Words and photos by Braden Govoni (reposted from Gravelbike.com)
Wilderness Trail Bikes (aka, WTB) has been cranking out dirt-worthy components for 35 years. Recently, however, the company turned more than a few heads with the release of their high-volume Byway and Horizon road-plus tires. Located in Marin County, the WTB crew has access to some of the finest road riding that California has to offer. And it’s precisely that type of riding that inspired WTB to develop their line of high-performance Exposure road tires.
Available in 700×30, 32, and 34 millimeter sizes ($79.95 MSRP), the Exposure utilizes WTB’s lightweight, supple casings and folding, tubeless-compatible beads. All three sizes feature black tread and sidewalls, which are complemented by the tires’ subtle, grey graphics. With a published weight of 320 grams for the 32 mm size, our sample tires weighed 314 and 319 grams. Straight out of the box, the Exposures measured exactly 32 mm wide on DT Swiss tubeless RR511 rims (17.8 mm internal width).
Having ridden WTB’s Exposure 30 and Horizon 650Bx47 tires on my primary bike for a while, I was keen to test the new 32 mm model. My previous experience with Wilderness Trail Bikes’ other all-road and road-plus offerings had been nothing but positive, and I expected the 32 mm Exposures to follow suit. Before removing the 30 mm Exposure tires from my 700C wheels I noted that they had grown to 33 mm after approximately 2000 miles of use, and I quietly hoped the new tires would also grow by a similar amount.
Working in a shop, I use an air compressor to mount tubeless tires, and the Exposures seated immediately without any fuss or special techniques. I loaded the tires with sealant, aired them up, and rode home a short time later. My first impression was that they felt just like the Exposure 30. Not surprising as the casing and construction appeared identical. That night the tires dropped a significant amount of pressure. This was not unusual as my previous experience with WTB tires had been that they require a couple of rides for the sealant to fully work into all the pores of the tire. After two more short rides everything was working great.
The following weekend I checked the tires’ pressure and set out with a group of friends on a 200 km ride through chip seal back roads, forest service double track, and crushed gravel roads. To be honest the tires performed perfectly. They felt like a reasonably fast road tire on the pavement. I’m not going to pretend these are as fast as a pure road racing tire, but they are definitely closer to the feel of a high-mileage road training tire than a slower-rolling gravel tire (think Continental Grand Prix 4-Season).
As I expected, the minimal tread on the shoulders of the tires was a non factor. Cornering on pavement felt no different than any other slick tire of the same volume, which to be clear, is a good thing. I have ridden other tires with a more pronounced transition from slick to knobby shoulders, and on pavement they often feel squirmy in the turns which definitely doesn’t help inspire confidence. On gravel and dirt roads the Exposures’ ride was exactly what I expected for a slick tire of this size. It took the edge off the rough surface, and the larger contact area compared to a typical 23-28 mm road tire meant more confidence when things were looser.
During my testing, I only encountered one negative issue, and that really wasn’t the fault of the tire. With 30 miles remaining on the aforementioned 200 km ride–and oddly enough, while avoiding a snake in the road–I ran over a sharp object and cut the the tire’s tread. Unfortunately the cut was just big enough to keep the sealant from doing its job. I must admit, though, that I was not using WTB’s TCS sealant at the time. I had put a similar size cut in the 30 mm Exposures during another ride, and it did seal with the WTB sealant. Whether or not this would have sealed under different circumstances, I can’t say. Regardless, I put in a tube and finished the ride. The next day I patched the tire and set it up tubeless. Several hundred miles later it’s still going strong. Assuming the casing is the same as the Exposure 30, I would expect good things overall. I put three punctures in the Exposure 30s that were noticeable enough that I stopped to let the sealant pool, but all three sealed back up with a small enough drop in pressure that the ride was not otherwise interrupted.
My only disappointment is how little the tires have stretched. They are now at 33 mm. Honestly I was hoping for a similar amount of stretch as the Exposure 30s, but it’s probably for the best that they have remained relatively true to size. Overall, though, I’m happy with them and will likely stick with these rather than going back to the 30 mm Exposures. If you’re looking for a high-volume road tire for long pavement rides and short detours into well maintained dirt or gravel roads this is a great option. I would choose this over similar size tires from the other leading brands in this segment.
Disclosure: Wilderness Trail Bikes provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.