Schwalbe Nobby Nic Addix Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: High volume, good pedaling traction, lightweight for size
Cons: Very expensive, high rolling resistance, very rounded profile
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Our Analysis and Test Results
If you look around out on the trail, you're likely to see quite a few Knobby Nic tires on people's bikes. For many years, this tire has been spec'd on complete bike builds at a wide range of price points. It makes sense, given that Schwalbe claims the Knobby Nic is "the all-rounder that works in every situation, no matter the weather, no matter the terrain." This is a bold claim and one that we wanted to test for ourselves. We got our hands on a 2.6" ADDIX SpeedGrip Snakeskin Apex, that's a tongue twister, and tested it primarily as a rear tire. Our testers took it to task on the rough, rocky, and dry trails that are typical of the Lake Tahoe area in summer.
Depending on how you like to corner, the Knobby Nic works fine or is somewhat disconcerting. How it works for you depends entirely on the way you ride. If you're a less aggressive rider who prefers moderate speeds, then you might enjoy the predictable and consistent feel of this tire in corners. If you're a more aggressive rider who likes to lean the bike over through corners and commit to your side knobs, then the Knobby Nic will leave you wanting.
The Knobby Nic has a very rounded side to side profile with medium height squared off knobs used in both the center tread and side knobs. The center tread has an alternating pattern of a rectangle, then two more widely spaced square knobs, another rectangle, and so on. The side knobs are a mix of square and rectangular shapes that have almost a zig-zag pattern as opposed to a straight row like you'll find on many other tires. The result of this tire's shape and tread design is that it rolls easily from side to side, but doesn't offer a lot of support once it's tipped onto the side knobs. If you don't lean your bike too far over, there are lots of smaller square knobs in the intermediate zone of the tire that offer good grip for low to moderate speed cornering. At higher speed and more aggressive lean angles, this tire will drift and slide out on you.
Cornering performance is pretty darn good on hardpack actually, where this tire has no problem gripping despite the lower profile knobs and rounder shape. Loose over hard conditions are quite the opposite, as the Knobby Nic seems almost eager to slide as opposed to hooking up. In slightly loose dirt and sand, it corners admirably, so long as you keep the speed and lean angles somewhat in check. It handles very loose dirt okay, but the medium-height tread, especially on the side knobs, doesn't bite and hold nearly as well as more aggressive tread designs.
The pedaling traction of the Knobby Nic is one of its finest attributes. The center tread is only medium height, but the knobs have squared-off edges and vertical faces that dig in and provide traction in all but the loosest of conditions. In fact, the Knobby Nic is one of the noisiest rolling tires on pavement and hardpack, further evidence of its pedaling traction. In addition to the shape, number, and dispersion of the tread knobs, they all have siping on them, which enhances their grip on hard surfaces and especially rock. This tire has no problems scrambling up and over rocks and slabs, although it does seem very prone to spinning out in the dreaded loose over hard conditions.
Applying the brakes while riding the Knobby Nic is a relatively predictable affair. They don't have the braking traction of tires with much taller and more aggressive tread, but they hold their own and slow you in a controlled and comfortable fashion. The traction is best on hardpack, rock, and slightly loose dirt surfaces. In super loose conditions, they are prone to skidding and sliding a bit as their tread isn't all that deep or aggressive. The multitude of center tread knobs and their vertical braking edges that face perpendicular to the direction of travel are the primary reason for their good braking feel and performance. They work better in this regard than tires with lower profile center tread, although they don't perform quite as well when the dirt gets super loose as tires with larger and more aggressive treads.
Considering the height of the tread knobs on the Knobby Nic, it has a surprisingly high level of rolling resistance. This is especially noticeable on hardpack and paved surfaces where this tire is among the noisest rollers we've ever encountered. We attribute the wide spacing of the center tread knobs and their squared-off edges on all sides with increasing the rolling resistance. It's not quite as noticeable on softer surfaces, but you can feel and hear this tire's drag on anything firm.
While it isn't nearly as burly or good in the corners, the Knobby Nic has a similar level of rolling resistance to the gravity oriented tires in our test like the WTB Convict and the Maxxis Assegai.
The Knobby Nic we tested has Schwalbe's most durable rubber compound, known as ADDIX SpeedGrip, and their Apex reinforced Snakeskin casing. The tread of the Knobby Nic has worn relatively evenly, but as a rear tire, we're finding the sipes and the side knobs to be wearing on the quicker side of the spectrum. The inside of the side knobs that take the brunt of the abuse when cornering are showing signs of erosion and pitting, with some small chunks beginning to tear off the edges.
The sidewalls appear to be quite durable, the addition of the Apex reinforcement adds a good amount of support and additional puncture and pinch flat resistance. The Knobby Nic is a portly tire, with sidewalls that balloon out slightly beyond the tread; consequently, contact with rocks and abrasion to the sidewalls is relatively frequent. Despite lots of scrapes on the sidewalls, we've found them to be holding steady, with no seeping or leaking of sealant visible. Overall, we're reasonably impressed with the durability and feel that you're likely to get a lot of use out of this tire.
All of the Schwalbe tires in our test selection are more challenging to install than the competition. This is especially true for the Knobby Nic, which is the most difficult tire to install of the whole bunch. Getting it on the rim is simple and can be done completely by hand without the use of a tire lever. After that, however, there is nothing simple about seating the bead unless you have a high powered air compressor at your disposal. We were unable, and we think it might be impossible, to seat the bead of the Knobby Nic with a floor pump. Our homeowner air compressor didn't have the strength to do it either. We went so far as to burn a CO2 canister in an attempt to blast it full of air, to no avail. Eventually, we gave in and sheepishly made a trip to the bike shop to use their more powerful compressor, and that did the trick. Once seated, the tire holds air well, and like most tires, only minor additions of air pressure were needed after it sat overnight or for a couple days.
Schwalbe tires don't come cheap, and the Knobby Nic is one of the most expensive tires on the market. We find it hard to say that this is a good value. If you can justify the expense and this tire suits your riding style, then perhaps it could be a good value for you. For our money, we'd probably opt for something a little less expensive with better cornering performance.
The Knobby Nic is an all-around trail tire that has a very middle of the road performance that is best suited to less aggressive riders who ride at low to moderate speeds. This tire's cornering performance will underwhelm aggressive riders who like to rail corners. It can be used either as a front or rear tire, although testers found they preferred it as a rear tire where they could reap the benefits of its pedaling and braking traction while being less hindered by its lack of cornering ability. Overall, it's a good tire, we just struggle to think of when we'd opt for the Knobby Nic over other tires with better performance that cost less.
The Knobby Nic is only offered in the ADDIX SpeedGrip rubber compound. It is available for 26" wheels in 2.10", 2.25", and 2.35" widths in both Snakeskin and Liteskin casings.
For 27.5" wheels, it comes in 2.25", 2.35", 2.6" (tested), 2.8", and 3.0" widths in Snakeskin and Snakeskin Apex (tested) casings.
For 29" wheels, it is available in 2.25", 2.35", and 2.6' widths in Snakeskin or Snakeskin Apex casings.
— Jeremy Benson