With a tweaked tread pattern designed to take advantage of the extra length of a 29er contact patch, the latest version of the long-awaited Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29er tyre is one of the most complete, capable, fast-riding cross-country/trail tyres there is.
Racers will find it great for short cross-country races or 24-hour epics, but trail riders who want a fast and light tyre will find it still works well when the trail gets less predictable. It rolls easily and finds good levels of grip on all manner of trail conditions.
It's not easily intimidated when it gets rocky and sketchy either; the tread may be low profile but there's plenty of predictable and confidence-inspiring traction to be found.
When Schwalbe were scaling up the Racing Ralph, they took the opportunity to tweak the design. By making better use of the increased real estate a 29er tyre offers (a marginal but significant difference), Schwalbe has managed to improve on the previous, all ready very good, tyre.
Schwalbe’s designers remodelled the shape and layout of the knobs. Key to the change is to add a second row of lugs - a transition row - to provide a smoother transfer from straight up to banked over. In line with this, the shoulder knobs are now straighter, to produce more predictable behaviour when the tyre is leaned over.
Underneath the visible changes is a 127tpi casing which helps keep the weight of the 2.25in version down. Both our samples were within a couple of grams of the claimed 535g.
For a 29er tyre that is very impressive, and you feel it on the trail as instant acceleration, couipled with the low drag of the supple casing and shallow tread pattern. We've raced them several times, choosing them for a 12-hour solo race, and their speed was satisfying, backed up with plentiful grip.
Compound is important to grip and the Racing Ralph's PaceStar triple compound places softer rubber where you want it, at the edges. Lean into corners and there's decent grip over a range of trail conditions from dry and dusty to wet and loose. The harder central compound contributes to their high rolling speed.
Our only concern is how durable the thin sidewalls will be over an extended period. However, after a couple of months into testing that has involved a 12-hour solo race, shorter races, and all-day trail rides, they've not presented any problems.
One of the fastest 29er tyres we've tested this summer, and they're not just suited to racers; trail riders seeking a fast rolling tyre with stacks of grip will revel in them. Not cheap mind...
Great traction in all-conditions
Low rolling resistance
Wear reasonably fast
More information: Schwalbe UK Racing Ralph page
What Schwalbe says about the Racing Ralph 29er:
Real racers always want to improve by getting better and faster. Result: We radically revised Racing Ralph for the second time - with PaceStar Compound and a completely modified profile.
Also the hard numbers show how ambitious we were: RACING.
In addition the modified profile and PaceStar compound provide even better control.
29ers have a much larger contact area. For the first time the arrangement and proximity of lugs on the new Racing Ralph have been specially adapted to this greater contact area. It emphasizes even better the advantages of a 29" - rolling resistance and grip.