While Continental has kept the same product names, a few interesting changes have come about in the German brand’s 2018 MTB tyre range! As users of the previous Race King generation, we hold the cards to best compare the two versions and appreciate the improvements. You can find out about the old Race King in the article where we compare it to the Thunder Burt Schwalbe tyre mounted on the back wheel.
Clearly, the difference between the 2018 Race King and its predecessor is not obvious at first sight.
Race King 2017
Race King 2018
No disruptive change is foreseen, we expect to have the same type of tyre and behaviour. We notice however that the profile has slightly evolved. The central studs stay very tight on the tread to ensure low rolling resistance. One stud was bevelled to reduce its size in the aim of improving its deformation while freeing up room in in the direction of the intermediate studs. It’s at the level of those that we observe more change with largely reduced studs compared to the previous generation. This operation is meant to offer three advantages: reduce the tyre’s weight, improve moving grip and better evacuation ability. As for the side studs, they are very similar to what was done before.
The casing protection, which used to be from bead to bead (that is including tread) is now limited to the sides. This is supposed to allow for better tyre deformation, improved comfort without too much reduction of the tyre’s puncture resistance. The casing has 3 coats of 60 tpi, which constitutes an excellent compromise between energy output and solidity.
In this top-of-range Tubeless Ready version, the Black Chili rubber compound is still present.
No surprise while mounting the tyre, it is very easy to put on the wheel while it doesn’t let out any air. The tyre gains pressure easily. However some pressure is lost when the tyre is stored, we have to adjust it regularly. Once set up the volume looks lower than that of the previous generation. It is therefore necessary to verify by measuring. The digital caliper says 54.9 mm for our Carbon Endurance Components wheel with 25 mm of internal width. This is consistent with the 55 mm declared width but also confirms our feeling because we measured the previous version 55.9 mm (that is + 1 mm) on our yet much tighter wheel (21 mm). With 625gr (605 gr declared) on the scale opposed to 652gr (645gr declared) previously, this confirms that the new version has lost a bit of weight. The slightly reduced tyre section and the gained rubber mass on the profile can absolutely justify such a weight difference.
Our participation in the Joberg2c (910 km of Mountain Biking in 9 days) in South Africa was the perfect occasion to test the new Race king in a race. The course was declared to be a flowing one overall but with an unpredictable terrain which increases the risk of puncturing. We chose to mount tyres this way: Sophie opted for a Michelin Race’r 2 on her front wheel in order to benefit from good lateral grip, complemented with Continental’s Race King 2018 on her back wheel for its good energy yield, its comfort and solidity. I chose a more flowing assembly which looked good enough, given the context, that is that I use a full-suspended 29” Chiru Rangi MKII with 115/120 mm of suspension displacement, and that the terrain promised to be rather flowing. I went for a Schwalbe Thunder Burt on the back wheel and a 2018 Race King on the front wheel. No more excuses!
During the race, the terrain proved quite flowing all in all, but varied enough to test the tyres in different conditions: sand, fixed and mobile rocky ground and mud. At no time we struggled on technical passages nor we were penalised on the flowing portions of the course. Given that the tyre is slightly less sizeable, the “balloon” feeling which used to provide high comfort in return of a precarious lateral grip is slightly toned down. Clearly, the new version seeks to provide slightly more conventional feelings. The tyre is still very easy to lead, however its motor function and its grip during braking and turns were clearly improved. Comfort was slightly reduced but this feature is still present and above average. But what is impressive is the tyre’s puncture resistance… On prickly tracks, we suffered 5 punctures on the whole of the trial: that is 3 on Sophie’s Michelin Race’r, and 2 on my Schwalbe Thunder Burt. And so none on the 2018 Continental Race King! This makes us say that the new Race Kings are up to the standard of the previous ones, if not even higher.
In summary, the 2018 Continental Race King is perfectly consistent with its older brother, its regular customers won’t lose their bearings. We were able to feel positive evolutions nonetheless, which came to correct the few faults of the previous Race King. Motor function and braking grip are improved, providing equivalent or anyway very similar yield. The tyre is very light given the level of resistance. We must keep in mind that this tyre is meant for XC / XC Marathon programmes and that we won’t attempt to race Enduro trials with it. It is on a half suspended or a full suspended with less than 120 mm of suspension displacement that it will shine. The Race King on the front wheel is reserved for more technical terrains or confirmed pilots. On the back wheel, it is a tyre that offers very numerous advantages, it is clearly one of the best on dry and mixed terrains. Try it to see for yourself!
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