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Tested - Schwalbe's New Wicked Will Tire 3

Dubbed the all-rounder, Schwalbe is offering the Wicked Will as part of its new Super line.

Tested - Schwalbe's New Wicked Will Tire

As time passes more and more bike brands are entering the market with the now popular short travel, cross country esque bikes flaunting the longer and slacker geometry treatment that has trickled down from the enduro and downhill world. Often reaping the benefits of both climbing efficiency with added descending confidence, we have found these bikes produce countless shit eating grins on the trails.  Realizing this new category of mountain bikes is growing in popularity, Schwalbe Tires decided to update their tire family tree with the revamped Wicked Will that is uniquely its own with traits and features pulled from its cross country and trail siblings.

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Highlights

  • Intended Use: aggressive cross country, trail
  • Casing options: Super Race, Super Ground (tested), Super Trail
  • Addix Speedgrip compound 
  • XC-scaled skid depth 
  • Semi-ramped center knobs
  • Trail / Enduro style block shaped lugs with dual sipping
  • Aggressive shoulder lugs
  • 27.5" and 29" wheel size options
  • 2.6, 2.4 and 2.25” widths

The Lineup and Initial Impressions

Once again welcomed back into the Schwalbe family, the Wicked Will now falls between their Nobby Nic and Racing Ralph tires. The gap between these two existing tires is not a massive spot to be filled but the Wicked Will impressively blends features to match the needs of aggressive cross country riding. Currently, the Nobby Nic is Schwalbe’s most versatile tire designed for a variety of riders (cross country to enduro) that uses larger, spread out lugs allowing the tire to adapt to varying dirt conditions. On the other hand, the Racing Ralph was designed specifically for cross country racing and is a very light, shallow depth tire prioritizing rolling speed and pedal traction. Now wedged between the two, the Wicked Will was designed to be very fast rolling like the Racing Ralph but with added traction and aggressive lugs similar to the Nobby Nic.

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Knowing the target rider of the Wicked Will would be looking for a tire that does not sacrifice descending performance in exchange for rolling resistance, Schwalbe chose to use larger side knobs with aggressive sipping throughout the tread. This design allows for great lateral grip with maximized traction while cornering. While not marketed as the most aggressive tire in their lineup, the lug size and tread depth is more profound than their current cross country focused tires. Similarly, the Wicked Will isn’t a race bred cross country tire but does maintain impressive speed due to shallow depth, semi-ramped centered knobs. The end result is a tire that can stand up to aggressive descending while hauling ass both up and down trails with an overall light rolling weight.

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The Wicked Will is offered in three casing options: Super Race, Super Ground and Super Trail. A deep dive into Schwalbe’s latest casing DNA can be found here. The way we see it, riders who want a bit more traction on their cross country bike while maintaining a fast and light tire can lean to the Super Race casing while enduro and trail riders who are smashing descents will benefit from the added protection of the Super Trail casing. The Wicked Will will be offered in 2.6, 2.4 and 2.25” widths across 29” or 27.5” size wheels.  All tire options will only be offered in the Addix Speedgrip compound and as far as wheel specificity - the Wicked Will can be mounted front or rear depending on rider preference.  Finally, the Evolution line tires tops out at $94.99 USD with the Performance line tires coming in at $65.99 USD.

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On The Trail

Weather for Boise, Idaho in May and June would typically provide some rain and tacky dirt but this spring has been bone dry, leaving us with moon dust and loose over hardpack trails. Hooray for early summer! Luckily, these conditions definitely allowed the limits of the Wicked Will to be found with plenty of corners carved and foot dabs to be had. The majority of testing was spent on sandy, high speed sweeping trails mixed with sections of chunky granite rocks. We also spent a long weekend in Truckee, California riding much more technical trails with long flat rock gardens that really opened our eyes to the durability and support of the Super Ground casing. While Schwalbe doesn't specify what conditions the Wicked Will prefers, boasting its versatile application, the close proximity of lugs definitely excelled on our hardpack and dry test trails. If your local trails see more rain with muddy soil that can clump and pack up tires, take note that the tread pattern may not lend itself to shedding dirt.

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We tested the Wicked Will with the Super Ground casing, Addix Speedgrip compound and 29 x 2.4" size. We rode the tires mounted to Roval Control carbon wheels on the recently updated Niner Jet 9 RDO with pressure always set to 26 psi in the rear and 24 psi in the front. We had the Wicked Will mounted both front and rear which turned out to be a great setup! A little proof to the versatility of the tire, we could see using the WIcked Will only up front with a Racing Ralph in the rear when riding lighter, climb focused cross country bikes where the added meat up front would add confidence. But even more so, we could see many riders choosing the Wicked Will for the rear as the increased rolling speed and the predictable side knobs would pair nicely with on a trail or enduro bike.

DH/Technical Performance/Fun Factor

Separating the Wicked Will from its cross country siblings is the increased focus Schwalbe put on developing its descending characteristics. An effort that makes a ton of sense to us, as anyone picking up a new slack, short-travel bike should expect to tackle descents like they would on a trail bike. Right off the bat we were impressed with the low rolling resistance of the Wicked Will that allowed us to carry more speed through flat sections of trail and out of corners. A noticeable increase in average speed over the Nobby Nic tires we had mounted first on our Niner Jet 9 RDO test bike. At speed, the closely placed knobs provided a very muted ride that was an added perk when ripping smooth ridge lines. When leaning into corners the Wicked Will has a satisfying amount of grip and support provided by the aggressive, block shaped shoulder lugs that limit much of any front wheel push or under steering. The overall shape of the Wicked Will is more squared off than some of their other models and created a much more predictable cornering experience. On long arching corners or flat corners where grip is provided by the transition knobs between the shallow center tread and outer shoulder lugs, traction is less consistent, leaving some additional support to be desired. We did love how predictable the Wicked Will was when skidding in a straight line or sliding the rear tire around a corner. In really rocky and chunky sections of trail it was noticeable that we were riding a lighter casing tire that resulted in some expected deflection when plowing into rough sections. While we didn’t experience any air burping, sidewall damage, or impacts to our rims, when things got exceptionally rowdy it crossed our mind that moving up to the Super Trail compound would likely benefit stability in these situations. But as far as traction and confidence goes, we had no issues letting off the brakes and trusting the Wicked Will tires to grip rock faces. Definitely a benefit of each knob being double sipped and capable of forming to trail features!

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Climbing

Just as the semi-ramped center knobs increase speed descending, the Wicked Will offers exceptional efficiency while climbing. The shallow tread depth and closely situated lugs provide a very direct power transfer to the ground that is also low on vibration. At only about 70 grams heavier than its cross country sibling the Racing Ralph (29x2.35, Super Ground casing), rotational weight feels minimal and a few watts applied at the pedals provides great acceleration. When faced with tricky uphill rock gardens or constant grades, it was noticeable how well the dual sipping on the lugs helped latch on traction to trail features. The only downside when climbing is the minimalist center knobs did lose traction often when cranking out of the saddle on our loose, gravely test trails. Sure, under power in loose conditions is a tall order for any tire (outside a studded snow tire) to hook up without losing grip, but the Wicked Will did perform worse in these situations than other aggressive trail or enduro tires we’ve ridden.

Things That Could Be Improved

With exceptionally low rolling resistance due to those shallow, ramped center knobs, we weren’t surprised to notice a lack of traction under hard braking, especially in dry, loose conditions. While braking or skidding was predictable and kept us composed, we did have a few moments where we did not decelerate as quickly as expected. This, of course, will vary with conditions. That loam stuff we’ve heard about will surely give the Wicked Will something to bite into. this is worth noting if you plan to use the tire only in the rear to improve rolling speed. Lastly, and as mentioned above, when standing and stomping on the pedals we did not find the Wicked Will to provide amazing traction. Likely a product of the shallow center knobs fighting to grab on to any amount of soil we found ourselves climbing in the saddle or only standing on low grade or hard pack climbs.

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Long Term Durability

So far the Wicked Will has held up impressively well to all of our skidding and rock smashing. Even though the center tread depth is shallower than most tires we find ourselves riding these days, they are still holding strong, showing the slightest signs of wear. Same goes for the side knobs where the dual sipping hasn’t led to any concerning amounts of tearing or splitting. With no excessive or uncharacteristic wear from riding, the only thing we can see rearing its head down the road would be the center knobs dissipating faster than a more aggressive, deeper tread design. Something just to keep in mind for riders looking to toss a Wicked Will on their enduro bike for better rolling resistance as you will need to weigh out the benefits of faster rolling speed over wear.

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What's The Bottom Line?

Incorporating numerous features from their family tree of tires, the Wicked Will successfully compliments the needs of mountain biking's newest sub category of downhill focused cross country bikes. By using downhill-inspired aggressive shoulder knobs, there is ample confidence when charging down trials or leaning over in corners when compared to typical cross country tires. But to maintain an efficient platform, a fine blend has been found - an infusion of cross country depth center knobs keeping rolling resistance low when climbing or descending. A truly versatile tire, we’d expect to see a variety of riders from multiple disciplines choosing the Wicked Will to suit their riding preferences.

Visit www.schwalbe.com for more details.

View key specs, compare products, and rate the Wicked Will in the Vital MTB Product Guide.


About The Reviewer

Jason Schroeder - Age: 26 // Years Riding MTB: 15 // Height: 6' (1.8m) // Weight: 165-pounds (74.8kg)

A once-upon-a-time World Cup downhill racer turned desk jockey, Jason has spent years within the bicycle industry from both sides of the tape.  A fan of all day adventures in the saddle or flowing around a bowl at the skatepark, he doesn't discriminate from any form of two wheel riding.  Originally a SoCal native now residing in Boise, Idaho you can find Jason camped out in his van most weekends at any given trailhead in the greater Pacific NorthWest. 


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