Schwalbe Hans Dampf HS491 Addix Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Predictable drifty feel, more aggressive than previous version, good braking traction, high volume
Cons: May be too drifty for some, expensive
Manufacturer: Schwalbe Tires
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested the Hans Dampf HS 491 on both the new Ibis Ripley and the Ibis DV9. It comes as an OEM spec on both of these bikes in a 29" x 2.6" size mounted to rims with a 30mm internal width. We rode it primarily as a front tire, though we feel it is well suited for use as a rear tire as well. We logged hundreds of miles on those test bikes and found that the bigger and badder Hans Dampf is similar but significantly better than the previous version.
Drifty is one of the best ways to describe the cornering feel of the Hans Dampf HS 491. This was one of the hallmarks of the original Hans Dampf, and that feel carries over into the new and improved version. It is still non-directional, but the tread pattern has been changed, and the tread knobs themselves have grown considerably in size. The Hans is still easy to roll over when cornering as the profile is still relatively round from side to side, and there is no dead spot between the center tread and the side knobs. This tire stays engaged as you tip it over, though it has a distinctly less edgy feel and more of a predictable drift compared to some of the competition.
The Hans Dampf has a notably drifty character, and this is due in large part to the non-directional tread design and rounded side to side profile. The center and intermediate tread have a repeating symmetrical layout with alternating sets of siped rectangular and square lugs. All of these lugs have squared-off edges, and the sipes on them run perpendicular to the direction of travel. The side knobs are evenly spaced in an alternating pattern of a wider rectangle and slightly smaller squarer lugs. All of the side knobs have sipes as well. While this tread design is relatively open, there is little empty space and no open transition zone between the center tread and side knobs. When you tip the Hans Dampf on edge, it maintains traction well as you roll onto the side knobs. The relatively tall and squared off tread lugs bite into most soil types quite well, though when you push hard on this tire in corners, it tends to slide, or drift, in a comfortable and controllable fashion. It takes a little getting used to, but it's great once you get the hang of it. It has a distinctly different feel compared to a tire like the Maxxis Minion DHF that has a directional tread and taller, more aggressive side knobs that have an edgier feel and bite in the corners.
The Snakeskin Apex construction we tested isn't unusually heavy, but the sidewalls feel quite robust. We never felt like the Hans Dampf was folding or squirming underneath us, even when running low pressures in the 20 psi range. We tested the Addix Speedgrip rubber compound, which is the firmer and longer-lasting of the two compounds offered. Testers felt that this compound didn't feel especially tacky, but it provided plenty of grip on surfaces ranging from granite slabs to blown-out corners. The Hans Dampf is also available in the Addix Soft compound, which will provide more grip on most surfaces but will wear out more quickly.
The Hans Dampf can be used on either the front or the rear of the bike. As a rear tire, the HS 491 provides loads of pedaling traction. It has a bit more rolling resistance than some of the competition, but this tire can help you claw your way through loose conditions and technical terrain.
The relatively open non-directional tread pattern of the HS 491 has lots of squared-off knobs with sipes on each one of them. Each knob has sharp square edges that bite well on all surfaces. Due to the non-directional nature of the tread pattern, there are no ramps on any of the knobs, but there are plenty of flat surfaces on the sides of them to work as paddles should you encounter loose conditions. The 2.6" width we tested has quite a bit of air volume, allowing you to run relatively low tire pressures. We found that 22 psi was the sweet spot for the HS 491 as a rear tire to increase the contact patch and traction without fear of pinch flatting.
For the same reasons that the Hans Dampf provides good levels of pedaling traction, it also provides ample braking traction. Again, the open tread pattern with taller knobs sharp square edges that face perpendicular to the direction of travel dig in quite well when the brakes are applied. Controlling your speed while riding this tire, especially as a front tire, is confidence-inspiring and predictable in conditions ranging from hard pack to completely blown out.
The open spacing of the tread pattern ensures that each knob has a chance to dig in with its squared of edges. The sipes on every lug also work as another set of edges to grab on to firm surfaces like hard-packed dirt and solid rock. Sure, there are other tires we've tested that provide more braking traction, but those tires all weigh significantly more and roll a fair amount slower. The Hans Dampf holds its own in the braking department.
The Hans Dampf has a relatively aggressive and widely spaced tread pattern that causes a little more rolling resistance than many other tires on the market. The non-directional tread pattern has squared-off center tread lugs with zero ramps to speak of. The rolling resistance is most noticeable on pavement, though it clearly feels a touch more sluggish on trails as well. It doesn't roll quite as fast as tires with smaller or more tightly packed center tread like the Maxxis Aggressor, but the difference is relatively negligible for non-competitive trail riding.
One of the biggest complaints with the previous version of the Hans Dampf was that they weren't incredibly durable. It only took a couple of weeks of hard riding to wear them out. Considering the high price tag, the lack of durability turned a lot of riders off to the Hans Dampf. That is changing with Schwalbe's more recent tires, and our testers found the HS 491 to be more durable than they expected based on past experiences.
Both the sidewalls and the tread knobs fared quite well, and after weeks of testing on two different bikes, we were impressed with the longevity of the HS 491. We smashed through rock gardens, scraped the sidewalls on sharp granite, skittered down rock slabs, and cornered hard in decomposing granite soils. The sidewalls showed no signs of seeping sealant, slashes, or tears. The side knobs show the typical pitting and signs of wear from hundreds of miles of riding, but nothing out of the ordinary that would cause alarm or sem premature. We also rimmed out more than once while testing and didn't put any holes in the HS 491 in the tread or along the bead.
Throughout our testing, we've found that Schwalbe tires are generally a bit more difficult to install than other brands. They are easy enough to get onto the rim, but seating them sometimes takes a little more effort than the competition.
Testers found that seating the Hans Dampf with a regular floor pump was a lesson in frustration and quickly gave up in favor of a tubeless booster pump. Using the boost chamber on our Joe Blow floor pump, we were able to get the tire to seat, though it needed a little extra pumping to get the bead snapped into place all the way around. Of course, it is much easier to mount just about any tire with a compressor or booster pump, and we'd recommend having one of those options handy when putting any Schwalbe tire on your bike.
Schwalbe tires do not come cheap, in fact, the Hans Dampf HS 491 is one of the most expensive mountain bike tires you can buy. We find it hard to call it a great value when other tires cost significantly less and provide similar levels of performance. That said, the HS 491 does seem much more durable than the old version, so you'll likely get more for your money with a longer lifespan. We feel the HS 491 is a great tire if you like a drifty feel and are willing to throw down the cash.
If you were a fan of the original Hans Dampf, we think you'll probably love the new and improved HS 491. This tire still holds true to its roots with a non-directional tread, rounded profile, and predictable drifty cornering feel, but it is beefier, burlier, and more durable than before. This tire comes in wider sizes, stands up far better to abuse, and can be pushed much harder than its predecessor. It also appears to be much more durable, which is great considering the high price of admission. That said, if you don't like the edgy feel of other tires, you might really get along with the Hans Dampf HS 491.
The Hans Dampf HS 491 is offered in several rubber compounds, wheel sizes, and widths to suit a wide range of riders' preferences and needs.
We tested the 29" x 2.6" Addix Speedgrip Snakeskin TL Easy Apex. In the 29-inch wheel size, they offer it in both 2.35" and 2.6" widths. In the 2.6" width, it is available in both the Addix Speedgrip and the Addix Soft rubber compounds, with the latter being offered with a Beige/Skinwall. The 2.35" width is available in only the Addix Soft rubber compounds and is offered with either black or beige/skinwall and is also available in both Snakeskin and Super Gravity casings.For 27.5" wheels, the HS 491 is available in 2.35", 2.6" and 2.8" widths. The 2.8" version is only offered in the Snakeskin Apex Addis Speedgrip configuration. The 2.6" width is available in Snakeskin Apex Addix Speedgrip with a black sidewall or Snakeskin Apex Addix Soft with a beige/skinwall. The 2.35" width is offered only in the Addix Soft rubber compound in Snakeskin or Super Gravity casings with either black or beige/skinwall sidewalls.
— Jeremy Benson