WTB Bronson Tyre
Long before there was Arnie, or Sly, or Vin Diesel, there was Charles Bronson—one of the original ‘hard men’ of American cinema. So if you’re going to name a tyre after the star of ‘Death Wish’ and the ‘The Mechanic’ you’d better make sure it’s tough enough to handle any situation that arises, and slick enough to get away with it. To see if the tyre team at WTB need fear rightful retribution from the ghost of the man himself, we’ve had a beefy Bronson AM TCS and a lighter Bronson ‘Race’ on trial for a couple of months; tough guy on the back, and fleet-footed escape artist on the front. Now the jury is back, judgement has been passed, and it’s time for sentencing...
The Bronson is WTB’s newest trail and all-mountain tyre, and it’s available in either 2.1 or 2.3-inch widths, as well as a choice of a light but durable 60tpi ‘Race’ casing or the new Tubeless Compatible System (TCS) variant. This latter option features the addition of aUSTbead on the casing as well as their ‘Inner Peace’ sidewall reinforcement (2.3-inch only). The beefed up TCS casing provides extra stiffness to resist tyre squirm and increase puncture protection. Retail prices for the Race and TCS versions are $53 and $69 respectively, and our 2.3-inch test tyres both came in close to the claimed weights; 617g for the 2.3 Race and 830g with the TCS casing (WTB also has a wire bead version for $32). At 30psi on a 22.6mm internal width rim they measure 54mm across the casing and 58.5mm across the tread blocks, which is unusually large and accurate for tyres with this claimed width. The construction looks even and consistent, and the tread rubber has a softness to it that’s starkly at odds with the reputation of its namesake. Any way you look, this tyre tells you that it means business.
While only the TCS version is meant to be tubeless compatible, both models inflated and seated with a floor pump, and with a scoop or so of sealant, they held air for the entire test period. The TCS version definitely feels more solid, but Race model is far from flimsy. We did get a puncture through the tread area on the Race tyre, but only the TCS sidewalls are reinforced, so this could have happened on either tyre.
Big, Soft Knobs
The Bronsons’ tread blocks get progressively taller towards the outside edge, which lends the tyre a squarish profile. While the compound is meant to differ between the two models, both feel similar with the rubber being quite soft and gummy. There’s plenty of volume in the casing for rocky trails, and we had no problems running pressures down to 25psi, where the extra cushioning and traction was instantly apparent.
Cornering grip is excellent on the Bronsons; the groove in the transition and edge knobs open up under load and makes them look and work like hungry little Pac-men and women, on the hunt for dirt to devour. Their favourite flavour is soft loam, but anything soft will do, and they’ll even snack on hardpack at a pinch. The tall edge profile does imbue them with one interesting characteristic; as you start to push the limit of traction the tall outer knobs start to fold and deform and the tyre starts to ‘walk’ sideways, accompanied by a comically bizarre ripping sound. They’re incredibly communicative, and it’s easy to drift through corners without pushing them over the edge accidentally. There’s no obvious dead spot between the centre and edge blocks either, just a smooth transition all the way over to where your courage quits, but the tyre keep on gripping.
Given their aggressive tread pattern the Bronsons roll surprisingly quickly, and quietly to boot. There are plenty of tyres with similar designs that roll like a marshmallow in treacle, but these guys somehow manage to buck the trend and stay lively and responsive for a full knobby tyre. They also brake with authority, and the way they dig in on steep climbs puts many other treads to shame. It’s probable that clever design rather than sorcery is at work here; although the centre blocks are low and ramped, when the tyre is loaded into the ground the taller, square-edged transition and edge blocks are called into service, and they bite tenaciously. Despite all this soft-rubber grippiness, they appear surprisingly durable; despite being frequently abused on exposed sandstone the front tyre still looked virtually brand new. Although the rear was showing some feathering on the edge blocks, the centre tread looked almost new and there were no tears to be seen on the tread or the sidewalls. We’ve had tyres look worse than this after two rides, let alone two months.
The Bronsons seem comfortable on just about any surface (even a bit of moderate mud didn’t seem to overly phase them) except for loose gravel. Of course nothing really grips on loose gravel, it’s just that the Bronsons seem to suffer more on it than other tyres, or maybe it just seems that way because they work so well on everything else. West Australians, you’ve been warned...
The more time we spent on the WTB Bronsons the more we liked them; in fact if these were the only trail/all-mountain tyres in the world we wouldn’t be disappointed. The fact that most riders will be able to use the lighter Race version and run them tubeless just adds to their appeal. The Bronsons versatility, toughness and tenacity mean their name is well-earned; Charles Buchinsky would indeed be proud.
Dirt Works Australia (02) 9679 8400 / www.dirtworks.com.au