WTB Vigilante 2.3 Fast Rolling/Tough Review
Cons: Fair hardpack performer, tippy on edge, unramped knobs increase rolling resistance
Our Analysis and Test Results
WTB's website states this tire was built on the "need to race in European enduro events." It claims to be a top performer in loose and wet conditions and in our experience, this tire is truly at home when things get sloppy. We took it out for a spin as autumn's first snowfall was just melting off the slopes of the bike park at Kirkwood Mountain Resort just outside of Lake Tahoe. With the lifts closed, we were forced to earn our descents and the Vigilante clawed its way to the top just as effectively as the archaic lifts could have. Precision handling and exceptional braking power help to offset what we feel is a higher rolling resistance than many other tires in our test.
We see a lot of Vigilante tires on our local trails in Tahoe. For a good majority of the mountain biking season, many of us question our ability to effectively corner a bike. With few exceptions, if corners aren't blown out and sandy, they trend towards the un-bermed and marbled variety. Even the tamped down, purpose-built flow trail berms degrade during parched summer months. Tractionless trails leave us drooling over YouTube videos of bar dragging, loamy turns.
The Vigilante has small, fairly homogeneous, square knobs throughout its entire tread. Each knob is horizontally siped. It looks oddly simplistic to us after a prolonged period of scrutinizing the minutiae of knob design for this review. However, its beauty lies in its simplicity. The 60A base rubber compound of the TCS (Tubeless Compatible System) Tough Fast Rolling tire we tested gave good structure to the 50A side knobs that seem to sacrifice little in the way of grip. There are better options for hardpack trails and WTB readily admits that, but any squeamishness was relegated to rock slabs or very firm dirt.
Aside from that, this tire seems infallible in its quest to find traction where it otherwise doesn't exist. On our 30-mm internal diameter wheelset, the tire takes on a moderately squared profile that allows the side knobs to bite into corners quite well. The tire enters turns with confidence and rails through apexes, but sometimes lets go and slides in a straight drift towards the end of a turn. In loose, larger radius corners, we use this to our advantage by counter-steering and mashing out of corners. We felt a bit hindered in tight corners when instead of snapping out of a turn, we had to fight that little slide.
This tire is difficult for us to pigeonhole; not being overly drifty, but also not the tire that requires the rider to lean the bike over to lock onto the side knobs. Without a defined channel between knobs like the Maxxis Minion DHF, this tire is capable of cornering at a more moderate lean angle. The offset side knobs also don't lock in quite as firmly as if they were oriented in a straighter line, making it a somewhat drifty tire more akin to the Schwalbe Hans Dampf. For this reason, riders that prefer a certain type of tire may have a difficult time with the vagueness this tire presents with.
Unless you ride firmly packed singletrack all the time, the Vigilante will provide mile upon mile of pedaling competency. On exceptionally technical terrain with suspension gobbling rocks creeping in from the trail's edge, the fastest line from A to B is cutting over the edges of these rocks versus slithering around them. The large volume and footprint of this tire allow it to smear onto off-camber rock slab sections where other tires may glance and slide off. We tested the firmer Fast Rolling Dual DNA compound and suspect the softer High Grip Gravity DNA version might even provide more traction in these conditions.
The side knobs occasionally get a little squeamish on steeply pitched traverses, which we attribute to the square tire profile and aggressive side knobs. The horizontal siping on the knobs is also more conducive to splaying out the knobs in a fore and aft manner rather than side-to-side as would be more effective when angled across as slab. We were happy to deal with just a little bit of wiggle as other tires like the Michelin Wild Grip'r and Continental Mountain King couldn't even hang onto the angles we achieved with the Vigilante in the first place.Sandy corners can really up the pucker factor when speed starts to increase because typically when things go wrong, they go wrong in a hurry. This tire tracks marvelously through sandy corners. We like the feel of the Schwalbe Hans Dampf here too. The lack of an obvious channel on both tires gives them an even, squirm-free feel. When we finally got some precipitation towards the end of our test period, we found the open tread design adept at shedding light mud and debris with adequate spacing for the knobs the penetrate mucky surfaces.
Again, the simple tread design of this tire provides exceptional braking quality. The vertical back edge of the center tread grabs maximum dirt to slow things down in a predictable manner. The slightly angled side knobs are placed in a 2-1 pattern with the lone offset knob residing nearby what would normally be considered the transitional zone. There is no ramping of these side knobs and again dirt runs up against a vertical wall of rubber when the brakes are applied. This tire, along with the Continental Mountain King, have tread patterns that perform exceptionally well for front tire braking.
With an emphasis on traction, this doesn't feel like the fastest rolling tire out there. Slight ramping on the center tread is about the only "go fast" quality we notice in this tread design. The pliability and willingness of this tire to conform and stick to trail features allow us to nail our intended line. This tire seems about as resistant to rolling as the Michelin Wild Grip'r Advanced, but the tread pattern on the Vigilante feels smoother and more even.
The Tough casing on this tire made it out of our test with hardly a scratch, despite being tossed down the roughest, rockiest trails we could find. Weighing in at 1053 grams, this protection comes with a bit of a weight penalty but we wouldn't recommend this tire for use on your XC bike anyway. Not overly thick or stiff like a DH wrap, the Tough casing is a near perfect middle ground that proved effective for over two months of hard riding. The harder rubber compound we tested wore better than expected on the center tread with the siping still quite evident at the end of our test period. In fact, slight eroding of the side knobs, not even close to what we experienced with the Continental Trail King, was the only evidence this tire had even seen much trail time.
UST approved TCS (Tubeless Compatable System) goes on easy the first time. You'll still need to use sealant but the specifically designed bead hooks up and snaps into place a little better than many other tires. These tires hold air and require minimal additional air between rides, even if they just sat in the garage for a few days. This tire scored very well in this metric, and can be installed at home or on the road with only a floor pump.
If you want to beef up the light tires that came stock on your enduro or trail bike, these are a great place to start. Not sure if you like a tire that will rail corners or one that will give in to some drift? You'll have a chance to figure that all out with the Vigilante, as it offers a pretty balanced mix of these ride characteristics. Though difficult to pigeonhole, this tire makes an excellent middle-of-the-road option for those that ride a wide variety of trail types in all seasons. Headquartered in the Bay Area of California with every type of trail surface imaginable within a few hours drive, it's probably no coincidence this everyday, go-to tread pattern was conceived there.
At about $74, this tire comes in at a pretty average price point for a tough, aggressive tire with good sidewall protection. Given its excellent ability at withstanding the rigors of our testing, we consider this tire a pretty good return on investment. The 50A tread compound had a longer lifespan than we expected and the sharp, square knobs held up well with little rounding.
We think this tire will appeal to a huge audience. It fits the bill as a general-purpose tire in all sorts of conditions. As we mentioned above, the tire isn't as at home on very firm ground, but pretty much everywhere else is within this tire's domain. Very discerning riders that prefer a tire that begs to be leaned way over to engage the side knobs may not agree this is the perfect tire. The same goes for those who like a drifty tire. Riders with a less defined style are well matched with the Vigilante. Outstanding performance in loose, rocky terrain typical of trail riding coupled with a resilient sidewall will give many riders the confidence boost to start chasing KOMs or podium spots.
The Vigilante is available for 26", 27.5", and 29" wheels in a 2.3" width. It is offered in their Light casing in both Fast Rolling and High Grip rubber compounds for $65. It is available in Tough casings in Fast Rolling or High Grip rubber for $74.
WTB has also recently announced that they will be offering an updated Vigilante that will come in 2.5" and 2.6" widths for 27.5" and 29" wheels. We will be testing this new version as soon as they become available.
— Sean Cronin and Jeremy Benson