The glimmers of summer that have recently beamed down on UK weekends mean we have been reaching for dry weather rubber, mother nature however is a fickle mistress and the wet stuff returned for a ride we took up at Aston Hill recently.
So it was time for a change, of tyres. Schwalbe have been expanding their range and answering the call for a tough do it all tyre the Hans Dampf steps up, our friends over at Bike Magic have tried these tyres out in the dry but we took them out in polar opposite conditions and we definitely took on the full benefit of gravity for this test.
Product: Schwalbe Hans Dampf TrailStar Compound 25psi
Riding Conditions: Wet, few days of rain on a previously dry track and it rained most of the day
Location: Aston Hill
Terrain: Chalky hardcore, Roots and some woodland mud
Arriving at a riding spot in the rain often doesn’t bode well for a days riding but donning the wet weather gear and knowing full well you are about to get covered in mud is in some way a relief, you know what is about to happen. As a liquid, and when mixed with roots and rocks, a lubricant, water is all too often shunned as a negative addition to a riding day but it’s all about the tools you have. The first thing about tyres is the often hard fought battle of getting them onto your rims, we are running DT Swiss Ex500 rims at the moment and there was only the need for one flick of a tyre lever to get them seated after a mainly hand ball effort to get the tyres on. Easy, good start.
Having come from dry conditions and a Nobby Nic/Racing Ralph combination the Dampf’s are a bigger tyre with a round profile punctuated with the large side blocks. These are more pronounced and taller, from the outset this gives a psychological advantage and as a step up in development from a moto inspired pattern the Hans Dampf is getting a lot right. Each block is split with a channel to improve grip and this tyre has it in spades. Designed to be a tough trail tyre Schwalbe have used their snakeskin sidewall which basically is a three layer system that is designed to not fold and pinch at the sight of a pointy rock. Getting the pressure right is essential in any riding and with 67 threads packed into every inch of this tyre plus the aforementioned sidewall it’s fair to say this tyre is pretty stiff. We ran them at 25psi both ends which worked well on the day but would be tempted to drop this a bit depending on your riding style.
It was wet, and the ground at this particular spot is pretty sticky in places, roots threaten a few fast straights but do mainly run directly across the trails so can be hit square on. Some tight switchbacks and the odd flat turn are all thrown in to the mix and it makes for a pretty varied place to try out tyres in the wet.
The tyres felt pretty firm to begin with and to be honest the first run down tyre pressure was a bit high resulting in a fun, but not that controlled, pinball of a first run. A quick on the trail adjustment and all subsequent runs were a dream. What is noticeable with these tyres is that running a low pressure they feel good in hard cornering, really pushing a tyre at low pressure can result in that unnerving squirm that can result in a grab at the brakes. We all know where that ends up! , here things felt controlled and girppy.
Hitting wet roots is something that, for some, can be a bit of a mental battle. The Hans Dampf’s felt good and not skittish over roots, ok you are going to slide around a bit until you reach the solid(ish) ground on the other side but until you get there the TrailStar compound see’s you right. When you do reach the damp track beyond the roots grip is steady and predictable, pedaling across the flatter sections is rewarded with grip, not enough to be draggy when going down the contours but they could be a bind for serious wet weather climbing. Approaching a set of switchbacks, you can place the bike where you want and if you want to lift yourself up for a wider line then you can. They grip and climb with the side blocks a treat.
So, after about 8 runs along with a bit of corner and root sessioning the Hans Dampfs have had their first dousing. Initial impressions are very good, the combination of tread, compound and sidewall construction really make these tyres a winner in our book. If you are looking for a tyre that can cope with rough trail riding then these are for you, I fully expect these to stay on the test bike for a while and when the get out in some different terrain we will report back on how they fair. I have a feeling it will be rather well.