Schwalbe Racing Ralph - Review

Jul 20, 2015 at 17:18
by Mike Levy  
Schwalbe's website lists twenty eight different versions of their Racing Ralph tire, and that's not counting the three different handmade tubular models that are also available, but it's the 29'' x 2.25'' size that's reviewed below. The 29er model differs from the 26'' and 27.5'' tires in that Schwalbe has altered the lug placement slightly to create a pattern that they say better suits the longer contact patch of a 29er - there's more space between each knob on the 29er versus the 26'' version - but it's still a rather low-profile looking tread pattern that's all about minimizing rolling resistance while still offering a good amount of traction. The tire's corning knobs even look like they mean business, and there's plenty of support to keep them from folding over on hard packed dirt and rock. Every knob also sports deep siping that should allow them to conform to the ground.


Schwalbe Racing Ralph review test


This particular tire employs Schwalbe's 'Tubeless Easy Snakeskin' casing that, as the name implies, allows it to set up sans tubes extremely easily. You still need a spot of sealant dumped into the tire, but they'll seat up quickly and not leak from the get-go. They've gone with their PaceStar triple rubber compound for the very large majority of Racing Ralph offerings, including the tire I spent time on, and it's basically putting the softer, slower rebounding rubber on the edges of the tire for cornering traction, and the harder, faster rolling rubber along the top for rolling speed.

Schwalbe does say that the Racing Ralph has been designed specifically with competition in mind (hence its name), meaning that they've prioritized both weight and rolling speed over reliability and out and out traction, so this probably isn't the tire for you if you tend to just skid everywhere or spend loads of time in the bike park. The claimed weight for my TLE and PaceStar spec Racing Ralph is 605 grams, but they both came in at 630 grams on my scale, which is still pretty respectable. MSRP $92.63 USD USD. www.schwalbetires.com


Schwalbe Racing Ralph review test
Schwalbe Racing Ralph review test


Pinkbike’s Take:
bigquotesThe Racing Ralph rolls fast, that much is obvious, but I wouldn't say that it carries speed as well as a true semi-slick that sports either next to nothing down its center or low, ramped knobs. However, comparing it to a more substantial tire, say Schwalbe's Hans Dampf or the new Nobby Nic, will have you thinking that you're fitter and stronger than you actually are. The difference in that comparison is night and day, which shouldn't come as too much of a surprise given the Ralph's substantially less aggressive center knobs. What is more of a surprise, though, is the braking and climbing traction on tap so long as conditions aren't extremely dusty or a bit wet - the Racing Ralph is still very much a full fledged mountain bike tire when the terrain isn't too hectic. It'll find bite up steep climbs, and there's a decent amount of braking traction, but the caveat here is that trail conditions need to be at least halfway decent for it to work well, whereas the performance envelope of a more aggressive tire is much, much wider. Throw the Ralph into the dust bowl - we've had one of the driest summers on record here in B.C. - and it becomes less predictable, especially when on the binders. It's a tire best suited to a rider who carries momentum rather than one who skids and squares off turns.

I mounted up a set of 29'' x 2.25'' Racing Ralphs on the front and back of my bike, and while the tire gets a passing grade up front, I found that it tended to push through corners more than something with a chunkier knob design. I used that exact setup for some cross-country racing, but preferred to run the Ralph just on the back of my bike when it came to everyday riding. It's also worth noting that the tire's round casing means that you can use it on some extremely wide rims without any issues: I used the Racing Ralphs on Ibis' 35mm (internal) width 941 wheels without issue, and the wide rims let me go down well under 20 PSI when conditions were right. They measured a full 2.35'' wide on the 941s, but were true to size when mounted on Easton's carbon EC90 wheels

The Racing Ralph is far more useable than its low-profile tread pattern would have you believe, but it's never going to be the best tire for a winter spent riding in British Columbia or the UK. Hard to fault it for that given that isn't what it was designed for, but I can fault the Racing Ralph on two other points: wear rate and reliability. The tire's triple compound PaceStar rubber isn't the softest and slowest rebounding in their range (that's the VertStar compound), but I was still surprised at how fast the tire's edges went away. There was no chunking or tearing of the lugs, though, which used to be common with certain Schwalbe tires, but the Racing Ralph showed considerable wear after just a dozen or so rides. I also managed to put a small tear in the casing's crown that was a little too big for sealant to take care of, and the rubber plug I ended up stuffing into the hole didn't last for more than a handful of rides. Remember, the less aggressive the lugs, the more the tire's casing will be exposed to sharp rocks and the like, so a tire like the Racing Ralph isn't ideal if your trails look more like they're on a coral reef than brown dirt. Schwalbe does say that the Ralph ''is an out and out competition tire! Puncture protection and durability are limited,'' so it's also best not to expect it to have a long life.

The Racing Ralph is not inexpensive by any means, it wears like Schwalbe built it out of eraser rubber, and it's more terrain-specific than what some riders are looking for, but it's also fast rolling tire that offers relatively high amounts of traction on the right kind of terrain. - Mike Levy



Visit the feature gallery for high resolution and additional images




94 Comments

  • + 56
 Recently the reviewers have been going a little ham with their final analysis. Generally this is where I skip to, and am expecting to get the down and dirty, the thumbs up or down, but instead I'm getting four paragraphs now... where did this sudden verbosity come from?
  • + 8
 I'm diggin' the mid length TL;DR.
  • + 8
 Soon I need a TL;DR for the TL;DR. Sometimes I come here for reviews on products I'm not too interested in but still want to get an idea what they are about, so I liked the "old" 1-2 parapgraph "Pinkbike's Take" more. People who are really interested in a deeper exploration on how and why a product is good or not should read the whole article, I feel (which I do for some things, but not for others - like this Racing Ralph).
  • + 4
 TL: DR version(from my exp) - Lightweight, Rolls fast, wears fast, not durable on sharp objects.
  • + 3
 Regarding Pinkbike's Take, I always looked at the top few paragraphs as the particular brand's approved spiel or at the very least the dry facts about the product being reviewed. The Pinkbike take is the writer/tester's opinion or the actual results of the test. For me that's the part that matters most, because that info won't be found on the company's website. Better than other Mtb based websites who only copy and paste the company's press release and leave it at that.

FWIW I run the 29 x 2.35" version of this tire on the rear and I have no complaints.
  • + 1
 Ive been running a bontrager xr4 29x2.35 on a rim with 21 mm interior and was down right shocked at how much grip the 2.25 ralph gave. the tire saved about 100 grams off the old tire and rolled so much faster i thought i was on another bike. however this tire is not tough. 25psi minimum for agressive riders more than 170lbs. tire does not hook when its loose or wet and is not a good tire for people with steep or hard braking sections, but if the conditions are mint this tire seriously flys.
  • + 49
 28 different versions... This and the stupid names for the details puts me right off buying swalble. Just gives me a head ache. Maxxis are going the same way. What's wrong with hard medium soft grip, trail, dh, xc ect Really puts me off trying new rubber as it's impossible to know what the hell your getting without studying for 3 hours then going to order or pick up from shop and they don't have the one you want because it's impossible to stock every version
  • + 5
 Exactly! Here in Brazil it's even worse, because shops usually stock only the entry level versions, but price it almost as much the top end ones...
  • - 4
flag cptstoney (Aug 4, 2015 at 11:38) (Below Threshold)
 it took me less then a minute to order my set of hans dampfs..... you are blowing it out of proportion for the sake of making a comment
  • + 2
 Sing it, sista!
  • + 4
 No, he's right. If you actually attempt to do research on tires online, you will soon find yourself unbelievably confused and annoyed at how companies try to "classify" their tires (not to mention cross referencing between brands).

But I will agree with the fact that ordering a tire isn't too hard. Find what you want, and have it shipped to your house instead of the bike shop!
  • + 3
 Bitch please, It's not nuclear science... When there's no options everyone asks where's 26'', lighter option, heavy duty, enduro blah blah, and when they give you options you don't wanna think. Go figure...
  • + 6
 I'm not having a go really at the options as much as the wording used . but yes I do think that we just don't need as much, as everyone should be on tubeless by know anyway. Having to Google what something is because it's got a stupid pointless name that doesn't describe what it is. It's a waste of my time, Iv got better things to do. And getting the wrong one could mess things up and cost a decent amount it's not like tyres are cheap throw away things like brake pads or cables. Name the tread pattern yes but all the other stuff just call it what it is and what it's for. Why get all poncy gimmicky about it. Were I'm from we call a spade a spade. God knows what swalble would call it. But it would be far to long and req a trip to there Web site.
  • - 2
 google schwalbe, click on off road tires, select tread pattern you like, read 3 mins of writing, google sku number to find lowest price, add to cart, go to checkout, whip out credit card......... really not that hard.......
  • + 2
 Yes, but how do they compare to other brands? What does TPI and durometer mean, and why are they different than other tires? Why does this tire have a thicker sidewall than that tire, even though it has more TPI?

Now your stuck in a never ending forum, because the company is too lazy to actually market their brand in a way that makes sense to the consumer.
  • + 0
 sounds like you are to lazy to take the time to actually read anything and want everything sugar coated and handed to you in a basket with a big red bow on it....... man up and read a paragraph or two....

how do you pick the right line while riding if you cant figure out what tire you want? do you stop and get pissy it isnt like the other section on that other trail you rode...
  • + 3
 Hahaha... man up, big bow, pissy. Some ones been reading the american drill Sgt hand book.
  • + 1
 my dad was a 101st army ranger, there was no being a lil bitch in my house growing up Smile
  • + 2
 So basically what your saying is my daddy's bigger than your daddy... hahaha Keep them coming I love piss take battles. It's practically a sport in England
  • + 32
 Renamed the Leaking Leonard by any that have tried it on trails with actual rocks and roots.
  • + 2
 leaking leonard ftw
  • + 27
 Minions. FTW
  • + 15
 I agree, great movie
  • + 2
 "BANANA!!"
  • + 1
 Best grip out there!
  • + 14
 Minions and RR's are two totally different tires for two totally different purposes.
  • - 2
 How so? They're both mountain bike tires. Yeah, the looser, sloppier stuff might be better on minions, and hardpack is the RR's strong point, but to say they're meant for "totally different purposes" implies that most riders are finicky enough to change their tires out based on what the weather's doing.
  • + 3
 yeah but I'd take a Crossmark or Ikon over the RR any day. I used to have RRs at the back but they'd last about 2-3 months before the knobs started falling off whereas my Ardent lasted over 10 months and the Ikon I have right now still looks pretty fresh after half a year.
  • + 17
 There's a reason you'll find Schwalbes on most mid-to-top tier bikes. Weight factor. They were mounted on my '11 Canyon Nerve and after the first dozen rides it looked as if a rat had chewed at the lugs. Ugh.
And then there was that bike club tour in the Swiss Alps, a fellow rider *ripped* his Schwalbe on a sharp stone... unfixable. Had to walk hours to get back to town (or else ride his DT Swiss rim to death). Sorree... these are prolly excellent *racing* tires, but I'll stick to the beefier brands and ride all the way back into town.
IMHO, YMMV, etc
  • + 5
 You learn to carry a needle and fishing line in your tool pack after owning schwalbe tires, especially the light weight models like the RaRa. Sewing a sidewall tear closed isn't the easiest field repair but if you do it right and glue a rubber boot over the inside, you can set the tire up tubeless still.
  • + 4
 They came fitted to my lapierre. Or was it the rocket Ron? Either way the bike came fitted with tyres that had no place on a 150mm travel rig. They were ridden twice before they went in the cupboard and the high rollers went on.
It's all well and good quoting lower weights to get the sale but then the buyer hits the trail with a bike that's too big for XC and not meaty enough for enduro. Or in my case a bike good enough for technical terrain but handles like a dog because the tyres aren't man enough.
Pick a spec and build it right instead of making us change parts and tyres before we can even ride it.
  • + 7
 I used the Racing Ralph during a road trip in NZ and I happened to cut the sidewalls on three occasions. I always managed to fix them just with tape and a patch of rubber from spare tubes. This did not stop me from riding there in any way. The RaRa is definitely not meant for aggro enduro riding but it performs brilliantly from XC to AM if you know how to come up with a clean line on dirty sections.
  • + 3
 I've had two Giant XC race bikes come with Racing Ralphs (Snakeskin). They were good until I raced XC on them. Didn't finish either race because of them. No point being light if you can't finish the race. Here in Canberra, every shop has a huge bin of them brand new where they come off the bike before they go out the door, and we are known for our smooth trails.

Also, sidewalls leaked Stans in some parts of the sidewall but not others. These are one of about four products I hate with a passion.
  • + 0
 Yeah I've had that with their tubeless ready/easy versions... air leaking thru the casing on one tire in a production batch but not another from the same batch. Great quality control their guys.
  • + 3
 I tried the Racing Ralph, Nobby Nic and Hans Dampf - all lasted about 5 rides because the nobs ripped off, sidewall ripped and/or had sidewall leaks and would not seal. I finally tried their beefy Magic Mary's thinking the sidewalls would be stronger and the casing durable. I was wrong. I went through 2 sets (4 tires!) in two rides. All four tires had punctures or cuts in the casing that were so large they would not re-seal. Schwalbe has ruined more rides for me than any factor, including weather. My team is sponsored by Schwalbe. Even so, I will never ride them again. Back to Maxxis.
  • + 3
 Super Gravity is the sidewall Schwable should be putting on all their tires. I bet all of the complaints in this thread are from people running the lighter sidewalls. Any sub 500g tire is bound to fail at a resort.
  • + 4
 Yes...we run lighter sidewalls because the tire in question is an XC racing tire... not a DH tire... that doesn't alter the fact that the rubber used to make up the tire knobs themselves is rather fast wearing.
  • + 2
 grab the $20 performance line to solve all your problems....

i ran a set of hans dampfs for 6 months before they started loosing lugs. i firgued close to 1000 miles out of em was acceptable to me. i did get a but load of flats(tubed cause im to lazy to swap em out). i never had a traction related wreck or slideout the whole time.

they looked like i had 3000 miles on em when i finally retired them but i trusted every single turn on em even in the snow.

i grabbed a new set right before i cracked my frame and had to order a new bike. the new rides high rollers will get swapped for the hans on the first day.
  • + 1
 @cptstoney has the right idea. Had a Hans Dampf performance tire on the rear and a Magic Mary performance tire up front and never had any abnormal wear. Unless you are pro I highly doubt any one would notice the difference between the performance line and the more expensive compounds.
  • + 1
 Magic mary is a great tyre tho better than any maxxis id say
  • + 1
 @iamamodel - I have been riding two Racing Ralphs and maybe I have been lucky, but never had a failure on them. And some Southerners have described our trails in Darwin as "rocky". Never a cut, never a flat. It's starting to weep sealant from a few spots on the tread, but so far so good.
Love the tyre to bits as a rear tyre. Rolls very fast, drifts predictably, has impressive traction (for this sort of tyre). I has worked better for me than many other tyres including Maxxis Larsen, Ardent, Ardent Race and Bonty XR3. Easy to put on Stan rims, they inflate with only a track pump.
I am looking hard for an alternative replacement as my current rear has been on the job for like a year now. Looks fine, but as mentioned above, it has started to weep sealant at a few spots. It holds air just fine. No need to re-inflate every week.
  • + 1
 @deeeight I can tell you there was no way we could have fixed that shredded schwalbe - or at least it probably would have taken longer than walking down. I carry gaffa tape and inner tube patches, just in case. I ride AM and have have burped a Nevegal once and that's about all; I always carry some sealant and at the end was no biggie.
Still - good idea to carry some fishing kit - thx!!
  • + 2
 @deeeight same exact problem for me dude. I tried out some Schwalbe CX tires and the sidewalls wept for literally 3 days. Not just porously in random spots, but in a perforated line all the way around the tire, both sides, front and rear. Eventually they sealed up, but they'd never hold pressure for more than 3-4 days. f*cking ridiculous. Had way better luck with a Fat Albert TL on my 26", but with as much rubber as they put in those things they better not leak. And those tires ended up blowing out through a 1.5cm crack in the casing by one of the knobs. Not a slashed, cracked.

Idk. Schwalbe gets tons of hype and I liked the Alberts, but IMHO when you factor in performance, price, QC, and longevity they're just not even close to worth the extra money compared to Maxxis or Conti.
  • + 5
 I ride them (Nobbinic Pacestar in front/Racing Ralf Pacestar in the back) for 6 month on my 29er now, and these tires are exactly what I need on that bike - for the trails here. Loamy or gravel, no roots, no rocks, no piles of dust and sand - just easy rolling.
Great tires, fast, the Pacestar compound holds well (on this specific terrain), and wallowing of the sidewalls is only a problem below 1.8bar (and mainly because the rims are only 17mm wide).
I paid 20€ for the pair - slightly used. People dont want them....

Schwalbe tires are always very specific, they work great on one thing, but wear off or get damaged quite soon if you use them on the wrong surface.
  • + 4
 I was a long time Maxxis fan but my new bike came with schwalbe tyres (Magic Mary up front and a Rock Racer on the rear). now i switched to a Hans Dampf as a rear tyre and i have to say i'm amazed how much grip this combination offers. I always tought the minions supertacky were amazing but this combo beats it. Granted i went for the VertStar compound as i'm not into weight saving and just want some sort of a fire and forget combo. But so far its brilliant.
  • + 3
 You are not the only one on that experience me and a friend rode maxxis first and then switched to magic mary and the difference was huge
  • + 0
 If they gripped more then minions you must have been glued in place.
  • + 2
 I think it's the self-cleaning which makes a MagicMary so brilliant. I was at a local freeride-trail just this last weekend and the day before it rained quite heavily. other guys were running minions but in the muddier berms they clogged up and the MagicMary just stayed clean and offered ample grip. i was really amazed how well they held. Normally i'm a bit wary when it comes to steep muddy earthy descents but i just could let it go. If i understand it correctly, then the MM is a cut-down version of the older Muddy Mary which was a mud-tyre. for me it's a great allrounder so far and i'm very pleased.
  • + 2
 They work great in dry dusty conditions as well
  • + 3
 The 4X version is fantastic for racing; even lighter overall. Has the gatestar compound and snakeskin sidewalls, essentially a fast-rolling XC tyre with sidewall protection. That said, I have put a small hole through the top of the casing just going over loose grit. I have used these for XC in all conditions in the UK and they are great in the Summer, not so great in the wet and don't bother in the Winter. Wear has not been such a problem for me, but then I do not use this for day-to-day riding really, more like every other week. I doubt that 4X tracks and XC loops generate the kind of regular hard braking others put them through. Best used in conjunction with their nobby nic counterparts.
  • + 3
 Schwalbe makes great tires... until the side knobs get undercut. Don't even bother with the Trailstar compound unless you're racing, I wore out a pair of Nobby Nics in ~150 miles in dirt/rock/root situations. That said, if you don't mind throwing money at tires, you could do a lot worse.
  • + 2
 I agree 100%. The side tread cam be destroyed after 2 miles of hard descending. Add the tyre ripping issue and this tyre is really an over grown gentle marathon or race tyre only.
  • + 2
 I spent 6 months on this tire in vancouver through Winter and spring. 26", snakeskin, pacestar variety.
They have alot more grip than you'd think they would. They are light and makes easy work of going up the hills.
Mounted on a Banshee Rune, it has tremendous grip on the corners. Enough to make drifting difficult on the corners. They just rail.
However, the straightline, OMG braking traction is awful. No way around it. the center lugs last forever, even after pavement miles.
Got a big ole' cut on them one day bombing down Seymour and rode down on the flat tire.. they never sat right on the bead after that.. so they migrated to the klunker/commuter as a front tire...
At cost + %10 they were a good buy. but i would not be spending $100 retail on them.
  • + 2
 I replaced a matched set of RaRa's with a RoRo on the back of a bike and now I find I have loads of rear traction but my front end washes out on any sort of fine gravel surface. The other RoRo I have will be be going on front soon. They're heavier being snakeskin sidewalls instead of the non-SS of the RaRa's, but sometimes traction is more important than weight, even on a light weight bike build.
  • + 2
 Tires are getting pricey..... Have Rocket Rons on my Scott Premium and at over $200 for replacements tires (2)??? I know compounds have come a long way but I have a 20 year old Rocky with original rubber......no cracks. At what point does R&D stop and we pay for pure marketing. We need a bike industry knock off like the $1 shaving razor company......
  • + 4
 These are older than my grandmother is! Is this a review of "a row of transition knobs"? because the rest are no news.
  • + 1
 Schwalbe Tires, amazing performance if you use them in the conditions they're designed for, and you don't ride more than 500 miles. I've got DH casing Trailstar Hans on a bike I bought in Feburary. The rear tire is leaking stans through the sidewalls consistantly and the side knobs are about disintegrated. Love the tires, can't afford to keep replacing them.
  • + 1
 I for one like their tires. I tried the Racing Ralphs but found that the Rocket Rons with snake skin to be one of the very best tires I have ridden in the last 25 years (of course I no longer thrash down burly rock faces and huck off everything I can find, but I do ride hard, fast, and push threw corners). I have them set up on a Ti frame single speed 29er and ride mostly in Maine.
  • + 1
 Yeah I found the Rons to be a lot better in the grease but roll a lil slower than Ralphs.
  • + 1
 I have been using RR in the rear for 3 years and switched to a Rock Razor. Loved it until it failed and now i'm on a Maxxis Ikon and it is doing nice but I will switch back to the UST version of Racing Ralph my most successful rear tyre I have used. Shwalbe for the win every time. They seal on UST rims with a floor pump and along with my Hans Damf, Magic Mary and Rock Razor I am in nice shape. I have been happy with EVERY Sewable I have ever bought.
  • + 1
 Had a set of the gate star compound and they were sh*t! Yes they roll fast but the second you go anywhere near rocks or even a slightly gravely section they just punture! Rather spend the money on a tyre that rolls a little slower but rolls over anything! Another point is how quickly they wear down. I dont even need to explain this because pinkbike have shown it nicely with the picture.
  • + 1
 I have the 2015 NNs and couldn't be happier. Also HD/NN F/R works quite well. Had RoRos before but that and rode Big Bend National Park with no problems, although the knobs wore down rather quick. 2014 NNs were way more susceptible to rock cuts (even the SS version). Comparing to Spec' Purg/Butcher they are less durable, yes, but grip way better in corners.
  • + 1
 I had a pair of these (that I got for free) on flow rims. The light casing is so unstable that you need to pump it to high pressures in order for it to not roll sideways in corners/on off camber/through rough terrain. The high pressure means you have even less grip than what you'd expect.

It's definitely only a tire for sitting and spinning.
  • + 2
 for anyone who likes the weight, low drag, surprising grip of the racing ralph, but hates the short lifespan, try a maxxis aspen
  • + 4
 Another ultra expesive disposable tire.
  • + 4
 30psi in my Minions. I don't care bout your opinions...
  • + 3
 If I'm spending over $90 on a tire it's going on my 125. No thank you schwalbe.
  • + 0
 I had Nobby Nics for a while, they were ok, no problems. But, I now have Vittoria Suagaro's and I found they grip just as well as the Nics but are tougher, roll better and are a little lighter. They are also cheaper. A wore out some Bontrager XR2's a while back, and if I could buy some more locally I would probably go with those. Hope this helps anyone who is about to invest in some new tires.
  • + 3
 Too bad the tires wear out faster than I can read this article.
  • + 2
 The price and silly names are two reasons I have never considered buying schwalbe tires.
  • + 1
 Sounds about like my experience. They do get squirmy if psi is too low. Wear hasn't been too much of an issue but I only have it up front.
  • + 1
 How many rides did they go on prior to that pic? They look scuffed already.
  • + 4
 The car park test
  • + 2
 I feel like I'm in a time warp back to 2009 ;-)
  • + 1
 Loved the feel of this brand but they're expensive and are not at all durable. I'll pass from now on...
  • + 1
 2pcs WTB TCS NANO 2.1 tubeless tire for XC biking,no bad,run tubeless well and good traction
  • + 1
 Does Bontrager make an XR3 or XR2 in 29 size? Would probably roll quite similar.
  • + 1
 If their main attribute is reduced rolling resistance why not pump them all the way up?
  • + 1
 This was the issues I had with light schwalbes, unless they have a lot of pressure in them they squirm a lot, but then traction and ride quality suffers greatly.
  • + 1
 Overpriced crap! They tear easy and wear out way too fast!
  • + 1
 Yup. Be prepared to replace worn out tyres every month or so...
  • + 1
 if you ride a schwalbe at WFMR it will not last a day...no.
  • + 1
 Hans Dampf the best!!!
  • + 1
 Looks like....
  • + 3
 A used session with only one ride left in it.
  • + 1
 Nicely written article!
Below threshold threads are hidden

Post a Comment



You must login to Pinkbike.
Don't have an account? Sign up

Join Pinkbike  Login
Copyright © 2000 - 2019. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv65 0.066287
Mobile Version of Website