Trying to decide on an XC tire?
Reviewed in the United States on 17 June 2017
This review is for the EVO TR SNAKESKIN with Pacestar compound 29x2.3. This is a sober review based on my experience with this tire. Note, this is an XC discipline tire, thus being designed to be light weight, fast rolling, and moderate to good traction. I you are looking for a tire for any other discipline, this may not be the tire for you.
Other tires I have run:
Specialized Ground Control S-Works
Specialized Fast Track GRID
Maxxis Ardent Race EXO
Maxxis IKON EXO
Maxxis CrossMark EXO
Each of these tires varies in the Weight/Traction/Durability ratio. For instance, the Ardent Race and Ground Control, both have excellent traction, but the GC is faster and over 100g lighter, but at the expense of a lighter duty carcass that doesn't hold up to punctures and cuts as well as the Ardent. IKON, CrossMark, and Fast-Track are lighter and faster rolling, but sacrifice some traction. I've run the GC and Ardent on front and rear, wile the IKON, CrossMark, and Fast-Track only on the rear.
My latest config has been the GC up front and the Fast Track in the rear or a GC rear if the trail has more challenging surfaces. After puncturing the sidewall on my GC, I decided to try and find a tire that would give me the fast rolling, cornering grip, and weight that I was used to, but a little more durability. Originally I was considering another Fast-Track GRID for the front, as I have been fairly impressed with it's predictable cornering drift and the GRID protection has done well against sidewall damage. However, being in Florida where we have a wide variety of terrain, finding something with more cornering control like the GC, a fast roller and light with a little more durability was what I decided to look for.
After much research, I decided on the Ralph in the specified config as the data lead me to believe this tire would give me similar cornering traction, better strength, and close to the same weight.
Although called 'Tubeless Easy' I wouldn't say it was a whole lot easier than any of the other tires, but soapy water on the beads and a small compressor will easily get the beads seated as it does with most tubeless ready tires. Then just pull the stem, inject your sealant, and inflate... Simple.
Riding in the real world:
After logging 150+ miles on blacktop, sand, clay, sand over clay, lose rock, soft soil dirt, pine straw over dirt, lose deep sand, wet packed sand, crushed shells with gravel, and packed sand with 2 - 5 inches of standing water, I have found that in the traction department, this tire actually out performs the Ground Control. As a 160lb rider, 24-25lbs pressure works well for smoother and packed surfaces, while 20-21 works better for lose or rougher surfaces where the tire can conform better to the trail. As of right now, there are no visible scars on the sidewalls, so I can't speak and opinion on the SNAKESKIN feature, but already the traction improvement is worth the extra 41g (The GC S-Works weighs 638g and the Ralph weighs 679g). I actually found myself able to control slides and drifts better. On 3 occasions where I unclipped a foot to catch myself from dropping the bike, the front tire hooked up and I found myself with my leg in the air and a grin on my face thinking "I didn't have to touch down" and quickly back on the pedals putting power to the ground.
I would recommend this tire to anyone who is looking for more of a 'trail' style traction combined with a fast rolling and reasonably light tire. Also, I will likely purchase one of these for my rear once season starts up in the fall.
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