For our tyre test we have used two bikes, two riders and two sets of Schwalbe tyres: Rocket Ron and Racing Ralph in 29 x 2.25” – one bike set up with Ralphs, the other with Rons to match the preferences of our riders.
The two tyres are not completely different – standing beside each other in Schwalbe’s line-up – with Racing Ralph being a faster roller due to its lower and more dense tread and Rocket Ron providing more grip due to its bigger knobs. The choice between them depends mainly on your riding style and personal preference with a mix of Ron at the front and Ralph at the back being an often-seen set up.
we covered over 66 hours and 800km of racing and we didn’t get any punctures on either the Racing Ralphs or the Rocket Rons
Rocket Ron is a favourite all-round tyre, they are very versatile and deliver excellent grip across a wide range of surfaces: hard-packed roads, gravel, leaves, mud, sand, roots or rocks. In wet muddy conditions, the big gaps between the knobs let the mud slide through while the thread bites into the trail. When cornering, the pronounced side knobs prevent the wheels from sliding away from under you.
Racing Ralphs give you slightly less grip on the corners because of its less aggressive thread, but for the same reason they roll faster so it’s up to you to decide what features you need most – grip (Ron) vs speed (Ralph).
We were also happy with how easy it was to set them tubeless. We paired them with Stan’s NoTubes wheels (Crest and Gold Race) – two scoops of the NoTubes sealant, a track pump and 5 minutes later they were ready to hit the trails.
Both tyres use Schwalbe’s Snakeskin technology: additional rubber applied to the sidewalls of the tyre protecting it from being cut by sharp rocks. The Snakeskin adds approx. 40-50g per tyre but our testing terrain was particularly rough so we decided not to take a chance and to go for this extra protection.
We tested them at the Andalucia Bike Race – a 6-day stage race through sharp Spanish rocks claiming countless victims of flats and torn tyres (I remember those riders standing on the side of the road, holding their wheels, asking every passing rider “Spare tyre? Anyone have a spare tyre?”). Together we covered over 66 hours and 800km of racing and we didn’t get any punctures on either Racing Ralph or Rocker Ron, only a few scratches on the side walls but these were merely cosmetic. We rode through dust, mud, rivers, grass, dirt roads, loose sand, snow, slippy rock slabs and canyons paved with sharp rocks – in all conditions the tyres did their job well providing all the grip needed. Needless to say we were delighted with their performance and reliability and we’re sticking with Schwalbe for the 2014 season. In the UK, we’ll be going for the Rocket Ron on wet and muddy days, or courses which are known to be slippery, where an advantage can be gained with a more aggressive tyre choice, while the Racing Ralphs will be used on dry days where speed rules.
Weight: Racing Ralph: 636g , Rocket Ron: 621g, however it can vary slightly from tyre to tyre. The non-Snakeskin, Pace Star, version is 40-50g lighter.
Both Racing Ralph and Rocket Ron performed flawlessly, providing a lot of grip in various conditions and rolling fast. They are easy to set up tubeless and the Snakeskin technology protects the tyres from cuts on sharp rocks. Relatively low-weight, they are one of the top MTB tyres available on the market.