|The 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
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