Yes it is wet. And it is cold, too. I don’t know where you are, but where I am, the trails have received their annual rinse. In fact, they got plenty, a lot more than last year, and enough to change the color of my bike. That the ground on a few of my home trails is of the loamy type is not helping either (add water and think soap). It was time to mount a tire that could handle it. Luckily, I visited the Continental tires booth on Eurobike and had a chat with Sebastian Moos, their product manager. He saw me admiring the new tire’s profile, and assured me it was ready for release. That was an important statement, as Continental took their time to release this piece of rubber.
Early announcements on the new Continental Baron Projekt 2.4 date back to early 2014, and I wrote them in June, 2014, when they told me „not before 2015“. They presented a prototype at Eurobike 2014, but did not release the tire until a full year later. He also promised that the new Baron Projekt would be easy to set up tubeless. Another quick look at the profile, and I was sold. I ordered one in goldilocks 650B through my LBS, and mounted it on my bike’s front. On the Syncros TR 2.0 (I think they are rebranded DT Swiss), the tire fit right away – no soap needed. I added a small amount of tubeless sealant (only about 30ml) and inflated the tire with a floor pump. It seated perfectly and showed no loss of air overnight.
First, let’s make this clear, because it is sometimes misstated: Der Baron Projekt is not a mud tire. It works great in mud, but it is primarily an intermediate that excels in the wet. And, even with the soapy loam in mind, that is good news for me, because I hate switching tires. So putting a mud tire on always has me doubting if it is really worth it (it might be different if I was in the UK). Sometimes, we get a few days of heavy rainfall, and the trails are wet for weeks. But more often than not, a few days without rainfall, and the trails get at least into a state in which a pure mud tire would be overdone. I also ride a few rocky trails that dry out quickly, so I prefer a tire that handles this terrain, as well. Pure mud tires have large knobs that have a tendency to fold on hardpack, so I’m looking for a tire that is more an all-round tire. Less than a mud tire, but really fine in wet conditions.
In comes Der Baron.
And I must say it is hard to imagine when he’ll ever go out, because this tire is simply excellent.
Grip: It is amazing and so precise. When Der Baron is searching for a grip, there is a brief, but benevolent moment, and before you even start wondering, its big knobs have found the ground again – and the tire immediately tells you it has you covered. Because it lacks horizontal center knobs, its ability to hold a line is exceptional. If I’d have to emphasize one trait of Der Baron that makes it special, it is this directional stability of the tire that is outstanding.
Cornering: The added grip on the front caused the DHR II in the rear to nicely initiate drifts. I’m not a drift-through-corners guy, so trail access advocates and huntsmen who reads this, relax and hold your fire. More often than not, I’m running the same tire front and rear for maximum grip and predictability. Running a little more rubber in the rear also helps me keeping in shape. I found I get used to rolling resistance quickly, and I enjoy the thought that I can always mount flimsy tires if I want – and then rejoice in the feeling of newfound lightness for the first few rides. Der Baron corners so well, I’d even consider mounting it front and rear, but it works just fine with any rear tire that can be considered an intermediate – and I found the DHR II to be a good match. The pair handled hard cornering without a fault, with Der Baron leading the way with confidence. Its big side knobs are well-supported, and I did not once feel them squirm, even on rocky sections. To me, this makes the Baron a real contender for an all-round rubber – a tire I put on when it gets wet and don’t think about it again until it gets hot and dusty dry.
Braking: Horizontal center knobs are primarily put on a tire for braking, and the lack of those left me wondering whether I’d be wishing for more braking traction. My fears turned out to be unfounded, with Der Baron offering more braking power than needed. Still, if you want to maximize braking on an intermediate or wet terrain tire, the Maxxis Shorty has an advantage here.
Stability: You can immediately feel that Continental’s Apex sidewall protection is adding stability to the tire. This could be felt when cornering, and heard on pavement, but also showed in the zero defect rate: No flats or cuts. And even though the BlackChili compound offers amazing levels of grip, the tire showed remarkably little wear.
Rolling Resistance: Obviously, this is not something you want to put on your rear wheel if you are looking for outright speed and pedaling efficiency. Yes, it rolls better than I expected, but it is still a sturdy, beefy tire. Given the grip it provides, I’d absolutely say it is worth it all day – and to me, if it rolled worse, it would be still worth it. But you may feel different about it. One thing is clear: If you’re a weight weenie, you don’t want to put a Baron on your bike.
Weight: Who cares? Give me a tire with these capabilities and I say „thank you, can I have one more?“, not „how heavy?“.
Terrain & Conditions: The open profile pattern is perfect for soft and wet conditions. Der Baron almost never gets clogged, and if so, it cleans itself right away, even at moderate speeds. Even though it poured this year, Der Baron has performed flawlessly, and I never wished for a true mud tire. On dry parts of the trails, the tire still performs very well, and it is only on real hardpack that the tire starts being a little bit out of its element. Everything else, it handles just fine. It is an excellent winter tire, as well, because Conti’s BlackChilli Compound has less tendency for hardening when the temperature drops. If you ride in the winter, and your trails are of the wet forest sort with lots of roots, look no further.
Tim’s take: Der Baron is a classic front tire choice, and it instills a massive boost of confidence on wet terrain. It likes to take the rear tire out for a dance, but never unbalanced or out of control. Although its rolling resistance is far from outstanding, it rolls better than its grip level suggests, making it a rear option, as well. It works well in almost any terrain and condition, and you could run it as an all-year tire if you’re not primarily riding on hardpack and your summers see a bit of rain. I also love that it is available as a 26er, too.
Manufacturer: Continental Tires
Model: Der Baron Projekt 2.4
Wheel sizes: 26×2.4 – 27.5×2.4 (tested) – 29×2.4
Weight: 960g (26) – 985g (27.5) – 1025g (29) (weights according to manufacturer)
Price: 74 €. US pricing tbd