We've run the whole gamut of weather in North Vancouver and Whistler this year. A small window of good weather in May made me mount up some tires from Continental. Since then it had rained for 6 straight weeks making for greasy slippery conditions and only recently giving way again to good weather. I've now had about 30 rides on the tires since I mounted them upon a Rocky Mountain Element 29er (BC edition) and a Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon.
Provided for review from Germany are the Mountain King II in 2.2. and the X-King also in 2.2. Both of these are the made-in-Germany tires with Black Chilli compound and ProTection sidewalls (an added puncture protection layer makes it more resistant to cuts, purportedly adds a damping effect and also makes the tires tubeless ready - the downside is a bit of added weight)
I've ridden them mostly on technical rooty British Columbia trails with sand, mud, steep downhills and climbs and in all manner of conditions. The only conditions I've missed are big sharp pointy rocks so I cannot legitimately speak to the sidewall cut resistance of the ProTection sidewalls. Please chime in if you have experience in that regard.
Summary and Continental descriptions
From the Continental website both tires in the 2.2 size are classified as XC/Marathon. In the 2.4 versions they are in the All-Mountain category. Gleaned from the description and apparent with even the most cursory glance at tread pattern even Continental discerns a difference between the tires with the Mountain King being more of an all-rounder which "does well virtually everywhere - in cross country races, marathons, or all day trail rides". Meanwhile the X-King with its low profile tread is more of a race/tire which is supposed to be "Super fast, but nevertheless with a good grip".
To sum up my conclusions I did find the Mountain King to be a proficient all-rounder with superior traction and predictable cornering performance therefore matching Conti's description as an all-conditions all-rounder. On the other hand I found the X-King to be average in wet conditions; ie not terribly grippy when moisture was present. It was relegated to rear tire duty where its fast rolling capability was appreciated. Braking performance as a front tire in aggressive terrain is average at best.
From the specifications columns you can try many variations as listed below.
|Tire||ETRTO||Dimension||Color||Weight||Rec infl psi||Max infl psi|
|Mountain King II||55-559||26 x 2.2||blk Skin||680||50||65|
|55-559||26 x 2.2||blk Skin foldable||620||50||65|
|55-622||29 x 2.2||blk Skin foldable 29er||740||50||65|
|Mountain King II Racesport||55-559||26 x 2.2||blk Skin foldable||550||50||65|
||55-622||29 x 2.2||blk Skin foldable 29er||640||50||65|
|Mountain King II Protection||55-559||26 x 2.2||blk Skin foldable||590||50||65|
|55-622||29 x 2.2||blk Skin foldable 29er||740||50||65|
|Mountain King II UST||55-559||26 x 2.2||blk Skin UST foldable||820||45||58|
|Tire||ETRTO||Dimension||Color||Weight||Rec. infl psi||Max infl psi|
|X-King||55-559||26 x 2.2||black Skin||640||50||65|
||55-559||26 x 2.2||black Skin foldable||580||50||65|
|X-King Racesport||55-559||26 x 2.2||black Skin foldable||490||50||65|
|X-King Supersonic||50-559||26 x 2.0||black Skin foldable||440||50||65|
|X-King Protection||55-559||26 x 2.2||black Skin foldable||570||50||65|
|X-King UST||55-559||26 x 2.2||black Skin foldable||780||45||58|
|X-King II 29inch||55-622||29 x 2.2||black Skin foldable||700||50||65|
Setup, weight and dimensions
Pre-2012 Conti tires had a reputation of being hard to mount tubeless. I'm happy to report no difficulties with the 2012 vintage with both the Mountain King Mk IIs and the X-King's having tight beads and being easy to set up tubeless on Crest rims using just one cup of sealant per tire. I ran tires with tubes and tubeless.
Conti's quality control is reputedly impressive and one look at this recent article describing their German factory should tell you all you need to know. The reported weights were under real weights with the Mountain King 2.2's coming in at 690g and 693g respectively (740g claimed) and the X-King 2.2's coming in at 685g and 673g. (700g claimed)
I was less impressed with the tire-widths. Both the Mountain King and X-Kings measure effectively as 2.0 tires measured on xc-profile Stans Crest rims (measurements are 2 1/16" to be precise). I have no aversion to narrow tires and don't mind the narrowness of the tread given that I stuck the tires on light wheelsets on light bikes for relatively light use. However, if "truth in advertising" is what you want, then widths for both these tires falls short in this regard. This has been a widely reported issue with Conti tire measurements in the past so is not new news to any informed reader but it bears repeating. If you want something a bit beefier, or are mounting the tires on wider rims (and want the wider profile) or tires with more volume consider the 2.4 versions.
Tread pattern and performance
As a front tire it's not incredibly surprising that the X-Kings should should fall short in aggressive terrain. The braking edges don't have a lot to them to scoop into dirt when braking in a straight line and are fairly low profile. Having said that they're decent a cornering tire as their knobs are reasonably stiff and when laid on edge affords a reasonable amount of predictable traction. Comparatively the Mountain King II's are a superb front tire punching well above their width. They have an aggressive tread pattern that translates into tenacious superior braking power (wide centre lugs that scoop up soil tend to do that).. Once you get past the psychological barrier of such narrow tread on the front (remember that these 2.2s measure in 2.0 in the real world) I found myself diving into roots and steeps on a MK II's equipped bike with wild abandon. The MKII is also a superior cornering tire which I attribute to the beefy, tall and stiff side knobs
As a rear tire the X-King is good in the dry but average at best in the wet. When moisture was present but it seems that even the stickiness of the Black Chilli compound cannot overcome the lack of beef of X-King tread. Simply put if I'm approaching a rooty climb and my bike has a X-King rear I'll assume that if I need to apply rear wheel torque that my back end will slip. This is not to say that the X-King cannot be left on in wet conditions and used by finesse climbers who don't mind using body english to move weight around fore-aft. As a data point some people have mentioned that flipping the X-King around and running it backwards helps climbing performance. In my opinion that made no appreciable difference. The MK II by contrast affords above average climbing traction but is sloooow ... one can literally feel and hear the drag of the hum of knobs on gravelled surfaces. Perhaps this illustrates the difficulty of rear tires as they are, by necessity, compromises of traction versus fast rolling.
Both tires share the Black Chilli compound which feels soft and sticky to touch. I have had the bad fortune of trying non-Black Chilli Contis (not made-in-Germany and will feel plasticky to the touch). Unless you like tires which have the traction attributes of slicks on grass do NOT be tempted by the low prices for these sub-par performers which are frequently offered OE on bikes and are cleared out en masse on mail-order or Internet sites. Both tires also have a very open tread pattern. This pattern means that both the MKing II and X-King deal well with mud, clog reluctantly and unclog quickly.