We've been stuck on the Maxxis tyres for a long time, with great treads and competitive pricing they've been the clear winner. Over the last couple of years prices have risen and risen to the point where mass produced in Taiwan and China meets handmade in Germany. That's not to say all Maxxis tyres are instantly out of fashion but we've started to look around.
As a first look we've got a pair of Continental Barons for my full-sus bike, although in the name of checking them out sooner they might be out on Sunday on someone elses bike.With the Black Chilli compound they feel good and tacky on prodding and the wide spaced knobbly grip pattern looks handy. Not the spikiest tyres in the range but we wanted to grip - not rip up the trails so no one else can ride them. At a respectable 745g for 2.3 width they are nice and light for an all-round tyre with so much tread. Cost £49.95 which is now only slightly more than the £48 for a comparible Maxxis EXO 2.4 size.
Updated: First ride review by Jon
Well the Barons weren't supposed to go on my bike but a last minute entry to the urban-x downhill enduro race in Wharncliffe saw them fitted to the Pacenti TL28 test wheels. What with having to ride up the hill to get as many downhill runs as possible in 4 hours, I needed something easy to pedal, grippy and with some cushioning.
The less said about my race performance the better, I bailed after only just more than an hour using my cold as an excuse but I was hooked on the tyres. They have that funny quiet-rolling noise you get from tacky, slow-rebound tyres but without the drag of Maxxis supertackys. In fact I didn't really notice any particular increase in drag at all after coming off Maxxis ADvantage / High Roller 60A tyres. If anything the Barons roll better.
Downhill the grip was definitely a big improvement over the Maxxis. New tyres are always going to be better than old tired ones but the Barons have the supertacky feeling of digging in and holding to muddy rocks and roots. They surprised me many times by gripping on to optimistically high lines (the kind where you expect to slide off into the rut halfway along).
The only downside, apart from the cost, is the relatively small volume. I was warned about this before I fitted them, and they do have a noticeably low profile meaning there's not too much between your rim and the ground compared to the newer Maxxis 2.25 and 2.4 tyres. Maybe this was the cause of the first dent in the Pacenti rims, or maybe it was me clumsily smashing over a rock.
Overall I was extremely impressed with these tyres. The combination of grip and low rolling resistance is better than any other tyre I've tried. Price and casing volume are the only downsides.