e*thirteen launched the Grappler as its gravity-specific tire built to wrestle the gnarliest tracks. Big tread, soft rubber, and burly side walls are all engineered to maximize grip and protection when you are charging downhill tracks in all conditions.
The Grappler comes in a single 2.5in width, two compounds, and two casings for both 29 and 27.5 wheel sizes. I have been testing the Downhill and Enduro casing options, both featuring e*thirteen’s softest and stickiest MoPo rubber, to see how they perform compared to the best MTB tires.
Design and specifications
The Grappler's tread pattern features an interchanging center section between a double knob and a triple knob pattern with a row of protruding side knobs on each side. To help the knobs conform to the trail, there is horizontal and vertical sipping on the center section to enhance cornering and braking traction, with some more sipping on the shoulders. Interestingly, e*thirteen has sipped the outside of the shoulder knobs as well, presumably to increase deformation when cornering.
My test tires feature e*thirteen’s softest MoPo compound which covers the tire edge to edge with a soft, slow rebounding 42 durometer rubber. e*thirteen also does an Endurance which combines a 50a compound shoulder tread with a harder 56a center compound to increase rolling speeds and slow wear rates.
The Grapplers come in a Downhill casing which features a dual ply 72tpi, Aramid bead, and reinforced tread with Apex DH inserts. Alternatively, there is the Enduro casing with a Dual Ply 120tpi, Aramid bead, and reinforced tread with Apex EN inserts which saves around 170g per tire.
I tested a 29er Enduro MoPo up front and a 27.5 DH Mopo at the rear. The front tire weighs in at 1,322g while the rear tipped the scales at 1,390g. Burly tires like these are never going to do you any favors on the uphills, but they are comparable to tough tires from Maxxis and Schwalbe. For example, the Grappler Enduro MoPo is only 5g heavier than an Assegai in a DD (1,395g quoted) and 110g heavier than Schwalbe's Magic Mary Super Gravity. In the downhill casings, the Grapplers beat both Maxxis and Schawalbe’s equivalent versions by about 100g.
The tires were a proper struggle to squeeze onto the set of Hunt wheels that I was testing them on. Although they finally submitted, the Downhill casing killed two tire levers getting them onto the rim and the Enduro casing wasn't much easier. Once fitted though, they popped right up onto the rim with a blast of air and the tight fit assures that they are airtight and require little re-inflation in between rides. Based on my measurements, the Grapplers came up a touch smaller than advertised on the 31mm wide (internal) Hunt E_All Mountain wheels.
Despite having been producing tires for a number of years, e*thirteen is still a bit of an outlier when it comes to tires. However, the grip levels easily match tires produced by the big players.
The MoPo compound gives superb traction even on slimy greasy trails and with the full edge-to-edge MoPo compound it really bolsters confidence to charge into challenging off-chamber segments. Transitioning from center to shoulder is smooth and seamless too with little in the way of lean and catch which can be unnerving when committing to fast turns. There is ample straight line breaking grip when the anchors are slammed on and they did an impressive job at biting into the ground when I needed to scrub speed quickly. The tread shed mud well and I didn't experience any mud clogging, although most of the test conditions have been properly wet rather than sticky and claggy.
I ran both tires down to sub-20psi levels and they were still stable and supportive, holding their shape rather than squirming in corners and keeping rim denting impacts at bay. Sidewall protection has so far been impregnable as I have had zero punctures during testing.
The Grappler is a tire that's best when working with gravity rather than against it though. With the 29er MoPo Enduro tire weighing in at almost 1.4kg, the weight and low rolling speeds are noticeable particularly if you are moving from a faster rolling tire. If your local trails don’t have loads of gravity-backed speed, you may be better served with a faster rolling tire on the rear to help inject some extra speed.
In terms of grip, the MoPo rubber and tread pattern hooks up on a wide range of trail conditions giving confidence to point and shot lines that would otherwise be deemed optimistic in anything other than perfect conditions. The grip levels were almost guaranteed on all but the most polished wet roots which allowed me to ride hard no matter what the conditions were. They have a lovely damped feel too, reducing vibrations and flattering suspension.
Most of my testing was done on the generous gradients of the Tweed Valley in Scotland aboard an e-MTB, so the low rolling resistance and weight weren’t a big concern. The same could be said for downhillers who will prioritize grip over anything else. Unless the absolute maximum traction for racing or awful conditions was needed, if I were speccing a Grappler enduro setup I would opt for an Enduro MoPo up front and the faster rolling Enduro Casing Endurance Compound to make shallower trails and climbing back up a little less laborious.
Tech specs: e*thirteen Grappler MoPo enduro and downhill tire
- Price: $74.95 / £69.95
- Sizes: 27.5 x 2.5in, 29 x 2.5in
- Casing options: Enduro, Downhill
- Compound options: MoPo, Endurance (e*spec ready)
- Weight: e*thirteen Grappler DH Casing Mopo compound 27.5: 1322g, e*thirteen Grappler Enduro Casing Mopo compound 29: 1390g