Back on Track: Knobs on the WTB Vigilante
Every third “side” knob on the Vigilante could probably be called a transitional knob. I say “probably” because the knobs aren’t as far outboard as the transitional knobs on other comparable tires (i.e., the Nevegal), and they’re also angled a bit which reduces their potentially deleterious effects as transition knobs. Add to that the fact that they’re only present in every third row, and the result is a tire that doesn’t fully exhibit all of the crap that I’ve come to associate with transitional knobs.
Getting to the point: I liked these tires. My #1 priority was cornering traction, and the Vigilante corners well. But before we get into that, a minor caveat: I mostly rode these around Whitefish, Montana, in the late fall. That means I was mostly riding on hardpack, loam, a very small amount of mud, and a little snow here and there, with plenty of roots and rocks scattered about. I don’t have much to say about their performance in deep mud, deep gravel, or sand as I didn’t have a chance to ride them in those conditions.
I found that the Vigilante wouldn’t hook up around hard corners quite as well as a fully channeled tire like a Maxxis Minion DHF or the aforementioned 45 North Nicotines. But the Vigilante wasn’t bad, and they were noticeably better than the DHF’s on long, fast corners that didn’t require steep lean angles; those minimal transition knobs did their job.
But more importantly, those minimal transition knobs improved cornering in moderate lean angles without also decimating the tire’s ability to corner well at steep lean angles and (more importantly) didn’t detract from the tires predictability. And this, I think, gets to the most noteworthy aspect of the Vigilante – they were predictable in every situation I put them in.
Every tire will, with a certain amount of force, break loose in a corner. Good tires do it at the same force every time—that way you can know when to expect your bike to start getting squirrely on you, and you can plan/react accordingly. The Vigilante fell into this category; when they broke loose in a corner, they did so in the same manner every time.
The Vigilante motors up really steep hills very nicely. If you spend a lot of time grunting your way up steep, loose climbs, these tires will take care of you.
As with most aggressively knobby tires, the Vigilante didn’t blow me away with its fast rolling. I didn’t find them to be particularly faster or slower than most other comparable tires, but they’ll feel a bit dog-ish if you’re coming off a lower-profile XC tire.
The Vigilante does a great job of hauling you down from speed. Regardless of whether I was upright or doing some panic braking while leaned way over, the Vigilantes slowed me down quickly and predictably.
More so than many of the tires out there, I found that the Vigilantes held their line while braking when leaned over. Many tires like to step out to the side when leaned-over braking happens. The Vigilantes did a great job of continuing to track in this situation, which means you can get on the brakes a little later when coming into a corner.
I don’t really have enough time on the Vigilante to give a fully informed opinion on its durability, but they haven’t displayed any tendencies that raise any red flags. I haven’t had any sidewall tears, and the knobs are still fairly fresh after ~25 rides.
The WTB Vigilante is a solid choice for anyone looking for an an all-around tire with aggressive tread. The only noteworthy downside is its rolling resistance, which is comparable to most other tires in this class—and therefore can’t really be considered much of a downside. There are better options for going around tight corners at ludicrous speed, and the Vigilante is certainly not an XC race tire, but it does an excellent job on high speed sweepers and low speed noodling, while still being able to handle tight corners and high lean angles without any fuss. I’d heartily recommend the WTB Vigilante to almost anyone looking for a solid, meaty tire that’s predictable in a wide variety of situations.
Next Page — Update: WTB 29″ Vigilante with AM Casing