Nearly all of my MTB wheelsets are UST so I’ve been searching for good downhill tires I can run tubeless. Recently the good folks at Schwalbe sent over Big Betty and Muddy Mary tires to put to the test. In the past I’ve had great results with the Fat Alberts and Wicked Wills, so I was pretty stoked to give these two tires a shot. I chose the Muddy Mary and the Big Betty based on the terrain I typically ride: granite, shale, hardpack (and I do mean hard pack), and sometimes mud that just won’t dry up.
The Big Betty and Muddy Mary both come in a few flavors. I am writing about the Evolution line which is a folding, tubeless, TrailStar version. It’s a mouthful for sure but these days tires are offered at many price points and configurations, making them more accessible and versatile for the rider. Both the Big Betty and Muddy Mary tubeless tires come in at 1100 grams each (XC riders, pick your jaws up off the floor). These tires are a bit heavy but for what they’re designed for and considering you don’t need a tube, the weight isn’t too bad (DH tubes are approximate 200 grams each).
Both tires feature single-ply construction with a thread density of 67 EPI (ends per inch). The Snakeskin sidewall protection is essentially fabric which offers about the same amount of protection as rubber. The tire carcasses along with the tread are designed to prevent side pinch punctures for more safety and stability. Limited Slip Technology (L.S.T.) is also a cool feature: it’s a special rubber compound that reduces the chances of the tire slipping on the rim (helpful if your tire is a bit too low on pressure). The TrailStar compound is a blend of rubbers with an easy rolling base layer and a medium soft center compound followed by a soft center compound. Schwalbe also offers a softer compound mix called the VertStar which offers a super soft center and side rubbers but those are for DH competition.
The Big Betty 26×2.40 is a true high volume 2.4 inch wide tire. It’s designed for the drier side of things and offers great grip on a variety of terrain like rock, shale, and hard pack. Stability is decent on looser soil as well. I found that I could achieve high levels of braking force with these tires which made me feel comfortable diving into turns. Speaking of turns, the Big Betty transitions well from upright to pitched positions with no squirming in between. This is a great feature for riders who are getting comfortable at riding higher speeds on the slopes.
The twin row of sequenced vertical/horizontal ramped and sipped blocks along with a hollow square block does a good job keeping vibrations at bay away while offering high traction. The double row of cornering blocks excel at keeping you on line when pitched. Overall the design of the tire is somewhat tight so mud shedding is not as great as other tires out there.
The Muddy Mary 26×2.35 is another high-volume tire and is actually a bit bigger than 2.35 inches – it’s closer to 2.4 inches. This tire has its pattern arranged more openly with each center block sipped horizontally and the cornering blocks sipped vertically. The open tread pattern allows for good mud and debris shedding.
The Muddy Mary features an alternating wide block and single square block across the center along with a single flanking transitional square knob and aggressive cornering knobs. Due to the very square pattern, these tires don’t roll as well as the Big Betty but offer more grip on a wide range of terrain, including soft loamy terrain.
Installation was a snap for both tires on Mavic Deemax Ultimate and Easton Havoc wheels. Both wheels are UST and the tires went on easily with a floor pump and single tire iron. I like to thoroughly lubricate the sidewalls of the tire with soap (diluted dish soap works), and then pump them up to about 35 PSI to let the beads seat properly before I drop the tires down to 25/27 PSI (F/R) which is my running pressure.
How did these tires fair? I found I really liked the Big Betty tires and got used to them right away. You could almost say these were my go-to tire when I was packing my gear. I felt comfortable pitching the bike into corners and braking with confidence. However, the TrailStar compounds on both tires started to show signs of wear after nine full days of riding the slopes hard. The sharp knobs began to tear at their edges, mostly due to the hard braking that was needed to slow down my FR and DH rigs on the slate and hardpack surfaces. The high-speed berms at Blue Mountain are nearly as hard as concrete (talk about packed dirt) and many of the technical areas are on slate. So the amount of abrasion I put these tires through is perhaps more than some will experience.
The Muddy Marys worked nearly as well but I found they were best when used the day after a rainfall when the terrain was moist and the rocks were wet. The Muddy Marys offer a good speed-for-traction tradeoff – it certainly took a bit more effort to get them moving. But once they were heading down the slopes, these tires gripped well. Pitching the Muddy Marys into corners was fun, though I did note a touch of squirm on some occasions (on the harder terrain) but nothing like a Maxxis Ardent (another tire I enjoy). The tread on these tires held out a bit better than the Big Bettys, perhaps due to the fact there was less friction on the tire in the softer soil.
Check out the Schwalbe Big Betty ($90 MSRP) and Muddy Mary ($96 MSRP) tires for DH and FR mountain biking.
I would like to thank Schwalbe for sending down the tires for review.