Continental Race King 2.2" 29"er Tires: Final Review

Editor’s Note: This time you all get two reviews for the price of one. Grannygear and Guitar Ted tag team on the final review of the Continental Race King tires.

The race tire reviews keep coming and this one is going to be my final look at the Continental Race King 2.2″er tire that debuted this year. Take a look at my previous posts on the Race King here, here, and a comparison with two other racing oriented tires here.

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In my Midterm Report on the Race King tires I had the following to say:

First, the lack of anything substantial for side knobs means that lateral traction is not good. If these tires let go, you won’t save it in a corner. Ruts, off camber, or loose rocks and wet roots reveal this weakness as well. Secondly, any “extreme” situation will quickly overwhelm the Race King. Loose rocks, steep pitches, mud, or loose over hardpack will make you wish for more aggressive tread.

I wanted to expand a bit on this and say that I still feel this way but in particular I want to call out the front tire. It was here that the Race King could have really used some cornering edge knobs. I realize that this would come at the expense of weight, but I think it might be a great set of tires if the current tread pattern was a rear specific and the front could be modified with some good, prominent cornering knobs on the outside edges. (Maybe that is another model though, and may be a good addition to the Race Kings?)

At any rate, the tires were good up until the point that you were stuffing them into corners and if there was any sort of wetness, looseness, or rubble, the front tire would be overwhelmed and the bike would wash out. Also, the technical, rocky, and off camber terrain was another place that seemed to be tough on the Race Kings. Not much grip there and similar problems would crop up with the front tire especially.

That said, the Race King is great if the trails are tacky, dry, and buff. You can really rail these on twisty single track that is suited to them. I found climbing traction to be consistently good unless the trails got wet. Wear was good and I didn’t see any degradation of the tread blocks even though some of my multi-terrain rides consisted of lots of pavement riding while these tires were on my Salsa Cycles Fargo. Hard pack was fast with little rolling resistance felt.

The issues I had initially with the width were rectified with time and a switch to tubeless. The claimed width was exceeded, and much like the Mountain Kings, Continental seems to have “stretch” built into their tires these days. That said, the fact that these Race Kings made it over 2.2 inches in width is astonishing based on their paltry, out of the box width at the beginning of the test period.

Conclusions: The Race King, (and the Mountain King, for that matter), should not be judged on width out of the box, and those smallish knobs sure do more than you think they will. If the surface you run on gets wet consistently, is very technical, or suffers from loose rocks or “kitty litter”, you might want to use a different front tire with better cornering capabilities than the Race King has. It has a decent weight, sets up tubeless very well, and has a longer lasting tread compound than other race tires I have tested so far with maybe the exception of WTB’s Vulpine. Overall it is an excellent racing tread that can be ridden as an everyday tire, a “to the trail” tire, and holds its own on anything dry and tacky. It has a great use of its volume, and is recommended for rigid riders. It isn’t perfect, but Continental has another great tire now for 29″er freaks that will “go fast” with the best of them.

And now, our contributor Grannygear, has his take on Conti’s newest 29″er tread.

West Coast Wrap-up – I have been riding the whoopee out of these Conti Race King 2.2s for a couple of months now and I think I have enough time on them to make some final statements.

I have had them mounted on the Leviathan FS on Stan’s Flow rims set up tubeless and on the SS on DT Swiss 7.1TK rims running tubes.

I received these tires at the beginning of summer so dry and loose has been the word. I will not see mud for months and months so although I did get these tires into some wet conditions, I have no real data on the Race Kings in sloppy conditions.

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They mounted up fairly easily on the Flows and inflated with a floor pump and a bit more sweat and frantic motion then the Specialized 2-Bliss tires required. Filled with Stan’s goop, they have shown very little leakage and have held air nicely. I have run them at 25 lbs on both sets of wheels but I did run them as low as 18 lbs on the Flows (briefly…by mistake) and I had no issues.

They are a very tall tire and actually, when mounted on the Flows sans tubes, they are quite plump with a casing that is wider than the tread. On the narrower DT Swiss rims with tubes they cut a much narrower profile. In fact, the difference in performance between the two sets of wheels when using the Race Kings was fairly dramatic when it came to loose and/or sandy conditions.

So what do I think? The good:

-They are a fast rolling tire. You would expect that by looking at them and they do not disappoint. There is very little noise on pavement.

-I found the rounder, even knobbied profile to be the cat’s pajamas as far as providing a smooth and predictable transition from straight up to banked over in a turn. They seem to have no mind of their own like some more aggressive tires, especially ones that have a very pronounced outer row of knobs. However, if your style is more tuned to the ‘run right into the corner and then toss it over hard’ kind of cornering, then these may be a bit less than you would like.

-On any hard surface they are fabulous. From pine needled loam over clay to kitty litter over hardpack, they have been excellent performers. If they do break loose, I never felt like they were trying to escape and it was very controllable.

-I really appreciated the lively feel and tall profile over rocky sections.

-I found them to climb well and on the SS, I had some issues with breaking loose with out of the saddle efforts on sand over hardpack, but here they did outperform the Specialized FastTraks which are a comparable tire in size and intent.

-They seem to be wearing well. The front tire still has the mold ‘feathers’ in the center of the tire.

-I found the braking performance to be quite acceptable.

The less than good:

-If you are in very loose or sandy terrain, these may not be the deal. That bigger casing and the tiny knobs do better than you might think in sand, especially when on the wider Flows, but they do cut in to the surface pretty quickly, leaving you searching for the right line. As well, the lack of side knobs can be pretty sketchy when you need to climb out of a rut. It is no freeride tire and I think that Florida may not be the best place for these tires either. I found them to be acceptable for the Lev with the fuller profile the rims allowed for, but on the SS, I actually was annoyed enough to swap the front to a slightly used Mtn King 2.4 and kept the Race King as a rear. That is actually a fabulous combo IMO as the Mtn King is much more adept in loose soil.

-If you do brake past the limits of traction for the rear tire, it will get up on top of the dirt and slide rather quickly, but also quite controllably. In fact, although I try not to ride that way due to trail damage, they are a blast to brakeslide around corners as they don’t seem to do anything sudden and drastic when playing Johnny Tomac in the corners.

-Ahhhh…..actually, I cannot think of anything else I did not like about the tires. I never got them into enough mud to know, but I doubt they would be all that great.
The wrap-up this past weekend was a 45 mile, 8 hour endurance ride in the Utah backcountry. I took the Lev with the tubeless Race Kings and expected to be riding in sandy and challenging conditions that should point to another tire. But the rest of the ride was over hard packed and buff roads and trails and I wanted the faster and sure-footed tire for that. What to do? I took a gamble and ran ’em as they were and I have to say that they outperformed my expectations. Where I could not continue to ride due to sinking into the sand, no one else was riding either. They actually will carve in sand like a ski, so as they cut into the sand and begin to sink, if you can keep the gas applied, I found them to hold a line and not stop forward motion. It was spooky sometimes if I was moving fast, but it was pretty fun too. On the hard pack and buff trails of Thunder Mountain they simply ruled.

I like ’em as a hard conditions tire with a broader range than you might expect. They do not hit the high mark as an all arounder like the Specialized Captain Controls do, but they are pretty close. Continental now has two of my favorite tires; the Mtn King 2.4 and the new Race King 2.2.

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No Responses to “Continental Race King 2.2" 29"er Tires: Final Review”

  1. AGuy Says:

    I wonder if Grannygear can compare the Bonty 29-3/XDX combo vs Conti Mnt King 2.4/Race King 2.2 combo. I’m considering one of the other. Thanks.

  2. grannygear Says:

    I am afraid that I cannot, having never ridden the Bonty stuff. Sorry.

    grannygear

  3. cg Says:

    Hi GT & Grannygear,

    strange how I had the Race Kings also for the last time on a test wheelset and I can confirm all your comments and more – they definately are not made for wet and muddy conditions, where they tend to brak loose in a controlable manner but fairly early, both in traction ans in cornering. But they sure are fast rolling and mucho fun on the dry and hard surfaces.

    I immediately had them running tubeless and had the same stretching you were mentioning – they ended up at 55 mm.

    Very positively I felt how easily they set up tubeless but here comes a feature I had not expected. When aftera while of use I had them dismounted and remounted I first of all felt them to fit much looser and sure enough I was not able to get them inflated with the same pump used initially without any sweat. Could it be not only the casing shows some stretching but the bead also? Has anyone mounted his Contis multiple times and had the same problem? I guess this could be just a one time case with mine but it could also support the reasoning behind a specific tubeless ready construction.

    It would be very interesting to hear of other experiences.

    For comparison – my GEAX TNTs which had been in use for more than 3/4 of a year, having been mounted several times (sometimes really being worked very hard to get on the rim) still show the same mounting and inflation characteristics.

  4. t0m Says:

    In my experience Kevlar beads do stretch over time, especially noticeable when running standard (tubed) tires tubeless. The 29″ Conti MKs I have now have been converted from tube to tubeless. It was definitely easier to mount them the second time (same mounting conditions, no soap on the beads). Michelin and Panaracer Rampage beads have stretched the most that I’ve used.

  5. Outsider Says:

    A detailed comparison to Racing Ralph (RR) is missing from the review. I only have a short time on the Race Kings, but they seem to be nice summer tires. Obviously, they don’t work well when it is wet, but still slightly better than RR. The sidewalls are more durable than those on RR, though a RR SnakeSkin version should be available soon. The lack of side knobs in the Race Kings is noticable and here I think RR is better.

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