The 2010 Nobby Nic mountain bike tire from Schwalbe offers big performance gains over previous versions which is impressive given this tire’s venerable and award-winning history. Through several evolutionary changes, engineers were able to improve rolling resistance 15% while slashing 30g from the weight – and yet the thing still grips the trail like a jungle cat!
To understand some of the technology and design decisions that go into mountain bike tires, it’s important to start at the beginning: choosing a rubber compound. Tires start out as a melty, soupy mix of rubber (natural or synthetic) with additional ingredients like carbon, silica, waxes, and oils blended in to influence the performance characteristics of the final product. No matter what is added to the compound, engineers must balance the trade-off between high grip and low rolling resistance meaning it’s impossible to maximize both in a single compound.
Knowing this, many tire manufacturers have created “dual compound” tires that place two different rubber mixtures in certain areas of the tire. This works pretty well but Schwalbe decided to take things further with the Nobby Nic, creating a TRIPLE nano compound tire. With three compounds, each engineered at the molecular level, Schwalbe created a tire they describe as one of the first “allgrounders.” (If you really want to geek out on rubber and tire tech, check out this section of the Schwalbe website.)
Without going into a ton of detail, here’s an overview of the three compounds and how they’re used in the Nobby Nic. The first sub-layer is designed to offer low rolling resistance with essentially zero grip – which is legit since this portion of the tire rarely contacts the ground. The center tread sports a longer lasting, strong compound which translates into great traction and braking grip. The side tread compound takes grip to the max for cornering and wet conditions but the trade-off is quick wear and super high rolling resistance (fortunately these knobs get the least use on the trail).
Schwalbe offers the Nobby Nic in just about every configuration you can imagine from narrow to wide, tubed or tubeless, and 26-inch or 29-inch sizes. I’ve been testing the 29er, 2.25-inch version which officially weighs in at 640g. The uni-directional tire features a folding kevlar bead that’s lightweight and provides a tight fit on my XC One wheels.
Deep down I’m really an XC rider and looking at this burly, knobby tire gave me a bit of heartburn. I decided to install the Nobby Nic as a rear tire on my hardtail 29er because, after all, I can always use more grip to get me up hills. My biggest concern was the tire would feel like an anchor holding me back on short stretches of pavement or fast hardpack but in reality that simply wasn’t the case. While I certainly wouldn’t call this a low-rolling resistance tire, the allgrounder title may not be much of a stretch after all.
One good test of a tire’s grip is what I call the ping test: ride a stretch of trail with gravel over hardpack and listen for the rock pings against your down tube. The Nobby Nic pings with the best of them and I had a hard time getting the tire to spin out on short, steep climbs. Through sandy stretches I found the tire performed equally well and didn’t squirm or float like other tires I’ve ridden. Of course at low speeds the Nobby Nic will get bogged down in sand like any other tire so always remember to keep up your momentum.
Cornering with the Nobby Nic felt secure and it wasn’t long before I was safely leaning further and further into turns. Matching the Nobby Nic front and rear should improve cornering even more and is a good idea if you plan to ride aggressively through wet or AM conditions. I found this tire worked equally well on the clay and roots in Georgia and the rocks and sand in Colorado.
The Nobby Nic ($87.45 MSRP as tested) is a high performance tire with a design that’s evolved as close to perfection as any other through the years. If you ride a variety of conditions and need the versatility of a three compound tire, look no further than the allgrounder Schwalbe Nobby Nic.
Thanks to the folks at Schwalbe for providing the Nobby Nic for testing and review.