It took me a few years for me to get to try the Hans Dampf, but when I did I was ready for the hype. Tyres, whether for a bicycle, car or motorbike, will always be a big topic of discussion as riders and manufacturers search for the holy grail as every feature comes with a trade-off.
What makes a tyre grip is a combination of tread design and compound. A softer compound makes for sticky rubber, but also leads to faster wear. Using a harder compound will prolong the wear, but cut into its outright grip. A light tyre comes at the expense of thicker, sturdier sidewalls and puncture protection. It is not an easy job to design and manufacture the perfect tyre for the different terrains, trails and bikes we ride.
To blend as many must-haves into an all mountain tyre, Schwalbe crammed the Hans Dampf with the latest technology. The rubber used incorporates a micro-fine carbon filler that toughens the compound without sacrificing its flexibility.
To reduce rolling resistance Schwalbe used their TrailStar rubber, which combines two sticky, traction compounds for tread, molded over a resilient, springy rubber base layer designed to retain energy. Increased durability is taken care off by using a softer rubber for the cornering blocks and medium / soft blocks for the centre blocks. The tread blocks have a small cut lengthwise to give the upper part of the blocks more flexibility and in doing so extract more traction, and with it speed, on hard-pack surfaces.
Schwalbe builds the Hans Dampf tyre with 67 TPI (threads per inch) casing fabric using a layering process that provides two-ply sidewalls, with a three-ply layer beneath the tread. To reduce sidewall cuts a special nylon-fabric protection layer (Snakeskin) is laminated to the sidewall and covered with cross-hatched rubber to guard against cuts and abrasion. The Snakeskin armour is reported to add only 40 grams to the overall weight, which is a good trade off between ultimate rolling performance and rock-garden durability.
I tried the 2.35 inch tyre as a front tyre on two different rims to see what difference a wider rim would make to it's overall profile. Mounted to a trail rim with a 21mm inner width the casing measures 2.25 inches and 2.35 at the cornering blocks. Mounted to my Derby rims that measure a healthy 35mm internal and 40mm external, the casing measures 2.35 inches with the width of the cornering blocks measuring 2.37 inches.
The tread design is a staggered-block formation with 3mm centre blocks, 4mm transition blocks, and 6mm outer, cornering blocks in a rounded tread profile that plays well with wider rims. The staggered spacing spreads out acceleration and cornering forces over a number of tread blocks at any given lean angle to maximize grip and traction.
I tested a 2.35 inch tyre in front and a 2.25 inch on the rear both being Snakeskin, TL Easy Trailstar casings. Claimed weight for the 2.35 inch is 795g and 680g for the 2.25 inch. I measured them to be 820g and 720g respectively.
Model and specification is denoted on the sidewall of each tyre in squares. The first is to show whether it is the entry-level Performance Line or the higher end Evolution Line. The second square shows that the casing is Tubeless Ready. Then there's one for the specific casing construction. Snakeskin for extra sidewall protection and Super Gravity their lighter weight DH casing, ideal for Enduro or DH on tracks that are not littered with rocks. The last one is to show the tyre's compound and the choices are Vertstar, Trailstar, and Pacestar (from softest to hardest) for the ‘Evolution’ line.
Depending on the size and model, a Hans Dampf tyre retails for between R650 to R700. Unfortunately, the weakening of the Rand may see these prices increase in the future.
On the Trail
Thanks to their rounded profile and a casing that's on the stiff side, the Hans Dampf are a little sensitive to over-inflation. I've run them as low as 15 psi in front (very much trail dependent), but have settled on 18 - 20 psi in front and 23 - 25 psi on the rear using my Lezyne Shock Digital Drive with the tyres mounted to Derby Rims.
The soft rubber, sticky TrailStar compound and big tread blocks makes for a tyre that's not the fastest climber - something you do notice when pedaling along. Ultimate pedaling speed is not what they were designed for so that's not a real bother to me. Traction is excellent in wet and dry conditions on just about any surface with thick sand being its only real weak point.
Grip on wet, slippery roots are good and gives you a lot of confidence to push hard in even the worst conditions. Thanks again to the big blocks and grippy compound they have good stopping power and it takes quite a bit to get them to slide when jumping on the brakes.
Cornering is another strong suit of the Hans Dampf. The transition blocks do an excellent job when leaning the bike over as there's almost no breakaway when leaning the bike over onto the cornering blocks. Slides are controlled and predictable and come very late and only at high speeds.
It would probably be best to combine a TrailStar front tyre with the less draggy PaceStar rear. This will help on trails where there's a lot of climbing involved (for instance every single trail in Cape Town) to cut back on rolling resistance. I have yet to sample a PaceStar so can't comment on what the trade off would be. I'm hoping to answer that question as soon as new stock arrives early this year.
With the Hans Dampf it looks as though Schwalbe have mastered the All Mountain trail tyre. With the new Nobby Nic snatching at its heels it would be interesting to see what the next version of the Hans Dampf will bring.
With the only real kink in it's armour being it's performance in lose sand when mounted to a standard width rim, one can hardly fault the Hans Dampf for its intended purpose. Yes, we are always looking for more grip from a faster tyre, but as things stand the Hans Dampf's performance is a near-perfect balancing act between grip, traction, speed, confidence inspiring performance and durability.
The Hans Dampf is a worthy option as an all year, all weather tyre.
From the Manufacturer:
FOR A PERFECT TRAIL RIDE
Everything has been tuned for control and maximum riding fun. The tread functions with absolute poise and is well behaved in every situation – like difficult terrain on singletrack. Grippy TrailStar compound or faster rolling PaceStar as an option for the rear wheel.