Continental has taken elements of its fantastic Trail King mountain bike tire and injected them into the wholly revamped Mountain King for 2011, swapping out the previous version's predictable-handling but flex-prone triangular knobs for a more conventional block pattern. Two rows of alternating four- and six-sided knobs run down the center of the new Mountain King while the burly shoulder is expected to provide a surer grip at more aggressive cornering angles.
Riders who regularly find themselves in sloppy conditions also have a new option in the Continental Mud King, built with very tall and openly spaced knobs on an earth-slicing 2.3" casing. The dual-ply casing is also reinforced with Continental's rubber-infused Apex sidewalls to help ward off pinch flats.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the new X-King (say, 'cross king'), built with much shorter and relatively tightly packed knobs for a faster roll on mixed terrain. Side knobs are still relatively well reinforced for predictable cornering grip and the available 2.4" size should make it popular with trail bike users.
One big piece for all Continental off-road tires is the new casing styles. Riders who like the secure bead fit of true UST tires (which Continental will continue to offer) but want lighter weight can now opt instead for Race Sport with its UST-compatible bead but a much thinner casing that requires sealant to be airtight.
Alternatively, ProTection-equipped tires will feature a bead-to-bead layer of rubber-coated nylon that reportedly increases puncture resistance by 30 percent over the previous edition while also coming in 25 percent lighter. Continental also says the extra layer lends a more damped feel to the tire for a less bouncy ride.
Maxxis has its own fast-rolling, short-knob offering for 2011 with the new Ikon, whose knob layout is roughly similar to Continental's X-King but with even shorter knobs for more dedicated speed. While Continental infuses the X-King with its strangely fast-yet-grippy-yet-durable Black Chili compound, Maxxis instead uses its more complex 3C Triple Compound Technology to lend a more solid foundation to each knob under power and when at extreme lean angles.
Also coming from Maxxis for 2011 is the 29er-specific Beaver, built for messier conditions with its more open knob layout, taller tread blocks, and dual-compound rubber.
Panaracer continues to build on its collection of Cedric Gracia signature tires with the addition of the CG Soft Condition and CG All Condition models. Consumer already familiar with Panaracer's range will quickly see some elements of the Fire XC Pro and Cinder – two of the company's most popular designs – in the Soft Condition model with its regularly spaced square blocks and slightly squared-off profile.
Panaracer says the CG Soft Conditions' tapered knobs will dig into the softer ground and easily shed mud but the siped tops will also tend to spread out on harder surfaces for good grip. The All Condition, on the other hand, uses more conventional siped rectangular knobs and a nearly solid shoulder. Both use Panaracer's Combo Compound rubber, which uses a soft base to let the knobs adapt a bit to varying terrain but a harder cap for durability – exactly the opposite of what most other manufacturers use.
Two-niner fans will also be happy to see Panaracer add 29x2.1" and 29x2.25" sizes of its CG XC tire, too.
Michelin's off-road range is mostly carryover with the exception of the revamped Wild Race'r, which now features more openly spaced and shallow square- and triangular-shaped center knobs paired with a more heavily reinforced triangular shoulder tread. According to Michelin, the new layout retains the old design's tenacious grip on hardpack but adds more versatility when there's some loose material on top.
Hutchinson's off-road range includes the new Cougar, built with a styrene-infused rubber compound that supposedly adds puncture resistance without having to resort to a separate belt. The stout, angular blocks are slightly pared-down in the center to retain some straight-line speed but kept at full-height on the shoulders for a more confident feel when cornering in loose conditions.
Hutchinson has also revamped its Tubeless Ready 'cross tires with the same stretch-proof carbon fiber bead used in its Road Tubeless models. Though admittedly harder to install, Hutchinson says the new bead will allow for much lower operating pressures than before, hopefully making them a more viable alternative to full-blown tubulars than in years past.
Speaking of tubulars, Hutchinson tubies have long been a popular choice in the Pro Tour but consumers have only been able to purchase the Carbon Comp model in years past. Hutchinson will now offer the same exact tires supplied to the teams in limited quanitities to the general buying public – sans model designation and all – but they'll come at a hefty price of US$500 a pair. But hey, Hutchinson will toss in two tubes of glue for free.
You won't need any glue – or air, for that matter – for Hutchinson's new Serenity tire system, though. Instead of a standard inner tube or even an airtight tubeless casing, Serenity uses a foam insert that never needs to be inflated and can't go flat. Though heavier and slower rolling than a standard setup, Hutchinson claims it's similar to running 50psi and the insert will last up to 30,000km. Interesting.
New road offerings from Vittoria include the Corsa Evo SC tubular and Diamante Pro Pista. The Corsa Evo SC uses the same 320tpi casing as the standard Corsa Evo CX but with a more traditional file tread and available natural-colored sidewalls. The Diamante Pro Pista clincher, on the other hand, is intended solely for indoor or outdoor track use with a 220tpi casing, 145psi recommended operating pressure, and just 150g of weight in a 700x23c size.