The very nature of riding 150mm travel ‘all mountain’ style bikes is that they allow you to ascend trails, to then descend them in a manner similar to that of a downhill bike. As great as this is, the speed and poise these bikes offer requires tyres that not only keep us where we want to be while on the edge of control, but also allow us to explore and let the miles slip by with little consequence to our physical well-being. We now also have certain things at our finger tips that allow our bikes to overcome any obstacles we encounter on the trail; dropper posts and adjustable suspension being the most notable, but making such adjustments is negligible when you can adjust them as and when, but tyres being your contact with the dirt below are not and without any ‘on-the-fly’ adjustment, require a far greater understanding…
Words: Olly Forster | Photos: Eyesdown Films & Olly Forster
I don’t know about you, but the name ‘Bronson’ means one thing, and that’s bad ass! Charles Bronson was an actor was famous for playing steely eyed bad ass dudes and with a name like this your immediately thinking these tyres are gonna give as hard as hard as they get.
The Bronson’s are packed with neat features that you can’t see or touch from the outside, but notably the “inner peace” is pretty rad – consisting of extra material around the point where the sidewall can get pinched under low pressures and cause punctures. These are also tubeless friendly and light weight to boot, weighing in at 760 grams a piece. The ‘DNA’ compound refers to the inner treads, which are a softer compound to the shoulder tread, but more on that in a minute…
The Bronson’s dual compound design basically involve a 50a durometer inner tread and a 60a durometer outer. What this means is that you have less rolling resistance when climbing or cruising along, but when you lean and push hard into corners, you are rewarded with an extra bit of bite right when you need it – this also aids in the tyre’s durability and longevity.
Riding the Bronson’s.
Out on the trail it’s just you, your bike and the trail, but it’s the trail that will determine how you ride and what you fit to your bike in order to maximise the ride. For me, I don’t mind building my trail / AM bike with a downhill bias because as far as I’m concerned, that’s the bit that matters and if somethings going to give, this is the bit that can take rather than give if things go wrong. What I’m getting to, is any tyre designed for this kind of riding will be designed to get up the trail in as painless a way as possible without letting you get frustrated on the way back down; or crash!
The tread pattern itself isn’t that unique with regards to the inner knobs and outer knobs, which both feature a directional pattern and ramped to aid their ability to roll quickly forwards without hampering traction. But they do have a rather unique shape, a bit like how you’d doodle birds or bats, and when combined with the small indents that WTB call ‘sips’, give the knobs further working edges to hook up on the trail and ultimately, more grip.
While on the Bronson’s, I’ve ridden a fair bit of rooty, loamy forest singletrack, a lot of man made UK style stuff and even some DH tracks with a mixture of hardpack, dust over hardpack and soft mud over hard mud. So, where do these rule and where do they suck? In all honesty, the Bronson’s never let me down and certainly excelled on forest singletrack and not once did I feel any lack of confidence when compared to other non-sticky rubber tyres when attacking wet roots or rocks head on. On hardpack and man made stuff, the Bronson’s were right up there too, but hitting corners, bermed or un-bermed in the wet was less than confidence inspiring, but not to the point of frustration; simply all about finding that biting point and having fun with it.
On dry and dusty terrain where slippage is as present as it is in the wet, I found the Bronson’s to be pretty awesome, which I think was mostly due to the softer shoulder knobs. The 50a durometer compound shoulder knobs seemed to let you cut corners, ping through berms to then roll out and carry excellent speed onto the following straights as your weight was firmly positioned over the harder compound central knobs. Pinning it on the descents is all good and well, but how do they climb? Pretty good is the answer, pretty damn good when you consider your probably climbing on a 30lb bike with 6″ of travel front and rear anyway and already giving yourself a little more work than you would on a 100-130mm bike. I found the Bronson’s to be predictable with my weight over the rear and easy to mange should I get out of the saddle and move my weight around on the bike when things got really steep.
Getting away from the man made stuff and getting lost in the woods is what it’s all about and the Bronson’s provided the necessary tools to get the job done.
All in all the WTB Bronson’s are pretty bad ass tyres, as the name would suggest and they certainly live up to the mantra of what you would want and expect from a good all-mountain tyre. At low pressures I could feel the tyre moving under load but square edge hits from roots and casing gaps never resulted in a puncture or damage to the rim for that matter – although I think there would have been issues had they been tubeless? Although not specifically designed to be run at low pressures, they did work pretty well and certainly gave me a lot of confidence on challenging and technical trails in the wet.
At higher pressures and going on longer rides, where the necessity of maintaining traction without compromising on the rolling resistance, the Bronson’s felt agile and robust. Descending was always a pleasure and I quickly and quite instinctively learned where they would perhaps give me some concerns. Ultimately any compromise in tyre design for all mountain riding is there, but knowing where your tyres will grip and where they won’t is half the battle and the Bronson’s, which are without doubt rad tyres, certainly held no surprises after a few short rides and allowed me to focus on having fun on my bike.
All in all, I need to know where tyres are going to give you up and let the dirt give you a big kiss and although the Bronson’s never failed me, their limitations and strengths became quickly recognisable, which is a trait that’s pretty important and often overlooked. When they are in their element, which thankfully is most places, the Bronsons are awesome. Rolling resistance is pretty minimal due to the tread pattern and indeed the compounds used and on the fun stuff, they felt predictable and trust worthy. Tyres to help you get lost in the woods and with an RRP of £44.99 are right on the money for a dual compound, UST ready tyre. Well worth checking out if you’re in the market for some new tyres for your trusty 26″ trail tamer.