WTB Bronson 29" Review – First Impressions

Being a tire junkie, a fan of Wilderness Trail Bikes products, and limping along on tires that had knobs almost worn down to the casing, I was really excited to receive the all-new WTB Bronson 29″ tires for test and review. I first saw the Bronsons at the 2010 Interbike trade show, and even talked to the legendary Mark Weir himself about the new tires. He seemed genuinely excited about them, so I knew if they worked good for him, they’d almost certainly be fantastic for me.

Bronson 29"
WTB Bronson 29×2.2 – Out of the Box

The Bronsons are named after tough guy/action hero Charles Bronson. This is quite a hefty reputation to live up to. Will the Bronsons make Chuck proud? I’ve only had the new Bronsons out for a few rides on the same trails, but I do have some data and first impressions of these tires that I’d like to share with you.

WTB Bronson 29"
Mounted up and ready to ride

SETUP

Before I mounted the tires, I put them on the scale. The WTB site has them at 700 grams, and my tires weighed in at 705 and 720 grams. This is pretty close to advertised, and also a surprising weight for such a large, aggressive tire. I mounted the Bronsons to a set of Sun Ringle Black Flag Pro 29er rims, using Stan’s NoTubes sealant to make them tubeless. These Bronsons are not specified by WTB for tubeless use, but they sealed up easily and are holding air just fine. Starting tire pressure was 25psi in the front, 30psi in the rear.

WTB Bronson 29"
On the trail

ON THE TRAIL

Here’s how WTB describes the Bronson on their Website:

This widely spaced linked tread tire takes charge in a broad range of conditions from dry hard pack to mud. The Bronson’s ramped center knobs roll fast while square-edged side blocks bite tenaciously at lean angles. An open tread pattern makes quick work of muck as low rotational weights keep you rolling faster.

Since the Bronsons have been mounted, I’ve ridden asphalt, soft over hard pack dirt roads, and different flavors of singletrack including soft sand, wet sand, packed clay, and a shale/powdery clay mix. In a nutshell, the looser and nastier the conditions, the more you notice the capabilities of the Bronsons. The tall knobbies really dig into the dry, soft summer trails. Climbing has been fantastic, the tall flexible knobbies grab ahold of everything when it starts to get rocky and loose.  It gives you extra confidence when you know the tires will always grip with no wasted energy from a slipping wheel. Cornering traction on the sandy trails has also been phenomenal due to the progressively aggressive side knobs on the Bronsons.  The more you lean, the more they bite.

The ramped center knobs and knob spacing of the Bronsons allow the tires to roll fairly smooth on hard pack, including asphalt. Corning on the asphalt though feels a little sketchy when leaned over, as you can feel a little flex from those tall side knobs. While they might not be the best tires for putting in the miles on the asphalt, they do pretty well on the loose over hard pack that you find on dirt roads and double track.

We had a series of rainstorms recently, and I was lucky enough to get in some singletrack while the trails were still wet.  The Bronsons were sticking to the wet sand like crazy, and I had an amazing ride that day.  I have a feeling these tires will really start to shine when the late Fall/Winter conditions arrive.

WTB Bronson 29"
Ready for the descent

WEIGHT

I dropped around a half a pound of rotating mass when I switched from my previous tire setup (WTB Weirwolf LT 2.55 front, WTB Wolverine 2.2 rear). At just over 700 grams, the Bronsons feel light and zippy for such a big tire, and I wouldn’t have a problem suggesting them for front or rear use. You could certainly go lighter for a rear tire, but running tubeless, the weight doesn’t seem to bog me down and I’m really enjoying the extra climbing traction.

COMPARISONS

I had a lot of time and many miles on WTB’s Wolverine tires. The Bronsons certainly have a different personality. Bronson casing width/tread width in mm is 52/56. The Wolverine’s is 54/52. While the Wolverine gets its width from its larger casing, the Bronson gets it from the knobbies. The Bronsons aren’t as plush as the larger volume Wolverine, so I’ve aired down a couple PSI to compensate.  I’m still experimenting with pressure to find the sweet spot. The shorter knobs of the Wolverine are less flexy, and therefore hook up a little better on the hard pack.  This is especially noticeable on asphalt. The Wolverines also roll smoother. The Bronsons are definitely lighter though, and it’s enough of a difference that you can feel it.  Tire profiles also differ on these two tires, the Bronson being a bit more round, the Wolverine more square.  This slightly changes the lean angle performance between the two tires, the degree you have to lean the bike over to engage the side knobs, and also the air pressure settings required to flatten the tire out for maximum ground contact.

I’ve found that I like the characteristics of both the Bronsons and the Wolverines depending on what I’m doing.  I think a hot setup, though, might be a Wolverine up front for a little extra plushness (I run a rigid fork), with the lightness and extra traction of the Bronson in the rear.  I’ll probably try this setup down the road after I get the Bronsons out for many more test rides.

Bronson 29er
Bronson Footprint

SPECS:

  • Size: 2.2″ x 29″, 52/56 (casing width/tread width in mm)
  • Weight: 705, 720 grams (published weight: 700g)
  • Construction: RACE (folding aramid bead, lightweight casing)

This is by no means the final review though. The Bronsons and I are still getting to know each other, and I know I’m not using them to their full potential yet; for example, each turn I do, I think I could’ve leaned the bike over way further than I did. I’m eager to get the Bronsons out on a wide variety of trails, and also see how the perform in the snow, ice, mud, and muck of the winter that awaits us. At this time though, it’s safe to say that Charles Bronson himself would be honored to run these tires on his bike.

Vicee Rim Trail
Hooking up good in the corners with the Bronsons

More info on the WTB website: http://www.wtb.com/products/tires/29er/bronson29er/

Disclaimer as required by the FTC: This product was given to BikeCarson.com at no charge for test and review. We were not paid or bribed to do this review, and will provide our honest and personal views throughout the entire process.

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4 thoughts on “WTB Bronson 29" Review – First Impressions

  1. 700 grams seems heavy to me for a specifically non-tubeless tire. i typically ride tires in the low 500 gram range albeit with tubes. i know where you live it probably makes sense to go tubeless but reciprocating weight is the “heaviest” weight on a bike. tire hook-up, resistance to puncture and all-weather/trail capability is the the most important factor in tire performance so it may not be fair to say those tires are “phat”! maybe if i was younger and stronger (and good-looking) like you, i could push 700+ gram tires uphill!

    1. I weighed one of my 29er tubes this morning. 205 grams. I add a bit of weight back in with the Stan’s, but not much. This gets my tubeless tire down near the weight of your race tire with a tube.

      I’d agree with you though, it’s not lightweight compared to a race tire, but it’s going to hook up in a wide range of terrain. I wouldn’t want to run a race tire in the front around here. I’d end up on my head too often. I have ran a WTB Nano Raptor in the rear with good results, and it’s 560 grams. It was fast and light, but would spin out on loose climbs. I guess it’s all up to the rider on where they want their performance!

  2. i realize my conditions are completely 180 to yours (even back in michigan), so a tire that works for me might be crap out there (and vice versa). i have been pretty happy with the racing ralphs from schwalbe if you get the pressure right. they work well on pavement, the wet and our summer loamy trails. but they do slide around a bit in the loose gravel (but then again, doesn’t everything?). if i have to stand and crank in gravel, they just spin.
    regardless, it’s nice you have a chance to try different tire combinations and styles. keep up the good work here!

    1. When we met up in Oakland a few years back, I was surprised how differently my tires performed on the local dirt. Even my riding technique seemed a bit off for the conditions.

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