Corning—they do it. In my test, I found that the Nicotine actually dug in a little too hard on corners, which, to the best of my recollection, is not a complaint I’ve had about any other tire, ever.
Since the Yelli Screamy that I had these tires mounted to likes to be ridden hard, I will on occasion let the back end get a little drifty. It’s fun in a “29ers-aren’t-supposed-to-work-like-this-but-fuck-it,-I’m-going-to-do-it-anyway” sort of way. With most 29er tires, the cornering traction is so abysmal that this procedure is more of an inevitable byproduct of making the bike turn rather than a conscious decision to do something fun—you lay the bike over a little bit and the tires are drifting before you really want them to.
The Nicotines don’t do this. I go into a corner a little faster than I should. I lay the bike over, expecting the rear end to drift a little bit. It doesn’t. So I push it a little and try to force it to break loose. Nope. So finally I just hack it over. It breaks loose, but as soon as I recenter my weight, it hooks right back up.
Another example of this cornering traction came in wet roots. Cornering on wet roots leads to the wheels chopping to the side occasionally. Plenty of tires will throw you to the ground when this happens, or at the very least, provide for an interesting couple of seconds while you work to regain your composure.
Every tire I’ve ever ridden will break loose on off-camber wet roots, but the better tires are at least predictable in this scenario. The Nicotines are both predictable and they hook back up the instant they get off of the root and back onto dirt. This predictability is key—even if a tire has mediocre traction, I can get along with it if it’s predictable. The Nicotine has lots of traction and it’s predictable, a win on that front.
I can tell that the Nicotines want to be ridden in a loose and drifty kind of way. They have a massive channel between the center and side knobs that just begs for a super loose riding style. But in tacky loam, they were very much locked in.
The Nicotines are basically downhill tires, and with the slightly larger contact patch of the 29er, they provide as much cornering traction as any tire I’ve ever been on.
While I could rarely get the hardtail up to a speed in rough chunder where I felt like I was really testing the tires, I think the Nicotines would be phenomenal on a longer travel 29er.
As one might expect from a large tire like the Nicotine, they won’t be winning any awards for how fast they roll. While they actually didn’t roll as slowly as I was expecting given the size and knob profile, these are not XC race tires.
At around 920 grams, the Nicotines are actually pretty light for their size. Presumably this is in part due to the 120 tpi casing. That said, they’re still a 920 gram tire —if weight is your primary concern, these probably aren’t the tires for you.
In my time riding the Nicotines, I didn’t have any issues with sidewall tears, although admittedly, this isn’t unusual for me when riding around Whitefish. It’s not overly rocky here, and I don’t weigh all that much, so I usually don’t have too many issues with sidewall tears.
I would call the tread wear better-than-average. The tires still had plenty of tread left after my time testing them. The Nicotines wore at about the same rate as any other 60a tire, and the blocks weren’t chunking out or tearing.
The 45NRTH Nicotine isn’t for everyone—they’re a big tire, which means they’re not particularly light, they don’t roll that fast, and they won’t even fit in frames with tight clearance.
But if you want a 29er tire that puts a premium on traction and will go around a corner as fast as you want it to, the Nicotine is a pretty damn good option. And on the new breed of longer travel 29ers that can handle aggressive riding, the Nicotine would be a great option.