Only available in 29x2.4in and with extra beef compared to their XC models, Schwalbe Wicked Will sits between Racing Ralph and Nobby Nic, combining the tread depth of an XC tyre with the block proportions of a trail/ enduro tyre.
The Schwalbe Wicked Will tyre targets an mtb sector labelled ‘down-country’. Grimace all you like about marketing labels, but down-country is definitely a thing and sees this Wicked Will designed to roll and climb at close to the best mountain bike tyres‘ speeds for XC, but also offer enough cornering and stopping grip for safe descending at the higher speeds modern short travel full-suspension bikes are capable of.
Three casings – Super Race, Super Ground and Super Trail – grow in thickness, toughness and weight, with Race the most supple and conforming and Trail packing the most lateral support for berm-slashing. The tyre blows up with a pretty squared-off shape for an XC-leaning tyre, and all models use Schwalbe’s second hardest and fastest rolling (of four) rubber formulas, called ADDIX Speedgrip.
Will’s shoulder blocks are aggressively siped to spread rubber on surfaces and deliver ‘long’ edges for more grip. Central braking knobs are lined up in alternate sets with an interrupted leading ramp that reduces rolling resistance and also a little square-edged rubber centre ‘window’ in each ramp with only block edges supported to allow the middle of blocks to dig in for propulsion and extra climbing traction. The Wicked Will completely delivers on its speed claims; it’s really rapid on all surfaces and literally zips along, which gives a real buzz compared to lugging draggy enduro tyres around. Traction is about as good as you can expect from a minimal treaded tyre and it even holds on OK in the wet until slimy roots and rocks come into the equation.
Compared to Maxxis’s equivalent Rekon model, this is a little springier, more chattery and less damped, but there’s noticeably more control under braking and at lean angles for a very similar weight and speed. In summer or drier conditions, it makes a ton of sense, and you really get somewhere for your cranking efforts, plus it rolls faster and brakes more aggressively than most semi-slicks that might have a slight edge in terms of pure cornering bite. Personally, I’d still only ever use a tyre this low profile on the back with a meatier front tread, but some speed-focussed riders could easily pair the Wicked Will with a Racing Ralph.
A couple of further things to point out are that, as an aggressive rider, I needed to run the Super Ground version above 30psi on the rear for enough support and to prevent cornering forces flexing the tyre too much. Doing this further takes away comfort compared to a more damped Maxxis Rekon I mentioned earlier that I can also run softer without burping or folding. More importantly, after a couple of test rides, I also experienced a failure with Schwalbe’s Kevlar bead, which ‘snapped’ when slashing a 90° bucket turn. I’ve buckled plenty of tyre casings in the past in this way, but bead damage is not something I’ve ever caused on any brand’s tyres before. It’s possible it was a freak occurrence but it could also point to the skinny flexible, low-weight casing not being a match for how much mechanical grip the bigger lugs generate in the dry. A replacement Schwalbe Wicked Will is in place and so far so good.