Continental Der Baron Projekt ProTection APEX Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Der Baron is a serviceable tire that we found works best on the front wheel. While it never stood out as particularly fantastic in any one performance metric, there is no doubt it works. We found user-friendliness to be one of its key attributes. Anyone can hop on this tire and have a sweet first ride. There is no learning curve. Cornering and longevity were the most impressive qualities of this tire. Pedal traction and braking traction were less impressive.
We found the Der Baron to offer very predictable and user-friendly performance through the bends. This tire does not offer a super sharp and aggressive cornering feel, instead, it is smooth and somewhat drifty. This may sound like a negative performance attribute, but actually, it is a compliment. This tire doesn't require super-sharp movements or an aggressive pilot to work well. Instead, it rolls relatively smoothly onto a forgiving and relatively round set of shoulder knobs.
Upon examination of the tread pattern, you will notice the shoulder knobs have somewhat open spacing that alternates with the center and intermediate lugs. The shoulder knobs are uniform and each knob has a diagonal sipe to help allow the rubber to flex onto the trail surface. When leaning into a turn, the transition from the center knobs to the shoulder is quite smooth, although the open spacing and low tread height feel a little drifty. Once on the shoulder, you can lean into the tire reasonably hard and the side knobs are well supported, although the rounded profile doesn't deliver a firm boundary or edge, it feels somewhat vague.
This tire has Continental's Protection Apex casing. Under the tread are two layers of 180 TPI fabric from bead to bead, as well as an Apex insert sandwiched in the sidewall to add some support and offer more puncture protection. We tested this tire with tubes and tubeless. Even with tubes installed, the sidewalls didn't feel super robust. That said, it had plenty of support in most situations, but if you like to play with low tire pressures, you may notice this tire feels a touch flimsy when leaning into a corner. Interestingly, we found that other Continental tires with this casing felt a little stiffer.
Pedal traction was relatively good with the Der Baron. That said, we still prefer this as a front tire as opposed to a rear tire. We found the pedaling traction to stand out a little bit more in loose or mixed conditions.
The spaced-out tread helps the knobs really engage in looser conditions. When the knobs are dispersed, they can really bite into the trail. While there is no doubt tightly spaced knobs roll better, widely spaced ones offer excellent grab. Climbing up steep and sandy pitches was pleasant and confidence-inspiring. The 2.42-inch width provides a nice footprint with a decent contact patch.
The BlackChilli rubber compound felt relatively tacky and supple. When climbing over rock or roots, the rubber felt like it was really conforming to the surface. This was noticeable, especially when compared to some of the harder compounds produced by other companies. The rubber has a high-quality feel.
Braking traction was relatively good but not amazing with the Der Baron. We found it to be predictable, though not quite as impressive as tires with more aggressive tread patterns and taller lugs.
The open tread design is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it really allows for a few knobs to really engage when you slam on the brakes and it isn't prone to packing with mud when conditions are loamy or wet. On the other, having less tread engaging makes the tire a little more prone to breaking loose, particularly in loose, dry conditions. We found this tire to be best suited for hardpack or loose conditions with a little moisture in the dirt.
The Der Baron offers mediocre rolling speed. If rolling speed is a key concern, this is not the tire for you. We preferred this tire mounted to the front wheel, it would be wise to pair it with a faster rolling rear end.
When examining some of the faster rolling tires on the market, you will notice a key theme: tightly compacted center tread knobs. When the lugs are packed in tightly, there is typically less drag or rolling resistance. When the knobs are open or spaced out like the Der Baron, it adds resistance as the knobs independently make contact with the surface. No amount of ramping of the lugs will help the cause. This could be a decent rear tire in the wet, loam, or looseness where outright rolling speed isn't as important.
We have over 300 miles on our Der Baron test tire. In addition, we rode primarily in the decomposed granite of the Sierra Nevada range. This soil can be particularly harsh on tires, especially the side knobs. Despite many miles of hard riding with this tire mounted both front and rear, we are pleased to say that our Der Baron is in excellent shape. The cornering knobs show less wear than most, and the sidewalls are still in great condition. It is safe to say these offer above-average levels of durability and score well in the longevity metric.
Installing the Der Baron wasn't terribly difficult, but it wasn't exactly easy either. The bead was very tight and it required the use of a tire level to coax it onto the rim. Once on the rim, the tight bead actually made it relatively easy to inflate, and we were able to seat the bead with a regular floor pump.
We found the Der Baron to be an average value. There are some fantastic tires on the market that offer more well-rounded performance at a lower price. That said, the lifespan of the Der Baron should be pretty lengthy and this can help justify the slightly higher price tag.
The Continental Der Baron is a solid tire best suited for duties on the front wheel. It offers a user-friendly experience and doesn't require an aggressive rider. Cornering abilities are solid and all-around traction was relatively good. This tire worked especially well on looser surfaces and the open spacing of the tread should play well with some moisture in the dirt. Given the price tag, we find it hard to recommend this tire over some of the competition.
Continental makes the Der Baron Projekt tire in the three most common diameters, 26-inch, 27.5-inch, and the 29-inch we tested. It comes in a 2.4-inch width for all three diameters, as well as a 2.6-inch in 27.5.
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