Review: WTB Riddler 45c, TCS Light Tyres
- Product: WTB Riddler 45c, TCS Light Tyres
- Price: £34.99
- From: Hotlines
- Weight: 560g
This high volume version of WTB’s Riddler gravel tyre (it’s also available in 37c) is typical of the world of post-genre bikes that we live in, where what used to be clear-cut divisions between disciplines and product categories have all but disappeared. Every now and then a niche hooks up with a sub-niche and yet another weird love child is born. Is this a massive road tyre? A skinny mountain bike tyre? Will it burst into flames if I take it near singletrack? The answer to all of the above is…possibly.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that gravel bikes have been the next big thing for some time now, and downsized mountain bike tread patterns like this are proving popular when travelling on rougher tracks (or British B roads). As soon as a new category is created, designers and riders will begin to push the envelope and see just how far they can go with this new thing – enter the Riddler 45.
This version isn’t just a little bigger than it’s more ‘normal’ 37c little brother; it’s a LOT bigger. So big in fact, that there aren’t actually that many frames designed around 68mm bottom brackets and road drivetrains that will take rubber of this size, so check before buying. Even the Salsa Warbird on which these were tested is only rated to clear 44mm tyres; luckily these tyres did fit, albeit only just.
So, down to the nitty gritty. As with any modern tyre of decent quality, the Riddlers feature a tubeless ready casing, and WTB’s TCS system has gained a reputation for being relatively trouble-free to set up in most situations. These tyres feature the ‘Light’ version of that casing and were no exception. They aired up first time with a track pump for me, although they did bleed tiny droplets of sealant through the sidewalls for several days. While unexpected, there was no drop in pressure so any worries were quickly forgotten.
The casing itself is appreciably supple to the touch, with the sidewalls feeling a touch on the fragile side. When aired up on a 20mm internal width rim, the Riddlers measured true to size, although a wider mountain bike rim would make more of the bulbous carcass. Sat on top of the carcass are rows of several small, square blocks with subtly ramped leading edges (the 45c features a whole line of extra blocks over the 37c version), that are bordered by fairly aggressive shoulder blocks in the same format as the mountain bike version of the same tread. They’re no featherweights, but aren’t unreasonably portly either, at 560g each.
As you might expect, the big strength of these tyres is on rougher tracks and light singletrack use. The massive volume when compared to other similar tyres gives them more traction, more stability and an ability to run lower pressures in order to save your poor wrists. The ride quality of the TCS Light carcass wasn’t the absolute best, but was comfortable over chunkier gravel. Straight-line tracking over rough sections is excellent, and cornering feels more akin to a mountain bike tyre as the bigger side knobs have a noticeable engagement and track round as if on rails before getting back to the fast rolling centre section. As predicted, soft mud defeats them fairly quickly, but in their defence they cleared quickly once I regained firmer ground. A portion of the test period also included a bikepacking trip, and it’s worth noting that the high volume casing increased stability on a loaded bike, so for light dirt touring duties these also score highly.
Of course, there is always a trade-off and in this case you might expect to sacrifice some weight and rolling speed. To an extent that is indeed the case, but not to anywhere near the degree you might imagine. Not only is the weight pretty reasonable given their size, but the rolling speed is absolutely on par with other, smaller tyres on the gravel, and even on tarmac is more than acceptable when you consider the benefits once you leave the black stuff. Experimenting with tyre pressures saw me dropping them down to 30 psi when riding unloaded off-road, and never higher than 55 psi on the tarmac. Performance, particularly on gravel, did vary a lot with pressure in a similar way to plus-size mountain bike tyres, so experimentation is essential.
Durability is harder to quantify without a longer test, but after around 700km of use there are no alarming signs, and the sidewalls, while seemingly very thin to the touch, have suffered a few encounters with the rim without pinch flats at this point.
Overall: Assuming your bike can actually fit these tyres, if you enjoy pointing your drop bars to places that they wouldn’t normally go and don’t mind losing out a little on tarmac, then the Riddlers are a winner. To my mind, they offer excellent control offroad while keeping with the fast-rolling gravel mindset, all at good value for a tyre with reliable tubeless performance. Unless you’re up against the clock or sticking mostly to tarmac, the downsides are few and far between, and the rapidly increasing availability of tyres of this size is a clue that WTB have seen the future coming.