Schwalbe is a well-established brand of bicycle tires in Singapore, especially with the mountain biking community. The Schwalbe brand is owned by Bohle International, a family business established in 1922. The tires are produced in partnership with a Korean tire manufacturer, Hung-A in Jakarta, Indonesia. For 2006, Schwalbe has expanded its range to build upon it’s successful models such as Racing Ralphs, Fast Freds, Alberts and Jimmys with 2 freeride/downhill models and a new XC tire, the Nobby Nic. Representing a breakthrough in mountain biking technology. It is the first mountain bike tire to utilise triple compound in a tire, combined with the supple and fast carcass from the Racing Ralph. The thread base is made from an extremely elastic tire to bring rolling resistance to a minimum; a harder coast of rubber on the centre three rows of knobs for better durability and ability to dig into softer terrain; and a maximum grip compound on the shoulder knobs to enhance grip in the wet and fast cornering situations. As the Nobby Nic was based upon the carcass of the Racing Ralph, many aspects of the tire characteristics would be benchmarked upon it.
Upon first examination of the tires, I noticed that the bicycle carcass is extremely supple and soft, and the listed weight of 495grams for the 2.1″ evolution is reasonably light for XC purposes. The knobs are far more purposeful than the low pimple-like knobs found on the Racing Ralph. The centre knob has a groove cut perpendicularly, and the alternating shoulder knobs have half grooves cut to increase the tire working edges and improve grip. The knobs are also widely spaced apart for good mud shedding characteristics. Mounting the tire was a breeze without any need for tire levers, and there is a grey coloured groove all around the Kevlar bead to let you see if you’ve mounted the tire on evenly. On the bike, these tires leave fellow bikers no doubt as to the brand and model. Other useful information such as the size and mounting direction of the tire is in little raised rubber wordings, which can be a bit difficult to locate. The tire volume is quite average, and smaller than my previous tire, the Kenda Nevegals 2.1″.
Nobby Nic in Action
The tires were tested over a wide variety of local off-road terrain, and a bit of road cycling too. The tires were mounted on Mavic 819 rims, and pumped up to 33psi for both front and rear tires.
On hardpack, the tire grips tenaciously up slopes and offcamber grip is high. I did not notice any tire slippage while climbing or washout when pedaling on offcamber sections. Even stomping out of the saddle produced no slip in dry hardpack. On loose over hardpack and gravelly areas, the tire were a little skittish, especially in downhill sections. Front braking didn’t suffer in such situations though, but the rear tire broke loose more easily. With the tires being on the small side for a 2.1” tire, I fear that the sidewalls might be a bit susceptible to sharp rocks. After the test period, the Schwalbe logos on the sidewalls were slightly scratched off, but no serious damage was imparted on the tire sidewalls themselves.
In thick mud, the tire pedaled surprisingly well through deep mud pools. The widely spaced knob design also helped to shed the mud off extremely well.
On rooty technical sections, the tire had amazing pedaling and offcamber grip. Sections which I had problem clearing due to roots were tackled far more easily now. Loamy soil and soft conditions didn’t bog the tire down significantly, allowing the rider to pedal over such sections more efficiently.
What’s even more surprising is that the tire’s grip did not diminish when the trail became wet during the last day of the test. Wet roots and rocks were tackled confidently with very little slip when powering upslopes. A particular root which has halted my upslope progress regularly was easily pedalled over. The extra soft and tacky compound coating on the side knobs helped to grab the terrain tenaciously.
Finally, on the road the Nobby Nics generated a bit more rolling resistance than Racing Ralphs, but it isn’t as bad as its complement of full size knobs would suggest. The light weight of the tires accelerated pretty well, but maintaining a high cruising speed took abit more effort than the Racing Ralphs.
Schwalbe has combined the best qualities of their benchmark XC tire, the Racing Ralphs and given it more grip in all situations without much detrimental effects on their rolling resistance. The triple compound really works together with the grooved knobs for maximum grip. These tires are ideal for the kind of XC riders who enjoys technical trail riding too. For even more speed, try pairing Nobby Nic in front for maximum grip with Racing Ralph in the rear for minimum rolling resistance. This particular combination has been successfully raced in overseas competitions. If you wish to find out more about the Racing Ralph, it has also been reviewed in an earlier article.
The Nobby Nic is available in 1.8″, 2.1″, 2.25″, 2.4″ with Evolution and UST tubeless versions.