Schwalbe Hans Dampf Review

by Brian Mullin on March 14, 2012

The all condition’s mountain-bike tire, are tubeless ready with a non-directional tread pattern, and uses their tough SnakeSkin sidewalls, and was designed for dry and loose or wet and rooty and rocky terrain. The tires use their Triple Star rubber compound design, specifically the TrailStar version (High Performance Trail Ride Compound). I have been thrashing a set of Hans Dampf’s, which roughly translates to “jack-of-all-trades”, on and off for six months, and they’re a good all around tire with excellent durability. One of the great aspects of this tire is there do it all character, and the outer knobs don’t need to be rolled over quite as far to hook up while cornering and steering. The 2.35-inch tires come in both a 26 and 29er versions.

Schwalbe Hans Dampf
Schwalbe released the sticky TrailStar variant of the Hans Dampf at Sea Otter last year, and then at Interbike, they rolled out two new versions, a cross country oriented PaceStar Compound (harder variant of the Triple Star Compound series) and a single compound Performance series, and the tires retail for $90, $90, $49 respectively.

The tire utilizes a nylon fabric casing, and is constructed with three plies of 67 tpi under the tread, and two plies on the sidewalls. The sidewall has an additional cross-hatched Snakeskin protection layer, to guard against cuts and abrasions, which greatly increase their abuse quotient. The TrailStar is comprised of a base layer, which provides knob stability and good rolling properties, and then a medium soft rubber running down the center knobs for traction, braking and acceleration performance, and finally, a soft rubber on the side knobs for grip in corners and riding over adverse and rocky terrain. In addition, the knobs have sipes (small micro cuts) for better flexibility, braking and grip. They dropped their usual U-Block tread design on these tires, and instead went to a more “enthusiast” oriented functioning tire, that is non-directional, and easier to corner. It was specifically designed for the drier and more technical trails of North America.

Hans Dampf Specs:

  • MSRP: TrailStar $90, PaceStar $90, Performance $49
  • Size: 26×2.35, 29×2.35 (only 26er in Performance)
  • Weight: 26er – 760 grams, 29er 850 grams
  • Casing: 67 EPI, Snakeskin Sidewall on Star versions
  • Compound: TrailStar, PaceStar, Performance
  • Tire Bead: Folding
  • Tubeless Ready on the Star versions

Testing Rig and Terrain
Although I shrive to be objective as possible in all my reviews, tires are somewhat personal, and how they react and work for me, and my local terrain, makes it all the more difficult. So I try to be overly picky, and dig deep into their characteristics, and look for strengths and weaknesses in any terrain and conditions. I tested the tires on my Ibis Mojo HD, which has 6 inches of suspension, 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, slick rock, an occasional smooth singletrack and lots of ugly loose gravel. In the Colorado Springs area where I ride, we have Pikes Peak gravel (pea gravel) on most of our trails, and it’s one of the most nightmarish traction eaters that I have ever dealt with. Cornering, braking and climbing can be a lesson in humility.

Impressions
After using this tire on and off over a long period of time, the main theme that comes to mind, is what a great all around tire the Hans Dampf is. It rolls well for a fat tire, is semi-sticky, has decent acceleration and weight, and great durability, especially for a Schwalbe tire, which tend to have premature wear issues. They aren’t the fattest tire on the market, but their round profile and good size, offer a wide and stable footprint to the terra firma. The tread pattern is staggered, and is very much like the rear Fat Alberts, and provides a forgiving and grippy ride, and functions the best when using a low tire pressure (22-25 psi). Depending on the molding of the tire, there may be some slight siping directionality, but I would just disregard it, and install the tire anyway you want. I ran them tubeless and with tubes, and always preferred them tubeless, as the tires had a better tactile feel and allowed a lower tire pressure to be run. The tubeless ready tire was extremely easy to seat on my Easton Havoc and Sun Ringle Charger Pro wheels, and a quick swipe of Schwalbe’s Easy Fit got them to snap on the rim (love that sound). I never had any leakage, loss of air and burping problems while running them tubeless.

Their design is break from their normal tire models, as they don’t utilize the U-block technology, which means they don’t need to be rolled over so far to get them to connect or bite. “Get up, stand up: stand up for your tires!” They only require a smidgen of torque to be applied to get them to snap into their cornering mode, and when that is performed, they have excellent cornering capabilities. It takes a few times to get used to standing them taller while cornering, especially if you usually slam a tire over deeply to get the outer knobs to grab, albeit they can still function in that manner when desired.

I have always been a big fan of Schwalbe’s Snakeskin sidewall protection, which adds around 40 grams in weight, and it has provided me with a reassuring sense of security, no matter what type of terrain I encounter. The Snakeskin fabric provides a tough armored sidewall, and I never had any flats or sidewall damage, and I tend to ride in pretty ferocious and heinous terrain, and can quickly destroy less adequate tires. The tires themselves have been robust and durable, and I didn’t experience any cracked or torn knobs, which is a definitely highlight for a Schwalbe tire!

I really liked how the tire worked in the front, and it always seemed well planted and solid, even in loose and gravelly conditions. It had good steering response, and tended to go wherever you pointed it, with a decent tactile feeling. Rolling it into corners and doing hard braking gave predictable results, without any unforeseen washouts, offering an inspiring and confident front end for the bike.

The rear hooked up in less the ideal conditions, but it wasn’t at its best, and certainly wasn’t a monster truck for traction. If you kept the bike well-balanced and weighted, the tire would pull in most loose conditions, although in my local pea gravel conditions it was less than ideal (it’s a rare tire that can). They did grind up through loamy soil and chunky rocks with aplomb. One of the issues I had with the rear was its lack of pliability, which was evident when cranking up rock gardens and rocky stair steps, in which it would slip or pop out of position. I tend to like a tire with good adhesion properties while climbing, especially in my local rocky dry terrain, and although these tires perform admirably, it wasn’t one of their strong suits. The cornering matches up perfectly with the front, for a stable and consistent feel, and the pair acted in a nice synergistic fashion. The braking was good in multiple conditions, except for long sections of slick rock, in which their lack of stickiness made them minutely slip.

Again, being a jack-of-all-trades, it did most everything well, with no outstanding or poor characteristics, outside of the pliable issue that I mentioned. It was at home in loose and rocky terrain, although it did decently on packed trails considering the tall knobbies. The tires really shined when they were wound up to speed, and they would fly along the terrain, with great stability and cohesion. You could toss them pretty much anywhere at speed, rail into corners, fling into berms and slice and dice them. They really liked to fly, and they got me riding faster than usual on plenty of downhill sections. I got a few forays into the mud, and they didn’t slip and seemed to clean nicely.

Hans Dampf – Tire Comparison 
I have recently used the following tires, and will use them as a cross reference against the Hans Dampf: Continental Trail King 2.4 with Black Chili and APEX sidewalls, Schwalbe Big Betty 2.4 TrailStar, Maxxis Minion DHR 2.4 and DHF 2.5. The Trail King are my favorite tire of the bunch, since they have the sort of properties that I like in a tire. Their sticky, pliable, fat, adhere to anything, are excellent on rock ramps and rock gardens, have tractor pulling traction (especially in loose gravel), but they can be tough to set up tubeless, and their sidewalls aren’t as rugged, and the rear can wear quickly. The Big Betty’s are pretty sweet, and are super sticky and pliable, love to haul at speed, but have poor durability. The Minion series are pliable, durable and tough, and love to haul, but are in the middle of the pack for traction and cornering. The Hans Dampf is a cornering demon, extremely easy to set up tubeless, are tough as nails and durable (for me at least), but aren’t the stickiest or very pliable, but you get the best all around tire within this competition.

Hans Dampf measured Specs:

  • Weight: 806 and 784 grams
  • Caracas width: 2.33-2.34″ (59.3-59.4mm)
  • Knobby width: 2.38-2.4″ (60.4-60.8mm)
  • Knobby height: 2.09-2.1″ (53.1-53.3mm)

Bottom Line
The Schwalbe Hans Dampf is a high-volume tire, with a rounded profile and aggressive tread, which offer a wide platform and solid foot print on the ground. The semi-sticky rubber and staggered tread have good grip and flexibility, and need to be run with a low pressure to bring them to life. The tires have excellent cornering characteristics, and only require a slight roll over to connect them up, for an inspiring and confident rail machine. The tire has great steering attributes, and offered increased control and braking, with a secure and centered feeling. As a rear tire, it hooked up in most terrain, except in gravelly and extremely loose conditions, and their poor pliability made climbing in rock steps and gardens frustrating.

The TrailStar Hans Dampf has great durability, and tough SnakeSkin sidewalls and easy tubeless installation, and preferred to fly along the trail at speed. Their excellent cornering and all around character made for a winning combination.

Pros

  • Steering attributes
  • Cornering
  • Braking (except steep slick rock)
  • Durability
  • SnakeSkin sidewall protection
  • Easy tubeless installation
  • Great at speed

Cons

  • Not very pliable
  • Not sticky enough
  • Expensive
  • Rear not a traction monster

Overall Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Hans Dampf Specs:

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