The Judge is aimed to provide aggressive gravity focused riders with the maximum grip no matter what the trail hallmarks, and just looking at the Judge’s aggressive and oversized tread pattern made us eager to search for the grip limit on our most demanding test tracks.
The Judge is only available in WTB’s ‘Tough’ sidewall casing option. Essentially this is a dual ply casing made up of two 60tpi layers. The choice to only manufacture this tire with the brands hefty casing shows WTB are clear with the Judge's intent, and with our test tire topping the scales at 1381g (lighter than WTB’s claimed 1427g) it’s good to see WTB being honest about its rowdy riding intent. They’re clear that this tire is designed to provide ultimate grip and control on enduro/downhill style trails and not to be knocking time off your climbing PB's.
The tread pattern is made up of seriously chunky side knobs which are claimed to enthusiastically cut the dirt in every direction across a wide range of riding conditions. These are paired with centerline knob companions which alternate between long and wide with the aim of balancing rolling speed and braking traction. Interestingly when inflated the overall tire shape looks more squared off than most, which in practice, with its rear-specific focus, makes total sense for the rear wheels less profound lean angle during cornering when compared to the front. Measuring at 2.37’’ when inflated to 20psi on our 30mm rim brings the Judge acceptably in line with WTB’s claimed 2.4’’ width.
With two compound options, ‘High Grip’ and ‘Fast Rolling’, which both utilize WTB’s ‘TriTec’ rubber technology there are options to choose which side of the rolling resistance spectrum you prefer. ‘TriTec’ is a blend of 3 rubber compounds made up of a firmer rubber across the base of the tire which is said to stabilize the knobs and prevent any squirming under high load forces, on top of this is medium stiffness center knobs which offer the desired rolling speed, traction and longevity balance, while slow rebounding and softer still side knobs are said to deliver reliable grip for g-force cornering. Essentially the ‘High Grip’ version just uses a softer overall blend of the ‘TriTec’ construction compared to the harder ‘Fast Rolling’ option.
Like most other WTB tires we also see TCS tubeless technology featured here. In practice, these tires seem to take more effort to seat than most other brands of late. It’s the first tire in while we haven’t managed to successfully seat with only a track pump. Other than the initial ‘pop on’ struggle they always seem to remain reliable and hold pressure well throughout testing, though.
Let’s cut to the chase, if you’re looking for a tire to maximize your all-day rolling efficiency then this probably isn’t the best option for you. Within the first few pedal strokes, you’re hit with rolling speeds comparable to the most sticky compound, DH rated tire options. There’s no avoiding that the increased weight from a chunky construction and soft rubber blend means the Judge requires more effort to reach the trailhead, however, should you encounter any technical sections or steep pitches during the climb it does a stellar job of cutting the dirt, finding purchase and propelling you forward. It’s likely that the harder compound and slightly lighter ‘Fast Rolling’ option sees a rolling resistance improvement, but due to it sharing the same burly construction we’re doubtful the difference will be night and day.
Get it up to speed on the way down and the slow-rolling nature feels less apparent and the overall feel of the dual-ply casing is excellent, and when compared to older WTB tires the feel is more alive and less wooden as it conforms over trail features. During aggressive, hard-charging riding the levels of protection on offer from WTB’s casing feels really reassuring and not once during testing did we experience a full tire bottom out, even when experimenting with lower than normal tire pressures. This makes the Judge a great option for hard-charging riders or racers who rank protection highly and don’t want the added complications of tire inserts.
The meaningful side knobs provide maximum hold when leaned over even in damp and loose loamy terrain, and the transition from upright to the cranked over ragged edge hits the progressive sweet spot, showing no signs of unclear traction. Braking remains effective and predictable with even North Yorkshire’s claggy clay clearing the tread swiftly. Essentially the Judge never does anything weird and remains predictably reliable on every trail surface we placed in its path.
As a result, with all of the traits and features combined, we think the Judge in this configuration should really pair well with the best electric mountain bikes, whose riders like to ride hard. The ability to bite into soft trail surfaces means climbing characteristics are exceptional, it’s hyper grippy on the way down to and the high levels of protection and willingness to slow down will suit the heavier bike. So far, the Judge is showing no obvious signs of wear, so we expect it to last well too.
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The Judge may not release the right endorphins on the climbs but the competitive price, premium grip properties and high levels of protection make it a strong contender if you’re a gravity rider on the hunt for a year-round rear tire that grips like stink and won’t flinch when you give it hell.
Tech Specs: WTB Judge
- Price: $80.95 / £58
- Sizes: 27.5 x 2.4in and 29 x 2.4in
- Weight: 1381g (Tough High Grip 29x2.4)