The Grappler is an aptly named new tyre from E*thirteen, with a tenacious, vice-like hold on pretty much any terrain.
Brand new for 2022, E*thirteen’s latest gravity tyre is this ground-grabbing Grappler – and it’s shot straight to the top of the best MTB trail tyres chart. It’s available in two casing and compound options, including a thick dual ply version designed for DH and enduro racing on the hardest tracks in the world.
After a dubious start with its TRS enduro tyre – that offered incredible grip and damping but sidewalls that collapsed under huge loads – we’ve been pretty happy with E*thirteen’s revised models for the last few years. Made in Thailand by Vee (who also manufactures its own MTB tyres), it’s continuously tweaked the tread and casing since the first version and offers excellent friction in the rubber (especially in the super soft versions) and casings that have proved reliable and tough on multiple Alpine trips and races for us.
There was always a sense though that E*thirteen’s TRS line-up performed a smidge below ultimate grip monsters like the Maxxis Assegai and Schwalbe Magic Mary – the pair of leading front options favoured by many hard-charging UK riders. The older tyre never did anything weird, but from the first ride here, it’s clear this new model is a step up in grip.
The Grappler tread pattern is considerably tweaked with more space in the centre compared to the TRS, and the small, tapered transitional knobs and central double/triple block layout now looks almost identical to an Assegai.
Grappler edge blocks are slightly more regularly shaped than Maxxis’s tyre though, and have straight-through diagonal slits rather than enclosed siping. But again there’s not much in it. E*thirteen’s new tyre also blows up to a similar size and shape with a pretty flat crown and gently sloping curve to the angled shoulder knobs.
This Enduro version uses a 2x120tpi casing with a nylon breaker, and Apex inserts around the bead to resist bottoming on the rim, which could cut the tyre at the point where it’s hardest to plug. This butyl bumper is also lighter and thinner by around 5mm compared to the dual ply, 72TPI DH model.
From the very first ride in the Italian Alps in the wet, the grip and conformity from the extra sticky MoPo blend (originally designed for moped racing) proved fantastic compared to most competitors. The tyre squelches against the ground with a super calm and composed ride that tracks every bump and dulls vibrations and chatter. Plus the rubber has superb friction so it sticks to any and every surface from greasy dirt to roots and rocks.
As well as the supple ride and pure grip being a match for anything on the market, weight is decent considering casing and tread blocks here are supportive enough to show zero squirm or sudden folding, however hard you lean on it.
E*thirteen’s new Grappler is so good then, every time we switched out from it during testing, we got a sudden sense of FOMO at all the grip and confidence we were missing out on. Only the MaxxGrip Maxxis Assegai could keep up.