The modern all-mountain or enduro racing bike is quite an achievement, possessing almost impeccable downhill manors while still being a relative joy to grind up hill or rally day-long on the trails with your friends. Tire options, however, have taken a bit of time to catch up. In their defense it's no easy task to balance weight, casing durability, grip, rolling resistance, volume, wheel size(s), rim width, and the countless trail conditions they are subjected too. WTB's new Breakout 2.5 is the latest all-mountain/enduro offering from a company whose profile has been rising quickly in the tire and rim market, but is it fully up to the task?
2.5 large volume casing
TCS Aramid bead
Gravity DNA rubber
Dual-ply Enduro Casing
Fast rolling non-directional tread patter
High Grip (60 durometer core/45 durometer outer tread) and Fast Rolling (50 durometer side knobs/60 durometer center)
1153g and 1063g respectively
This was my first experience with WTB tires and straight away I was impressed. On more than a few occasions I've picked up a set of 'enduro-ready' 'buzzword-casing' tires only to be disappointed by how truly flimsy they felt both in hand and on the trail. The WTB Breakouts have a true dual-ply reinforced, all-mountain appropriate casing, and while the hand held test is certainly not scientific it does provide some assurance that the tires should withstand some abuses on the trail. Mounting was difficult at first, the likely culprit being the thick gorrilla tape on my ENVE wheels (and my previous lazy tape job). A quick re-tape making sure the tape was pushed deep into the rim trough and not just stretched across the top and a concerted effort to keep the bead seated in the trough and not up on the 'shoulder' was the difference between being unable to mount the Breakouts at all and getting them on fairly easily with a single tire lever. Designed to meet strict UST standards I had little doubt they would seal up without hassle, and sure enough they inflated right up on 2 different sets of wheels with an ordinary floor pump. Last impression before hitting the trail: a true 2.5, these tires are BIG!
On The Trail
Even with pressures in the low 20's it was immediately apparent that these tires love to roll fast, certainly much faster than the more widely spaced, center-ramped treads of the last 2 sets of tires I had been using. Despite being about 100-150 grams heavier than the tires they replaced the Breakouts felt much easier to accelerate and keep rolling, a testament to just how little drag they produce even for such a meaty looking tread. The other upside to forgoing ramped center knobs in favor of traditional square-edged knobs packed closer together is that climbing traction is significantly improved in loose terrain. One of my local trails has a climb up exposed sandstone and spinning my tires is just a matter of when, not if, with my usual tire choices. The WTB's motored right up without hesitation. Okay, so they roll fast and climb deceptively well, but what about the downhills? After all, what's the point of lugging a dual-ply 2.5 inch casing to the top if it's just going to disappoint on the way back down.
I'm used to tires with a bit more of a pronounced cornering edge (growing up in the loam and mud of New England I've learned to live with their bad traits on hardpack and gravel in return for more traction in the always present slop). The rounder profile of the WTB Breakouts took a bit of getting used to as I tried to get a handle on where they would start to slide when leaned off of their center knobs before the side knobs caught. Old habits die hard I suppose, but as soon as I stopped riding these tires as if they were a different shape and tread pattern I was rewarded with gobs of predictable cornering traction at all angles. Even at low pressures they didn't exhibit any of the squirming I've grown accustomed to with less supportive casings (note: the inner diameter of the different wheels used in testing were 25 and 26mm).
Aside from a couple damp days, Taipei has been experiencing an unseasonably dry winter, with nothing on tap but rock hard and dusty singletrack in place of the usual clay-based goo. And while I'm not complaining it means I've yet to put the Breakouts to the test in proper muddy conditions. Good as these tires are in hardpack and soft dirt conditions, I've ridden enough different tires over the years to guess mud (specifically the sticky, clay-based mud of the mountain behind my house) is not going to be their forte. The same attributes that make them roll so fast are likely to clog right up at the first sight of peanut butter dirt. That's okay, WTB is clearly not marketing these as mud tires so it would be asking a bit much to expect them to perform that way. If going full gas, safety third, on loose rocky trails or the mixed high-alpine conditions we tend to encounter covering the EWS rounds across the Alps then Breakout's are worth a serious look. I can think of a lot of places in the world where this would be a fantastic all-season, do everything tire for most riders.
Things That Could Be Improved
In dry conditions and hard soil, there's truly very little to improve on. From the minute they snapped into place with a hand pump, these tires have simply taken whatever I could throw at them without flinching. And while I didn't feel like I always needed the beefiness of a 2.5, they are also available in a 2.3 width as well.
These are definitely not dry condition only tires, and I was surprised on several occasions just how much grip they have on wet roots and rock. However, they certainly perform better as the moisture level drops. While this isn't really a knock on the Breakouts I've love to see a similar design with a touch wider channel between the center and side knobs and slightly taller side knobs to help penetrate softer soil. The fact is I really enjoy these tires, and they'll be heading to New Zealand as my treads of choice for the Rotorua round of the EWS, but I'd love the option of running an ever-so-slightly more aggressive tread on the front to cover a wider variance of conditions.
Long Term Durability
Tires wear out, that's a given, and the grippier they are the faster the knobs start to disappear. That said, after a few weeks the harder compound rear tire is wearing quite well despite the local trails running like sandpaper from a lack of rain (add moisture and the same soil can eat through new brake pads in a day). The softer compound front tire has noticeably less wear with non of the side knob pealing or detaching that can sometimes be a problem with other high grip tires. The sidewalls are fairly robust, so no surprise really that I've managed to run cut free, burp free, and puncture free for the duration of the test. For a thin piece of rubber I slam into the ground and skid across rocks for hours at a time, I can't really ask them to do much more than that.
What's The Bottom Line?
WTB certainly has a winner with their new Breakout tire. Granted, this might depend on what type of riding you do and in what part of the world you prefer to do it. As is, the Breakout is most at home on everything from hardpack and gravel, to loam and wet roots and rocks. However if you're thinking about railing massive, greasy off cambers while racing the clock you might want to make sure you have something more aggressive packed away in your car just in case. No tire can excel at everything, but great tires excel in most conditions while holding their own when pushed to the limits of their intended design. I'd count the Breakout as a great tire.