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Verdict: 
Great tyre for roadies who fancy broadening their horizons without buying a new bike
Weight: 
327g
Ritchey Alpine JB WCS Stronghold tyre
8 10

Ritchey has gone inverse with the tread on its Alpine JB WCS Stronghold tyres to create a tyre that grips on light gravel and rough sections of broken country lane while also offering a smooth ride if you want to get a shift on on the tarmac. A very impressive all-round tyre choice indeed.

  • Pros: Great ride quality on a variety of terrain, durable, grippy
  • Cons: Took a little bit of faffing to get one of the beads to sit

Inverse tread patterns aren't new but it's not something we see very often; most tyre companies tend to use extruded rubber patterns to provide grip away from the road.

> Find your nearest dealer here

Having the tread recessed into the tyre means the Alpine JBs still run very smoothly on tarmac, not far off something like Schwalbe's dimpled G-One Speeds but with the added advantage that they have a good amount of bite if you take to a canal path or gravel byway, even when pumped up to road pressures.

> How to choose the right tyre pressure

The Ritcheys have an upper pressure limit of 110psi but for road use I settled on 90psi and they rolled very quickly, with a fair amount of absorbance through the 120tpi (threads per inch) carcass so there are no comfort issues. Because of this they also give plenty of feedback too.

Grip

Grip is really impressive. You've got this nagging doubt in your mind that they aren't going to be all that, with a fair bit of rubber not touching the surface, but in reality it's fine and once you've nailed that first twisty descent or roundabout flat-out you soon realise there is little to worry about.

Darting onto the local tank tracks mid-ride, the tyres scrabble about at these pressures but you soon adapt. I've ridden 35mm cyclo-cross tyres at half this pressure that feel just the same, so Ritchey is obviously doing something right.

> When should you change your tyres?

The 30mm version that we have here isn't tubeless ready so you might not want to run them too soft and risk pinch flats. The 35mm option is though so if you want to go down the route of dropping the pressures low for a full day off-road without running the risk of a pinch flat that might be the better option for you.

They aren't exactly full-blown gravel tyres, though, so I'm not going to criticise them for them for their traction on the loose stuff. For their intended use on smooth roads, those with a slightly broken surface and hardpacked towpaths, they can't really be faulted.

Fitting

Fitting them to the rims (I tried them on Ritchey's own Classic Zeta wheels and a pair of Vision Team 35s) was simple enough and only required a bit of leverage from the thumbs, though a couple of times I couldn't quite get the bead to pop into place against the hook of the rim as it was sitting too low. A bit of bouncing it around on the patio soon got it seated and from then on I had no issues.

> How to fit clincher tyres

Durability-wise I certainly can't see anything that concerns me. I had no issues with punctures or cuts and the tan wall casing is reinforced, which Ritchey calls Stronghold. This certainly resisted any sharp stones from nicking through when I was riding on the gravel.

Value

Cost-wise things aren't too bad against the opposition. The Ritcheys will set you back £41.95 each at rrp, a couple of quid more than the similarly themed 32mm Panaracer T-Serv ProTite at £39.99.

Schwalbe's dimpled G-Ones are good all-rounders, although admittedly they are aimed more at off-road, but they perform very well on it too. You'll be looking at around £49.99 for a set of those, so when you consider the performance of the Ritcheys I'd say they are priced fairly.

Overall, the Ritchey Alpine JB is a great tyre for letting you get out and explore off the beaten track even on your road bike.

Verdict

Great tyre for roadies who fancy broadening their horizons without buying a new bike

road.cc test report

Make and model: Ritchey Alpine JB WCS tyre

Size tested: 700 x 30

Tell us what the product is for

Ritchey describes the tyres thus:

"Jobst Brandt was an important figure in Tom Ritchey's life. Along with Tom's father, who was also a cyclist, Jobst was an important mentor for Tom - faithfully sharing his vast engineering wisdom while also actively influencing Tom's riding. Bound only to the thrill of experience and exploration, for decades Jobst's and Tom's tires rode over more than a few different surfaces on any given ride. It's these adventures with Jobst that helped inspire the Alpine JB tire.

This unique bicycle tire is built to ride wherever your two-wheeled journeys may take you. It rolls beautifully on all-day rides along smooth country roads, yet it has enough tread to gracefully navigate roads with minimal municipal maintenance or long stretches of gritty gravel.

The Alpine JB enjoys a 120 TPI, is tubeless-ready and employs the unique VFA tread design - a pattern that's mostly recessed in the rubber of the tire, rather than relying on protruding knobs more commonly found on such tires. Thanks to the inverse tread, rolling resistance is smoother compared to traditional knobby tires, yet grip and confidence remain inherent features. An added benefit is that the Alpine JBe is more durable because there are no knobs to wear down."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Ritchey:

700x35 and 30

Tubeless-ready (35mm only)

VFA tread design

Stronghold Casing

120 TPI

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
6/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Impressive rolling on even the smoothest of tarmac and don't do a bad job when you take to a bit of gravel.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Their all-round capability.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Took a bit of a faff to get the bead to sit right.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

A great addition to the market for those riders who fancy seeing where that byway goes without sacrificing on-road performance. A decent weight and price too.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 39  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed

Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.

5 comments

Avatar
reippuert [93 posts] 2 months ago
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How about wear  and durability ?

Would love to see a reviewe of the 35mm in order to asses how they compare to fast performance oriented all road tyres like Gravelkings (non SK), Compass, G-one 

Avatar
Stu Kerton [101 posts] 2 months ago
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reippuert wrote:

How about wear  and durability ?

From the riding over varying surfaces throughout the test period of four weeks they aren't showing any signs of damage from nicks or cuts and the sidewalls have got some strength to them.

I'll keep an eye on the wear levels but the compound doesn't feel as soft as that of the Schwalbe G-One's so I'd say these should cover more miles.

Avatar
TypeVertigo [428 posts] 2 months ago
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Interesting tread cap design. Probably the first tire I've seen with "inverse" tread.

The "JB" in the name, I hear, is a tribute to Jobst Brandt.

Avatar
aegisdesign [72 posts] 2 months ago
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TypeVertigo wrote:

Interesting tread cap design. Probably the first tire I've seen with "inverse" tread.

The "JB" in the name, I hear, is a tribute to Jobst Brandt.

There was the Avocet Cross back in the 90s which was quite decent. Fast on tarmac, decent grip and they came in 26" too. Loved mine. Eventually wore them out and replaced for lighter Specialized Fatboys.

I still have some Avocet shoes somewhere. I don't think Avocet are still going. Bizarrely, their website is but it looks like it's not been updated in 20 years. 

IIRC Jobst was involved in the design of some of Avocet's smooth tyres.

 

Avatar
reippuert [93 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
TypeVertigo wrote:

Interesting tread cap design. Probably the first tire I've seen with "inverse" tread.

The "JB" in the name, I hear, is a tribute to Jobst Brandt.

JB: it is, and with Tom Ritchey involved i would expect  sound durability combined  with high performance.