At this point in the season you’ve probably hit the trails half a dozen of times and might be realizing that your rubber isn’t as good as you remembered it. Well, if you’re an AM or technical XC rider, I have two tires for you – one you may already know and another you may not (yet). The Mutano AM TCS ($60 MSRP) comes in two sizes (2.2 and 2.4 which I am reviewing) while the Weirwolf AM TCS ($60 MSRP) has been totally redesigned for 2010. Just like the Mutano, the Weirwolf also comes in two sizes – 2.1 and 2.3.
Mutano 2.4 TCS
The ‘TCS’ in the Mutano 2.4 TCS stands for Tubeless Compatible System. WTB’s TCS tires feature a bead that is UST compatible along with a durable tire casing for All-Mountain use. With the Mutano you also get a good measure of security with WTB’s inner peace – a thin layer of nylon on the side walls that reduces tire flex and the chance of pinch flats. Perfect for those of us who race through the nastiest terrain!
The Mutanos also feature Dual DNA rubber, two different rubber compounds that give you the best of both worlds: a longer lasting compound in the center and a slightly softer compound on the side to improve traction and control. At about 700 grams, (bring a scale to the store and check them out as they do vary in weight) the Mutanos aren’t breaking records in terms of light weight but that’s not what these tires are about.
Taking the Mutanos on the trails was inspiring and they worked exactly as intended without any surprises (just the way I like it). These skins work equally well on everything from hardpack to loamy tread. As a larger volume tire you might think these would be sluggish and unresponsive but fortunately this isn’t the case. The Muntanos handle great in the corners when you lean into it with serious pitch. Even at the limit of traction in corners, these tires lose grip slowly rather than all at once.
Climbing with the Mutano tires on my Opus Maadh was great. I was able to stay in the saddle, spinning the tire without it wanting to let go. Getting out of the saddle and trying to do the same thing yielded less than stellar performance, with just a touch of side slip (not that much but it’s worth mentioning).
Pointing the bike down a slope and in high-speed sections of the trail the Mutanos felt very comfortable. I really like the way they grip the terrain with very little vibration thanks to the tread pattern’s center row of semi-solid strip. Stability is also derived from the slightly smaller, lower profile blocks.
In the soft stuff the Mutanos aren’t super hot. Once again these are not really designed for the mega soft stuff you find on some trails so keep that in mind if you ride in the soup.
Weirwolf 2.3 TCS
Sharing the same carcass as the Mutanos with a UST Aramid bead, Inner Peace, and the Dual DNA compound, the Weirwolf is a long lasting, pinch resistant tire. Although the Weirwolf is called a 2.3, it’s actually a bit wider at the tread than the Mutanos by 2mm. The casing is smaller but the tread depth is a bit deeper and wider. WTB says the Weirwolf is designed for loose conditions like gravel and rocks all the way down to the wet stuff. At about 800 grams these are heavier than the Mutano tires. Don’t worry though, it’s just physics: more tread = more weight.
On the trail the Weirwolf has a completely different feeling. The Weirwolf was designed by WTB’s Mark Slate, Mark Weir (hence the funky spelling), and Jason Moeschler or, as i think of them, MJ. Intended for the XC – AM crowd, this tire behaves like a NASCAR in the corner with a bit of slip before it bites.
I took me some time to adjust to riding these tires – I wasn’t kidding about the slip before grip! Clearly the best application for these tires is the softer stuff where you need bite into the dirt. These tires aren’t so great on the hard pack because they’re not as efficient as the Mutanos or even the Vulpines.
Where the Weirwolfs perform best is technical, twisty trails where you need a high degree of traction. That being said, you have to be willing to pitch the bike a bit to allow the progressive side knobs to do their best at hooking you in your trajectory. For the brave who really like to pitch, these tires let you to lean into the corners. During testing I lost traction more than once attempting to pitch corners and in each case the terrain was close to hard pack. Each time I also noticed that the tires were tracking well then all of a sudden lost it woosh… down I went. On the soft terrain it was totally different story – good traction until they lost it and progressively slipped, giving me a warning to dial things back.
In the climbs I found the Weirwolf tires offered nice traction; they felt a bit slower than some other tires but at least the climb was sure-footed. At high speed they felt comfortable without too much vibration (only a touch more than the Mutanos). Descending and braking is where the Weirwolf’s shined once again, allowing my powerful brakes to really stop the bike. I appreciated the assured feeling I got when stopping with these tires. I had more than one of those “oh crap” moments where I almost got tossed over the bars from clamping too hard on the chicken switches.
Overall these two tires from WTB, the Mutano and the Weirwolf, are good buys and will surely put a smile on your face. The Mutano works best on harder surfaces while the Weirwolf howls on softer surfaces. At the end of the ride you can’t really go wrong with either one – just make sure you select the right tire for your riding style and terrain.
A quick thanks to the folks at WTB for sending up these two tires for review.