Who is it for
All mountain bike riders who wants to ride fast with a tire optimized for speed, and at the same time have sufficient grip under most conditions.
Chain Reaction Cycles is at the time of writing charging about US$ 50 for a 26×2.2 folding tire. Often you’ll find a package of two tires and tubes for a reduced price. Use the Google search field below to find the best prices.
Race winning tires
One of the marketing arguments Continental is using in their ads for the Race Kings, is that the world champion Irina Kalentieva is using these tires. First of all this tells me that she is sponsored by Continental and that this tire is the best they have for her kind of riding. You can’t really extract much more than that, but that’s a hell of a lot, isn’t it. Another example of this being a race winning tire is the world known “Terrengsykkelrittet”. Haven’t heard about it??? Maybe you don’t live in Norway then… This is a 60 km highly technical race with lots of roots, rocks and sticks. If the tire can survive this, it can survive anything. In 2010 it was won by Lars Ragnar Manengen. The tires he used were of course… Race King Supersonic! I guess if you search other more or less known races around, you’ll probably find lots of examples of this tire being on the bike crossing first over the finish line.
Installation is not a problem with these tires. They fall easily in place in the rim without too much hassle. It’s also fairly easy to remove them, just using one or two tire levers.
Setting these babies up for tubeless riding shouldn’t pose to much trouble, but you may consider going for the tubeless version even if they weigh significantly more (700 gram compared to 470 gram).
An optimal tire for everything?
No tire is optimal for everything. An extreme example of this are dubbed winter tires. Nothing can beat it on pure ice, but they are useless on hard smooth surfaces like tiles and concrete (but who rides on that anyway ). The same goes for the Race Kings Supersonic. These tires are purposely constructed for what it’s name implies – races. And with that it means technical races on relatively hard surfaces like gravel and not too muddy trails.
When you’re going to try a new set of tires for the first time you adjust your riding style according to your expectation. The thing with the Race King Supersonics are that they deliver more than you expect. You can go faster and lean more down to the side on surfaces that with similar tires would not work. Of course, they are not magical. They didn’t get a sparkle of Tinkebells wand while Peter Pan flow them over to your bike store. But my best guess is that your are going be surprised over the grip that these suckers are going to give you.
Size and knobs
The Race Kings are high volume tires which comes in two sizes; 2.0 and 2.2 – both for 26” inch rims and 29ers. To reduce friction, Continental has made the knobs quite small without much height. This undoubtedly results in less grip than taller knobs. To compensate for this Continental has made the carcass volume larger to make room for more knobs. These tires grip surprisingly well.
The Black Chili compound
To increase the grip a compound Continental call Black Chili has been included in the rubber. According to Continental the Black Chili is a mixture between rubber polymers and nano sized soot particles that supposedly is going to give you 26% lower rolling resistance, 30% better grip and 5% longer mileage. I don’t know about those numbers, but compared to a non-Black Chili tire the Supersonics gives noticeable better grip. Those Germans certainly know what they are doing.
As said earlier the Race King Supersonic is a tire optimized for racing. That means reducing the thickness of the tire where you can to save weight. The Supersonics have thinner side walls than the other versions of the tire. This results in a lower weight, but also increase your susceptibility for puncture, especially pinch flats when you’re having a too low pressure in the tire. If you’re having pinch flats – increase the pressure!
You want to go fast, don’t you??? No. You want more protection and don’t mind an extra 80 gram pr tire. Then you should consider the Race King ProTection version. In the ProTection tire Continental has strengthened the side walls to reduce the chance for puncture. The ProTection tires now also comes with the Black Chili compound, as opposed to earlier years.
The Race King tires comes in a lot of different versions. The lightest one is the 26×2.0 Supersonic at 430 gram, while the heaviest is the 26×2.2 UST version at 700 gram. New for 2011 is the Race Sport version which according to Continental has better puncture resistance than Supersonic, while only weighing 30 grams more. I’ll say that Race Sport is a serious contender to Supersonic for most of us out there, but that is of course up to you.
Rolling resistance and noise
Continental has reduced the size of those knobs to a level where you’re still having sufficient grip in an average race but also have super low rolling resistance. As a result the noise from your rubber coated friends are barley noticeable over your lungs trying to exchange gasses for those hard working muscles.
A set of tires is easily worn out on a season if you use them regularly a couple of times a week from early May to October. I did that, and at the end of season it was easy to notice the lack of grip that had been there in the spring. You could of course just use them in races, but they’re not that expensive and I’m sure you want that Race King Supersonic experience all the time when you’ve first had it.
Packing of mud and dirt
Packing of earthly elements between the knobs is something you don’t want. One could think that with so tightly spaced knobs as on the Race Kings they would be susceptible for packing of dirt. Well, then you have to remember that the knobs ain’t tall. That helps a lot. In my own experience I can’t say that packing of mud has been a point of irritation. In addition, according to Continental the 2011 version of the Black Chili component should be even better to shed dirt than earlier years. Well, we’ll have to wait and see about that.
If you want a super-low-weight, easy rolling tire with a really good grip for it’s kind, you should order a Continental Race King Supersonic 2.2 at once. These are race winning tires, dude!
If you have a problem with the quite high susceptibility for puncture with the Race King Supersonics and don’t mind a little more weight I would probably look at the Race King Race Sport or ProTection versions.
Where to buy?
I usually buy my gear at Chain Reaction Cycles or eBay, but I’m often surprised by the speed and the price of local shops. If you want to find the cheapest prices – type “Race King Supersonic” in the Google search field below: