continental trail king review: initial impressions

mmmmmm… meaty.

after an incredibly poor performance at the OMBC series opener on march 8th, where the dirt was so slick with wet leaves and mud my 3-seasons-old exiwolfs just couldn’t handle, i knew i was going to start hating my mtb career if i didn’t get on the new tyre wagon soon.

just before the state-wide shutdowns, i finally pulled the trigger. i’d been wasting time debating with myself and my dudes at kent cycle on what to expect from crusher’s terrain, my needs for training and the ever important weight-versus-flat-protection conundrum.

the choices out there are daunting, to say the least. i eventually settled on the continental trail king 2.2 as my compromise for weight / rolling resistance and durability. i stuck with my factory recommended 2.2″ and while they looked ENORMOUS when i unfolded them out of the packaging, the tyres turned out to look pretty normal when installed. seriously, it’s been THAT LONG since i saw good knobbies on a fresh skin i was momentarily concerned that i ordered the wrong size.

i am currently running the (very old) mavic x317 wheel. to give you an idea, x317 was replaced by x717 in the mid oughties and now the entire line has been replaced by xa. but i have no complaints and don’t plan on any wheel upgrades as they’re super durable and light enough for my purposes. even with all the bad choices i make have rarely required any truing. despite yellow’s insitance that it is virtually impossible to have a good time mounting conti tyres to mavic wheels i thought installation was a snap. anything is easy compared to mounting track slicks on 650-c wheels, so maybe my perspective is off. we had a race, of course, to see who could get the tyre on faster. i won because yellow managed to pinch flat my front tube. stop rushing, dude, xc races are all about steady pedaling!

recommended pressures range from 44-58 which seems high, but i prefer a stiffer ride so i jammed as much air in them as was deemed safe and headed off to the trails.

heloooooooo down there! it’s mat, at oecr!

weather here’s been garbage (because, ohio) but i found oecr to be solid, making for a fun few laps on the steep elevation changes there. the course is compact and runs zig zag up and down a ridgeline. it only took a moment for me to recall the joys of dirt climbing. the knobby pattern didn’t give me any slippage, even when i didn’t bother to shift for uphills and just stood. gotta practise that “passing on the uphill” thing i love so much!

the trail kings did awesome on rock gardens as well. i like to go right down the middle of those things and just run everything over, instead of risking getting my front stuck in a groove that doesn’t go anywhere. i mean, why turn the front wheel at all if you don’t have to? they felt good and grippy on those obstacles as well as over roots and smaller logs. i’m still scared of big logs, so i guess we’ll find out about those later. much later.

the next afternoon, i stopped out at quail hollow. the rumours you have heard are true- people with herds of dogs and children are flooding the local single tracks and loudly complaining that there are bicycles in the woods. oh, the humanity.


it was ladies wear pink day at quail hollow!

our group managed only about an hour of riding before we couldn’t take the interaction. i go to the woods so i don’t have to listen to the squeals and whining of children. at least tape their mouths shut if you’re going to bring them out.

quail had a few severely muddy spots that required hike-ya-bike, but overall was pretty decent hard pack. quail’s a great ride if you’re looking for a flat, short course with fun turns and a few bridge obstacles, but it’s not much for rocks. the trail kings were incredible there and i was relieved to find out i didn’t lose all of my handling skills, the clapped-out tyres i was running were a big part of my problem. so… confidence restored!

i had read some reviews of these tyres that they don’t excel in mud. several of the wet spots at quail were passable (stay in the middle!) and i felt no problem other than the usual slight rear slide that happens when you transition from solid to sticky too slowly (haha!). i did have one get-off, at the beginning of the first go around, but that was all my fault. i was fiddling with my shoe cover and doinked my front wheel hard to the left.

the last thing i did with lisa this weekend was a little outlaw riding. there’s an aborted trail project near cleveland and some big bumpy gravel access roads treated with rocks the size of large oranges. the trail kings were fast and fun on those big rocks and that’s a huge relief because i expect to see a lot of terrain like that in july.

overall, so far, here’s my gradesheet:
installation: 10/10
so easy i would install again even on the side of the trail in the dark
weight: 8/10
heavier than what i had, but 740g doesn’t seem like too much for the thickness of the sidewall
performance on dry: 10/10
performance on wet: 7/10
could go up or down once i take these through some real nasty crud
performance on rocks: 10/10
hell yes

my trail king purchase was sponsored by kent cycle and shenanigans cycling… thanks, everyone, for helping me keep the dream live!

as always, thanks to yellowman at mohican for photography (and being there for me to chase on the downhills)