- Continental Vapor 2.1 ProTection tyres
- Cambrian Tyres
Continental tyres have a good reputation in the UK. They’re doubtless hoping that the new Vapor tyre will follow in the footsteps of the Cross-Country and Vertical and become a new classic. Conti has never really followed fashion when it comes to tread designs, and while most of the rest of the world goes for square blocks, the Vapor packs a combination of triangles and off-kilter quadrilaterals. The whole tread pattern looks almost random at first glance, but there is a pattern in there…
The design is unique in a number of ways. The arrangement of blocks is intended to ensure that whichever angle the tread meets the trail at, there’s always some gripping edge available. That’s why the edges of the blocks run at all sorts of angles across the tread. The blocks at the edges of the tyre are biased to have a long edge running lengthwise for cornering, the ones in the middle are biased crosswise for traction.
The other clever bit is the design of the blocks themselves. For a start, they’ve got additional edges cut into the tops for a bit of extra grip. The main innovation, though, is the ‘Gravity Arc’ design. It’s Conti’s new way of building up the base of the blocks to stop them wallowing or squirming but without adding too much extra weight. To do this they’ve added swoopy buttresses running from the points of the tread blocks. Imagine you got a block and pushed it up through a rubber sheet, or a balloon. The Gravity Arcs are like the areas of rubber that would stretch out to accomodate the block. They’re modelled on how material would naturally fall, the theory being that that gives maximum stiffness for minimum weight.
Conti has also made the areas of tyre between the tread blocks pull their weight – the Gravity Arcs themselves form additional gripping edges and the tyre surface is textured to contribute to grip if the ground’s soft enough.
The Vapor is being pitched as a cross-country/enduro tyre, and it’s certainly a faster-rolling beast than, say, a Vertical. It’s also a lot more confident on hardpack or rocks, presumably thanks to those broad-shouldered tread blocks. It gives up a little bit of soft-ground performance to the spikier Vert, but not all that much. Despite all the multi-angled treadness going on the Vapor also manages to maintain clear escape routes for mud and stuff and has stayed pretty clear in what, admittedly, hasn’t been very much mud of late… It’s also impressively consistent, and won’t spring any nasty surprises on you.
One limiting factor of the tyre is that at the time of writing there’s only a 2.1in size available. And being a Conti, it’s markedly narrower than other manufacturer’s 2.1 offerings. Conti measure their tyres across the widest point of the tread, inflated to a standard pressure on a standard rim as governed by the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation. By that measure, the Vapor is 54mm wide. Some makers measure the actual casing, so they’d have a 54mm casing with the knobbles sticking out beyond that which would look wider. Conti insist that it’s everyone else’s tyres that are too big, but which way round it is isn’t really an issue – just remember that a Conti 2.1 may not be as big as you expect.
It’s certainly not as big as we’d like. We’re fans of 2.3in Verticals, and found the 2.1 Vapor a little bit undernourished. But there’s a 2.3 in the works – we’ll report back on that when it arrives.
There are three versions of the Vapor. This is the ProTection, featuring Kevlar beads and a ‘DuraSkin’ reinforcing mesh inside the casing to prevent tears. The Pro version lacks the reinforcement, but you only save two quid and 10g (ProTection 525g, Pro 515g) so it’s hardly worth it. If you’re on a budget, Continental has the bargain standard Vapor with a steel bead and a price tag of just £12.95. They’re a bit heavier at 620g, but hardly offensively so.
Verdict: Continental is on to another winner here. Other tyres may have the edge on very soft or loose surfaces, but the Vapor scores on speed, quietness and grip on firmer stuff. We’re waiting for the 2.3 version, but if you don’t need the extra volume and want a confident, fast-rolling all-rounder, take a look at these.