I was mounting one of my favorite tires, the Racing Ralph, when a question popped into my head. I wonder who Ralph is? So I caught up with the North American reps from Schwalbe to get the skinny on the tires and what's in store for 2011.
You have some interesting tire names-Racing Ralph, Nobby Nic and Furious Fred. How did the naming concept of the tires come about?
The naming concept originated about ten years ago while brainstorming over a few beers. The initial tires were the Fat Albert and the Jimmy Gang (Skinny Jimmy, Jimmy and King Jim). Since the inception many of the names are direct reflections of Schwalbe staff from our German offices ie: Fat Frank for Frank Bohle (President), Wicked Will for Willy Olfert (Sales). Of course the name does not necessarily explain their body shape or personality.
The Racing Ralph is my favorite. Where did that name come from?
The Racing Ralph is named after the company founder and visionary Ralf Bohle.
There seems to be a shortage of "female tires?" Why is that?
There’s no particular reason for the shortage of female names, we do have a few tires named after females in the Muddy Mary and Big Betty. We’re always looking for suggestions as many times it takes months to nail down the name of a new tire.
Back to the Racing Ralph. It's light, fast rolling, great side knobs for traction and a great range for size—especially in the 29. Do you have anything on tap for 2011 that could out perform the Racing Ralph?
For 2011 our MTB tire line up is remaining mostly the same as far as tread pattern, but we’ve taken our Triple Compound concept to the next level introducing the TripleStar series. The TripleStar series consists of three specific Triple Compound mixtures specific to each disciple of mountain biking. As an example we now offer the PaceStar compound on our XC tires, like the Racing Ralph, which makes the tire faster rolling, but more grippy in the corners compared to previous versions. We also offer a compound mixture for the longer travel, Enduro/Trail bikes (TrailStar) and Downhill (VertStar).
It’s also becoming more and more popular to convert a normal MTB tire into a tubeless tire by adding sealant, simply because the “homemade” tubeless system brings with it advantages in weight, puncture protection, and rolling resistance. Recognizing this, we’ve specifically shaped and coated the tire bead to allow for quick and safe seating during these conversions. Our Tubeless Ready (TL-Ready) system now comes standard on all 2011 MTB tires making it a more versatile tire for the consumer.
There seemed to be a 29er shortage last August. What happened?
At the end of last summer Schwalbe was transitioning to the new and improved TL-Ready, advanced rubber compound 29er line, keeping us at the forefront of the 29er market. Your local shop should now have these in-stock as the first round of 2011 tires just shipped.
I raced the 29 TL Nobby Nic in Moab, it performed very well. It just cruised through the sand. Do you plan on making a lighter version of that tire?
At the moment we’re only offering 29er version with the SnakeSkin sidewall, but it comes with the new PaceStar compound which will make it significantly faster rolling. We have a few items in the works for 2012, so stay tuned.
This year we’re focused on introducing our new compounds and TL-ready system to the consumer and at 545g for the 26 x 2.25 TL-ready version it’s considerably lighter than the comparable competition.