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You can easily pay more for your bicycle tyres than for you car's these days and I wasn't entirely prepared to fork out that sort of cash. Schwalbe's offerings are all the rage these days and are right up there with the millions. The Maxxis options were scarce unless you were looking at full on downhill or XC rubber. I was looking for something different and I could get WTB tyres pretty easily, and in the end – especially after my experiences on the Wolverine-shod Contraband Rogue that we tested earlier this year – I decided to give them a go.

I wanted to go the grippier front, quicker rolling rear route and first choice was the Vigilante for the front and a Wolverine out back. I've heard great things about the Vigilante and wanted to see if they measured up to the hype. Unfortunately, the Vigilante is not available in 26” in South Africa (no surprises there), so I needed to look at another option. The Bronson was the closest thing I could find by WTB. The reviews were varied, some saying they were wonderful, grippy and lasted ages. Others said basically the opposite. Sometimes you just need to take a chance.

I converted my Nukeproof Generator wheelset to tubeless with Gorilla Tape and a tubeless valve. It was super easy, but with most tubeless conversions it was the tyres that cause the most concern. Thankfully, the WTB's didn't need a compressor or much of an effort to inflate. Seating them took a bit of patience, as they didn't want to move into the outer part of the rim. A day of settling and they were good to go.

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Bronson 2.3 AM TCS

The Bronson is toted as being able to handle a wide variety of terrain, from hard packed to muddy and a few others in between. It doesn't have the more popular square shaped knobblies that many manufacturers have opted for recently, but sticks with WTB's traditional V-shaped kind for the sides and ramped centre knobs for less rolling resistance. The entire Bronson TCS (Tubeless Compatible System) line features dual compound rubber, meaning the centre is a harder 60a while the sides are a softer 50a. This makes the centre better for rolling and the sides grippier, obviously, and aids in durability.

WEIGHT: 825g

COMPOUND: Dual DNA (60a/50a)

CASING: All Mountain 60 tpi

BEAD: TCS aramid

TIRE SECTION WIDTH: 54mm

TIRE OVERALL WIDTH: 59mm

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Terrain

I would have to agree with most of the marketing claims of the Bronson being a tyre for diverse conditions, but certainly not all. I had my fair take at muddy conditions in Contermanskloof, having basically no tyres at one point with mud caking everything. But the Bronson slogged of the mud really well thanks to the well spaced knobs, and held its own in the wet surprisingly well. The side knobs were great for this.

Wet roots and rocks didn't cause too much concern for the Bronson, being predictable with it's grip. Where it fell short was in really loose situations. Sand made it wash out quickly, as it would most tyres, but it wasn't predictable. It became quite hairy when riding on really loose conditions like small rocks over hardpack. Again, most tyres would struggle here, but the Bronson just didn't cope. On a few occasions I only just managed to get a foot out in time so as not to see my face in the trail. Unlike in most of conditions, the Bronson was not predictable here, letting go at a moment's notice.

Durability

I've been riding the Bronson for a few months now in a variety of conditions – even, dare I say, on the road a couple times. The side knobs looked at first like they wouldn't be down for too much abuse as they stick out quite a bit and are very soft. But I have to say, they have held on admirably despite being heavily siped about half way through the tread. The middle, harder compound has also worn well so far, giving just as much grip as it has from the beginning.

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Wolverine 2.2 AM TCS

Like the actual wolverine of the Siberian tundra, these tyres are meant to pack a big punch for their slight profile. They are definitely sharp-looking treads, presumably like a wolverine's mouth daggers and has a distinct arrow tread pattern and quite a round profile. Like the Bronson, it is supposed to be able to handle a variety of terrain, from dry to damp, from hardpack to loamy. Also like the Bronson, it is the TCS option, featuring a harder 60a centre compound with a softer 50a outer compound.

WEIGHT: 810g

COMPOUND: Dual DNA (60a/50a)

CASING: All Mountain 60 tpi

BEAD: TCS aramid

TIRE SECTION WIDTH: 54mm

TIRE OVERALL WIDTH: 52mm

It's quite a fatty tyre for a size 2.2, having the same section width as the 2.3 Bronson. Not only that, but it's quite tall too, which helps with the cushioning and allows for less air pressure needed in order to protect the rim.

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Terrain

I found that the favourite terrain of the Wolverine was relatively hard and damp, where it could dig into the ground enough but also not be overwhelmed. It tended to get filled by mud rather quickly, and the moderately spaced treads didn't do the best job of chucking off the slog. During techy climbing in loose conditions, the Wolverine struggled a bit to keep traction, spinning here and there, but nothing too bad.

In all but the loosest conditions, the Wolverine kept up very well with the Bronson and when it did lose traction it did so predictably and in a gentleman-like fashion. It only let go sharply once, but that was on a wet wooden bridge, so there's not many points to be deducted there. Considering its slight profile, it packed a ton of grip and was very controllable on the descents.

Durability

Perhaps not surprisingly, but the side knobs of the Wolverine have shown the most wear out of the two tyres. It must be all that hero cornering I've been doing. It isn't that they won't last much longer, quite the contrary, but the sides have shown some depreciation. The centre has held admirably. The wear hasn't affected the performance, though, and I can see many more rides happening on the Wolverine.

The combo

I went with the grippier front/faster rolling rear setup, knowing that I'd be doing a fair bit of climbing on my everyday rides and really wanted the front end security on the descents – because that's why I was going up in the first place. I knew from previous experience that, while the Wolverine may have a pretty low rolling resistance, it has a ton of grip too. It turned out to be a great choice for that.

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During my few months with the pair I have never had a problem with burping at all, even when I mistakenly rode with about 1.4bar pressure front and rear. At this pressure they tended to roll a bit on the rim and weren't optimum for grip, but they never let go. If anything, they still protected my rims from damage, even if I did hear a couple clangs here and there.

The combo has works quite well, even if the Bronson up front has hindered my uphill pace a bit (or perhaps it's the pies). They're not the lightest tyres out there, but I did opt for the biggest, heaviest and tackiest version of the them both. It added a good chunk of weight to my wheels, but it also added security in the corners and that's what I'm after.

In the end

Would I buy this combo again? That's hard to say. I would definitely go for a Wolverine again, and would even consider it for both front and rear depending the bike. But the Bronson, I'm not 100% sold on. It's predictable in most situations and surprised me many times with how I could push it into corners – the durability has also been great. But those few times where it just gave out all of a sudden made for a bit of a clencher, and that's never fun. It comes down to the terrain you're going to ride most often. If it doesn't involve much sand or really loose stuff over hard stuff, then I'd say the Bronson is a winner.