Schwalbe Nobby Nic 650B Review

27.5 Pro Reviews Tires

Testing Rig and Terrain
Testing was performed on my medium Ibis Mojo HD with the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air and Magura TS8 27.5 fork. I got a set of the sweet carbon Enve AM wheels with Chris King hubs to toss the tires on, so I was in seventh heaven with those babies. I am 5’9″, weigh in at 155 lbs and have been riding since the inception of the RockShox RS-1, and started out on a Bridgestone MB-2 for my first MTB steed. I have mostly ridden in the West, including vast portions of the Colorado Front Range, Sedona, Moab, Fruita/GJ and many parts of the Colorado mountains.  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.

I ran Nobby Nic with tubes for about a week until Enve sent me some longer valves that were required to set their wheels up tubeless. Although the Nobby Nic runs fine with tubes, they totally come to life in a tubeless mode, so I highly recommend bypassing anything but tubeless if your rims allow or work with that setup?

As a tubeless ready tire, they’re easily installed, and with my compressor, they popped onto the rims with little persuasion other than a dab of their Easy Fit mounting fluid that I applied along the outer tire bead. The Easy Fit mounting fluid is a treasure of a tool, and the bottle has a sponge applicator on one end that you apply to the bottom most edge of the tire, and it makes getting any tire much easy to work, so there is no need to use a messy water/soap mixture to get a persnickety tire to meld into the bead. I always love the lovely loud pop a tire makes when it snaps up into the rim seat, a very satisfying and reassuring sound. I added one mini bottle of sealant to each tire after the initial inflation to aid with any leaks, and to make sure it sealed any tire and rim interface issues. The tire didn’t show any permeable spots on the tire walls where the sealant usually plugs holes, and only bubbled a bit down by the rims. I never had any leakage, loss of air and burping problems while running them tubeless.

I tested running the tires a huge variance of pressures, but found the lower the better, and tended to keep them at 18-22 psi, as that’s where they really started to purr. Once installed the tires measured at a whopping 27 13/16″ tall, which is pretty monstrous, and they felt taller than wider while riding? You could really feel the girth of the tires on the terra firma, and they offered great contact, support and floatation, greatly aided by their gargantuan 650B sizing.

The tires rolled decently for such a big tire, and accelerated well while climbing and cranking up through terrain, especially rocky and rooty terrain. Get them on a paved road and the large knobs were counterproductive, though they rolled with aplomb on fire roads. The large and widely spaced beefy knobs are comprised of the center I-blocks,  intermediate and side (two types) knobs, which each offered distinctive characteristics and deforms for adhesion and traction. They tires are directional, and they roll in the direction of the large side knobs grooves opening.

Abusing the tires – side note
I have tossed them into a lot of ugly rocky terrain, and they have proven themselves pretty tough, but their long-term durability in those types of conditions is questionable since I saw some early micro tearing of the outer knobs? I tear tires to pieces, much more than the average user, so I placed them into some pretty extreme abuse, with continual rock gardens, rock slabs, and just plain shredder terrain. I loved the Nobby Nic to death, so their abuse factor was higher than a normal tire review.

On long slow climbs where you weren’t creating much momentum, the 650B wheels and tall size of the Nobby Nic meant they felt more like a 29er, and took more energy to coerce upwards. When you could get the tires rolling up to speed they felt great, and plopping them in and out of berms and corners was fun, as they were predictable and had good contact and adhesion.

They had good braking and cornering, though they could wash out if you weren’t pushing the front end hard. They had great traction, and pulled through sloppy gravel, sand and loose conditions. I wasn’t able to really test them in wet and muddy stuff, since it has been extremely dry in the west, but they held well when the tires were wet and had to snag onto rocks. They climbed nicely in rock gardens, especially if the pressure was kept low, which helped with their adhesion. They’re not the stickiest tires, and they felt squirrelly and slippery on rock slabs and slick rock, which meant a slight loss of control, so they felt out of place on that terrain.When pushed extremely hard in All Mountain terrain, they felt could feel stiffer and gave a harsher ride, though they still retained a great deal of control and stability.

I have always been a big fan of Schwalbe’s Snakeskin sidewall protection, 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.

Schwalbe calls the Nobby Nic their “all grounder” and although I am not exactly sure what that means, I assume it’s an all types of trails and conditions tire? I would call it more of an all around aggressive XC tire that can plop itself into All Mountain terrain as needed. It rides taller than wider, but its significant size means it plows through loose conditions with aplomb. The tires liked to roll up to speed, especially when slamming them into berms, where they were delightful and enjoyable, helped greatly by the uber light Enve carbon rims. When tossed into super meaty All Mountain conditions, they start to get out of their comfort zone, and although they retain their composure, their XC oriented carcass is too soft and supple to maximize control and comfort in that environment.

The height of the tires meant it was a very tight squeeze in the rear of my Mojo HD, so be aware that it might be a front only tire for many bike geometries, as I slightly scrapped my rear yoke in wet conditions. It’s obviously not a fault of the wonderfully massive tires, and it’s just a fact when trying to squeeze them into a 26-inch frame that was never designed for 650B wheels.

About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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  • Rob says:

    Good to see the NN now offered in the 650B size. I run the 26″ NN snakeskin up front and it has quickly become my favorite tire. Just a great light, fast, stable & grippy tire. Price is brutal though!

  • LyNx says:

    Silly comment to list the size as a CON because it doesn’t fit into a 26″ wheel designed frame if you ask me. I think the size is a big PLUS, just use the right equipment and you’ll be fine.

  • Francis says:

    >>Silly comment to list the size as a CON because it doesn’t fit into a 26″ wheel designed frame if you ask me. I think the size is a big PLUS, just use the right equipment and you’ll be fine.

    I agree with this Brian. This tire size and design is fully realizing the potential of 650b. Small 650b tires designed to retrofit to 26ers are the problem.

  • Vince says:

    As far as I am concerned the Neo Moto 2.35 is the base line all 650B tires will be judge against. I’m not sure I will be trying this tire at $90

    So are small 26er tires designed to retrofit to 24 inch cruisers? Really, because not everyone likes 2.35 tires… people still like 2.1s :/

  • Brian Mullin says:

    I removed the size constraint as a con. I also added a small section showing the Neo-Moto vs NN.

  • francois says:

    Right on Brian. This article/review has a lot of legs so thanks for editing. I should have my Nobby Nics 650b to test soon. How’s the sidewall btw? A friend had a Nobby Nic 26er last night and the sidewalls were very supple but seemed a little soft for All Mountain use.

    • Brian Mullin says:

      Yes, supple but soft sidewalls, that’s why I broached the topic about pushing them hard on AM terrain. The sidewalls have been tough, greatly due to the Snakeskin protection.

  • Fran says:

    In my experience with multiple nn and roro tires all top line evo models the side knobs are a joke, look at that last image and how porous the inside is, 4 more weeks and those side knobs will fold over and are straight dangerous for any high speed cornering.

  • Zuke says:

    Good review! I liked all the pics!

  • Slowie says:

    Good review! Good idea to add the NeoMoto 2.3 comparison.
    I love the SnakeSkin just as much as you do!
    The question of the week: which (online) shop has them in stock?

  • Motoxer913 says:

    The 2.4 nobby nic EVO was garbage on my 26″ 5″ bike. Ran them tubeless on 2 different wheel sets including my rock solid mavic crossmax’s and couldn’t keep the stupid tire from rolling around like it was made of jello and even worse up front while riding aggressive through rock gardens and small drops the paper thin sidewalls kept rolling over and burping air which sent me over the bars multiple times and causing shoulder injury. Even bumping them up to 40psi didn’t help the sidewalks just completely give way when run tubeless.
    These tires are absolutely horrible for aggressive riders due to the paper thin sidewalls. Stay away from them at all costs! I went back to my trusty nevegal 2.35 up front and happy again. Still experimenting in the rear. Runing a Specialized Purgatory 2.2 control right now and so far I like it.

    • Brian Mullin says:

      Were they the tubeless ready and snakeskin versions? I ran these tires tubeless at 18-20 psi through some heinous rocky terrain, and never had a burp or tear?

  • Paul Lindsay jones says:

    Yeh I run the rocket ron 2.4 26 tyre and the best tyres I have ever had! Really good. Running around 17psi and I weigh around 82 kilo and I ride extremely hard through rock gardens and everywhere else, I mean very quick on my 9.8 kilo bike.

    Never had any problems with these tyres, really good to be honest, and must have done about 300 miles and all the knobs are still intact. They are the pace start 3 weight is 530g each, lightest at this size, although weighing 545g on my scales, schwalbe have been known to make lighter tyres than their advertised weight, so may be could cause a problem if the tyre if it was a lot lighter and supposed to be 530g.

    I’m running supersonic tubes as well by the way.

    Thanks for the article, I’m thinking of building a 650b for next year, but would really prefer to have rocket ron 2.4 tyres, don’t know if schwalbe will make them or not? Suspect they are in the pipline..

  • Paul Lindsay jones says:

    Yeh I forgot to mention I run these tyres on mavic crossmax wheels, I have different sets of crossmax all rim brake models 1st gen and 2008 UST, tyre bead sticks really well to the UST rims, it is a must though to pump the tyres up initially to 60psi to get the bead to seat properly..

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