WTB Riddler TCS 45c Tire: At The Finish- by MG
At TransIowa v.12 this past April, I was stoked to get a chance to see WTB’s new (at the time) 37c Riddler tires. As Guitar Ted’s wing man/driver/comic relief for the event, I didn’t get a set of the tires each finisher received, but truth be told, I wasn’t too broken up about it. I’ve pretty much been on a strict diet of 40c + tires as of late, so it’s a bit hard for me to get too excited about a tire that only measures 37c.
That said, what interested me more was Guitar Ted’s inside scoop that a larger version of the gravel-oriented Riddler may be coming soon. I’ve found that for the gravel we have in and around my Lincoln, Nebraska home base, a 43-45c tire is the sweet spot of speed, control and ride quality. So when a shiny new set of 45c Riddlers arrived on my doorstep for testing about a month ago, I was stoked.
From a technical perspective, the tire shape and tread of the 45c Riddler are a slightly up-sized version of the one found on the 37c model, and WTB also makes 27.5×2.4″ and 29×2.25″ versions as well, so there’s a model to fit whatever bike or gravel conditions you ride. Guitar Ted covered the Riddler casing and tread design pretty comprehensively in his Checkpoint post on the 37c tire, so I won’t waste your time with a comprehensive rehash of that.
In short however, the low-knob center, raised cornering knobs and casing shape contribute to a tire that, in a 45c size, should offer a modicum of float in the dry, sandy gravel conditions we see frequently around here this time of year. And based on the standard set by the other WTB tires I’ve ridden, coming into the test, I expected the company’s TCS Light tubeless-ready casings to give me easy, reliable tubeless performance.
In my haste to get the 45c Riddlers mounted, I completely forgot to put them onto the scale. That said, Guitar Ted’s set came in at 530 and 540 grams. If you’re keeping track, that’s 20-30 grams below WTB’s claimed 560 gram weight for the tires. That’s impressive for a tubeless-ready tire of this size.
Installation and Tubeless Performance
Speaking of size, there aren’t a ton of current gravel bikes designed to fit a tire with the 45c Riddler’s width and volume. For those on the borderline, they’re definitely a “try before you buy” situation. Guitar Ted mounted his set on the WTB KOM i25 wheels on his Raleigh Tamland, and the fit was tight (but rideable) in both the seat and chain stays.
“I thought the Panaracer Gravel King SK 40s were big, but the 45c Riddler is positively huge for a ‘gravel road’ tire. But despite its size, it rides fast and spins up pretty easily, actually.”
Mounted on a set of American Classic Hurricane Road wheels, the 45c Riddler fits easily into the fork and stays of my Singular Gryphon, a drop-bar mountain bike. Initial installation of the tires on the rims was a bit more challenging than I’ve come to expect from WTB’s TCS tires. This required a tire lever to get the last portion of bead over the rim, but after installing sealant, I was able to easily seat the tires with my Silca Super Pista floor pump.
Tubeless performance on the road has been faultless, consistent with other WTB TCS tires we’ve tested in the past. Thanks to recent rains, we’ve had a fair amount of fresh gravel laid on our rural roads, so there have been plenty of opportunities to “grip ‘n rip” down the chunkiest gravel lines I could find. And the results have been impressive: no flats, burps or tubeless-related performance hiccups of any sort, even at pressures as low as 20psi.
Riding the 45c Riddler
Overall, the 45c Riddler is delivering on WTB’s claims of fast rolling, stable handling and confident cornering. And while the ride quality isn’t the absolute best we’ve ridden, we have no fears of the tires’ fragility, even in fresh, ultra-chunky gravel. Tread durability has been excellent to-date as well.
That said, the 45c Riddler wouldn’t be my first choice for extended pavement pounding. It’s clearly designed to excel on dirt and gravel, and this makes the cornering feel a bit more vague due to the increased side knob height. It’s more akin to a mountain bike tire than a road tire in this respect. But lay it into a loose gravel corner, and the 45c Riddler locks in on the line you choose with a level of confidence and precision you don’t typically find on a tire that rolls as fast as this one does.
Guitar Ted said there’s no denying the 45c Riddler’s volume allows lower tire pressures to be run. In fact, he quickly found that the tires rode too stiffly at the typical gravel pressures he runs.
“The increased volume allows me to run much lower air pressures than I usually run,” he explained.
His experience is consistent with my own. I started with 30psi front and rear (for my 165 pound riding weight), but quickly realized going a bit lower (23-26psi) improved handling and ride quality considerably with no noticeable sacrifice to rolling performance. The low pressures you can run works with the shape of the casing to deliver an impressive combination of stability and speed.
Guitar Ted also noted the propensity of the 45c Riddler to grab rocks and spit them back at the frame on his initial rides. This wasn’t an issue as much for me, leading me to suspect his experience may be related to the different consistency of the gravel in our respective areas.
As expected, the 45c Riddler wasn’t at its best in muddy conditions, but it wasn’t terrible either. Twice I ventured onto muddy B-roads on my 45c Riddler-equipped Singular, and while mud initially collected across the tread crown, on both occasions it quickly cleared once I was back on dry roads. It’s an overall improvement in mud and soft conditions compared to WTB’s stalwart 40c Nano, especially if your bike has plenty of clearance for mud to pass.
Overall, the performance of the 45c Riddler is similar to the 37c version, but with the added ride quality and traction benefits of a larger, more voluminous casing.
“Of course, that also means a heavier tire,” Guitar Ted noted. “But with the increase in stability, comfort, traction in corners and overall speed, the Riddler 45c makes up for the increased weight compared to the 37c version.”
While the 45c Riddler may not fit every gravel bike on the market today, we suspect that’s going to change in the future. And with the performance the tire delivers on the (gravel) road, we suspect it’s going to end up being a very popular model for WTB. It’s the first tire in thee years to unseat the 43c Bruce Gordon Rock ‘n Road tires from the rims of my Gryphon. Given my long-held affinity for the RnR, that’s saying a lot.
Learn more about the 45c Riddler at WTB.com.
NOTE: WTB sent over the Riddler 37mm tires at no charge to RidingGravel.com for test and review. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.
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