Let's face it, you never know when you are going to need new tires. A nasty thorn, a sharp nail or in my case a construction staple can find its way through your old skins. It is inevitable that you'll need to change up. I had been rolling on my Schwalbe Rapid Robs for a good year. I was very happy with their performance especially considering the price. My Rapid Rob review has become the number one most read story on my blog. So, I decided to record the adventures of my new rear replacement tire.
My local shop Real Bikes Englewood sold me a WTB Velociraptor 2.1. With front and rear specific treads the Velociraptors are a gnarly trail lovers dream pair. They first came out in 1994 and have been tearing up the muck ever since. Granted, jumping from the small, fast rolling knobs of the Rapid Rob to the huge paddles of the Velociraptor is a big leap but I assure you it was a necessary change.
Once again I know what you're thinking. You're thinking; Alex, you live in Florida. It's not exactly the land of technical riding. It's more like a giant sand bar sitting on a reef of limestone and phosphorous. True again but what better way to push through the beach than to have a rear tire designed for unconstrained obstacles. The Velociraptor can handle rocks and roots but it is also built to power through loose gravel and sand.
The durable DNA rubber was a little heavier than the Robs. In fact the tire could almost stand up on its own. The thickness of the huge knobs and concave paddles inspired confidence in the tire's ability to handle the toughest conditions. The latest version has 27 tpi and is advertised as "Impervious" so it would take a lot more than a staple to flatten this bad boy.
As for making a change, the tire fit with ease. The Velociraptor slid on the rim and it took a minimum of air to fill it. I immediately decided to address my only real worry - rolling resistance. Being that I was in the final week of training for a big race, I decided to take the tire out for a long mixed terrain ride. What followed was 32 miles of mostly road but also dirt, sand and gravel. On the pavement I could hear a medium hum from the rear. I did feel a little drag, a little extra weight but in all, it didn't slow me down. Off road it was a beast. The side knobs made tight turns a breeze and the paddles propelled me through low sand with no hesitation or slippage.
The second test was a nighttime group ride on bumpy singletrack. Here the rear tire gripped like velcro. I tore through that 6 mile stretch in my fastest time. I never had to worry about washing out or sliding around a corner. The Velociraptor planted itself in the dirt, sand or grass and boosted me forward. The large knobs provided a little more padding when I bumped over roots and logs making for a slightly less bouncy ride.
The final test was the 50 mile race I had been training for. You can read the full Tour de Picayune report here but specifically, that brutish rear tire was a mixed blessing. On the plus side it allowed me to carve the grass singletrack, bounce easily through rocky sections and thump over obstacles. It looked like I was going to have a good race except for one area - the deep sand.
The narrow 2.1 tire literally dug a hole in the sand traps bringing me to a complete stop. Had this happened only once or twice I could blame the sugar sand but no, it happened about fifty times. This was the wrong tire for such a demanding course and I paid for it as the energy was sapped from my legs.
Since it is rare for me to face this kind of deep sand I will continue to ride the WTB Velociraptor tire in the coming months and I'll update this review as conditions change. In the meantime you can read more about it at the website below.