What is it
As its name clearly implies, the Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Speedgrip is an XC racing tire. The tread pattern is familiar in this class of rubber – more tightly spaced center knobs to increase speed, but taller, more widely spaced side lugs for extra bite when cornering. New to this legacy tire is Schwalbe‘s Addix compound, which is actually a series of four compounds specifically developed for various riding disciplines: Speed = XC race; Speedgrip = XC/AM/trail; Soft = enduro/downhill; Ultra Soft = gravity.
Check out Mtbr’s guide to choosing the right mountain bike tire.
Of the four, Speed is the only one that’s completely new, while the other three are replacements for existing compounds. Schwalbe expects the Speedgrip to be the most popular, which is in part why we choose it for this test. It’s aimed at general riding in mixed terrain and conditions, and offers similar rolling resistance to its predecessor (PaceStar), but with a claimed 62% increase in durability and 35% bump in grip. To quickly identify the various compounds, Schwalbe is using a colored stripe on the tread, which wears off after a few rides. (Note the blue line on these test tires). The stripe color matches the sidewall markings that denote which compound is used.
Read more about Schwalbe’s Addix compound here.
On the Mtbr Park Tools DS-1 Electronic Scale the Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Speedgrip tires weighed 670 grams (40g more than claimed weight). When mounted on a Stan’s ZTR Crest S1 aluminum wheels, which have a 23mm internal rim width, actual tire width measured by the Park Tools DC-1 Digital Caliper was 2.11 (versus the advertised 2.25). Mtbr tested the Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Speedgrip on a variety of trail types, including hardpack, loose over hard, and rocky alpine terrain. Keep reading to find out how it performed.
- Great grip
- Fast rolling
- Impressive braking traction
- Color coding for ease of compound identification
- Improved durability over predecessor
- Confident cornering grip
- Comparatively low weight
- Predictable and smooth transition zone
- Knob siping improves bite
- Easy tubeless set-up
- Narrower than claimed
- Heavier than claimed
- Most expensive tires in this shootout
- Directional arrow is hard to spot
- Finicky to mount and take off
- Leave them at home when it’s muddy
Initially it was hard to get past the skinny profile of the Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Speedgrip. Though the hot patch on our test tires claimed a width of 2.25, they plumped up to just 2.11 when mounted on a set of Stan’s ZTR Crest S1 aluminum wheels. Within this shootout, only the Hutchinson Toro (labeled 2.35, but actually 2.10) cast a narrower shadow. But over reporting is certainly not unique in this class of tire. Only two of seven XC tires Mtbr tested for this shootout exceeded manufacturer’s claimed width.
Check out all the tires in this cross-country tire shootout.
So while it was hard to overlook, the axiom of size doesn’t matter at least in part applied to this conversation. And really, what matters most isn’t how girthy a tire is, it’s how well it performs. In this case, the answer was quite well. The combination of the new Addix Speedgrip compound and a smart tread layout and design conspired to deliver a tire that was quick off the line, able to maintain speed, and had better than expected grip, especially in terrain where lesser tires start to feel like ice skates.
Like most of the tires in this shootout, the tread layout combines low profile, tightly spaced center knobs with taller more toothy side knobs. In between are staggered transition knobs, with an opening after every second knob allowing the tire to find its edge, but not do it so abruptly as to throw its pilot off line — or off the bike all together. This was especially noticeable during several days of testing in the Fruita, Colorado, riding zone, where the riding surface vacillates between ultra-tacky sandstone and super slippery dust-over-hardpack.
Thanks to some combination of well-conceived tread where every knob is siped for even more grip, and the new compound mixture, we felt reasonably comfortable leaning the Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Speedgrip tire over in high speed corners. It also did a solid job maintaining bite during hard braking, and only had some trouble on very steep, loose terrain, where maintaining centered body balance over your bike was key to maintaining uphill traction.
Perhaps even more impressive was the Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Speedgrip tire’s durability. Suffice to say Schwalbes have not always had a reputation for being particularly robust. That’s been especially true in places such as Fruita, where sharp sandstone rocks lurk around almost every corner, waiting to slash wimpy sidewalls. But Schwalbe is well aware of its past shortcomings, which is why the top line feature of its new Addix Speedgrip compound is durability. Specifically, the German tire maker claims the new formulation is 62% more durable than its PaceStar predecessor.
And while metrics such as that are all but impossible to verify, based on our multi-day western Colorado testing session, the Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Speedgrip tire has the chops to stand up to the rigors of serious real world riding. We pushed it well passed its XC intentions, but suffered nary a flat or even any discernible wear on the tread or sidewall. And honestly, at $92 a tire, it damn well better be that way. Otherwise why not just buy two sets of a cheaper offering, say the Vee Crown Gems, which sell for nearly $40 less per tire and offer similar performance but less durability.
Bottom line, while the newest iteration of the Schwalbe Racing Ralph loses points for failing to measure up on width and weight claims, it offers impressive rolling speed, grip, and durability. Just make sure to size up when buying in order to get the actual width you’re after.
Rating: 4 out of 5
More Info: www.schwalbetires.com