Review: Schwalbe Hans Dampf Super Gravity Vertstar Tyres

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After being more than impressed by the regular IMG_8935-620x413

Words: Olly Forster | Photos: Nathan Carvell, Thomas Gaffney & Olly Forster

A tyre that’s good enough for both a competition level DH bike and an Enduro bike? Tested by the likes of Danny Hart and Brendan Fairclough, the Hans Dampf Super Gravity first saw action in Pietermaritzburg at the start of last season and while that particular track is unique to the World Cup, it’s actually similar in many ways to the DH tracks we have here in the UK and if you don’t already know, a 2.35″ diameter Schwalbe is like a 2.5″ Maxxis… They like ’em big in Germany!

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TECH – For the new Super Gravity series, Schwalbe constructed a completely new carcass design with the intention of transforming the manor in which the tyre performs. Traditionally, Schwalbe use a dual casing, consisting of four layers that overlap under the tread, forming a total of six layers. For the Super Gravity version, Schwalbe based the carcass design on the “turnup process” – a method more commonly used in the motorcycle tyre industry. Again, a dual casing is used, but this time the individual layers only overlap at the sidewall rather than having the conventional overlap under the tread resulting in four rugged layers at the side, but only two under the tread, which means four layers fewer than you get with a tyre specifically for DH. To make this casing as puncture resistant as possible, Schwalbe coated the entire carcass with a layer of “SnakeSkin” – A tough, flexible mesh that is extremely cut-resistant without having a negative impact on rolling resistance. Sound good?

The Hans Dampf Super Gravity is more than just the sum of its parts as they are all designed to work harmoniously and provide the rider with a very special tyre indeed…

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Out on the Trail.

Determined to see how Schwalbe could improve on such an awesome tyre, it wasn’t long before these were out of their depth (to an extent) and assigned as my tyre of choice on a long day of riding and on a variety of terrain and as it happened, varying conditions as well. The Vertstar compound wouldn’t have been my first choice for getting the miles in on, as the softer compound will only increase the rolling resistance and up my work load on all the rubbish stuff linking up all the good stuff… While the drag was noticeable, it wasn’t to the point of distraction and certainly not to the extent where I was struggling to keep up. It wasn’t until we started hitting the fun stuff that the Hans Dampf Super Gravity’s showed their true colours – yes they are awesome, but what was more awesome was the fact that such a tyre allowed me to get there under my own steam in the first place. Ever done XC miles on soft compound DH tyres? It’s not fun, yet this was, but then these aren’t DH tyres – what are they?

Reading an online review (gotta do all your research!) I noticed the word “hybrid” used to describe these tyres and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I can see why. The Hans Dampf is such a unique tyre (especially on an AM platform) that you really need to take stock and re-access the situation after a few ups and downs – especially when the very same tyres can go straight onto a full on DH bike and feel pretty awesome in their own right – not to mention the pound of weight I lost between these and some tubed F75A9286

While I wouldn’t say these are the best DH tyres out there, on the right track they are solid performers – fast rolling, preferably in dry to light mud, and with lots of berms and jumps (a bit like S.Africa). They don’t have the confidence inspiring attack qualities of the Minion DHF, but then they don’t weigh what they do and have the ability to be run at crazy low pressures (without tubes) to increase that grip even further…

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Conclusion.

What can I say? I really, really likes the standard ones and then these… They are a step in the right direction and there’s no confusion as to why this tyre is being touted as as the ultimate competition¬†Enduro tyre and while running the softer of the three available compounds (Vertstar) front and rear might be a bit extreme for anything but DH, you can tailor compounds to suit. For the AM riding I do, I’d keep the Vertstar bad boy up front and pop a more suitable Trailstar (second softest followed by Pacestar, which is the hardest compound) on the rear to help keep rolling resistance down, but also the wear and tear as these are not cheap…

You get what you pay for and the Hans Dampf Super Gravity is no different. With an RRP of ¬£57, these could well be a ‘race only’ tyre, but if you want the best and your bike alone is worth thousands…

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For me, the best thing about these tyres is that they find traction where sometimes there doesn’t seem to be any, and while this miraculous traction isn’t the best – say in clay mud for example, it is ample and predictable and it’s that predictability that puts a smile on my face. Would the harder compounds offer up a different result? Definitely, but the beauty of having choice is to exercise it! I’ve never tried the Pacestar’s and while I can imagine (I have to, I’m British) that they’d be great in arid, hard-pack conditions, in the UK and other similar temperate climates, riders will be jostling between the descending prowess of the Vertstar and the half-way-house of the Trailstar. Either or both and your on to a winner!

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So, did we see any other major differences between these and the standard Hans Dampf’s? Definitely and pretty much from the word go. The new carcass design is leap forward in tyre manufacturing and as it stands, the future of tyre design from Schwalbe who are really pushing the design envelope. In hindsight, I would have liked similar compounds in both the standard Hans Dampfs and Super Gravity’s to get a good comparison, but the ability to run these on the DH bike was an eye opener to say the least – especially when I’ve done long miles on the very same rubber. This ability is more about their Enduro pedigree rather than there DH pedigree in my opinion, but it has to be said that I’ve never ridden a tyre like them. Expensive tyres for those who are looking for the best – it’s as simple as that!

Schwalbe Tyres are available throughout the UK courtesy of Schwalbe UK and for more on the Hans Dampf Super Gravity, hit the logo below. Happy trails, Olly.

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