In between the Thunder Burt and the Racing Ralph, Schwalbe has a new fast-rolling prototype XC racing mountain bike tire, that likely is coming to market very soon. Getting a World Cup XCC short-track and Olympic-distance XCC racing debut in the past few days in Nové Město na Moravě, the new small-knob tread was on the bikes of many different teams AND raced in varied wet & dry conditions…
Prototype Schwalbe First Ride fast-rolling XC race mountain bike tire
The prototype Schwalbe XC mountain bike tire we spotted all over the place at the Nove Mesto World Cup is an entirely all-new design that appears to fill the fast-rolling gap in between the dry conditions Thunder Burt and more grippy all-around-racer Racing Ralf. It appears to share the same Super Race transparent (tanwall) sidewall construction we’ve seen on the XC race circuit for a couple of years. And it clearly gets Schwalbe’s fastest red-striped Addix Speed rubber compound.
But this new prototype Schwalbe XC tire tread pattern seems to share very little in shaping with any of Schwalbe’s other XC race-oriented tires.
All-new fast XC tread design
The only link would be the 3 central rows of small square studs for fast straight-line rolling. But even here they are bigger than on Burt, with wider spacing and a less pronounced in-and-out offset of the outer row. Those tweaks presumably would improve grip in more varied -wetter and muddier- conditions, without sacrificing speed.
Moving out towards the shoulder, there’s an all-new row of transition tread with a low-profile, slightly trapezoidal lug spaced-out with 4 tiny horizontal bars in between. Then lastly, there’s another spaced-out row of the same new trapezoidal block but a bit larger for the tire’s shoulder.
These simple more open-spaced and equally-offset transition & shoulder lugs should provide more consistent grip while cornering, improved shoulder support, while also digging into loose terrain when needed.
Other interesting XC tread details
Unlike the Racing Ray & Ralph, this new XC tire is not front- or rear-specific. But it is directional with lug edges slightly pointing forward at the top of the tire – for fast rolling but good braking.
Also, while a lot of more aggressive trail-to-enduro tires employ share edges for extra grip, this new XC racing tire follows more of the rounded-knob trend we saw debut on Schwalbe’s Racing Brothers update a few years back – which Schwalbe suggested also improved braking while cornering.
Overall, every tread lug gets a sipe to allow the individual block to deform more for grip over irregular obstacles – square cutouts for the center, horizontal lines cut from the transitions, and angle lines cut into the shoulder knobs.
The prototype Schwalbe XC tire also appears to feature a more rounded overall cross-section, with those shoulder knobs extended further around the curved profile of the tire. There’s also not a huge relative difference in lug height from the center to the tire’s absolute outer edge. All of that suggests a tire that can be leaned incredibly far into a hard surface for faster cornering.
Is it a dry, mixed, or wet conditions XC race tire?
Without knowing details from Schwalbe, we’d have to assume that this is meant to be an all-conditions XC race tire. We were lucky with mixed weather in Nove Mesto to see who rode the new tires and when. In the weekend’s races that stayed completely dry, Schwalbe XC racers seemed about evenly split between this new prototype and the existing Thunder Burt. But, whenever there was a threat of rain, it looked like the new tire prevailed.
In the wettest, muddiest races of the weekend, we did spot a few riders swapping in a Racing Ralph for more rear-wheel grip.
But plenty of riders also stuck with a pair of the new tire, even in the most slippery wet conditions.
Schwalbe XC prototype tire timeline
We’ve only spotted this new prototype Schwalbe XC mountain bike tire at one XC World Cup so far – and they’ve all been 29″ x 2.4″. We did see them on bikes from at least 4 different manufacturers – Cannondale, Canyon, Scott, Thömus – and probably on more than 6 teams. Not everyone on all of these teams was riding the new tire, but they were kind of all over the place.
None of the tires we spotted had a production stamp with the official name of the tire, so we could only speculate what it might be – Lightning Lou, anyone? And so we don’t yet know when they will be available. But if I had to guess, based just on the sheer number of these tires floating around the first round of the XC World Cup, I’d guess we might see an official launch in the next month, and certainly no later than Eurobike.
We’ll let you know as soon as we know more. Until then…