Submitted by Paul | August 2012
What cross country mountain bike tire is the lightest, with the least rolling resistance, while still being able to handle any conditions that Mother Nature and the Trail Gods may throw at you? The question never changes. Nor does the answer ever change: It depends!
I had resigned myself to that mode of thinking for several years of mountain biking and thus found myself constantly switching out tires based on the race course or anticipated conditions. I would even bring a spare set of wheels with a different tire configuration to any lap course mountain bike course. Well, I’m happy to say that those days are gone!
I’ve found my girl and committed to her and her name is Ralph. Schwalbe’s Racing Ralph that is!
Simply put, I love these freakin tires! Racing Ralphs are lightweight, offer minimal rolling resistance and have enough knobs to handle even the most technical terrain. Best of all, Racing Ralphs are tubeless ready and Schwalbe even has a Snakeskin model available for additional sidewall protection.
The model Racing Ralph I ride is 29 x 2.25 Tubeless Ready, Snakeskin Black Pacestar weighing in at 605 grams for a MSRP of $89.55. I mount these Racing Ralphs onto my Stans ZTR Arch 29er wheels and typically inflate to between 29-34psi depending on the terrain.
Bottom line is that Racing Ralphs have become my go to tire for long cross country days in the saddle due to their tremendous versatility. Having said that, there are some drawbacks to riding Racing Ralphs.
- First and foremost, your wallet takes a big hit since at nearly $90 per tire as they are not cheap, but I deserve the best, right?
- Secondly, as much as I rely on these tires to perform on big mountain bike days in the rocks and still allow me to motor along on fireroads as well, they probably are a bit overkill for your average adventure race course. In adventure races with a lot of expected fireroad or hardball I’d definitely recommend either Specialized Renegade Control 2Bliss or Stans Raven tires.
Another option, should you be participating in an adventure race with unknown terrain or where it’s expected that there will be some significant technical mtb sections, would be to run a Racing Ralph on the front and a Renegade Control or Raven on the rear.
So head on over to Spokes, Etc. and get yourself a set of Racing Ralph tires from Schwalbe.
Check out some technical FAQ’s on tires from Schwalbe’s website and I’ve also attached a PDF discussing the theoretical merits of running a wider tire with less pressure for those interested.
As Vince Offer, the ShamWow/SlapChop guy would say, “You know the Germans always make good stuff.”
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