Anmerkung der Redaktion: hierbei handelt es sich um einen Artikel, der zuerst auf Englisch in unserer Schwesterseite erschienen ist, noch ehe die deutschsprachige Seite online ging. 

VREDESTEIN Black Panther and Black Panther Extreme – First Impressions: by c_g

VREDESTEIN has been a late entry to the 29″er game – but when they do things they do them right. All Vredestein tires specs read like the who’s-who of tire technology – all feature a triple compound, 120 TPI casing and the customer can choose between either a regular folding or a tubeless ready version. The 29″er line had only been introduced during Eurobike´11 (here) and showed up in our offices not too long after. I had already reported a bit on my ride impressions on the micro knobbed Spotted Cat 2.0 (here) which was a really fun and sure footed tire but then the wet season hit and forced me to swap them for something more aggressive – the Black Panther and Black Panther Extreme.

Vredestein Black Panther   

Vredestein Black Panther Extreme

First the numbers: The Black Panther (635 &650 g) and Black Panther Extreme (675 & 690 g) are both stated as a 2.2” size, but while the Spotted Cat had been absolutely true to size, the two Panthers fell a bit short with a 52.0 mm casing width and 52.5 mm after some ride time and stretching at 2.0 bar.Like the other VREDESTEINS – both were set up tubeless with no hassle on the AMERICAN CLASSIC AM rims and the REYNOLDS MT29 alike – all done with a floor pump. Bead locking had been really good with a distinct “plop” when sliding onto the rim shoulders. So far so good.
RIDING IMPRESSIONS: The VREDESTEIN Black Panther was the first one to get its chance. It is like no 29″er tire I had ridden. With its closed row of chained central knobs, yet widely spaced lateral knobs I was really curious about how it would do on my trails with lots of wet grounds, roots and occasional rocks. The approach to the trail already showed – it is every bit as fast on hard surfaces as the Spotted Cat. I tried throwing my bike into corners on asphalt and could feel how the side knobs would induce some vibrations, but it never felt vague. Out, on the trail I was immediately struck by how well those side knobs dug into the ground allowing for a really aggressive riding style. Really great! :)
Up came a steep climb with lots of roots and some off chamber sections and … well I loved it. On that first ride I came away duly impressed with the Black Panther.On the second ride under wet conditions (!) … I was spinning out a lot more on climbs than I had anticipated, leaving me puzzled more than once. After some probing I came to realize: Whenever the wet ground was soft or allowed for the transition and side knobs to dig in, it gripped like crazy, but whenever the central row was left alone to provide the grip on slippery roots or rocks, it would let go prematurely. Same on the downhills: Whenever there was any lean angle or soft grounds involved, I loved it – whenever I was needing traction or braking grip over roots or slippery foliage the Black Panther let me down unannounced. Sometimes sending me into the bushes more than once under hard braking.

Cornering as you may have guessed is pretty good under all conditions. After all that is where the aggressive side knobs are employed the most, and self cleaning has been no issue either. So is the Black Panther a bi-polar and unpredictable tire? No, but it is a more terrain specific tire than others. If you are looking for a fast tire for your on road journey to the trail head and ride in either predominantly dry or soft grounds, chances are you will love the Black Panther. I see that it may do really well on a moderate Transalp adventure where rolling resistance and reliability are key or as a crossover for someone logging serious miles on fire roads, but if you love to ride aggressively and your terrain abounds with slippery rocks or roots, you better look elsewhere ….

Enter the B

lack Panther Extreme, which differs greatly from the Black Panther in the knob arrangement and size. Where before there was the chained central row of knobs, one finds lots of open space and the same triangulated knobs known from the Black Panther´s but a lot burlier. The small and scarce side knobs of the Panther are a lot bigger and longer on the Extreme (mimicking the Vredestein logo of a cat´s head). Sounds more like my tire.

And indeed, with the Black Panther Extreme I found a tire that willingly took all challenges I threw at it. It definitely is not as fast and smooth rolling but when it comes to traction and cornering it performed flawlessly in almost any terrain and ground conditions. It took some really deep and sticky grounds to challenge the Black Panther Extreme´s excellent mud shedding qualities and cornering was surefooted and predictable even when reaching its limits. On one particularly nasty ride on wet limestone (yes the exceptionally slippery kind) I was positively surprised how well it held on when descending – on that ride any tire we had in our group of riders reached their limits, even the super grippy free ride knobbies of some :) . I credit the good compound as much for as the open tread pattern. Unlike the Spotted Cat, where I needed to run higher pressures to keep obstacles from hitting the rim, I hardly ever experienced such problems with either one of the Panthers – I am not sure if there was anything firmer in the casing (I didn’t feel anything) or if it was the extra volume, but it worked fine throughout and I found my personal sweet spot in riding pressure around 1.8 bar.

FIRST IMPRESSION SUMARY: Riding the VREDESTEIN Black Panther and Black Panther Extreme under varying conditions has been an interesting experience. Both tires share the same high tech features and are anything but entry level tires. Yet speaking for my trail conditions, where there are lots of steep pitches and roots all over I can openly say that the Black Panther sure is not the best choice. I see its qualities primarily in the low rolling resistance and reliability and moderate use, but wouldn’t pick it for aggressive riders.

On the other hand is the Black Panther Extreme, which impressed me with its aggressive grip and secure cornering characteristics. It held on to the ground really well and was rarely ever reaching its limits, be it dry or wet grounds, firm or soft. Yes it even did well on really deep grounds. For a front tire it is great, on the rear I feel it is better suited for aggressive riding than long touring due to its slightly slow and rough rolling behavior.

I have chosen to retire the Black Panther for this winter because it simply doesn´t provide the grip I need in the mostly sloppy conditions around here and may come back to it as a rear tire later in spring. Same for the Spotted Cat, which I really want to log some more miles when things turn dry again. The Black Panther Extreme, on the other hand, has what it takes in the current conditions, and therefore it will continue being ridden. I plan on more riding myself and later on by another tester to receive a verdict sometime later this winter.

Stay tuned for more on the VREDESTEIN tires here.