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WTB Judge Tough/High Grip Review

Updated: May 11, 2020

What it is: WTB's most aggressive tire offering available in 2.4 'Tough' casings only, with either 'Fast Rolling' or 'High Grip' compounds.


Thoughts:

This one will be somewhat brief. There are other reviews that go into the details of construction, WTB's history, etc, so I'll focus on how the tire rides and my impressions.

Mounting was fairly easy on my Industry Nine Enduro 305 rims, although it took more effort than Maxxis tires, once I work the bead out a bit, everything inflated and set in fine. I've found that's fairly typical with WTB tires.

The tire casing measures slightly narrower than a DHRII 2.4, but the knobs are much larger. I can't say I've seen another mountain bike tire with knobs this large and flared out.

The casing is also very thick, which is new for me, most of my previous tires were in EXO or similar form. The casing thickness combined with the knob size contribute to the considerable ~1400gr (in 29er form) weight for the tires, which is definitely on the heavier side of things.


Riding:

The first surprise came to me riding this tire when I PR'd a climb, I expected it to feel like a boat anchor, but it doesn't. Especially on technical climbs, the grip is really impressive, it will crawl up just about anything.

I've found with heavier tires that the majority of the penalty comes right at the start, when you are initially getting the bike moving, it seems to take a bit more work. Once you get going, the weight seems less noticeable. Even with the size of the knobs and weight, the rolling resistance was reasonable compared to similar options like the DHRII and especially the DHF 2.5WT.

Going downhill, it again takes a bit more work to get moving, but rolls well once it does. Similar to most aggressive tires, coming out of a slow corner takes a bit more effort to get up to speed, but the traction provided should allow you more line options and a cleaner entry some of the time, compensating for the effort to get it rolling. I found that it got moving a lot faster than I anticipated, though, and the rolling resistance was reasonable for the size of the tire.

The braking traction provided is incredible, I don't think I've ever ridden a tire that brakes this well. When combined with powerful brakes, like the Hayes Dominions, it's like dropping an anchor when you put the brakes down. My braking methodology had to change to a more rearward bias, because the tire bites down so well, even when it's steep and loose.

I tested this tire during a really wet, leafy time of year where traction is really hard to find. Despite riding it on some steep, leafy, and wet trails, it held on remarkably well.

Where this tire suffers is what I think is a combination of the casing thickness and size. It's a fairly narrow casing in comparison to other tires this size and it's very thick, which creates some harshness in the rear. I found compared to the DHRII 2.4WT it replaced, the rear of the bike was a lot more chattery and rough on chunky terrain. It transmitted more vibration through the bike, even at lower tire pressures. I also found the grip suffered a bit on off camber roots, where the casing couldn't conform as well.

I think where this tire will shine is on trail with soft, wet dirt that lack a lot of small, harsh bumps. If you are used to thicker casing tires, it may be a non-issue, but for me any trails with a hard, chattery surface felt very rough in compared to other options.

So who would I recommend this to?

If you are looking for a tire that grips well across all conditions, particularly in soft dirt, the Judge is a great option. It's heavy, but rolls well and climbs technical terrain particularly well. The traction in wet, soft dirt is very good and seems to be where the tire thrives. On hardpack, it does fairly well also, but it's a bit difficult to get an accurate gauge of that running it rear only.

If you are on trail with more rolling elevation changes or that lack steep segments, then it may be overkill and the slower start speed wouldn't be a benefit. The harshness of the casing is also worth noting and may be a problem for some, however I found the effect of this varied depending on the suspension performance of the bike I was riding.


Comparisons:

vs DHRII 2.4WT 3C/EXO : The DHRII is hard to hate on, it's one of the best rear tires for most terrain types you can use. The EXO version is lighter, so it's not a true fair comparison, but I haven't run a DD or DH casing one yet. The Judge provides more consistent traction than the DHRII does, especially in wet dirt. That said, the DHRII is lighter, rolls a bit faster, and has more volume. The casing in the Judge is considerably thicker than EXO (closer to Maxxis DH casing) but less compliant and harsher on rough terrain. The DHRII also seems to grip a little better on off camber roots.


Pros:

  • Incredible traction across a wide range of surfaces

  • Thick casing prevents flats

  • Best braking traction I've had out of a tire yet

  • Rolls reasonably well given it's weight

Cons:

  • Casing is not very compliant and can be harsh

  • Despite not being incredibly noticeable, it is a heavy tire

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