Schwalbe Racing Ralph Cyclocross Clincher Tire, v2. Photo: Cyclocross Magazine

Schwalbe's Racing Ralph Cyclocross Clincher Tire, v2. Photo: Cyclocross Magazine

With Michelin’s old green mud cyclocross tires commanding crazy prices on eBay, many have turned to Schwalbe’s Racing Ralph tire as a fine alternative (in addition to the Mud2)  for most ‘cross conditions with its similar tread.  However, for 2009, the German tire company has redesigned the Racing Ralph (we highlighted an early version at Interbike), and we’ve gotten our hands on a pair of the new tires.

The tread changes in two ways – the center tread switches from diagonal chevrons to smaller, square blocks, similar to the Kenda Small Block 8 tire. The side knobs are also different, featuring Schwalbe’s new “shark-tooth U-Blocks,” and are a bit narrower and a bit taller, with more of an edge to them. We measured the center knobs at 2 mm, and the side knobs at a tall 4 mm. As a comparison, a Dugast Rhino has a block height of 2-2.5 mm.

Like the old design, the tire offers a generous width at 700x35c (measuring 32c on our Mavic Open Pro rims), and low weight at 340 grams (ours weighed 332 grams).

Our initial early impressions are positive – the tire feels faster than the old tread on hard pack and grass, grips soft dirt well, and like the old design, has great cornering bite, especially helpful in off-camber sections. In slippery, wet conditions, the tire does quite well, and at lower pressures, the side knobs engage and provide great traction. The one downside to the tire is when conditions get sloppy and sticky, as the new tread does not seem to shed mud as well as its predecessor, since there are more tight spaces to hold mud and organic matter. But despite our initial reservations about the change, the new tread may suit most racers and race conditions well.

We predict the Racing Ralph will be a popular tire, especially for the early-season drier races found throughout most of the country, and will be a great year-round tire for areas like California and Colorado. But if you race a lot in muddy conditions? You may want to stock up on the older version as well, before you’re forced to bid crazy prices on a used pair.

As for the long-awaited tubular? Schwalbe says they hope to have it ready by next season. Stay tuned.

The original Racing Ralph, for comparison:

Schwalbe Racing Ralph Cyclocross Tire, Original

Schwalbe Racing Ralph Cyclocross Tire, Original

Schwalbe Racing Ralph Clincher (v2):
Width: 700×35 (measured 32 mm on a narrow Mavic Open Pro)
Weight: 340 grams listed, 332 grams measured
MSRP: $75.85 (often sold for less)
Knob height: 2 mm center, 4 mm side
For more info: Schwalbe website