Schwalbe have an impressively deep trail tire range and some classic, fast, all-rounder treads like Nobby Nic and Hans Dampf. Their switch to the new ‘Super’ family of carcasses pushed a lot of them well over the kilo mark though. Schwalbe’s latest Wicked Will (the original was a 26in, Gooey Gluey compound DH tire launched in 2010) is less than a kilo in all versions and seriously fast rolling but smart siping and knob layout mean it still grips OK – particularly in loose and dry conditions. Our samples were heavier than claimed though and it still needs TLC in harsh environments. It would also be great if some OEM options we’ve used were available aftermarket.
Design and specifications
Wicked Will comes in 2.25in and 2.4in widths in both 27.5 and 29er diameters, plus a 2.6in option in 27.5. Only the 2.4in options get the full range of race bear Super Race, which is a skin wall or ‘transparent’ as Schwalbe describe it), Goldilocks Super Ground and daddy bear Super Trail. Super Race is a super supple, multi-ply carcass with a very thin puncture protection strip under the center tread and a rim chafer. Super Ground adds a full ‘Snakeskin’ protective carcass wrap and rim chafer onto a single layer carcass. Super Trail adds Apex lower sidewall reinforcement to the Super Ground construction. They all have the same 125kg user weight limit and grip rating from Schwalbe but unsurprisingly the Race / Ground / Trail range from 8 to 6 on ‘Rolling speed’ and 6 to 8 in terms of protection.
All consumer versions have the blue stripe that shows they use the hard and fast Addix SpeedGrip compound, although have used a version with a Addix Soft compound on the front of a Scott Spark 910 test bike. It also had a black wall version of the Super Race carcass. There’s a cheaper range of ‘Performance’ tires with a simpler, heavier construction and Addix compound in either Tubeless or 200g lighter tubed versions.
In terms of tread, Wicked Will uses a thick carpet of slightly angled, low knobs with alternating 3, 4, 3 rows. The blocks are slit (siped) laterally across the tops with a ramped buttress on either side of the front edge on the center knobs and a slight step on the intermediate knobs. Slightly larger blocks with inline top sipes and a single side sipe form the outer edge grip.
Schwalbe’s ‘Tubeless Easy’ sealing and sizing is generally spot on and I had no trouble mounting and inflating the Wicked Wills with a standard track pump. The quoted widths are based on a wider rim though, so while they inflated to 2.41in on a 30mm internal diameter rim, they’re sub 2.3in on a 25mm internal rim.
While the weight for the Super Race tires are actually 5g lighter than claimed at an average of 820g, the Super Ground are 60g heavier than claimed at 890g (averaged from a 908g tire and an 872g tire). We’ve not verified weights for the Super Trail but Schwalbe claim 920g.
With a Schwalbe Nobby Nic Super Trail 29 x 2.35in tire now weighing 1094g that means acceleration gains and overall bike weight loss are noticeable, but not in the same way as a true XC tire. Where they really gain is rolling speed though and back to back against something like a similar sized Maxxis DHR II MaxxGrip/MaxTerra combo, we’re talking two gears or even more in terms of what you’ll be cranking on climbs. They’ll bring that speed to wherever you can let go of the brakes on descents too, and in the dry you’ll not be on the stoppers much at all. The shallower knobs are certainly at their best on harder, more flowing tracks (they love a groomed trail center), but there’s enough bite to push ‘trail tire’ hard on loose rock, drier grass and loam. They brake, drive and corner with a predictable consistency too, so you don’t have to ride or ‘work around’ them in a certain way.
Like all harder compound Addix SpeedGrip tires, you will have to back off when things get damp or greasy though and I even had wheel spin on wet Tarmac. You’ll need to overemphasize your lean angles to get any sort of bite on off-camber grassy sections too. The close packed tread clogs quickly in sticky conditions, so we’d probably choose Schwalbe’s Rocket Ron if the trails are wet. Having ridden the Soft compound that’s a lot more predictable in the damp, it’s a shame that’s not likely to be publicly available until 2024.
While the carcass design certainly helps generate speed, the Super Ground Wicked Will also feels noticeably stiffer and less forgiving than benchmark Maxxis options. That can be enough to rattle you off-line in certain situations and they’re not particularly comfortable either. They still need a few more PSI than normal to stay stable if you’re really pushing hard on them. It’s worth noting that the suppleness of the Super Race is definitely more forgiving, surefooted as well as faster in feel off-road, so they’re worth considering even if you’re not a racer. I also put two holes and then a massive gash on our rear Super Ground sample on exactly the same Ard Rock race lap that a pair of Super Race tires survived unscathed on. Obviously I can’t say I replicated exactly the same lines though, and the shale geology of Swaledale is notorious for ruining even reinforced rubber.
Schwalbe’s Wicked Will does exactly what it’s designed to do. Filling the gap between their heavier trail tires and their lighter race tires. If you’re riding mostly dry or groomed trails it’s a really good balance of obviously increased speed with trustworthy grip.
While I’ve not tried the new Maxxis Forecaster which is an obvious (but more expensive) competitor, I’d pick it over the similarly targeted (but cheaper) Vittoria Syerra for most situations (except tread longevity). It’s worth noting that the Super Race is faster, lighter, smoother and more comfortable than the Super Trail too. Keep your eyes peeled for the soft compound version becoming available in the future too as that’s significantly better in mixed conditions.
Tech specs: Schwalbe Wicked Will tire
- Price: $94.99 / £62.99 / €68.90
- Sizes: 27.5 x 2.25, 2.4 and 2.6in 29 x 2.25 and 2.4in
- Options: Super Race Skinwall (tested), Super Ground (tested), Super Ground Bronze Sidewall and Super Trail
- Weight: Super Ground 890g (ave), Super Race Skinwall 815g (ave), Super Trail 920g (claimed)