The Continental Baron tyre is a 2.3 big block aimed at wet weather of the sort the UK gets for half of the year. I fitted it to the front of my Remedy which has 26″ Rhythm Elite wheels.
At first glance it’s not obvious which way to mount it, so look for the recessed semi hoops along the treads that point the way and also the small features on the blocks which point towards the back (Continental confirmed this in a very swift reply to my tweet). It’s the same fitment direction front and back. It was a bit of a battle and then needed to be inflated to 60psi to persuade it to seat properly all the way around.
Size and weight
It doesn’t look like a 2.3 due to the narrow case with massive blocks sticking out of it, but once fitted, it does look quite serious. The side blocks are at quite an angle, so they are expecting you to lean this over! I went for the top of the range Black Chili version which has the super sticky rubber compound and is the only one made in Germany. It’s also the lightest, coming in at 791g on my scales, which is actual under the manufacturere’s claimed 800g
What’s it for?
The Continental Baron 2.3 is a wet condition tyre for agressive riding where weight isn’t top priority, but is still on the agenda. It is not a mud tyre and if trail conditions are muddy the whole way, it will not shed as well as something like an XR Mud, but my attempts to make it clog completely were unsuccessful – it always shed enough of the mud to have confident grip.
My trails recently have been a mixture of wet and dry and mud all at the same time. Additionally a layer of leaves has added to the excitement and potential for losing the front end. A great test for the Baron then.
It rolled very well along the straights – I didn’t notice any significant drag from the sticky compound either. In drier high speed corners it hung on tenaciously. In a sweeping downhill section with mainly-uncambered corners, it tracked as expected, going where I pointed it, dealing confidently with bumps and ripples mid-corner. On an open corner over some leaves and soft dirt, I tried increasingly harder sessions to lose the front. A few times I was convinced it would let go, but it surprised me so that by the time it actually slid out, I was always going excitingly fast. The slide was progressive rather than sudden and you have a chance of saving it just with lighting-fast bar input alone, leaving feet on the pedals.
In rutted sections, I let the wheel drop down and tried clawing it back up without tugging the bars, purely on grip alone – those side knobbles are amazing, grabbing the side of the rut and pulling the tyre up heights that would not be possible with a less agressive tyre.
On twisty pedally muddy singletrack through trees and over roots, I was able to build up to a high level of confidence, flicking the wheel from side to side and piling on the pressure. I’ve tried an XR3 on the back while testing the Baron up front and the difference in grip has been vast, making for a great fun front-biased experience, relying on the outstanding front grip from the Baron, but the XR3 at the back clearly needed to be switched to something like an XR Mud 2.0 for a more balanced faster ride in winter conditions. I considered buying another Baron for the back, but I wonder if that level of grip is actually required at the back; so I tried the Baron up front with the XR Mud at the back and found it to be a perfect combo of neutral grip.
However, the most impressive part of the Baron’s performance was that when hammering down a tight trail at 50+kph, I peeled into a slightly trenched corner to find it it full of sludge and water, but the Baron just shrugged its shoulders, cutting through all the slime and found enough grip to keep me bang on line without any fuss. The confidence gained from how the Baron had behaved prior to this meant that I stayed calm and relaxed throughout.
The Continental Baron tyre can also be bought far cheaper without the Black Chili compound, which I haven’t tried, but looking at forum comments, they suggest that the Chili version is well worth the extra cash. Certainly my experience is that as a front tyre, it gives a composed, grippy ride, allowing you to chuck the bike around and really push the limits. As a winter tyre, it has to be on your shortlist unless it’s a total mudbath. My only worry is that this tyre was quite hard to get hold of, so maybe it is being replaced soon. Hopefully the new model will be worthy.
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