Pricey but Spicy When the Trail Turns Dicey

It's not something we're proud of mind you, but the MBT Test Crew spends more time pedaling through mud, slime, goo, and snot than we do nice dry hardpack singeltrack. Worse still is that when we're not huffing through the ooze, we're typically out sliding on the ice or attempting to keep it upright through the snow drifts. In other words, conditions on the east coast pretty much stink most of the time.

As you might imagine, we're always excited when a product comes down the pipe that attempts to target the very conditions we're suffering with. Enter the Rain King DH tire from Continental. As the name suggests, it has slippery surfaces and muddy lanes in mind but that isn't to suggest it doesn't absolutely shred in the loam as well. We spent a week with this tire on our Jamis XTC 3 test bike and just so happened to time it when the New York trails are at their absolute soupiest (after a snowmelt). Here's what we discovered.

At $75 a pop (no pun intended), the Continental Rain King is one of the most expensive mountain bike tires we've ever tested (actually surpassing the cost of the rubber our associate editor just had mounted on his Ford Escort)!

These meats are big and beefy up close, measuring in at 2.5 inches wide with knobs that alternate between pairs close together and pairs farther apart. Rounding out the spiky package is a nice healthy shoulder knob smack dab between each of the center-knob pairs. At 42.15 ounces, weight weenies would just assume attempt to ride on their rims, but hey, this is a downhill tire people. It's designed to be mated to bikes that can be considered lightweight at 45 pounds.

Powering off with the Rain King's mounted; we were downright giddy with the knobby pattern's ability to claw. Moist grass gets lifted in large tufts, stones rain down behind the bike with each pump of the cranks, and hardpack isn't safe from its grinding even under an inch of surface powder. This isn't a tire for those concerned with leaving marks on the trail!

Climbing earns more praise as the rear wheel seems to find traction no matter which line you happen to choose and the front end doesn't wander even when you get sloppy on your spinning.

Downhill is where the high price tag starts to earn its place. These could very well be the most impressive descenders we've ever experienced! The Rain Kings find traction in areas your buddies would have sworn couldn't be conquered without sliding out. The intimidating shoulder knobs encourage you to lean the bike a little farther in each corner until you're finally considering wearing knee pucks like a superbike race star. Washing out and sliding out of your intended line will be a thing of the past for the Rain King rider.

True to their namesake, we found these tires very well suited to mud, rain-soaked roots & rocks, and even snow and sand. It could be argued that they are a bit too aggressive for anything less than the absolute ugliest conditions, as riders in your wake will be eating mouthfuls of trail debris and your down tube will be ringing like a bell with each stick and stone that the King lofts skyward. Additionally they seem prone to damaging tight singletrack when ridden aggressively so it's something to consider if you find yourself primary riding ribbons of packed singletrack with multiple switchbacks.

While you aren't going to notice it in mud, slush, snow, or on fast descents, the Rain King, like most good aggressive knobbies, doesn't like to roll. Pavement, super hardpack, clay, and wood can make pushing the Kings feel like running a marathon in concrete shoes. It's a bit bumpy, noisy, and certainly feels as though your brakes are dragging when you stop hammering and attempt to coast. But then again, using this tire on those conditions mentioned is missing the point anyway.

In all, we're pretty darn impressed with the Continental Rain King, which is saying a lot considering upon learning of the price tag ($150 + shipping for the pair), many of testers seemed a bit negatively biased going into the review. A few laps down the slippery mountainside changed their opinion pretty quickly. Here in NY, it's common practice to take the all-seasons off your car, truck or SUV in favor of designated snow tires for the winter months. The Continental Rain Kings are good enough to make us consider adopting the same technique to our mountain bikes.

This review has been brought you by Mountain Bike Tales.