2021 XC Race Tire Thread

I’ve had good luck so far with the SuperGround casing. My regular benchmark climb is very rocky. Only tire I’ve had issues with punctures has been the Aspen, but in general I don’t get my punctures. I also usually run race sealant all the time because I hate punctures.

Not sure if its my weight, riding style or something else but I’ve been lucky. Of course now I’m surely screwing myself by saying it.

The old Schwalbe casings before the SuperGround/Race were absolute garbage and I punctures those constantly and swore off Schwalbe for many years.

These new ones are also wearing much slower than previous tries.


So this last race didn’t go to plan. But I will say that I think I like the new RaRa combo. I had a leak in the rear valve stem and went near flat on my first lap and had to grab a pump to refill, but that wasn’t the tires fault. Handling is predictable. Climbing is great, especially compared to the Aspen (should be obvious). Cornering grip is there, for an XC tire. And seems to roll faster if you look at the data between the first and second race (power numbers were close, but my race time was far better than my “rivals” in the second race).

I run a 2.5 Assegai EXO+ on my Ripmo af as my trail bike. First off, the tractions is amazing! I don’t see myself ever running anything else on my big bike because it saves my ass so much.

My Ripmo came with Assegais front and rear and while they have amazing traction, they definitely make up for it with slow rolling. I took the rear off after a couple hundred miles because it just felt like riding in sand all the time.

My standard combo is the Assegai front and Aggressor rear, both 2.5. All the traction you could ever need in the front and pretty quick rolling in the rear.

I have heard great things about the dissector in the rear but they are nearly impossible to get ahold of here. I have looked at the Rekon 2.4 as an even faster rolling rear.

Thought I would drop a first ride impression for the Conti Race King Protection 2.2.

I have a series of rides on gravel planned as I prep for Wilmington Whiteface and later Leadville. I had been planning to run the Thunder Burt 2.25 on the rear but figured since I had the time I would give the Conti a go since I was able to pick one up at a decent price on sale. I’ve been intrigued by the tire in part by the results for it posted on Bicyclerollingresistance.com

The tire weighed in 578gm and mounted sure easily onto my Enve M525 wheel. I planned to use it on the rear and keep by regular Racing Ray 2.25 front tire. I put in two ounces of Stan’s sealant.

The ride I planned was a 61 mile loop with roughly 5350ft of climbing. Some of these roads are part of the Mohican 100. The majority of the gravel ranging from pea size and choppy to fairly smooth. Some paved sections connected some of the gravel sections including a fast rolling section near the end.

I normally ride the loop on a Trek Checkpoint that has 38 Gravel King SK’s mounted on Enve G23s. I have 4 exact matched rides on the Checkpoint plus numerous other rides when the 61 mile loop was part of a longer ride. I had never ridden this loop on an XC bike.

My bike is a Trek Supercaliber with Enve M525, an Enve cockpit, and carbon Innerbarends (same ones Keegan used on FKT on White Rim). I rode it fully locked out on the climbs and most of the flats, but opened it up on all the descents and where it gets rough. It has a dropper, so I did use it on the descent to get lower and more aero. I’m about 157 lbs at the moment and had a USWE with a 2 liter bladder filled, as well as regular CO2, mini pump, plugs, and some gels/chews/bars along. I ran the front tire at 20 psi and rear at 21 psi, about 2 psi higher than what I would run on single track.

Initially impression as I rode on asphalt to the first gravel section was that the Race King was quiet with minimal buzz or humm. I had taken a set of Nobby Nic’s off the bike a week earlier and the difference was night and day. As I hit the first big climb of the day it hooked up well and I had no slippage all day long except for one very brief super steep section where I stood up and had the smallest slip as I power up the incline. Throughout the ride the tire combination felt fast and never draggy. I had several long stretches where I was using the aero Innerbarends and holding 21 - 23 mph comfortably (slight tailwind).

Descending was fantastic and where I noticed the biggest difference compared to the Checkpoint. With the Supercaliber I was able to bomb every descent, not worry about any potholes, and then brake late as I came up to intersections. There are a few fast sweeping corners and I had no issues, but I’m certain than superior bike handlers could push the tires further. For me they were not a limiter.

The biggest surprise came at the end of the ride once I looked at matched rides in Strava. I had beaten my fastest time on the Checkpoint by about 2 min’s, with the total ride time being 4 hours and 8 mins vs my best on the Checkpoint at 4 hours and 10 mins, very close but still faster. I was expecting to have been significantly slower given heavier bike by about 4lb. I did have slightly higher NP of 217 vs 211 for the ride, so that was a factor. Average speed was 14.6mph on the SC and 14.5mph on the Checkpoint. Someone smarter than me can probably calculate out the 4lb bike weight difference and how much that impacted NP, but regardless I find the result impressive. The other rides I did on that loop on the Checkpoint were all slower in the 4:15 - 4:17 range.

I think I’ve found a new favorite rear tire for this type of terrain. I will try the Race King on some single track in the next while as well just to see how it hooks up there. I might also try riding the loop with the Thunder Burt on the rear. Given the length of the loop it would be interesting to see if I see any differences on it. It also raises the question of whether I should try the loop on my Air 9 RDO HT with the same tire combo. That bike is within about 0.5 lbs of the Checkpoint.

Bottomline, the Conti Race King Protection 2.2 is fast.

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Nice review. It’s not too surprising that a MTB with 2.2” tires can be faster on a rough gravel route - especially a bike like the super caliber, and a fast tire like the race kings.

On the Race Kings, I’ve ridden them twice for Leadville, White Rim, and a few other gravel rides where I’ve used my MTB. They are great for non-technical rough trail and gravel, and marathon events where you’re looking to keep consistent pace/power, and are prioritizing efficiency over grip.

Where they fall short is braking and turning on looser/softer track, with tight turns and need for strong braking. I’ve ridden them on single track in the 1-2 weeks before Leadville as I was testing them out and making sure they were seated and holding air. It’s a sketchy experience compared to my normal trail tires (XR4, XR3, Cross Kings).

In Leadville, the two sections that felt sketchy with the race kings where the lower section of power line descent, and the Columbine switch back descent. These are gravel/loose over hard, so not the easiest of conditions for any tire, but I needed to be very careful when I had to brake + turn with the race kings. All in, a great tire for Leadville though.

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I just finished a 3 day stage race in the dry and rocky terrain and had the superground casing with no problems. I did have the extra protection of tubolight inserts.


Have you had a chance to ride the Race King back to back with the Thunder Burt? I’d be curious your thoughts on this.

I haven’t. The Race Kings have worked well for me, so I haven’t yet needed to further experiment.

Whatever tire you pick, ride it on rough rocky trails to test puncture resistance. There are sections in Leadville where pinch flats are a real risk - mainly the descents on both sides of power line. Maybe upper Columbine if you can actually ride fast enough with the crowds. Test ride your tire beforehand on fast rocky descents.

How do the Schwalbe tires (or really any other brand) compare on puncture/slash resistance to Maxxis Exo?

I’m riding very technical and rocky trails on my regular rides for training and for the few races I plan on doing this year. Typically I’m the fastest guy out on these sections and believing in the tire making it out in 1 piece is worth whatever weight penalty versus a light casing.

Ran Aspen 2.25 Exo with no issues until the end of tread life, and want to repeat that. Kenda Boosters with the SCT were alright but didn’t love them in other areas. If there was a stronger option out there honestly I’d take it, have already added a rear insert with the Exo tires. The tread pattern of the Racing Ray/Ralph look really good to me, but worried about sidewalls and punctures.

I’ve run a lot of Schwalbe’s that past couple of seasons, but almost always with Snakeskin. No punctures or slashes to speak of.

I did get a puncture on a Nobby Nic 3 or 4 years ago on a really rocky fast descent into Minturn, Colorado when I was riding around Vail. It sealed before I hit the bottom of the trail but lost about 6 - 7 psi in the process.

When I ran Maxxis tires previously (main Ikon and Recon Race) I also had good success, so personally would be comfortable with both.

Recently added the Race King Protection to my tire options (see review above). Will see how it holds up relative to the other tires I’ve tried in the past.

I have been using the Tubolight inserts with my Schwalbe RR and RR with no problems.

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