Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Racing Ralphs Rock

One thing I have been meaning to get around to is a review of the new tires that I purchased before my trip. My LBS brought in some Schwalbe Racing Ralphs last winter as an additional 29'er winter trail option. I have been rolling some WTB WeirWolf LTs for most of two winters now and have been very happy with them. They are a great winter trail tire, lots of volume, and even do fairly well on ice due to their small knob design. During the summer I have been running WTB ExiWolfs, which are a bit narrower, but also a bit heavier. They have seemed fine, but I really didn't have anything to compare them to except my winter tires, which run on a wholly different wheelset that makes comparison pretty much impossible.

I picked up a set of the Ralphs and ran them on a couple of short rides before I left for my trip and started being really impressed. The weight difference was noticeable and they seemed to roll better than the ExiWolfs while on pavement. My trip afforded me a chance to test them on some real trails and in commuting style situations (riding to and from trailheads). While the Ralphs are what some people would consider ludicrously expensive ($80 a tire at my LBS), I have to say I think they are well worth it. You couldn't ask for a better high volume, lightweight tire. These things have ridiculous traction and still manage to roll well, which is no small task. The fact that they are lighter than almost anything out there and still 2.4" wide completely finishes the package. I recommend them to anyone out there wanting a lightweight trail tire than rolls well off-trail.

Several of the reviews I read complained that the Ralphs had delicate sidewalls and were prone to shredding. The singletrack I rode during my trip was littered with roots, but also had several sections with exposed rock heads, or the occasional short section with a forced roll through baby heads. I could hear sidewall dragging on stone during several of these and I cringed and waited for the explosion each time; of course, it never came. After the first two rides like that I stopped worrying, and continued to not have problems (at least with my tires). I went back and read the reviews that were complaining and came to the conclusion that some people are trying to use these as downhill or all mountain tires because they are wide. They are not a downhill race tire and Schwalbe doesn't advertise them as such, they are a cross country race tire, and a damn good one.

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