Continental Der Kaiser Projekt ProTection Apex Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Continental Der Kaiser offers above-average performance in a few key performance metrics. This robust and relatively burly tire offers aggressive cornering performance, great pedaling traction, and serious braking bite. Despite its super aggressive tread and sturdy sidewalls, it only weighs 1035-grams. Still, the Der Kaiser isn't able to match the performance of some of the best in our test class. That said, it is not far off and testers agree this is the best Continental tire that we have ever tested.
The Der Kaiser offers sharp cornering abilities with a very defined edge hold. When you tip the bike onto the shoulder knobs on this tire, the grip is excellent in every condition we encountered. We found that riders with aggressive cornering abilities and good body/bike separation enjoyed the Kaiser most.
The Kaiser has tightly spaced shoulder lugs. The knobs are sizable, very well supported, and have horizontal siping. Transitioning from the rolling knobs to the shoulder lugs took a little bit of effort, primarily due to the square side to side profile of this tire. The square profile of the tire communicates well, and it is easy to feel when you are on the shoulder of this tire. There is no vagueness to it, and we found that you really needed to commit to the side knobs and lean into the turn to truly appreciate its cornering traction. Once tipped and weighted, that sturdy row of side knobs held strong, even in our late summer, loose and blown-out trail conditions.
Once on edge, the sidewalls felt substantial. This tire features Continental's Protection Apex casing and has a three-ply construction. Under the tread are three layers of 180 tpi protection with the Apex insert housed within the sidewall to enhance stiffness and protection against cuts and slices. This casing isn't the burliest that we have tested, but it is far from flimsy. Even at air pressures in the low 20s, the sidewalls remained supportive and didn't squirm or falter when cornering.
We enjoyed wrapping this tire around all sorts of turns. Hardpack, damp, dusty, it worked pretty well in most conditions. If you find yourself in wet riding situations often, we might recommend looking elsewhere, as the tighter spacing of the center and side knobs may be prone to packing with mud.
Pedal traction is phenomenal with the Der Kaiser. Whether you are scurrying up hardpack or the loosest of loose soil, this tire offers top-notch bite. Where other tires break free and spin when things get sandy or powdery, they hook up. When things get damp, they hook up. Mellow and buff climbs, they hook up there too.
The Der Kaiser is a knobby tire. The side knobs are closely packed, and the center tread consists of alternating rows of relatively tall paddle-shaped lugs. The center tread alternates between two knobs very close together and two a little further apart. All of the center tread knobs are heavily ramped which helps to ease them into the soil. Despite the heavily ramped leading edges, we found the height and sheer number of tread knobs bit well on virtually all surfaces we encountered while climbing. Much of our testing was done in the decomposed granite and sand in the Lake Tahoe Basin in late summer, and we were extremely impressed with the pedal bite this tire delivers. In the saddle or out, these tires hooked up on granite, loose sand, roots, hardpack, you name it.
Braking traction was another impressive attribute of the Der Kaiser. This tire was designed for aggressive riding and conditions, where the ability to control your speed is crucial. We found them to be excellent at shutting down speeds in a hurry and they really stood out as impressive in dry/loose conditions. We were able to find some greasy situations and they performed dutifully. They wouldn't be our top choice for riding in wet conditions, but they should still work relatively well until it gets super muddy.
The larger size of the lugs on the center tread really offer an excellent bite. Traditionally, ramped or sloped center knobs can be detrimental to braking force. That said, we didn't find that it mattered all that much with the Kaiser. When it was time to hammer on the brakes, they engaged and we were able to control our speed without breaking into a skid too easily. The relatively wide center knobs have a large contact patch and horizontal siping in every other set really helps the knobs flex into the soil.
Braking performance was fairly predictable with the Der Kaiser. This isn't the sort of tire that is going to slip/skid out on you without warning. Braking through corners offered solid hold and if the tire did break free, there was a good bit of warning in the moments leading up.
Rolling speed is not particularly impressive with the Der Kaiser. They roll fine but this is definitely not a fast-rolling offer. The measured 1035-grams for our 2.4-inch test tire is impressively light for an aggressive tire, but the tread design simply does not prioritize rolling speed.
Testers agreed that this tire felt draggy, particularly when scurrying up hardpacked climbs including pavement and fire road. The tall knobs are fairly spaced out and you can really feel it when rolling in a straight line. More tightly compacted knobs do roll faster, but it comes at the cost of braking and pedaling bite. Continental markets this as an aggressive tire intended for enduro and downhill use where rolling speed is less of a priority than outright grip. If you are super concerned with rolling speed, you are probably not the intended customer.
We have over 300-miles on our Der Kaiser, and we tested it as both a front and rear tire. We are very impressed with how well they held up. The tread certainly shows signs of wear but they are still in great shape.
Our dry and loose test conditions feature lots of granite, chunk, and decomposing granite soils. Typically, the cornering knobs on our tires are relatively trashed within a couple of weeks of hard riding while the center tread looks barely used. We were quite impressed by how long it took to do serious damage to the Der Kaiser, even when used as a rear tire. The rubber compound may be a little firmer than other faster-wearing options, a tradeoff for their impressive lifespan. The sidewalls also held up very well. Despite lots of scrapes with sharp rocks and a few hard rim-outs, the sidewalls look shockingly fresh with no sealant seepage or pinch flats to speak of.
Installation was a bit of a mixed bag with the Der Kaiser. It was quite difficult to pull the tire into place on the rim. The bead was fairly tight and it took some force and a few tire levers to get the second side of the bead pulled on. Riders who are still using tubes should be very careful as the risk of pinching the tube while installing the tire is relatively high.
Once in place, seating the bead was quite easy. The super-tight bead fit on the rim allowed us to inflate it with a standard floor pump. Once mounted, the tire measured 2.42 on a 30mm rim.
The Der Kaiser represents an average value. We feel that it delivers impressive performance at a reasonable price. Some of the other major players in the tire industry offer similar prices. It can be hard to move away from tried and true manufacturers, especially when the cost of the Continental tires are fairly in line with the rest of the premium tire market. That said, we don't think you will be disappointed if you decide to give the Der Kaiser a try. The above-average lifespan certainly adds value over other less durable options.
The Continental Der Kaiser is an impressive, aggressive option that is well suited for both the front and rear of the bike. Gravity enthusiasts and super aggressive trail riders are the best candidates for the Kaiser. Cornering abilities are impressive. Braking and pedaling traction also stand out. In addition, these tires come in at an impressive weight for how aggressive and durable they are. The downside? They don't roll all that quickly and the price is in-line with some of the top options from more popular manufacturers.
Continental makes the Der Kaiser Projekt ProTection Apex is 26-inch and 27.5-inch diameters as well as the 29-inch we tested. In all three sizes, they are available in the 2.4-inch width only.
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