Schwalbe's high volume 2.4" wide Rocket Ron claims to offer traction in spades while still weighing in lighter than many smaller tires, but does it live up to its name? Inside you can read up on how the 'Ron performed.Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.4"What is it:
German tire manufacturer Schwalbe has a massive range of tires that span the gamut of uses, but their Rocket Ron is a very specific kind of tire. While the majority of rubber options are designed to strike a balance between traction, weight, and longevity, the Rocket Ron certainly puts more focus on the first two points. In fact, Schwalbe goes so far as to say that the 'Ron is an "Out and out competition tire! Puncture protection and durability are limited.
" in their own writeup. Kudos to them for being straight up about the tire's intentions; there are far too many rubber options out there that are being billed as the be all and end all of tires when it's a fact that everything truly is a compromise - it is just a matter of what you are willing to give up in order to gain performance in other aspects. The Rocket Ron is available in a number of different widths, casing options, and rubber compounds, but I tested their high volume 2.4" wide version which is intended for aggressive cross-country or all-mountain riding. Weight for the Rocket Ron is a relatively low (given its size
) 530 grams, a favorable figure when compared to equivalent options, and well over 250 grams (that's over half a pound
) lighter per tire than some of its competition - a folding Maxxis Ardent has a claimed weight of 815 grams in its 2.4" width, and Kenda's 2.35" wide folding Excavator comes in at a claimed 735 grams. While it may weigh less, there is no denying that the 'Ron's casing is also much thinner than the two tires mentioned above. So the Rocket Ron is lighter than most and bigger than some, but how does it perform? And will its high volume and thin casing have any detrimental effects?
Schwalbe's 2.4 inch wide Rocket Ron is designed to be a high volume cross-country and trail bike tire that is still light enough to be ridden on all day epics
Rocket Ron 2.4 details:
- True 2.4 inch wide tire
- Open tread design
- PaceStar Triple compound
- 127 TPI
- Tubeless ready
- 530 grams
- MSRP $69.96 USD
As with most tires, the Rocket Ron uses a number of different names and acronyms to describe the technology used on it. Probably the most important of the bunch would be its PaceStar Triple Compound rubber layup. This refers to what durometer (the rubber's hardness
) is used in which places on the tire. In this case it is a fast rolling base rubber that provides support, followed by low friction compound used in the center tread in the name of speed, and finished off with a softer compound used on the tire's shoulders. As you likely guessed, the goal is to provide a fast rolling tire that supplies good grip and predictable cornering habits. The EVO lettering on the tire's sidewall designates that the Rocket Ron uses the highest grade materials in Schwalbe's lineup, including a light and pliable 127 TPI (threads per inch that make up the shape
) casing, while most of its competition sits at 60 TPI. It is generally agreed upon that the higher the TPI, the less rolling resistance and more pliable a tire will be at the expense of casing strength when it comes to damage from trail debris. The 2.4" wide Rocket Ron is also billed as being "TL Ready", which refers to the tire's bead that has been shaped to fit better into tubeless ready rims. This should not only make tubeless conversions a bit easier, but also safer at low pressures.
The Rocket Ron features a very open tread pattern that looks like it would work very well at clearing mud, and in fact it is advertised as having "exceptional self-cleaning properties
". Knob height is similar to other tires, but each one has a smaller footprint than what a lot of other options use. This, combined with the impressively soft rubber compound, makes for knobs that are very flexible when felt with your fingers. It is quite common for tire manufacturers to overstate a tire compound's durometer to the soft side of the scale, but that doesn't seem to be the case with the Rocket Ron - soft means soft! Each knob also has both a curved, scooping edge to their sides, as well as an impression in the center to add further climbing, braking, and cornering edges. Each dedicated corning knob also features a lengthwise sipe (a thin slit in the knob
) that allows it to flex and conform to the ground better.
The tire's open tread pattern lets it excel in soft and loose conditions, while the high volume casing makes for a forgiving ride
I tested the Rocket Ron on Specialized's 2011 Stumperjumper EVO, a 145mm travel trail bike that is a great match for the tire's intentions. Conditions ranged from Southern Utah's rock and sand, to B.C.'s mud and loam. The 2.4" wide Rocket Ron installs easily without much fuss and required pumping to about 50 psi before it managed to fully seat itself correctly on the rim, not uncommon for a lot of tires. Once seated, I chose a cautious 35 psi to begin with, both letting out and adding air as my confidence in them improved in order to see what works best in what conditions. After much experimentation I settled on between 28 and 30 psi, a pressure range that performed well without feeling too vague when pushed hard in corners.
In its wide 2.4" size, the Rocket Ron offers an incredible amount of forgiveness over rough terrain, even when compared to its closely sized 2.35" wide competitors. Enough so that the tire made a noticeable difference when it came to crossing over washboard sections of trail - the bike didn't chatter or, for lack of a better word, shimmy, when passing over high frequency bumps. The correct air pressure would also play a large part in this trait, but having ridden the same sections of trail on more familiar rubber at the same psi, I am convinced of the 'Ron's advantage in this regard. Just like its tread pattern would have you believe, the Rocket Ron excels in soft conditions. Not only does the tire clear mud and loam as well as a true mud option would, it also handles predictably in soft and dry conditions that can trouble even the best tire designs. Climbing was spot on, especially when the pressure was in the mid to high twenties, and it really felt as if I had to pay less attention to weight placement when it came to tricky sections of trail. To put it in simple terms, the 'Ron nearly refused to spin out unless I was doing something terribly wrong. Descending was also a joy in the majority of conditions; excluding hard packed trail, the tires were predictable and controlled, although they tended to let go all at once as opposed to that gentle slide that many riders prefer. I would compare them to Maxxis' Minion in this regard - they stay glued well past the point where others may have lost it, but when they do go, they go all at once. I suffered a number of flats while using the Rocket Ron, with the most being from thorns. A thicker casing may have prevented one or two, but I can't be positive. I was also reminded that no matter how large a tire you are using, a pinch flat can catch up with you at any time, on a few occasions. Again, a thicker casing could have possibly helped, but you'll have to think long and hard if you feel that the 250+ gram weight savings over other more flat resistant options is worth it to you.
The Rocket Ron's soft compound and flexible knobs do not perform well on hard packed trail surfaces, but stick like Velcro in soft dirt
Where doesn't the Rocket Ron work well? Basically, anywhere where the ground is hard. Hard and fast rolling trails not only highlighted the tire's slow rolling, but also its very pliable knobs, the very same that had me raving about its soft conditions performance. Straight line speed is hindered by the widely spaced lugs, it felt as if I could feel each and every one as the tire rotated, and no amount of air pressure changes could relieve that sensation. Cornering on hard pack did not inspire confidence for the very same reason - the knobs are just too flexible and don't have enough support in these instances. These are not the tires for Moab or any other rock strew trails, Schwalbe's Furious Fred or Racing Ralph tires would be a better bet on those surfaces. As admitted by Schwalbe, wear rate on the Rocket Ron is high. There was noticeable deterioration after just a full week of riding hard packed and dry surfaces, although this would slow down considerably on trails with more dirt than rock. The 2.4" Rocket Ron is not an inexpensive tire, something to keep in mind in relation to where you'd be using it and how fast it is likely to wear.
Check out the Schwalbe website
to see their entire range of tires.As with any tire, the Rocket Ron excels in certain places and falls behind in others. I wouldn't hesitate to make the 'Ron my go-to tire for the Pacific Northwest, but I can think of better performing options if I was calling Moab or Phoenix home. Its forgiving nature and light weight make it a smart choice for those on short travel bikes who are looking to add a little more forgiveness to their ride. Have you had time on the 2.4" Rocket Ron? Let's hear your thoughts below!