Today’s review will be on one of my most-ridden and one of my favorite mountain bike tires:
For a long time, the Wolverine was my go-to tire for almost any trail. I started riding this tire around 2007 or 2008 when I was riding my Rocky Mountain Instinct. This bike was a full suspension 26-inch wheel bike, so I rode the 26 inch variation of the Wolverine.
In 2011 I switched to riding a Specialized Stumpjumper while carrying over the 26 inch Wolverine. In 2012 I bought a Niner Bicycles EMD9 which runs the 29 inch wheel size, and promptly installed the 29 inch Wolverine. So, all in all, you can tell I’ve spent a lot of time on this tire, with riding well over 1,000 miles on them.
I’ve also ridden this tire in two different configurations: tubed and tubeless, with about half the time spent in each method. So, you’re probably getting tired of my blathering, so I’ll get right down to it: These tires are great.
WTB makes the Wolverine in a two different options: the TCS Tough, and the TCS Light. The Tough features a thicker sidewall and carcass to be able to withstand harsher terrain with a lower chance of puncture or cut sidewalls. I’ve only ever run the Light version and still have never had a cut sidewall on any WTB tire. In regards to TCS, from WTB’s site they state:
Our TCS™ (Tubeless Compatible System) technology is the solution for riders seeking high performance, lightweight and durable mountain bike wheel systems that are easy to install, fun to ride and simple to service. TCS tires are the first sealant tubeless tires to receive Mavic UST® certification, which means a proven fit between sealant tubeless tire and rim. Say goodbye to air compressors, tire levers and pinch flats. Say hello to your full riding potential.
All WTB trail tires use a folding bead, so the tires can be folded for convenience. One note on the bead: WTB’s TCS system is incompatible with Stan’s ZTR rims. The diameter and bead design lead to an extremely tight fit, with it being near-impossible to fit the tire on the rim. Just a heads up for those of you with Stan’s rims.
Now to the review
Size: I’ve spent years on the Wolverines in both sizes: 29×2.2 and 26X2.2. These tires perform similarly in both sizes, with the obvious advantages that come from the larger contact patch in the 29er version. One thing I really liked with the Wolverine is that it comes in a 2.2 inch width. I appreciated the larger casing and noticed an improvement in control through the rocky, technical terrain here in Southern Utah.
Weight: WTB’s website lists the weight for both tires as 870 grams for the 26 Tough, and 804 grams for the 29 Light. I know that isn’t apples to apples, but it gives you an idea of the weight difference between the Tough and Light, even with the three inch extra inches in diameter for the 29 inch. The relative light weight of the Wolverine really helped it climb well and accelerate quickly.
Grip/Cornering: This is another area where the Wolverine shines.With large side knobs it corners well and inspires confidence on the trail. I felt I could push hard in the corners without much worry of washing out. They did slip every so slightly in some corners, but did so in a predictable way that felt controllable. In climbs they gripped will and rarely spun. As the tread wore, they did begin to slip a little more, but not any more than expected with a worn tire.
One neat feature of WTB tires is the use of a dual compound rubber. The center tread of the tire use a harder rubber for reduced rolling resistance and longevity, while the side knobs use a softer rubber compound for increased grip in corners and turns. The Wolverine comes up a little short on wet, rooty trails where they slip on wet roots. If you ride in mostly dry areas like the Southwest US, the Wolverine will make you happy.
Rolling Resistance: This is perhaps one of the strongest qualities of this tire. Due to the tightly packed tread blocks and their ramped leading edge, the Wolverine has a very low rolling resistance and is a VERY fast tire. They accelerate quickly and keep their momentum well. If this is a major area of importance for you, I HIGHLY recommend the Wolverine.
Durability/Longevity: I put a lot of miles on each pair of Wolverines. I ran them both front and rear, and both rotating the same direction: I didn’t run the rear in reverse. I could put about a 1,000 (yes, a thousand) miles on one set, with swapping the tires front to rear, rear to front when the rear tires reached about 50% wear. This would give me about two full years on one set. My dad runs the Wolverine exclusively and gets about the same amount of life from them as I did.
Braking: If anything were a weak spot with this tire, this would be it. On anything but hardpack, these tires tend to break loose during heavy braking. I could tend to minimize this by braking earlier than needed and giving myself time, but I have had better slowing with more control with other tires I’ve run.
Air Retention: With the increased popularity of tubeless tires and systems this has become a greater area of interest with bike tires. When running these tires in a tube set up, air retention was normal when compared to any other tire. I would only need to add approximately 5 psi every other week. When mounted tubeless air loss was a bit higher, but not extreme. I would routinely add 5-8 psi every week.
I tried using different sealants to see if a different brand has a different result, but each seemed to have the same result. I tried Stan’s No Flats, Orange Seal, and WTB sealant, all with the same results. I’ll go into more detail on tubeless systems in a future Boot Camp post.
Price: For many of you, this could be the make or break factor when it comes to make the decision on a tire purchase. WTB Tires are about average in prices, compared to other mountain bike tires. The 26 inch TCS Tough lists for $73.95, with the 26 inch TCS Light listing for $64.95. Also offered is 27.5 inch TCS Tough for $76.95 and TCS Light for &67.95. The 29 inch is only listed in the TCS Light version and goes for $69.95. These prices are all MSRP, and often deals and sales can be found for a better deal.
Outstanding. 9/10. I highly recommend the Wolverine for cross country use.
WTB Wolverine 2.2 29″ TCS Tire Folding