Price: Steel bead £21.99, Kevlar bead £26.99
Features: ‘Faded’ dual compound rubber, multi shaped knobs, Anti-Snake bite chafer.
Test logbook: 6 rocky and muddy hours in the peak district, 4 mainly muddy hours around woods and trails locally.
Panaracer have been one of the dominant manufacturers in mountain bike tyres since the start of the sport. The first front and rear specfic Smoke and Dart tyres are a classic combination still widely used to this day and they’ve chalked up a whole string of other firsts including specific mud and DH tyres. The current Fire XC Pro and Fire XC Mud are always reccommended in forum tyre debates, and there’s even a growing movement demanding the resurrection of the mighty 2.2″ Soft Conditions Dart tyre.
So what does the Trail Blaster bring to the party?
Panaracer have been using their blended hard and soft compound ZSG (Zero Slip Grip) rubber technology very succesfully on their Stradius road tyres and now they’ve transferred it to the off raod environment. The idea is that you get soft compound on the tyre’s shoulders for sticky grip, with hard compound in the centre for long life and fast rolling. Dual compound tyres aren’t a new idea but running it this way round is a much smarter idea than Continental who use a soft centre which just tears apart as soon as it meets pointy rocks. Panaracer also blend the rubber – hence the fade in the colour – so that it gradually moves from sticky to harder.
Panaracer then add on a tread of broad flat blocks arranged in steps with smaller, rounded diamond shoulder knobs and big side lugs for cornering bite. The carcass is lightweight but not frighteningly so and is reinforced at rim height with Panaracer’s Anti-Snake Bite Chafer. A thin layer of elastomer which adds noticeable protection in hard and fast rocky sections.
Our plentifully knobbed 2.1″ version came in at a suprisingly light 520g exactly as it said on the tin, and a feathery 400g is claimed for the 1.8″ version coming shortly.
So how does all this cunning rubber ride?
For a relatively light tyre it feels immediately protective thanks to the broad tread blocks, but their low profile means it’s no slouch picking up speed. Wide spacing means there’s still some tractor buzz on tarmac but it never drags noticeably and it certainly accelerates well as soon as it hits hard ground on mixed trail sections. The broad tread pattern clears mud very quickly but the flat topped blocks that help it’s speed tend to slide rather than bite as soon as it gets slippery. Tip it over onto it’s edges and the side knobs bite, but if you’re not aggressive enough or get caught out on off camber sections it can spit out unexpecetedly at the front. That said – like most non-directional tyres – the front wheel can be turned in hard and ‘stirred about’ for traction without any fear of it tucking under, so if you’re coming off something like Dart’s just start your turn a second or two early. The smooth controllable slide can also be an asset for drifting the rear wide, but again the broad flat sections can spin rather than bite under power unless weighted very carefully. Performance across roots and uneven rock sections is helped by the low knurled tread sections that support the top blocks, helping to slow and control any unexpected kick out under power or fast handling.
We’ve been very impressed at the way the ZSG performance on the Stradius tyres has kept us out of Yorkshire’s roadside ditches and we’d love to say we really noticed it on the Trail Blaster’s. Unfortunately all the rocks and big slab sections round here are green, slimy and about as grippy as wet soap at the moment. Therefore we’ve had to content ourselves with laps of the local mini roundabout where they stuck with a leech like tenacity that rivals the legendary sticky green Michelin semi slicks so we’re expecting good things if this country ever dries out again.
Verdict: For it’s weight the Trail Blaster handled some hectic high velocity geological action in the Peaks with a re-assuring confidence and stability, and the ZSG compound should really shine for smearing traction on the hot dry rocks of summer. For the current trail conditions we’d probably run the more aggressive tread of Panaracer’s Fire Mud but the Trail Blaster is far faster and more controllable in the dry. It’s not that happy in slurry, but overall it’s a good, fast, lightweight all round trail tyre and the hard compound centre section should give excellent life compared to most of the other smaller knobbed tyres around. Value is good too for a dual compound tyre with this kind of life expectancy.
For the rest of Panaracer’s range as well as gear from Cateye, Altura, Sugino, Camelbak and others head up the Great North internet highway to the Zyro website