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The cyclo-cross-friendly 33mm width Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo tyres are great in the right conditions, but those conditions are quite a narrow range – not too dry, not too wet – which makes their £50 price tag (each) seem rather expensive.
With the summer cyclo-cross season in full swing, many of us are out there trying to channel our inner Sven while painfully waiting for the winter to come back around for some mud-based riding. With Mother Nature having not made up her mind, the changing weather has meant some tough tyre choices, with many forgetting there are options between their trusty mud tyres and drastic file treads. These intermediate conditions are where the Racing Ralphs are designed to sit snuggly.
The Racing Ralphs are no new concept. Now in their third generation, they've been about in mountain bike and cyclo-cross worlds for a number of years. More recently, the range has been adjusted to include a 33mm width to conform to UCI rules (the sport's governing body); not that your local league would have cared much about the extra 2mm of the previous 35mm versions. This folding tyre weighs in at 320g, which is about average for 32mm CX tyres at the moment.
With only the LiteSkin variant of the tyre at this size, you don't get the benefits of Schwalbe's SnakeSkin technology for easy tubeless use. Having said that, the LiteSkin combined with a reinforced bead core still allows for a conversion to tubeless, so do not fear. Bar the odd burp at really low pressure, there were no noticeable issues with not having the SnakeSkin option. My only issue was getting a pinch flat on my first use due to pure laziness and running them with tubes rather than tubeless.
On to grip, the stuff we really care about with tyres. First impressions were of high amounts of grip, especially in dry conditions. The small, square central tread makes for plenty of traction when upright, and equally the narrower and taller Schwalbe 'U-Blocks' on the edge provide excellent grip in the corners.
When run at low pressure, they feel a little sluggish, especially compared with the Schwalbe G-Ones I've been riding for a while. The size of the tread blocks certainly make for a lot of drag on the straights. Equally, when the going gets wet, the tread struggles to shift the mud, making for a tricky ride and plenty of dangling of the legs to keep you upright.
Conditions are going to be vital for these tyres. Too dry and the extra grip, compared with file treads, will be a drag; too wet, and the tyres won't be able to deal with 'proper' mud. Early or late winter season might be the perfect time – when the rains haven't fully set in yet and course conditions remain a little more uncertain. They're potentially an option when the ground starts to harden from the cold nights too, but I'm speculating there.
Personally, for summer cross I'm sticking to my G-Ones, but the Racing Ralphs may get some use early doors this winter, before my set of Challenge Limus take reign in the mud.
At £49.99 a pop, the Racing Ralphs aren't cheap either. For a tyre that doesn't really suit full winter or a dry summer it's expensive, and I can't say I'd be dropping that kind of money for them. If you live in a climate where it tends to be somewhere in between, these may well be your perfect tyre. Have a think about what kind of riding you tend to do, as the tyres ride and race well when conditions suit them. Don't rule them out just because of the price tag.
Great levels of grip in intermediate conditions, but start to struggle in any real mud
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo 33-622
Size tested: 33-622
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo cyclo-cross tyre is classed as for use on hardpack and mixed terrain, but not soft, muddy conditions – which is exactly what I found. The tread would struggle to shift mud. Despite being designed for speed, it seemed a little slow and draggy when on the straights, which might have been down to tread sizes.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Size:ETRTO 33-622 (28 x 1.30 Inch)
Weight:320 g (11 oz)
Pressure:3.50 - 6.00 Bar (50 - 85 psi)
Maximum load:70 kg
Well made, no blemishes to mention. The reinforced bead was tough despite the folding ability.
Performance is a tough one to call. The tyres were great, but only when the conditions suited them. If things were too dry they felt slow, but too wet and they were all over the place. Being able to run them tubeless was a big plus, so in intermediate conditions they were great!
Having ridden them at the tail end of the last winter season and beginning of the summer, there is only minimal wear, which is impressive. I haven't been riding them on the tarmac, mainly because I found them a bit slow, but using them just for cross riding they've survived well.
Average weight compared with the competition.
Good to ride, especially at low pressure.
Tough to justify that price – £50 for a tyre that is only good in certain conditions seems fairly excessive.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Great when used in the correct conditions, but I was often left wishing I was using other tyres.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Being able to run them tubeless was key. The high grip in the corners when things got damp was great.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Struggle to clear mud and too much drag in dry conditions.
Did you enjoy using the product? Sometimes...
Would you consider buying the product? No, I would stick to my G-Ones.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, depending on what they will be riding in.
Use this box to explain your score
The tyres are good but expensive, and the range of use is fairly narrow.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAADX My best bike is: Scott CR1 Pro
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives