WTB Convict and Trail Boss Tire Combo - Review
Each end of our bikes has to do very different jobs, so it stands to reason that it sometimes makes sense to run a set of mismatched tires. This is why you'll often see a fast rolling tire on the back of the bike that's paired with a meaty, slower rolling tire on the opposite end, which is exactly the combo that's review here. WTB's $76.95 USD Convict is a 27.5'' x 2.5'' wide monster that's intended for rowdy, wet, and loose terrain, with its hefty 1,239-gram weight emphasizing those intentions. The less aggressive, 1,050-gram Trail Boss is more about rolling speed, with smaller and lower knobs that are spaced relatively close together. The $76.95 USD Trail Boss is available in about seven hundred size and construction combinations, but it's the 27.5'' x 2.4'', TCS Tough / Fast Rolling model that's tested below.
Convict TCS Tough / High Grip Details• Intended use: downhill / enduro • Wide, blocky knobs• Open design for loose conditions • WTB's Gravity DNA compound • Size: 27.5'' x 2.5'' only • Weight: 1,239 grams • MSRP: $76.95 USD
Trail Boss TCS Tough / Fast Rolling Details• Intended use: trail / all-mountain • Faster rolling, tightly spaced knobs• Commonly used as a rear tire• WTB's Dual DNA compound • Available in 26, 27.5, 29'' diameters• Available in 2.25'' and 2.4'' widths• Weight: 1,050 grams (27.5'' x 2.4'') • MSRP: $76.95 USD
DesignThere's a subset of tires that put all-out traction and durability at the top of the priority list, with silly stuff like weight and rolling speed far lower down. I'd place both the Magic Mary and the Vittoria Mota in that IDGAF category, as well as WTB's stout Convict. Like the other two examples, the Convict's tall, widely spaced lugs are meant to penetrate into soft surfaces to find traction where a less aggressive but faster rolling tire might not be able to claw up any bite.
Across the crown, you'll find paddle-like knobs that put a premium on braking traction (and forward drive, too), with sipes molded in both lengthwise and across the alternating knobs. A relatively open transition leads to equally meaty side knobs, also with sipes galore to allow them to better conform to the ground.
WTB offers the Convict in two different rubber compounds; a 'Fast Rolling' version that's obviously firmer, and the 'High Grip' rubber that my Convict is constructed with. If I'm putting a 1,239-gram tire on the front of my bike, you can bet your ass that it's going to be the grippy one. What'd be the point otherwise, especially up front? There are also two casings to choose from, with the tire shown here featuring the burlier 'TCS Tough' construction that's sturdy enough to feel like a run-flat tire. Not really, but it's a pretty solid casing. You can save around 200-grams by going with the more compliant 'TCS Light' casing but, once again, if I'm running a tire like this, I'm looking for all the traction and all the reliability.
The Trail Boss is a completely different animal next to the Convict, with comparatively tight spacing and much smaller knobs all around. The idea is that all of those pint-sized lugs can penetrate through dirt and mud where knobs with a wider footprint might tend to float over the soil. In a way, it's a similar concept as a proper mud tire being low-volume so as to be able to do the same thing. The Trail Boss is not a mud tire, though; its more of a fast-rolling option that should be able to get by regardless of conditions. There are also sipes galore. I love me some sipes.
You can get the Trail Boss in all sorts of sizes, compounds, and casing options, but my 2.4'' rear tire features WTB's TCS Tough casing, just like its counterpart up front. Instead of the Convict's softer High Grip rubber, this particular Trail Boss is rocking the Fast Rolling compound that should also wear slower to boot.
PerformanceMy prison-themed tire combo came mounted on a set of Derby's DH 35i that sport a 34.5mm internal width. I guess DH 35i rolls off the tongue better than DH 34.5i. Anyway, I popped all four beads off and reseated them to see if they'd seal up nicely, which they did. Since the tires had already been mounted for quite some time, that's not really the same as installing a new set, but it'll do for me. The tires fit reasonably snug, too, but not too tight to get them on and off while in the forest; you'll need levers but you won't need to yell at them. While the Convict measures a true 2.5'' wide, I was surprised to see that the Trail Boss came in a bit undersized at 2.3'' across (2.2'' at the casing) despite it being on a wide rim.
Let's start up front where it counts. The Convict's supportive casing calls for lower pressures than you might be used to if you've been on something lighter and less supportive, so just like a tire with a very flimsy casing, getting into the right pressure window is important. Too much air and it can't do its job, just like any tire, and it will tend to deflect more than it should. It's just that the Convict's window is quite low - I was running around 16 to 18 psi depending on the trail and conditions, but I also weigh the same as I did in grade 7, so there's that. A few things stand out to me about the Convict. Firstly, it has an immense amount of braking traction, especially in the slop and compared to a more well-rounded tire. Thanks to those massive crown knobs, leaning hard on the front brake in dry conditions will stop you dead, and the mega-supportive casing makes me believe that I could barrel through a mile of broken glass and nails without a worry. While I'll admit that it's probably too heavy for me to want to use year-round or on anything but a serious all-mountain or downhill machine, watching the pointy rocks worry about the tire hurting them rather than the other way around is pretty nice. Zero flats, zero air loss, and zero troubles.
Leaning the Convict over is interesting in that it's not a matter of there being traction until there isn't, but rather a sense of it wanting to be on its edges and feeling a bit loose until it is. The outright grip is there, but it's a tire that rewards commitment instead of a rider who puts out the feelers. And for a tire with relatively tall knobs, I was surprised to see how well it does on rock and hardpack. Not unexpected, though, is how it's not a real big fan of crossing wet roots. Mud and slop, sure; wet roots, not so much. To be fair, the Magic Mary also suffers from the exact same drawback, with the Vittoria Mota and the Continental Der Baron being the only tires in this niche that haven't forced me to tippytoe across slimy tree fingers.
At the opposite end of the all-mountain tire spectrum, and the opposite end of the bike, is the much faster rolling Trail Boss. This is a neat tire that surprised me in a few ways. I assumed, wrongly, that it'd be a nightmare in wet conditions, but that's not the case at all; it's not a mud tire and it'll tend to clog up in sticky stuff, but that's be expected. But in normal, everyday wet conditions, the Trail Boss offers decent grip on everything from slick dirt to roots to woodwork. It also rolls pretty well, but that's not a shocker.
Braking traction is somewhere between meh and ugh depending on conditions, with nowhere near the bite of something with a more open, more aggressive layout. That's the cost of a fast rolling tire, though, so be aware of what your wants and needs are. Cornering bite is a bit on/off for my liking, especially when it's wet, but a skilled rider can use that to their advantage if they like to let the back of their bike get a bit loose. Again, getting the pressure correct is important due to its burly casing, and I found that 18 PSI worked well for my 160-ish lb weight.
|It can make sense to think about tires as a pair, especially when teaming a big, aggressive option like the Convict up with a faster-rolling tire like the Trail Boss. It's a bit of a mullet-y setup with business up front and party in the back, which is a good way to go if you're looking for a fast combo that won't leave you second guessing about what your front-end is up to. As decent as the Trail Boss is in the wet, neither are a great choice if mud and wet roots are the norms for you. But if you need a fast, reliable set of tires for usually dry terrain, this combo is a solid option.— Mike Levy|