For quite a while Racing Ralph has been Schwalbe’s go to mixed-conditions XC race and even light trail mountain bike tire. Now Ralph gets a complete overhaul becoming rear wheel specific, plus a new front tire sibling named Ray to deliver improved grip & rolling resistance over changing trail conditions.
Schwalbe Racing Ray & Ralph XC mountain bike tires
The new cross-country brothers Racing Ray & Racing Ralph were developed to attack more technical modern XC race courses. Dividing their attention to very different front & rear specific designs they aim to provide better cornering, acceleration, grip, rolling resistance, and braking performance. Schwalbe tells it that as cross-country courses have become more technical, they’ve also become faster & more complex, transitioning more quickly from punchy climbs to tough descents – with roots, rocks & man-made bridges thrown in everywhere in between.
Racing Ray front wheel XC control tire
The new tires are designed to work best as a pair with Racing Ray providing ideal steering characteristics to maximize control. Ray’s aggressive tread uses more stable shoulder blocks for consistent grip when it gets pushed hard into corners for precise handling. More regular center blocks promise low rolling resistance, with open spacing in between for clearing mud.
Balancing low friction rolling and grip when cornering, Schwalbe give the new Ray their blue Addix Speedgrip compound that again balances speed & grip. The Racing Ray EVO is available in 26″ (565g), 27.5″ (590g) & 29″ (625g) x 2.25″, or a narrower 29 x 2.1″ (595g). All get folding beads, EVO evolution casing, SnakeSkin sidewall protection & are TLE tubeless ready. Less expensive Performance line versions will also be available in the same sizing.
Racing Ralph rear wheel XC speed & acceleration tire
Paired with Ray up front, the Racing Ralph then promises to put the power down mixing fast rolling with the traction needed for quick accelerations. It gets more tightly spaced, and wider blocks – again all of which use directional sipes cut into them to allow the blocks to individually deform over obstacles, while retaining stable block shapes.
While designed for the rear, Schwalbe says the new Racing Ralph can also work as a fast rolling front tire for riding & racing in dry hardpack trail conditions.
With more of a focus on fast & easy rolling, the reimagined Racing Ralph comes exclusively in the low rolling resistance, longer wearing red Addix Speed compound. It gets the same sizes to match Ray in 26″, 27.5″ & 29″ and claims the exact same weights. It also shares the same folding bead, EVO casing, SnakeSkin & TLE tubeless tech; and will also be available in cheaper Performance casings too.
Both tires feature rounded tread block shaping that is new for Schwalbe since the current Fat Albert, and claims to offer grip better from all directions making the tires more predictable from edge to edge. It also is said to make them run more quietly.
Pricing & Availability
The new tires will be available from retailers from July 2018 for 58€ in this EVO casing. Although they come stock on the new Cannondale F-Si carbon hardtail which just launched earlier today and will be in shops already in June, perhaps with other OEM XC bikes as well.
First Riding Impressions
I had the chance to put in a few rides with the new Racing Brothers tires, in a mix of heavy & greasy mud, rocks roots, wet singletrack, and plenty of well-drained (and even dry at times) trail as well. Definitely pushing the extreme on the wet side (that bike is standing on its own above, supported just by the mud on its tires.) The Ray+Ralph bills itself as a multi-conditions tire pairing, and you’re not likely to ride in much broader conditions that what I experienced. With that said, I’ve never really ridden a tire that excels in heavy mud and doesn’t feel like a dog on hardpack.
My first impression is that the Racing Ray & Ralph combo does admirably well across a range of conditions. But it is not a mud tire. When the mud got super stick & greasy, those gaps between tread blocks packed up pretty solid, and handling became squirmy with some proper two wheel drift on fast steep corners. If you are comfortable sliding around a bit (mostly predictably though) then you could get away with the occasional muddy ride.
The tires did much better when the trails were mostly hardpack, well-draining, or just overall drier. The tread did a good job of self-clearing as soon as I hit some gravel or more rocky trails, and felt fast rolling on a wide range of terrain. The Ray+Ralph isn’t likely to replace your all-mountain or trail tires with meaty, grippy tread. But on a fast XC bike they seem promising as long as you don’t expect to spend the majority of your time in the mud.