Continental Mountain King ProTection 2.6 Review
Cons: Poor braking performance, vague cornering abilities, not meant for aggressive riding
Our Analysis and Test Results
We were not overly impressed with the Mountain King in any performance metric. That said, it never performed especially poorly either. This is a relatively well-rounded and versatile tire that could work for the right rider. Unfortunately for Continental, this tire gets somewhat buried in the middle of the pack among test tires.
The Mountain King delivers mediocre cornering abilities. It was a little difficult to control at times, and when you introduce any elements of moisture, things get wonky in a hurry. It performed well enough on the rear as a fun, drifty, tire, but we do not recommend running this as a front tire.
The Mountain King has a vague feel to it when working through the bends. The Continental Trail King has a similar tread profile but has a better pattern on the shoulder. The lugs aren't significantly larger on the Trail King, but they have better placement, a superior shape, and a slightly more squared-off feel.
Back to the Mountain King. We found this tire corners well-enough on hardpack and loamy trail surfaces. If you start to lean into this tire, it is going to break away on you. This isn't built for railing corners and smashing through off-camber sections of trail. In wet conditions, things get worse; this tire just isn't designed for this setting. Roots are particularly problematic.
The Mountain King could be a serviceable rear tire for those who like to drift and slide corners. That said, these riders are probably pushing hard enough where they may reach for a more aggressive option.
When grinding uphill, the Mountain King works reasonably well. Spinning away on tame singletrack or fire road is fine. In these mellow situations, this Continental tire goes beautifully unnoticed.
On steeper sections of trail, things can get a little tricky. This tire works fine on looser punches, but it requires some attention. You really need to pay attention to weight distribution, or the Mountain King will spin out on you and cost some valuable energy. If you are yanking up on the bars for power and find yourself too far forward, this tire will not bail you out. Instead, you need to actively think about giving an adequate amount of weight to the rear wheel.
Attempting to work your way up slick rocks and roots is ugly. You need to be really smart about weight distribution and not pedaling too hard. If you try and hit the gas and happen to be too far forward on the bike, the rear wheel spins very easily.
The Mountain King delivers mediocre braking bite. We would never say this tire brakes particularly well. It functions better on hardpack and rock compared to looser or damp surfaces.
When its time to shut down the speed, the shorter tread blocks don't provide adequate bite. The Mountain King is not a semi-slick tire, but it has a similar feel when hammering on the brakes. The tire just doesn't grab the soil like a more aggressive tire would. Tires like the Maxxis Minion DHR or WTB Trail Boss are much more effective at controlling speed.
The one redeeming factor is the larger volume in these tires. The more generous width creates a larger footprint, which means more rubber dragging across the ground and slightly better braking. If this were a 2.2-inch or 2.4-inch tire, braking power would be even less impressive.
On rock and hardpack, the Mountain King brakes okay. On looser technical surfaces, the tire slides and slips around easily under braking loads. When the trail gets wet, things get wonky in a hurry.
The Mountain King delivers impressive rolling speed. In fact, we found this to be one of the stronger attributes of this tire. We ran it on both the front and the rear and enjoyed smooth rolling speed with little resistance.
If you live and ride on buff trails, this tire could be a viable option. This is particularly true if you won't be riding too aggressively. The high rolling speed/low rolling resistance makes for efficient use of rider energy and helps you hold speed more effectively.
If your trails are not buff and smooth, be warned. Any rolling speed you gain with the Mountain King could be quickly lost by sliding around and spinning out if pushing hard into corners, braking hard, or hammering up steep and loose sections of trail.
Throughout testing, we observed very few signs of wear on our test tires.
When trying to gather information about the braking abilities of this tire, we put a small amount of wear onto the center tread. We think the Mountain King should have a reasonably long lifespan.
The Mountain King installed onto our 30mm test rim with zero trouble. We used a floor pump with a tubeless booster chamber and seated it on the very first try.
Tubeless floor pumps are great, but they sometimes require additional or supplemental pumps to get the bead to seat fully. This can be a frantic and tiring operation. The Mountain King is one of the few tires that needed no extra encouragement, the bead snapped on in one attempt at about 35 PSI. This is a valuable attribute that can save you some major headaches. We have a hunch that some riders may be able to set this tire up with a regular floor pump.
The Mountain King is best suited for cross country or light trail duties. The fast-rolling, low profile tread pattern is great for carrying speed on smooth terrain and conserving your valuable energy. Riders who ride a lot of hardpack flow trails might like this tire.
Aggressive riders will want to look elsewhere. This could be an okay rear tire, but we feel there are better options at a similar price.
At $70, the Mountain King ProTection is an average value. $70 is about average for a high-end mountain bike tire these days. The problem for the Mountain King is that the performance is average at best.
Unless you perfectly match the description in our Best Application section. We think you could do much better.
The Continental Mountain King is a serviceable tire best suited for the rear wheel. Rolling speed is impressive, but cornering, pedaling traction, and braking power are only mediocre. This tire could be a decent option for the right rider who leans towards the cross country application and rides on a lot of smoother, hardpack, surfaces. Everyone else would probably be better off considering other options.
The Mountain King is available in all major wheel sizes.In addition to the 2.6-inch version we tested, it is also available in a 2.3-inch width.
— Pat Donahue
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