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Hands-on Gear Review
WTB Trail Boss TCS Tough/Fast Rolling 2.25 Review
Cons: Expensive-ish, often above average but rarely best
Bottom line: Why make sacrifices when you can have it all with this versatile tire?
Weight (g): 1038
Casing Options: Enduro
We suspect WTB consulted with a Little League baseball coach because this mountain bike tire is pure fundamentals. So many knob designs, distribution, and layouts appear to be tried at random. There's some science behind it for sure, but we can't help wonder how the R&D conversations go. Ramp this knob so it rolls better. Sipe it for better braking and pedaling traction. How about we put it at angle and fill in the space between with another knob that looks like the Batman symbol made of a different rubber compound for performance in loose terrain? Or how about just use simple shapes, spread them around the tire, and call it good? By bucking trends, WTB practically created one with this tire. It's not a semi-slick, which seems to be all the rage lately. Nor is it a big and fat knobby beast. It's a damn good tire, is what it is. it's also available in the plus-sized Trail Boss 3.0.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Mountain Bike Tires
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
So slightly above average in nearly every category, this tire was like a consistent B-student; never receiving accolades, yet never drawing much criticism when report cards came out at semester's end. This tire flew under the radar so stealthily we found ourselves reaching for it almost subconsciously. It performed well across a wide variety of conditions and terrain. A good boss should be capable of performing any job duties they're tasked with overseeing and the Trail Boss is competent across the board.
The center tread is comprised of alternating knob rows spaced two-across and three-across. Compared to the taller knobs on the WTB Vigilante, the knobs on the Trail Boss are a bit lower profile. Every knob on the tire is siped and of uniform height.
The center tread is horizontally siped and the side knobs longitudinally siped. Initially, we lumped this tire in with other semi-slick designs like the Schwalbe Rock Razor and Specialized Slaughter, but upon further inspection we determined it a poor fit for this category. Even on our 30-mm internal diameter test wheels, the profile of this tire is not exceptionally squared-off. It wasn't especially round either. Like Little Red Riding Hood's bowl of porridge, it was just right. In addition, the center tread was not quite as small and tightly packed as the other designs.
The side knobs are slightly offset, which gives the tire the same tenacious edge grip over a greater range of lean angles, effectively increasing the sweet spot. There isn't a very clearly defined channel between the center and side knobs, so the tire has a very even feel during cornering. The more significant center tread made of 60A rubber prevents the tire from feeling unsteady or drifty as it rolls onto the softer 50A side knobs and allows for increased confidence over a wider range of lean angles. The utilitarian nature of this tire as well as cornering feel was closely matched to the Maxxis Aggressor. Both tires were rarely out of their element.
In a word, we'd describe this tire as versatile. It may not be the most perfect tire for every condition, but we were hard-pressed to find a condition where it was inappropriate. Sure, pedaling up super loose climbs you might find yourself wishing for something with a burlier tread pattern to claw deeper in search of traction. A tire with more pronounced side knobs and a squarer profile, think the Schwalbe Rock Razor, might corner better than this tire as well. When things get sloppy and mucky, larger knobs with wider spacing like those found on the Michelin Wild Grip'r or even the Continental Trail King might clear mud better than the smaller, closely packed knobs found here.
The medium height knobs won't penetrate the gunk very deeply but certainly outperform some semi-slicks. The Trail Boss does the best with what its got however, and with each and every knob being siped, there are more edges coming into contact with the ground to provide traction. If you ask us, we'd prefer to have a tire that does pretty much everything at an acceptable level rather than excelling at just one thing. Why? Think about how much you call upon that friend that built their own home, fixes cars, plays the guitar, welds, sings, sews, and cooks like a gourmet chef.
We were especially pleased with the braking quality of this tire. The ever-so-slightly offset side knobs offer more bite than tires with a straighter and more uniform alignment. If you want the advantages of a semi slick like the Schwalbe Rock Razor or Specialized Slaughter but desire a tad more braking prowess, this tire is a solid choice. This design gives dirt somewhere to tuck up and pack in rather than just slice through.
If you're having too much fun to anticipate an upcoming corner and forget to set your speed beforehand, this tire's ability to dump speed when braking hard into a corner might just save your butt. Straight line braking is also pretty decent. Again, more middle-of-the-road performance where it's quicker to stop than a semi-slick but not quite as responsive as a bigger knob tire. It looks like someone went crazy on this tire siping away with a razor blade, but the thorough siping job and square knobs certainly aid in this tire's braking prowess.
There's a pattern to the performance we got from this tire. If you're slow to pick up what we've been putting down, this tire wasn't the fastest rolling tire, nor was it the slowest in our test. The only real design feature that seemed aimed at improving rolling resistance was the arrow-shaped center knobs with the pointed end showing you the way forward. Knobs are siped but not ramped. This mountain bike tire bore a close resemblance to our Editors' Choice Maxxis Aggressor and the Continental Trail King; tires that both struck a balance between rolling resistance and grip.
The TCS (Tubeless Compatible System) that WTB (Wilderness Trail Bikes) uses on this and other tires is UST (Universal Standard Tubeless) approved. You'll still want to use sealant with this tire, but the extra engineering effort made things seal up just a bit more reliably that the rest of the bunch. The tire, along with the WTB Vigilante, was the only tire to score a 9 out of 10 in regards to installation. If ease of installation is a requirement, the two WTB contenders might be a good choice.
The TCS Tough version we tested features a double layer of bead to bead 60 tpi casings for added protection against sharp rock and other surprises on the trail. During our test tire's maiden voyage on an extremely technical ride, we put quite a few good scuffs into the sidewall. One even abraded some of the casing and we expected the lifespan of the tire would be foreshortened. However, throughout the remainder of our test, the tire successfully shrugged off countless poor tire placements without further damage. For optimal longevity, our two Editors' Choice winners, the Maxxis Minion and Maxxis Aggressor, scored the highest out of the bunch, earning well-deserved 8 out of 10.
We struggled to find a place where we considered this tire "best." That's not to sell this exceptional tire short, however. As we stated above, this tire was a solid "B" performer. If pressed, we could usually find a tire that out-cornered, out-rolled, or out-climbed this one. However, no tester felt this tire to be much of a consolation when it was selected for them to take out for a rip. After months of channeling our thoughts on tire performance, this consistent performer allowed us to focus on other bike maintenance issues like sticky dropper posts and fork pressures during our testing.
Eighty dollars is creeping up there in price, but the versatility of this tire makes it a good value. Unless one particular aspect of performance trumps all else for you, this tire is a no-brainer. If you ride many different areas you'll rarely find a need to swap to a more appropriate tire based on your destination. For the best value, we dubbed the Specialized Slaughter and Specialized Butcher our Best Bang for the Buck tires. Ringing in at $60 each, these two Specialized tires are something to feel good about. Alternatively, the Maxxis Aggressor, an Editors' Choice winner, can be purchased for $62 and offers supreme performance as a rear tire.
As gear testers, it's our job to find things to complain about. To even make the cut and be selected for a review, we already have a feeling that a product is among the best available. We then set out to nitpick and exploit its faults no matter how minor they may be. Once in a while, a product doesn't give us too much to harp about. This tire was a top contender in nearly every category. When something outperformed it, it wasn't by much. It was about a buck more expensive than our Editors' Choice Maxxis Aggressor.
We felt this tire was an excellent all-around, versatile tire well suited to racing or everyday riding. Its square, siped, simple knobs provide adequate traction on both the up and down. The slightly offset side knobs allowed this tire to maintain a consistent grip in corners over a wider degree of lean angles which increased its appeal among less aggressive riders. We questioned the tire's durability after our initial test ride beat up the sidewalls pretty good but they hung in there like a boss.
— Sean Cronin
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