Review: Schwalbe Hans Dampf Trailstar Tyres
August 23rd, 2012
By Olly Forster
Trail bike tyres need to be a real jack of all trades to get the job done, but ultimately the consumer needs to understand where a product will excel and where it won’t. What I’m getting at is that it’s pretty hard to get a bike that climbs as well as it descends and vise versa. When you’ve ridden a bike that descends so well it would be a crime to sacrifice anything for the climb, well, that curve ball has well and truly landed in the lap of the tyre designer. Should we make compromises across the board or is there a fine line between going up and the fun of coming down? Questions, questions, but tyres are your only contact with the dirt and finding the ones that suit you, your bike and how you ride it is no easy task, but if you’re looking for some grippy tyres that go both up and down, read on…
What’s in a name? After doing a little research, Hans Dampf roughly translates to ‘jack of all trades’ in German. Makes sense with a tyre designed to perform in a variety of conditions. These beasts are also tubeless ready, feature snakeskin sidewalls and take high volume trail tyres to a new level! Weight wise, your looking at 780 grams a tyre, which is by no means fly weight, but certainly in the same ball park as most trail specific tyres.
The Hans Dampf is a big beast of a tyre. Claimed to be a 2.35 you’re in reality closer to 2.5 against other manufacturers, so if your bike has limited clearance you might need to get the old measuring tape out. The tread pattern is a non-directional affair with a variety of tread blocks in different shapes and positions, which all work to spread the forces from accelerating and decelerating across the carcass. Ranging from 3mm to 6mm and following a very ‘moto’ inspired pattern – these tyres are designed for one thing and that’s maximizing the fun factor.
There were no clearance issues with the Rock Shox Lyrik’s on our Mega test bike, but on the rear it was a little tight – like I said, these are high volume tyres! Being high volume also makes them great at low pressures, which when combined with the snakeskin sidewalls and tubeless capabilities offers up some pretty fun options when things start to get wild.
On The Trail.
With the opening of a new trail loop near by and with the DH credentials of the crew who built it (Pearce Cycles – Hopton Woods), I knew it was going to be fast, loose, technical and definitely one for the downhill rider looking for thrills on the ‘little bike’. With the anticipation of a new trail, fresh tyres and a day with my mates, these big hunks of Germanic rubber were on my bike and on the dirt in no time. Straight away I’m smiling from ear to ear, pushing the bike into the corners and through the deep loam of a fresh trail. Starting with a descent is always a good way to begin a ride, but with every descent is an ascent. Running just under 30PSI in the front and in the rear to keep the traction to a maximum on a mostly natural trail, that had up until we hit it been getting a regular watering from God and I was a little apprehensive as to what lay ahead. Up we go…
There is of course a penalty for the grip factor and that’s the drag factor. The Hans Dampf’s carry a certain amount of drag that is noticeable, but then again I’m riding a 1 x 10 bike with a 36 to 34 tooth set up, with 150mm of travel in the rear and 170 in the front – my trail bike is essentially a trail access tool and as long as it goes up to let me shred the shit out what’s on the other side, well, that’s all that matters. Ascending on trail bikes with a persuasion for the fun stuff means you have to adapt your technique on the bike to work around these small drawbacks when going up.
After two loops and a trip to the hospital for one of our mates, the day ended on a reasonably good note, but the testing had just begun. On wet, tacky, natural terrain, I found the Hans Dampf’s to be both predictable and scary at the same time, scary because through my own fault, I was quickly realising just how much you can push these tyres when descending. Climbing was predictable and controlled, although my brain tends to go into snooze mode while going up… On loose dust over hard-pack, these were once again in their element. Any drift or loss of traction while descending or cornering was controllable and precise, although rolling resistance wasn’t on a par with a more XC specific tyre, or say a ramped block design tyre.
Back to another trail and this one was a proper traditional UK trail centre job. Ah, the pacification of mountain biking, nice and orderly and follow the grey line from A to B, past the check out and back to the car, only if you lack imagination of course! Llandegla in mid Wales ‘effin rules and with plenty of hefty short but sweet climbs, you are rewarded with some great jump lines and wild descents, and quite a few opportunities to let your imagination get the better of you. After doing two loops the Hans Dampf’s didn’t miss a beat; yes there was a little drag on some of the man made stuff, but with all the fun I was having on the “fun” bits, I really couldn’t give a damn and that’s what these tyres are all about – having fun on your really fun bike!
Durability I hear you say? No punctures yet, but then again I wasn’t trying to puncture them. Everyday riding on some not so every day terrain and no problems. Wear and tear is great too, due in part to the triple compound employed which is also why they aren’t cheap, but when you do the maths, going for multiple compound tyres equals great grip and great wear.
The Hans Dampf’s made our Nukeproof Mega come alive and that’s no exaggeration. Foot out, flat out, over the jumps, round corners, slicing off camber sections and back to the top do it all over again.
Awesome tyres from the off! I really fell for these and to date, they’re one of my favourite tyres for aggressive trail riding. Downsides? Firstly, they are not cheap at £50 a pop, but you are getting a triple compound, tubeless ready, snake-skinned tyre that is unlike anything out there and with a few months on them, they’re gonna last a good while too. Another downside would be the rolling resistance. Not a massive issue and one I feel other reviewers have banged on about too much, as these do let you ride up and smash it back down in a fashion that’s as close to a DH tyre as you’re gonna get before going ‘sticky rubber’. If you want something that rolls better, there are a few options out there, but they won’t come close to the grip these have when it counts. One other issue is the volume issue. Not an issue with the tyres perhaps, but it could be with your frame, so double check as these come up big!
All in all, if your looking for the tyres to finish off a trail bike build with an ‘aggro’ persuasion, give these beasts a look in. If you’re doing some gnarly descent orientated enduro’s, these would be spot on – run ‘em tubeless and get the pressure down and you’ll make the seconds up over your mates, but ultimately these are fun accelerators and that’s why they come highly recommended!
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