Continental Trail King 650b tyre review

I’ve been really impressed with Continental’s Trail King, the German company’s go-to choice for trail/all-mountain/enduro/call-it-what-you-want riding. For year-round British riding, from natural trails to trail centres, it’s a superb tyre.

Continental Trail King 650b.
Continental Trail King 650b.

The Trail King isn’t all that new; it used to be called the Rubber Queen in this country, but they’ve abandoned that and decided to use the same name the rest of the world was using. Name change aside, the tread pattern is the same as that found on the old Rubber Queen, a highly regarded tyre, so if you had any time on that tyre you’ll know what to expect.

The tread pattern is familiar Continental fare, there’s a family resemble here. Angular central blocks in alternating rows, with fairly tightly packed wavy shoulder knobs in alternating sizes and orientation. The knobs are siped (a slight cut/slit across the top), to allow the tread to deform and find better traction.

Run a Trail King 2.4 on the front for increased grip to benefit handling.
Run a Trail King 2.4 on the front for increased grip to benefit handling.

Where this tyre really excels is in straight-line acceleration and, particularly, braking. Those central blocks form rows of paddles that find stacks of traction when you’re piling into a corner: line it up straight, scrub of speed, then make your turn. The transition from the central blocks to the shoulder tread is smooth and progressive, with plenty of feel and feedback. This helps you really wring the tyre hard on a range of trail conditions as you can push and pull as you feel the traction rising and falling. Once you’re leaning on those shoulder blocks there’s plenty of bite, and when the tyre breaks traction it is easy to haul them into line.

They offer the Trail King in each of the three wheel sizes, most recently 650b (or 27.5in as they prefer to call it), and a range of casing types. There’s two widths to choose from, the 2.2in weighing 760g, probably a good choice for a large majority of trail riders, and the 2.4in, which weighs 1,050. I took the decision to run the 2.4in up front and 2.2in out back, but you could quite happily run a pair of 2.2in tyres and take the weight saving.

Available in 2.2 and 2.4 versions.
Available in 2.2 and 2.4 versions.

The small weight penalty of the bigger front tyre is worth it though. For technical riding favouring descents over climbs, the bigger tyre gives incredible confidence to push the front wheel precisely where you want it. There’s staggering grip on offer over a wide variety of trail types and conditions, such that you’ll soon forget that weight penalty.

I took the decision to fit a 2.4in up front, with the 2.2in out back. The 2.4in is heavier, 1.080g on my scales, but the extra width offers so much more confidence when piling into rocky trail sections. It’s a bit of squeeze with my carbon mudguard though, but it’s a small price to pay.

Where the Trail King really comes into its own is riding very technical trails with lots of roots and rocks and other obstacles. Really demanding and slippery stuff basically. The Black Chilli compound gives the tyre fantastic tenacity on roots and rocks. The tyre also copes well on trails ranging from dry and loose to wet and swampy. I’ve been running them through the winter and the trails have been pretty sloppy. They’ve been just fine. They clear well despite the reasonably tightly packed tread pattern, and that broad paddle shape central tread section finds good grips when climbing. They just hook up on whatever trail you’re pinning them down, inspiring loads of confidence to push the speed higher and higher.

Protection casing and sidewalls.
Protection casing and sidewalls.

The Protection version adds a reinforced carcass and it’s tubeless-ready so you can easily ditch your tubes. The sidewalls are absolutely bombproof, they stand up to a load of punishment. Also worth pointing out is that the sidewalls have a good deal of stiffness, which provides the tyre with good support at lower pressures.

Verdict

A solid tyre choice for year-round trail riding and ideal for the growing enduro scene. Pricey yes, but cheaper versions are available, but you’re getting a brilliant tyre that just works really well just about everywhere. Proper fit-and-forget as well. Double up on the 2.2in for general trail riding, but don’t be afraid to opt for the 2.4in up front, the benefits in performance and handling outweigh the weight penalty.

Price: £49.95
More information: Continental Trail King

What Conti says:

Available in many options across all three wheel sizes.

The ProTection format has a tubeless ready bead with extra thorn and pinch protection and of course, the latest BlackChili compound!

2.4 size : The combination of this tyre’s tread pattern, APEX reinforced sidewalls and the extra soft BlackChili compound make this tyre the king of the 2.4-inch market. It takes hard landings in its stride thanks to the specially reinforced sidewalls, whilst maintaining stable cornering control. Even with its outstanding grip, this tyre lasts, making it not only the perfect choice for freeriders, but also for Enduros.

Enduro favourite!

2.4 version with Apex reinforced sidewall

2.2 version for demanding trail riders

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