What’s evidence of a good design? An ability to stand the test of time.
Ritchey’s Speedmax cyclocross tread is one of the oldest production cyclocross clinchers that’s still around. In the 90s, it was one of the more popular tires, especially as a rear tire. Because it came in four widths, it met the needs of cyclocrossers with different levels of tire clearance and helped convert road bikes, touring bikes and hybrids into serviceable cyclocross bikes
Tom Ritchey’s company now has breathed new air into the classic tread, specifically high-volume, sealant-laced air. The company has a new WCS version of its 40mm Speedmax tire, and it inherits a tubeless casing and bead from its cyclocross siblings (the newer 35mm Shield and the relaunched Mount Cross, now named the 38mm Megabite).
The Speedmax tread is a burly version of a semi-slick or file tread, making it a better choice for hardpack, dirt and gravel roads over mud or sloppy conditions. Compared to a file tread like the popular Kenda Happy Medium, based on our past experience with other Speedmax versions, the knobs should last a bit longer on rocky gravel rides.
The $59.95 Speedmax WCS 40mm tire features tall, well-supported side knobs for confidence-inspiring cornering, but it’s worth noting that on tight clearance bikes, the tall shoulder knobs could be problematic.
The tubeless 40mm edition of the Speedmax is likely a smart move by Ritchey, as the tire was already a great tread and volume for the growing segment of gravel and adventure bikes, but the non-tubeless casing and bead kept it off many riders’ radar.
While the 40mm WCS tubeless version is new, the 30mm Speedmax version (historically a great choice for racing cyclocross on road bikes) is long gone. Also now discontinued are non-tubeless folding versions of the 32, 35 and 40mm Speedmax. Wire bead versions in those three widths remain, and retail for just $19.95.
It’s also worth pointing out that Ritchey, with the release of its last three cyclocross tires (the 35mm Shield, 38mm Megabite and 40mm Speedmax) has basically thumbed the eye of the UCI. Although these tires will fail UCI tire width maximums on even the narrowest rims, Ritchey has made the smart bet that retail-paying consumers are not lining up to compete for UCI points, and at least in the U.S., don’t care about such restrictions and prefer going faster with less flats. Higher volume tires allow tubeless and inner tube racers ride lower pressure and have a more supple ride—helpful for racers who don’t want to turn to glue or race wheels.
Specs and First Impressions:
While the tires are so new that Ritchey doesn’t even list a weight, our test samples are within six grams of each other, averaging 531 grams.
Tire widths often vary between manufacturers, and 40mm tires can vary widely in actual width. Rim width and air presure play a big role as well.
At 25 psi on the 17.5mm internal width rim, the Ritchey WCS Speedmax measured true to width:
Want a measurement of true width? The Ritchey WCS Speedmax measure 107mm bead-to-bead (why we’re now measuring B2B), just 15mm short of the recently-reviewed 50mm Soma Cazadero (an estimated 6mm narrower if mounted on the same rim, despite the 10mm difference in list width).
Installation was simple on an Atomik 38 carbon rim (17.5mm internal). No tire levers were needed, and a tubeless compressor pump inflated it up on first try.
Initial rides on the tubeless version of this familiar tread have revealed no surprises. It still remains an excellent hard pack tire, especially as a rear tire. It offers more bite than your standard file tread, with excellent cornering traction. It’s less of a do-it-all tread than the Cazadero we’ve also been recently testing, but it’s better at doing one thing well, and that’s offer both grip and speed on hardpack and gravel surfaces.
Stay tuned as we put more miles on the new 40mm Ritchey WCS Speedmax.
Ritchey WCS Speedmax 700c x 40 Tubeless Gravel Tire Specs:
MSRP: $59.95 each
Width: List: 40mm; Actual: 40.23 mm on 17.5mm internal width rim
Bead to Bead Width: 107mm (why B2B?)
Weight: 531 grams (actual, average)
Casing tpi: 120 tpi
Side Wall: Black wall
Other options: Wire bead, non tubeless in 32, 35 and 40mm
More Info: ritcheylogic.com