Schwalbe Fat Albert Review

by Brian Mullin on September 11, 2009


I have been using the Schwalbe Albert series of tires for many years, and have always had a special fondest for them. I had predominantly used the Albert snakeskin version (26×2.25), which rolled well, had bombproof sidewalls, good traction, decent weight and was easy to set up tubeless. The original Albert series came in the Fat Albert (26×2.4), the Albert (26×2.25) and the Little Albert (26×2.1) versions.

At the Interbike 2008 show Schwalbe had a couple of new tires on the market. One of the most interesting was the revamped Fat Albert. They come in a 26×2.25 and 26×2.4 size, and in a front and rear specific version. The newly revamped tire has their new U-Block technology and their new Triple Nano compound. The filler particles for the Triple Nano have been changed in size from 200 nanometers to 10 nanometers. This means reduced internal friction, which lowers rolling resistance and smaller particles mean more surface area so grip is improved.

Rear on left and front on right, rotation to top of page

The front is tweaked for handling and braking while the rear has been optimized for traction and curve control. It still retains the classic Albert series tread pattern and come in a Snakeskin, Performance, Double Defense (only in the 2.25 size) and Tubeless versions.

Hey hey hey! It’s Fat Albert!


Testing Specs
I tested the 2.4 and 2.25 sizes of the new Fat Albert in both front and rear versions, and I much preferred the 2.4 size for both, so that was my main testing combination. The Fat Alberts were used on my primary testing steed the Ibis Mojo, in any sort of terrain that Colorado can throw at you. The testing terrain is predominantly loose rocky conditions, with many long steep climbs and descents, rock gardens, an occasional smooth singletrack and lots of ugly loose gravel. The tires were shod on either a set of NoTubes 355 rims or American Classic All Mountain wheelset, and were predominantly set up in a tubeless mode. The tires were cross referenced in comparison to varying sizes of the Continental Rubber Queen and Mountain King, the Maxxis Advantage and Ardent, and the old Schwalbe Albert. Tire pressure was always run at 25 psi. In the Colorado Springs area where I ride, we have Pikes Peak gravel (pea gravel) on most of our trails, it is one of the most nightmarish traction eaters that I have ever dealt with. Cornering, braking and climbing can be a lesson in humility.

Measured Specs:
Fat Albert 2.4 Front 761.0 grams
Fat Albert 2.4 Rear 752.2 grams
Fat Albert 2.25 Rear 652.8 grams

Impresssions
First ride impressions were good, but after some more thorough bashing, I found a lack of the old Albert infamous series’ traits, especially in regard to the rear tire version. Both versions rolled quite well for a high volume tire, but they tended to wash out on loose conditions, especially in deep sand and gravel. They just didn’t inspire as much confidence as I would have hoped for when tossing them into adverse terrain.

Front Tire
The Fat Albert front did stay on line wherever it was steered towards, had decent traction and would rail if you used some balance and finesse. I mated the Fat Albert front with a bunch of other rear tires, and found it to be very synergistic. I especially liked the Fat Albert front tire with the Rubber Queen 2.4, and I actually tested that combination for a long period of time. I liked the Fat Albert front tire, it performed admirably without any glaring issues.

I tried a combination using the front version in front and rear positions (reversed rotation for the rear one), and it worked quite well with a certain synergy, and I had no glaring issues. Traction wise, I could occasionally tell that it wasn’t quite as optimal for a rear tire as some others I have tried, but it sufficed. It certainly rolled really well in this combination, and it accelerated and railed around corners, and squiggled through tight technical moves.

Rear Tire
The Fat Albert rear was a totally different beast, and no matter how many chances a gave it to try and shine, it never quite appeased me.The Fat Albert rear wouldn’t hook up when it was loose and tended to bounce around on baby heads and rocky sections. I have a 12 mile loop I do regularly, which has many short climbs of semi-loose to loose conditions, and when I used the Fat Albert rear I could barely make (sometimes not) those always doable climbs. It took an inordinate amount of additional energy due to the traction issues.

I reversed the rotation direction of the rear tire, and that did help quite a bit, but it still had the same odd attributes. It would just decide not to hook up at odd times, which increased my discomfort of what the tire was going to do at any moment, such as in a technical section. It also still got deflected and bounced off to many rocks, which made keeping the rear end balanced for optimal traction difficult. It was this unpredictability that I found bothersome.

Fat Albert as a Set
When the conditions were smoother, on fire roads or hardpack the tire’s did quite nicely.

Pueblo South Shore – Lower Dog trail

I took the Fat Alberts down to Pueblo South Shore Colorado, and they did not have much adhesion on the slab rock sections, and in the loose shale they skidded around too much for my taste. Braking from the rear was difficult to keep in control. The sidewalls really showed the stoutness of the snakeskin protection, and they never betrayed a hint of any sort of abuse that I could toss at them. Other manufacturers should take some notes on how to make protection sidewalls that can handle the abusive American west rocky terrain. The front end did stay put though, and I could steer decently, albeit with a rear that was stubbornly hard to control.

I personally preferred to use the front with another brand in the rear, although I was surprised how well the front worked in both positions.


Bottom Line
The new Fat Albert is a mixed bag of tea for me. The tires roll well, have a decent weight for their volume, have the best sidewall protection in the business and are some of the easiest to set up tubeless.

The Fat Albert front version steers well, has good traction, rails decently, and it mates up nicely as a front tire with many other brands. It is a good all around tire. It actually worked well in as a combination in both the front and rear positions, much better than the intended Fat Albert set.

The Fat Albert rear version, on the other hand, just does not cut it, in my opinion. It has mediocre traction, washes out to easily, and bounces off rocks too frequently. It does not inspire any sort of confidence when trying to motor up loose climbs nor when braking coming back down, and a lot of it was due to an unpredictable nature.. It wasn’t a bad tire, just not up to the old standards set by the previous Albert series nor in the same league as its competition. It did work better when the tire was mounted in a reversed rotation direction, but unfortunately it did not solve all of its issues.

I miss the old Albert, especially as a rear tire!

Strengths
-Decent weight for volume
-Front tire
-Front tire in front and rear positions
-Good rolling resistance
-Easy tubeless setup
-Bomber sidewall protection
-Good volume

Weaknesses
-Washout issues on loose terrain
-Rear tire traction in loose conditions (improved by reversing rotation)
-Rear tire bounces off rocks

Value Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers
Rear Overall Rating: 3 Flamin’ Chili Peppers
Front Overall Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

MSRP: 2.25 $60.00
2.4 $65.00

Schwalbe url: http://www.schwalbetires.com

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 3, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Dear Author http://www.gramslightbikes.com !
To think only!

Reply

Cesar (cesalec@hotmail.com) August 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Hi Brian, I completely agree with your comments on the FAs.

I am wondering, are you perhaps doing any other Schwalbe reviews? Particularly on the new compounds (2011).

I have found them to be a bit disappointing, much better on the wet, but very disappointing on any other conditions, particularly in the wearing/life department.

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet August 17, 2011 at 5:59 am

Working on a review of the Big Betty and the Hans Dampf

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