A couple of months back Continental invited us out to Slovenia for the launch of their new off road tyres.
One of them is a reworking of their classic Mountain King and the other is a new “race” tyre – The X-King.
Continental launches are a bit different from your normal launch – the main bit (apart from trying tyres) seemed to be helicopters – but more of that later.
To get a unruly gaggle of Euro journos out on two different tyres in one day involved a incredibly complex bike pick to get the right size, then you had to choose which type of rider you are from the various categories, which then had to be tied in to your allocated slot in a helicopter to get dropped at the top of a mountain – a massively complex and stereotypically Germanic organisation, hilarious for piss taking journos and probably very annoying for Conti, but they persevered and finally our slots were sorted and brakes swapped.
The Mountain King is massively different from its old namesake. Gone is the Endless Edge technology to be replaced with side knobs with proper lugs in the middle, as well as a plethora of sizes and compounds.
As you can see it’s a much more aggressive looking tyre with a more open pattern to clear crap and proper knobs on the side to lean in to. We’re all big fans of the Black Chilli compound Rubber Queens in the office and can’t wait to get a set in to try in that flavour.
X-King is modern race XC or for “All Mountain Tours” (new genre there), a much lighter fast rolling tread tread but with a larger volume (the 2.4s are whoppers!)
2.0 Supersonic comes in at 440 grams if you’re after something for hour-long thrashes on a race course.
First ride was on the Mountain King – after getting over the fear of the helicopter and regaining sanity I found myself on top of somewhere high and windy.
The trail then dropped a long long way through woodland interspersed with switchbacks and little rock sections – a couple of bits of straight line singletrack and finishing in a kind of natural cresta run into a small village.
All in all the Mountain King (I was on 2.2 normal rubber variant) was an incredible improvement over the old tyre. It would drift on corners but was always catchable -didn’t clog up in mud and generally had a level of consistent behaviour that the older version of the tyre never had. It wasn’t brilliant at being hauled up in a straight line and didn’t seem to have the mechanical grip of, say a Maxxis Ardent or equivalent, but then it rolled better. Which is kind of the Continental thing really – they care about how well a tyre rolls and the tyre is a package which is about overall performance rather than one really strong aspect. In that respect the Mountain King is a proper all rounder, it isn’t insanely brilliant at one thing but with a little use to find where the edges are, it’s a reliable do it all tyre, with a slight leaning towards harder riding.
After a much less traumatic helicopter flight (the pilot appeared to be one of the Mario Brothers which I found strangely comforting) and a lot less height gain we were treated to a fire road slog fest ably assisted by a cruel Slovenian Guide and some very thin Team Ergon/Topeak riders in making sure the grovel factor was kept up.
X-King is many ways a classic Conti tyre – it may be bigger and more comfy but it’s what they’re good at – really fast rolling XC tyres and this one is no exception, compared to normal ‘tearing of Velcro’ noise that my tyres normally make up climbs, these things flew along. They were also surprisingly consistent on singletrack -I wouldn’t say grippy particularly but behaved the same regardless of how you rode them, and I’d rather have a consistently low grip tyre that behaved well over a ‘grip and slip’ fest.
The Mountain King is vastly improved – I suspect that the Black Chilli one may be the format to go with in the UK, at least for the front. I’m looking forward to getting some larger volume ones to play with as well. The X-Kings are something that you’ll love if you value speed over grip and aerobic thresholds over air time.