Thunder Burt as a Front Tire

Greetings All,

So I was wondering how many of you XC racers out there have used a Schwalbe Thunder Burt as a front tire? I’ve used the Racing Ralph’s as my go to front tire in the past and they work well for just about everything.

My hesitation comes when looking at the side lugs which alternate between a lug which looks only slightly smaller than the side lugs on a Racing Ralph to one that looks like a center lug on the Thunder Burt.

I could easily run Maxxis Aspen front and rear to solve this problem, however the Thunder Burt rolls slightly faster.

Has anyone run across this dilemma, and has anyone tested the the Thunder Burt as a Front, Moreover, is anyone still alive to talk about it?

I used the Burt front and rear for Leadville. It was fine for that event but I wouldn’t run it on a traditional XC course. Not sure where you live. If you have tacky loam you ride on it would probably be great.

Anything else I just don’t see it being sticky enough up front to work at race speeds.


I used to wrench for XC teams. Some were sponsored by Schwalbe and used to Burts for very very dry non technical stuff only. Most of the time we only used it on the rear tire as the athletes found the couple of seconds the Burts would get you not worth the risk of washing out, maybe ending the season and the potential loss of sponsorship money and UCI points.

So my take would be: If you can keep it upright and a couple of seconds matter: Burt! If you have life obligations and need to show up to work the next day: other tire :-P.


I ride in Southern California, as you might expect, I mainly ride Hardpack and Loose over Hardpack.

What is this Loam you speak of XD.

Sounds like I’ll be going to a Maxxis Aspen as a front tire for my fast non-technical racing.

I appreciate the input!

I’ve re-read your post and I don’t quite understand what your problem with the Racing Ralph is. It is definitely a fast-rolling tire that nevertheless has much more grip than a Thunder Burt. Your tire choice is a very sensible default choice for faster courses. (Currently, I have the burlier mullet alternative with a Racing Ralph in the back and a Nobby Nic up front.)

By the way, Schwalbe made a front-specific companion to the Racing Ralph, the Racing Ray by the way, which “looks” quite fast.

PS I have tried a few Maxxis tires, and with the exception of the TreadLite (which I think has since been discontinued), I found their braking performance to be significantly worse than that of Schwalbe tires.

No, never, bad idea unless your XC race contains no turns whatsoever on any type of terrain. I used it as a rear tire at Leadville and had a sidewall cut coming back to Twin Lakes, couldn’t get it sealed completely, stopped to pump it up 5 or 6 times and finished in 9:12.

I hate that tire with all of my soul. :grin:

There’s are race series out by me which basically a dirt crit. Lots of long straightaways where you can drop the hammer and punish riders who haven’t selected the right equipment. Just thinking I would optimize for that, Shhht… Don’t tell them my strategy!

I’ve had experience with the Aspen as a rear, to which i find them very manageable with the side lugs offering good cornering. I don’t mind the slippy sliding feeling just as I’m already going in a straight line. XD

P.S. I’ve seen the Ray, they looks interesting but I’ve yet to see it at any of the shops or on other rider/racers bikes. I heard it was good for wet conditions.

Thanks for you input!

BRO! I’m sorry, were you running the snakeskin version?

Yes. And it would kind of seal up and hold air for a while (15-20 minutes) and then I’d hit something and it would unseal. Super frustrating!

Thought I was good to go and it seemed to seal fine when I stopped at Twin Lakes. If I had known better, I would’ve slapped in a tube. Lesson learned!

Did you end up putting bacon strips in it or what were you using to try to limp along?

The Racing Ralph and Racing Ray combo will arrive tomorrow. I dont race and my current tires are pretty shot. I just wanted a quick rolling set of tires with a decent level of protection and decided on that set up after a bit of reading. I hope it works out for me. I will find out soon enough.

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It was a super thin sidewall cut about an 1/2 inch long. I couldn’t even find it the first time I stopped and assumed the tire had just burped some air. Pumped it up and it seemed fine. About 10 minutes later I could feel it going soft again. It was my first experience with a tubeless setup (2014), so it was uncharted territory.

Pulled out the pump the second time it got low and then found the cut. Hindsight… should’ve put in a tube and boot right then, but it would seal nicely and seemed fine when I was sitting still and there was no pressure on the tire.

This was about 5 hours into the race and “race brain” was in control, there was no logical function going on upstairs.

BTW, I do think that a Racing Ralph (F) and Thunder Burt (Rear) with the snakeskin is a fine Leadville setup. Need a little tread/side knobs up front, especially for the Columbine decent switchbacks… I saw a few guys wash out coming down fast and then hitting the loose over hard turns.

For those that are curious actual weights on the Racing Ray Snakeskin 29X2.35 (front) is 700g and Racing Ralph Snakeskin 29X2.25 (rear) is 654g.

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The Racing Ralph is now a dedicated rear tire from my understanding and the Racing Ray is a dedicated front tire. Do you believe that running the Racing Ralph would be better up front than the Racing Ray? I am about to put the Ralph ® Ray ® combo on my MTB but also would consider Thunder Burt in rear in the future.

Ran this exact setup the last 2 years training and in 2019 Leadville 100, and it was great. I am considering dual ThunderBurts, but will ride it on my “Leadville equivalent” circuit near Boulder (Marshall Mesa) many times before trying in a race, if it happens this year. My thought has been to put a new one on the front to replace the aging Ralph, and cycle front to back as they wear.

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Hey Boss,

As I mentioned above I have no experience with the Ray. However, I’ve been riding the Ralph as a front for years and will attest it is a truly excellent tire for southern California dry hardpack and loose over hard conditions.

I’m speculating here because rolling resistance with MTB and uneven and mixed surfaces is still very difficult to measure, but it looks like the Ray would be faster rolling than the Ralph based upon the amount and orientation of the center section lugs. I would further speculate that the Ralph would have superior braking performance to the Ray.

I’m going to recant what i said about the Ray earlier, i was mistaken for a different tire

Maybe ill end up with this setup for my “Dirt Crit” series… Should it happen.

Thanks for the input and photos!

I used 2.1 Racing Ray F and 2.1 TB rear. No problem for Leadville. But…the tread pattern for the 2.1 Ray is asymmetric in that the knobs were closer to each other on one side than the other. Almost imperceptible but if you look for it, you’ll see it. My 2.1 Ray was probably one of the first production batches of the 2.1 version that I ordered from Germany.

But here is a pic I just got of the 2.25 version from one large US online retailer, with the thin blue lines I added:

On the right, the base of the crown knobs practically line up with the base of the first set of staggered transition knobs. But on the left, the base of these knobs do not line up.

Blue lines on different landmarks showing almost 0.1 inch difference in gap:

Probably won’t make much of a difference at LV or with my skill set!

Looks like this conversation is pretty far along, but I will chime in with my $0.02. I switched to a Burt as a rear tire a few years ago when I lived in Michigan. I was previously running Specialized Renegade in the rear. I’ve also has some (more limited) experience with some of the other semi-file tires, that are presumably meant for rear tire application. I can say that, of all those tires, the Burt’s lateral grip is great. Now that I live in southern(ish) California, and ride lots of the dry/dusty stuff, it’s a little more unstable, but still totally fine as a rear tire. As a front, though, it wouldn’t take much to overwhelm it. In my mind, the watt savings (like 2-3 watts over a Ray or Ralph? correct me if I’m wrong there) is not nearly worth the fractional gain you’d make in the multitude of cornering situations where you approach the traction limit of the tire during a race. It’s certainly not impossible, and if you wanted to pick one of the fast rolling treads as a front, Burt would be the best choice, but I just don’t think it’s worth it.


Sorry, I can’t see that in your bottom pic. If you look at the knob in the top left corner, the blue line runs along the base. The next knob down, it runs along the top at the edge. On the right side, the blue line also runs along the base of the knob, and on the next one down, across the top. Seems the same to me?

I’d also think you need to be careful doing this on pictures, because they might have been taken at a slight angle.

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I have run the conti race king pros at Leadville front and rear. They are somewhat similar to the thunderburts - designed mainly as a rear tire. I can see the thunderburts working as a front tire for something like Leadville, but I wouldn’t use them as a front tire in a regular XC race that actually requires turning.

FWIW, according to the website below, there are better options than the Aspen if you want a front tire that rolls fast and has grip - including schwalbe Ray and Ralph. Were you unhappy with the Ralphs?

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