I was excited to hear that we would get the chance to give the new 29+ WTB Ranger tire a whirl on the Stache 9. The 29+ edition currently comes in one width (3.0”), and only one flavor, that being the ‘fast rolling’ and ‘light’ version. The samples we received both weighed 895g, which may be slightly heavier than the Bontrager Chupacabras they would be replacing, but still on the svelte side for a 29” x 3.0” tire. The knobs themselves are not as big as you usually find on a lot of tires, but with such a large footprint, I don’t find that they need to be. I have also found that I usually prefer tires that don’t have tall, soft side knobs that are more prodigious than the center knobs. At my size, with them usually being softer than the center knobs, they generally tend to squirm on our ever-prevalent loose over hard packed trails when I put the wood to them.
Once mounted on the Sun Mulefüt 50SL rims, the WTB Ranger presented a similarly round-ish profile, and are pretty much the same width (maybe a tick smaller, but not much to quibble about). After riding them for a month, I have measured the casing at 2.915”, so very close to the advertised 3.0” width. On a narrower rim, they would likely lose a little volume. As for the mounting process, they were not terribly hard to get seated with an air compressor. They do run TIGHT on the bead shelf, as do the Chupacabras.
The Chupas were a bit of a pain in the posterior to break the bead on the Mulefüt rims. It took about all of the strength I have in the meathooks I call hands, and as I found out a couple weeks after I mounted the Rangers (when I had to rebuild a rear wheel due to several spokes heading for early retirement), they are not easily unseated either. I will be packing some sort of extra help in my Camelbak when I head out into the backcountry, should I have the need to insert a tube. On the other hand, I have complete faith that these will have ANY burping issues should the pressure get a little bit low.
Not that I was unhappy with the stock Bontrager Chupacabras. On the contrary, I think very highly of them. They have reliably furnished excellent, consistent traction in a wide variety of conditions, and I felt they rolled quite well, although I hadn’t been able to compare them to anything else on the same bike.
I initially set them both at 18psi, as that had been where I ended up with the Chupacabras after much experimentation. On the very first ride on trails I have ridden hundreds of times to say the least, I felt the WTB Ranger rolled along on the fire road climbs quite well. For being the large sub-species humanoid that I am, ‘quite well’ is just dandy for my purposes, and the traction is always there as you would expect it to be for such a ‘plus’ sized tire.
After I reached to top of the climb on the maiden voyage of the Rangers, I was about to find out that ‘fast rolling’ didn’t just apply to the ride along the canyon floor and climbing up the fire road. This first part of this particular descent is fast and flowy, and tilted down just enough to keep you sailing along, only needing an occasional feathering of the brakes here and there.
The first thing I noticed was that I was ‘feathering’ the brakes a little more than usual, and I wondered for a moment if the traction wasn’t quite up to snuff. But, since I have ridden these trails enough times to know many of the rocks, pebbles, and bushes on a first name basis, I quickly realized I was carrying noticeably more speed into the corners and that was why I needed to breathe a little heavier on the binders.
The next part of this trail is a bit more twisty and swoopy (and super fun), and requires a bit more braking before hitting several of the corners. That extra speed had me skittering over the top of the loose over hardpack trying to get my speed down before committing to the corners. I was actually having to adjust my style a bit to deal with it, but overall really enjoyed the ‘fast rolling’ part of this equation.
All in all, it was an encouraging first outing on the fresh skins, but the skittering while braking on entry to the corners had me thinking that if there was something that could be better, this was it. I decided that I would lower the air pressure by 2psi on each tire (to 16psi). When I ran 16psi on the Chupacabras, they would protest audibly, especially in ‘g-out corners’. One such spot in particular has a lip that gives you an extra boost and touches down at the bottom where it veers to the left. Since I hadn’t heard so much as a peep out of the WTB Ranger, I figured the lower pressure might give me more braking bite.
The next outing was on a trail that grannygear and I had ridden four of the previous five Tuesday evenings. The payoff was a nearly 6 mile descent that had been smoking the 180mm rear rotor on the Stache 9, so I also had a new 203mm rotor to go along with the new tires. I don’t know if it was the additional weekly high altitude efforts or the new tires (maybe a bit of both), but I knocked close to 10 minutes out of my climbing time which had me stoked as we prepared to head downward.
“I don’t ever recall such a noticeable decrease in rolling resistance between one set of tires and another…” JeffJ
The first section is what is known as the ‘jump trail’ as it features several opportunities to separate your tires from the trail, and tends to plaster a ‘perma-grin’ on one’s face in the process. At 16psi, the increased speed was still there as I was sailing further and higher than normal, but the braking was seriously improved. I don’t ever recall such a noticeable decrease in rolling resistance between one set of tires and another, and I didn’t feel that the Chupas were particularly slow rolling to begin with. The 29+ platform is faster for me than anything I have ridden previously, so getting even more speed with this tire change has been impressive.
Grannygear was on his newest steed (the Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie), and was also finding it very much to his liking. We stopped about a half a dozen or so times to wait for another rider that was with us. In our previous four rides on this trail, GG would usually be putting a little bit of a gap between us between stops. This time, even though he would tell you that he was really hauling the mail (well, as much as us semi-gentlemanly, not-quite-as-young-as-we-used-to-be types do these days), I was consistently not far off of his six. Each time we stopped, we just looked at each other and started to laugh, fist bumping and such, because sometimes a ride is just that much better than the other awesome rides we get to go on. This was turning out to be one of those rides.
So far, I have been on the Rangers for around a month, and really enjoying them. I did have to remove the rear tire to replace the straight 15g spokes on the Stache wheel with some sturdier butted spokes, and getting the Ranger off of the Mulefüt was no picnic. As mentioned earlier, I do have some concern that it could pose a problem should I need to put a tube in out on the trail. We are headed off to Big Bear this weekend for a ride that will be a good test for the durability of this tire. If the Ranger proves to be as tough as it is fast, I would have to say that the Ranger is in it to win it. We shall see. Stay tuned. . . .
Aaaaaand then, we killed one. On the Big Bear Backcountry Expedition ride that JeffJ led us on, there were lots and lots and lots…and lots…of rocks. And they were all over the trail, some imbedded, most not. Sharp, broken rock. Not like home where we have mostly rounded streambed rocks. JeffJ cut one rear tire enough to where the flexing of the sidewall prevented the tire to seal. We nursed it back to the truck. It points to the fact that for our home trails use, the TCS Light is likely good enough to survive. WTB just released the TCS Tough versions of the Ranger in the 27.5+ sizes. But there is no option for TCS Tough in the 29+ Ranger. There should be, as that tougher casing would be the choice for expedition bikepacking, etc. That bulging sidewall, especially with those wide Mulefüt rims, just begs for rock kisses.
Of course, the penalty for a rowdy-tough tire is weight. Right now, at least, we cannot have it all…Light and Tough.
Note: The products shown here were provided at no cost to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.