on rocks and roots.

    Interestingly all my failures were with the 27.5″ x 2.4″ TK. I’ve run many sets of 26″ x 2.4″ TKs with no failures. Additionally my 120lbs less aggressive riding GF has never had a TK fail in either size.

    I’m looking at the Minion DNF in 2.5″ width and Vittoria Morsa in the 2.3″ width. They both look about the same volume/size as the TK in 2.4″. At least as accurately as I can measure with my eyeball.

    I’ve tried other 2.3″ – 2.4″ tires that were all significantly smaller volume than my TKs and I didn’t enjoy the feel of the smaller tires.

    cheers,

    Vik

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