Written by Jason Mahokey Monday, 18 December 2006 00:00
Tester: Jason Mahokey, Team Bikeman.com Rider, Certified Bikeman Product Tester
Conditions: Rolling hills of Western PA.
Review: I’ve now had the chance to roll the Panaracer Rampage 29er tires for a few rides and feel that I can honestly weigh in on their performance. I will reserve any comments on durability until I’m able to log more miles on them, so this review will a combination of my first impressions and their handling and performance on initial rides
If you are riding a 29er or check out any of the message boards you've probably heard folks pleading for "real" tires, not just a fat CX tire, or a light weight mountain bike tire, made light weight by essentially giving it NO knobs, thus NO traction.
Enter the Panaracer Rampage 2.35.
These tires have been much anticipated by 29er folk. Myself I've NEVER used a tire as big as a 2.35, and never thought I would, but I find fall and winter single track riding calls for a tire that's a bit more aggressive and you would be correct to assume that a tire with a name like "Rampage" is aggressive.
There aren't a ton of real knobby 29er tires out there, so when Big Al posted that the Rampages would be at Bikeman.com soon, I quickly placed my order. I'm glad I did too, because the initial stock was blown through mighty quick, not just at Bikeman.com but at retailers nation wide!
These are some BIG meats and if you plan on running them front and rear you may want to double check your frames clearance. My Salsa Dos Niner has room to spare and I hear the same is true for the El Mariachi, and the much anticipated Salsa Mamasita to be released this spring.
Thoughts out of the box: The rubber feels a tad "stickier" to the touch than my Maxxis Ignitors, they are knobbier and a tad bigger for sure (2.35 rather than the Ignitor's narrow side of 2.1), but not freak show big either. The center row is ramped to try to help with the rolling resistance of the tire. Side wall instructs to mount in the opposite direction for rear use but for now I'm going "forward" on front and rear.
I was a little concerned about the weight. At an estimated 780 - 800 grams per tire, rotating weight will be on the increase, but, I'd rather be heavy and rolling through a corner, than light and laying in the bushes regretting my tire choice.
The tires call for a minimum of 35 psi (and that's where I currently have them set to) and I have them on Salsa Delgado 29er rims (which they easily mounted up on).
Anyone who knows me or has been on my blog (The Soiled Chamois) in the past knows that I'm kinda of an XC geek and I never really saw the point of a tire THIS big and THIS fat for XC. But since I'm more of an Enduro XC geek, and I DO see the value of reliable, durable, and comfortable products that can be used for anywhere from 6 to 24+ hours or racing- I'm gonna roll the Rampage.
Ok, 'nough blathering. Time for some performance details. Most of my time so far has been spent on tight wooded single track with conditions that pretty much had everything. Mud, leaves, dry hard pack, loose rock, gravel, and a little pavement.
First thing I noticed or I should say DIDN'T notice was the weight. Yeah, I'm sure they're heavier than many other 29er tires, but If you're used to 29er wheels and tires, I doubt you will notice the weight too much. If you're coming right from a light weight 26" wheel build and tire set up you will no doubt have some reservations about the weight. I've also found over the years with a super light weight tire there has to be sacrifices. Traction, side walls, or flat protection, SOMEthing has to give. The Rampage 29er is a meaty tire designed to hook up in just about all trail conditions without the sacrifices.
Short pavement sections were a bit slower and the Rampage rolled as you would expect a fat, full knobby tire with 35 psi of air to roll like. Once I hit the dirt though, any noticeable sluggishness was quickly gone and the true nature of the tire came out.
My local trails are a maze of tight, twisty, single track goodness. Many folks would think that a 29er would not be the bike of choice for these trails given the rep they have for being slow in the tight stuff. Well, I've never really subscribed to that theory anyway, (maybe my legs just aren't "rapid accelerators" ?) and I found that these tires rock in the corners.
A new section of trails I recently hit was filled with tight, unfamiliar switch back turns. The Rampages bailed me out of more than one bad line choice and their girth gave me some added balance to negotiate the tight corners.
Going through some muddier leafy sections the tires provided better grip than most tires I've used, but they did get pretty gunked up with some of the Elmer's Glue like mud and dry leaves that are common in many areas of this trail particular trail system. Truthfully I've yet to run a brand or size of tire that DIDN"T get gunked up with this stuff, so I can't hold too much against them. If I had to compare mud shedding I'd say they're way better than a tire like the Panaracer Fire Pro (26") but maybe not as good as a Maxxis Ignitor. Keep in mind though, with a tire like the Ignitor you would be sacrificing some grip. (Side note: Is "gunked" a word?)
My favorite thing about these tires is the added comfort and "suspension" they offer. A nice fat 29" tire, combined with the my 80mm Reba and the Salsa Dos Niner's 1" Relish rear shock adds up to some nice comfort. Something many folks may not notice on a 1 hour ride, but will be much appreciated on multi hour single track adventures and races. Folks who choose to ride a full rigid 29er will no doubt be into the added comfort that the Rampage offers.
I'm definitely glad I chose to try these tires out. They have a ton of grip, and comfort. Running them for racing will very much be based on the course. Due to their rolling resistance they would not be my first choice for dry hard pack course or a race such as the Wilderness 101 that combines single track with pavement and HUGE fire road climbs. But for general trail riding, or a race course that is mostly technical single track such as the Seven Springs race course here in Pennsylvania they will be perfect.
I'm giving the Panaracer Rampage 29 x 2.35 tire 4 Bikeman heads. The only things preventing them from the perfect "5 Bikemans" is the fact that they may be a little TOO much tire for many race courses, and performance oriented riding/training, so come race season they won't be a "mount and forget do everything kinda of tire". I also need see how durable they will be after a few hundred miles. Based on the durability of other Panaracer mountain bike tires I've used, I feel pretty confident that they will hold up to the abuse I give them.
This tire is going to be huge for Panaracer. Kudos to them for seeing the need for a tire like the Rampage and capitalizing on it. Now if they can just develop a full on 29" XC race tire, they will move to the forfront of the 29er tire market!
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