Baron is fitted and rolling and tried in differing conditions from liquid to super-sticky and it is an improvement. The tread is similar to the Bonty but larger size seems to reduce tendency to dig below the surface so it rolls easier. It does not slide much into corners even when front loaded with lots of weight and lots of braking but you can force it to break away if you push the brave/foolish button.
Surprisingly the root grip is excellent with only the side angle kickers forcing it offline. Rock grip seems good and even chalk sections grab a little. It will slide on steeper off camber stuff, e.g. tank trap, but even then it is predictable on both the slide and the grab back. This can be important to a taller rider as it reduces the likliehood of high siding yourself. Rolling resistance is medium so it may be worth trying it as a rear tyre too; need to consider this.
So overall my preferred choice for winter and maybe even a muddy August afternoon in the rain…….
Every winter this question arises and every winter it goes unanswered. Different riders, different bikes, different wheel diameters are require different characteristics however a poor tyre on one bike tends to be poor on every bike.
This year I have been rotating tyres, pressures and even orientation in an attempt to work out what does not work in the tight trails when the going gets slippery. Ashley on his Jones wins the tyre contact patch prize but even he slips on occasion so he now has the maximum size tyre that can fit in the rigid fork so maybe this is the way to go for some.
Larger tyres on a conventional bike tend to clog quickly and slip considerably but some tyres are predictable. A large size High Roller is less able than a Hans Dampfe for me due to the predictability. Some Michelins seemed predictable but clogged in mixed conditions meant they always slid when other riders had grip.
Comparing smaller High Rollers I found that they clogged less but the predictability was even less so a mud tyre would seem to provide a benefit in the worst conditions. Trailrakers shed well, grip quite well on the uphills and seem well suited to bridleway and grass however our angled roots that hide in the corners catch it unaware. It has a reputation for good grip on these but some of the flat Big Dog sections through the trees in the dark are less rollercoaster and more bobsleigh and grinding up a slurry hill needs a light touch to prevent spinning to a standstill.
The best tyres for grip seem to be the Mud X from Bontrager but they measure up small so the 1.8 is more 1.6 and the 2.0 seems narrow as well. It sheds well but you still end up with a full mud coat on the usual winter ride however the grip is still there. I find that uphill it outperforms Trailrakers but that if you actually stop then re-starting is more difficult to find the initial grip so you can end up spinning uselessly.
On very muddy corners it seems to find traction so I usually expect to slow dramatically rather than actually stop which is an advantage in a puddle. Uphill it grips all soil types equally well but can get thrown by cross roots as if the tyre contact patch is too small rather than the soft rubber letting go. Side knobs offer good, rather than great cornering and the limit for me is always found on the front tyre under steering rather than the rear wheel sliding in over steer. Even over weighting the front end does not counteract this so it seems better suited to driving than steering.
The new contender this year seems to be the Continental Baron which may offer better steering than the Bonty so that is the next thing to try for me in an attempt to reduce my near death experiences on an average night ride.