If there’s one thing that WTB, aka Wilderness Trail Bikes, are good at, is being at the forefront of exciting new bike disciplines. Just as they were one of the founding parties of mountain biking, their on-the-button tyre designs have placed them right at the centre of gravel riding.
Models including the Nano, Riddler, Sendero, Venture, Byway, Horizon, Resolute and most recently Raddler are household names in the gravel world. These are available in a range of widths from 37mm to 47mm (before heading into MTB width territory), in 700c and 650b wheel sizes and feature patterns from fat slicks to aggressive tread to file tread and everything in between.
There’s no denying that riders have been pushing the limits of ‘gravel riding’ as the discipline has grown, and that places new demands on the equipment we use, especially on tyres. Now you can get your favourite tread pattern, from the fat slick Horizon to the aggressive Sendero tyres with WTB’s all-new tougher 120tpi casing and SG2 puncture protection.
120tpi and SG2 Puncture Protection
Two features mark the difference between the new range of tyres and the existing range from WTB. First up, the thread count has been doubled from the standard 60tpi (threads per inch) to 120tpi, and then the SG2 layer has been added. This SG2 layer is a thin nylon insert that spans from bead to bead, covering both the tread and the sidewalls.
Under lab conditions, WTB claim that this combination of greater thread count and SG2 gives 33% more sidewall protection and 17% more tread protection than their standard gravel tyres. Besides reducing the risk of flats, this more tightly woven design helps to reduced air seepage through the sidewalls between rides.
This new casing is the result of ‘thousands of miles on a myriad of different casing and puncture protection configurations’, according to WTB’s product marketing manager Clayton Wangbichler, which helped the team to select the best specifications based on increased durability without sacrificing ride feel.
Weight and price increase?
Of course, doubling up on durability does come at a penalty in terms of weight, although this is less than you might expect. Dependant on the model and width, the SG2 tyres are 5-10% heavier, which translates to a weight penalty of between 15 and 50g.
They also come at a price premium compared to the ‘standard’ 60tpi tyres (RRP £44.99/€52.25), with all SG2 tyres retailing at £54.99/€59.85. Expect stock to land in Europe from mid October, which are also available in black sidewall only.
How do they ride?
We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the new tyres a few months back, pushing these tyres to the limits on some of the techy bridleways across Rowberrow Common in the Mendip Hills, Somerset, and even on some of the MTB trails there.
James Stockhausen, Operations Manager at Temple Cycles and mountain biker turned gravel slayer opted for the Sendero in 650b x 47mm. ‘I chose the Sendero as they’re my favourite tyre for all off-road conditions, the most grippy. These new SG2 tyres still feel nice and supple, but they have also taken an absolute beating and survived.’
Another mountain biker that’s turned to drop bars recently is Monet Adams, who’s spent most of her life racing either cross-country or downhill mountain biking at an international level. With a demo Juliana Quincy at her disposal for the summer, she made tackling technical trails look like child’s play, and led us straight to the forest MTB trails to really put her Resolute 700c x 42mm through their paces!
‘Coming from downhill racing I often bite off a little more than my gravel bike is supposed to chew… Popping on the WTB Resolutes immediately beefed up my wheels, giving me a more forgiving tyre that had more grip and was a lot more resilient to the rockier bridleways we have on the Mendips.’ Monet explained, ‘I’ve been riding them for 2 months now and I’ve taken the Quincy around all of my local trails. As a gravel newbie they have completely elevated the capability of the bike’.
I’ve ridden WTB Nanos for the last three years for most of my riding, a firm choice for year-round grip without feeling sluggish, in a confidence inspiring 40mm width. These tyres have seen me through the Dirty Kanza (206 miles puncture-free on Kansas flint is no mean feat) and multi-day bikepacking trips like the Second City Divide with few issues.
Luckily, I’m a fairly light rider which does have an impact on tyre durability, but I’ve witnessed a couple of nasty sidewall slashes on friend’s bikes that are weighed down more. The news that WTB were bringing out a new range of tyres with more durable casings was definitely good music to my ears. Stuck at the top of a Welsh slate mine in the rain while you wait for your friend to boot a tyre is not much fun, trust me.
Being totally honest, there was very little difference to feel when I switched out the standard 60tpi tyres for the 120tpi SG2 tyres. They inflated equally as easily on Shimano GRX 700c rims, and the ride feel was indistinguishable from my previous set. The only difference was a comforting feeling in the back of my mind that should I venture somewhere pretty remote, these tyres should hold up pretty well even on challenging terrain. When you’re really into exploring wild and isolated places, that’s the kind of feeling that shouldn’t be underestimated.
WTB SG2 gravel tyre range£54.99 €59.85 each
Last modified: 15th September 2020