WTB Trail Boss 2.25″ & 2.4″ Tires
Stated Dimensions: 29 x 2.25 & 29 x 2.4
Casing: TCS Light
Blister’s Measured Weight (2.25″ version): 800 grams
Mounted to: Canfield Yelli Screamy
Reviewer: 5’8”, 160 lbs
Test Duration: 20 rides
Test Locations: Park City, UT; Sun Valley, ID
I often find myself stuck choosing between (a) big, grippy tires that I love on downhills but hate on uphills (Maxxis Minion DHF, Maxxis High Roller II, etc.) and (b) light, fast-rolling tires that make going uphill easier, but aren’t as fun on downhills (Maxxis Ardent, Maxxis Ikon, etc.).
So for a while now, I’ve been on a search for a better in-between tire, and the latest contender is the WTB Trail Boss. Noah Bodman had good things to say about it, and I wanted to see how it would work for me.
I put a pair on my Canfield Yelli Screamy hoping for great, all-around performance. Were they as grippy as a Maxxis Minion DHF, with the rolling resistance of a Maxxis Ikon? No. Did they have their ups and downs? Yes. Might there be specific conditions for which I really liked them? Also Yes. Keep reading…
The WTB Trail Boss Line-up
In 29” diameter, the WTB Trail Boss tires come in the following configurations:
These configurations can be a little confusing, so here is a guide:
Level: WTB’s general tire classification.
DNA: single 60A durometer rubber all the way through.
Dual DNA: dual compound with grippier rubber on the outside knobs and firmer rubber in the middle.
Casing: The Enduro casing: light two-ply casing, the Lightweight casing: a single ply casing, and the Durable casing: ‘substantial’ – according to WTB and inexpensive.
Bead: TCS is a tubeless-compatible folding bead, and the wire is a heavier wire bead.
I opted to go with the 2.25” TCS Light tire because I wanted something light and quick, and I don’t usually need dual-ply casings. 2.4” seemed a bit bigger than necessary, and 917 g is a touch heavy for such a tire. So I was dissuaded from going in that direction (wrongly, as it turns out–but I’ll get to that later).
I put the WTB Trail Boss onto an E13 TRSr rim. It mounted up tubeless easily with a floor pump, and it may have been the easiest tire/rim combination to seal that I’ve used. The design of both the tire and the rim were guided by UST standards, and I can only imagine that helped. Standards are often maligned these days, but they do sometimes come to the aid of riders.
While handling the tires to mount them, I noted that the casing on the Trail Boss seemed pretty thin, comparable to a non-EXO Maxxis casing on an Ikon or Ardent tire—both of which I’ve suffered flats with. That had me a bit worried, but only riding would tell if it would be a problem with this tire as well.
On the Trail
My first ride took the tires up a smooth climb and down a flowing, smooth jump trail, with just a bit of loose dirt over hardpack. I found the tread pattern to be predictable and roll reasonably well. Climbing wasn’t exceptionally quick, but certainly a lot faster than with a Minion DHF or similar tire. The comparison that came to mind was the Maxxis Ardent 2.25.
Shortly after that first ride I had the opportunity to swap bikes with a friend who was running 29×2.25” Maxxis Ardent tires to see how they stack up. I’ve been pretty ambivalent about the Ardent in the past, but I was still a bit surprised by how much more predictable the WTB Trail Boss felt after switching back and forth. It rolled about as quickly, but at the edge of its traction, it would release in a more controlled manner. This was on a hardpack trail, and I can only imagine the difference would be more significant in wet conditions.
However, just after I’d started to get a feel for the tread performance, it became apparent that the casing was just too weak for me. I pinched the sidewall of the front tire on my second ride while running 27 psi (and I still don’t know what I could have hit—the trail seemed pretty smooth). The hole was too big for my Stan’s sealant to fill. As a result, I then stepped up to 29 psi in both tires along with a tube in the front. Four weeks later, I punctured the tread on the rear tire while running 29 psi. Stoke levels were low. I hadn’t flatted all year until these tires.
Based on that experience, I’ve concluded that these have to be run with 30+ psi in order to avoid pinch flats. Unfortunately their sweet spot for grip and rolling resistance seems to be
Additionally, I’m a bit surprised by how worn the rear tire was after 4 weeks. At a bit of a discount over a Maxxis Ikon or similar tire these would seem to be a decent deal, but I’m close to ready to retire mine due to wear and flats, and I can easily get twice the life out of an Ikon, and the Trail Boss is not half as expensive as an Ikon.
I’d hoped for a tougher, more durable tire at this weight. I was ready to give up on these tires when I went for a ride with Marshal Olson who was running the 2.4” version. He is a much bigger rider than I am, and reported that he hadn’t had any flats. That was enough to convince me that I ought to at least try the 2.4” version of the Trail Boss.
I could have tried the heavier TCS Tough casing 2.25” Trail Boss tire, but it is even heavier than the 2.4” TCS Light casing tire. I figured the higher volume 2.4” tire would offer enough additional flat resistance and give the added benefit of a cushier ride. I’m on a hardtail, so my choice was simple.
WTB Trail Boss 2.4”
I’m glad I gave the WTB 2.4 Trail Boss a chance.
In almost every way, the 2.4 Trail Boss feels very similar to the 2.25 Trail Boss. Despite being heavier, it doesn’t feel like it rolls significantly slower, but it does offer slightly better grip. More importantly, over the course of a couple months I found that it offered significantly increased pinch-flat protection due to its increased volume.
With the 2.4” tire I could finally safely run 27 psi in the front and get the grip I wanted without flatting. The TCS Light still isn’t a particularly stout casing, so I did get a bit of tire roll at that pressure. But it wasn’t enough to convince me to increase the pressure.
After riding both tires, there is no question that I would buy the 2.4” WTB Trail Boss over the 2.25” version, regardless of the conditions I were riding in.
I’ll switch to discussing the 2.4” WTB Trail Boss here and describe its performance in specific conditions because I would recommend it over the 2.25” version for any terrain that is more aggressive than perfectly smooth singletrack.
Climbing Traction: The Trail Boss provides good climbing traction, I like it as a rear tire, it offers better grip than a Maxxis Ardent, but not quite as much as a burlier Maxxis DHR or HR II.
Cornering Grip: The Trail Boss has reasonably good cornering grip—slightly better than a Maxxis Ardent 2.25. But more importantly, it is more predictable in terms of when it breaks free and how controllable it is in a drift.
Braking Performance: The braking performance on the WTB Trail boss is solid and quite predictable in all but loose or muddy conditions where there isn’t enough tread height.
Wet / Muddy Conditions: The Trail Boss is not great in wet/muddy conditions, but not particularly awful, either. I’d take a Maxxis High Roller II for really wet weather, but for simply wet trails, the WTB is good enough. I never had the opportunity to try it in deep mud.
Dry / Loose Conditions: In dry conditions the Trail Boss was really strong. It lost a little performance in loose conditions—get hard on the brakes and it could jump—but overall, it was still reasonably predictable.
Good Dirt: I couldn’t lay the WTB over like a downhill-inspired tread, but I could definitely rail corners better than with a tire like the Maxxis Ikon 2.35″ or Ardent 2.25″.
Rolling Resistance: The Trail Boss is slightly slower rolling than a Schwalbe Nobby Nic or Maxxis Ikon. I’d put it on par with a Maxxis Ardent for rolling resistance on firm dirt.
The comparisons here are between the 2.4″ Trail Boss and the tires listed below.
Vs. Maxxis Ardent 2.25 EXO/TR: The 2.4″ Trail Boss is grippier and more predictable in all areas: cornering, climbing, braking. The downsides are that it has thinner, has weaker sidewalls, and weighs a bit more.
Vs. Maxxis Ikon 2.35 3C/EXO/TR: The 2.4″ Trail Boss is noticeably slower, but it offers more grip. I find that in dry conditions where I want to put in serious miles, I always take the Ikon because it keeps my legs fresher. For most other conditions, though, the Trail Boss is more versatile and fun.
Vs. Maxxis Minion DHF 2.3 3C/EXO/TR: The Trail Boss is much faster rolling than the Minion, but decidedly less grippy. For technical trails and higher speeds, I’ll take the Minion every time, but it isn’t as good for covering lots of ground.
Vs. Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35: The Schwalbe is more durable and grippier than the 2.25″ Trail Boss, and offered similar rolling resistance. But it provides less grip than the 2.4″ Trail Boss in all conditions except for loose dirt.
Who’s It For?
If you’re looking for a tire to be used mostly in firmer dirt and maybe some sandy conditions and you want an even balance between traction and rolling resistance, I think you will love the 2.4″ WTB Trail Boss.
While I wouldn’t bother with the WTB Trail Boss 2.25”, the 2.4” version is a solid tire that I will continue to use (a) as a rear tire paired with an aggressive front tire or (b) as a pair on a bike intended for mellower terrain. I’ve never ridden a tire that strikes a better performance balance of traction and rolling resistance.