WTB Riddler TCS 45mm

WTB Riddler TCS 45mm Tire // The big question? How’s it compare to the WTB Nano TCS 40mm!

Back in March of 2014, I received an invite from Wilderness Trail Bikes to test out a pair of their newly reintroduced WTB Nano tires in a 40mm profile. I was excited to say the least. Not only was I excited but I also gained a friend and eventually a client on the other end in return. My first 29er I built sported WTB Exi Wolves 2.3’s and the very first Huntsman was more of a monster cross type set up running WTB Nano’s in a 1.8″ profile. I always loved how the Nano’s spun and dug into loose dirt roads and were relatively fast on pavement for their size. So it was with a lot of excitement when I received those Nano 40mm tires. To say the least, those tires have become my go to tire when it comes to my own personal Huntsman and when my own clients are looking for a larger volume tire that balances speed and traction the very first tire I always recommend is the WTB Nano 40mm tire (now it also comes in a tubeless ready set up the WTB Nano TCS 40). If you haven’t guessed it already, I absolutely love those tires. So it was with a scratch of the head when I received an email from my pal Will at WTB a few weeks back that they had a new tire and they’d love to get a set out to me to test: The Riddler TCS 45mm.

WTB Riddler TCS 45mm

So a 45mm tire you may ask? First a little back story type info: It appears that the Riddler is spawned from WTB’s mountain bike offerings. The Riddler is named after one of WTB’s riders, Nathan Riddle. It’s offered in a handful of sizes in both 27.5 and 29″ set ups (it appears they offer more options in the 27.5 range presently in both 2.25 and 2.4″ widths in addition to a few casing options. You’ll note that the side knobs are pronounced and aggressive with a tightly packed set of center knobs. So we’re looking at aggressive cornering capabilities with speed thrown into the mix. Now let’s jump over to the road version: The Riddler TCS 45mm tire. The overall tread pattern shares much with it’s older brother (or sister depending on how you want to look at it). Larger knobs to the side with a closely packed center knob pattern. One thing that’s really interesting to point out as a clear difference, other than pure girth, would be that transition between center knobs and the aggressive side knobs is that there is a transition. The 2.25 and 2.4″ tire profiles have a rather large void between center knobs and those large pronounced cornering knobs. The Riddler 45mm tire does not but rather has a nice row of slightly larger knobs as you move from center to sides. I like this. No voids means sure footed feel when slamming into turns or making quick slow speed turns to avoid chunk. Or so my educated guess would assume. They’re also offered in WTB’s Tubeless Compatible System (TCS) and I should note that WTB’s tires are some of the easiest and quickest tires I’ve had my hands on to set up tubeless. They have an eye to tight tolerances so although they may be on the tight side when you snap them into place, I’ve found I can set these up painlessly with a floor pump. And my floor pump is not anything fancy. It’s an old hand me down Blackburn floor pump that my Dad purchased soon after I got my first mountain bike way back in 1990… He let me take it along when I left home for college and it’s what pumps every tire up here at 44HQ. All that aside, I’d say this tire is clearly aimed at the bike packing segment, adventure minded and paths less traveled types. Or for anyone who wants a tire that’s fast rolling and can handle hard cornering in loose terrain AND wants some extra girth over the well received WTB Nano TCS 40mm tire. Of course you’re jonesin’ to hear how it performs out on the road and paths less traveled. Let’s roll up our sleeves and see what’s doing.

44 Bikes Huntsman // WTB Riddler TCS 45mm

I will admit I was skeptical. Skeptical in the sense that 40’s fit just fine on my own personal Huntsman but 45’s? I won’t say I was worried, but I was sweating the details a bit. So I set up the front tire first just to be sure (check the fork and the rear end at the same time) and to my relief I had good clearances up front under the crown of my ENVE CX Taper Disc 12mm TA fork. Yeah that’s a mouthful, but it’s the devil in the details when you start talkin’ kit. So with that new found confidence I set up the rear and into the trusty steed she went. I generally try and give myself about .25″ of clearance all the way around the tire in and around the chain stays and seat stays. Clearances came to a just a hair over .125″ when it was all said and done at the chain stays and about .5″ all the way around the seat stay and seat stay bridge. Like I said before, they set up tubeless easily with a floor pump to a pair of Industry 9 Torch Trail Ultralite’s. But holy cow are these suckers big.

44 Bikes Huntsman // WTB Riddler TCS 45mm

First impressions are everything and I have just the loop for the job. It’s not incredibly long but it’s right out my back door here at 44HQ and it incorporates just about everything you could imagine from fast level hardback, to loose chunky unmaintained road beds with short and steep punchy climbs as well as fast as all get out descents where you’re either running along with confidence or suddenly skipping across washboards left over from the last rain storm we received. Basically you get it all and then some. But it’s a great fun loop with just about every condition you can imagine and it allows me to assess builds with vital feedback in a rather short period of time. Down my lane (which is dirt) and onto a short stretch of pavement from my house before it turns to dirt and immediately I noticed just how quiet these tires are in comparison to the Nano 40mm tires for their size and tread. I will say I like the hum of tires on pavement or dirt and I do like my free hubs LOUD. But that was worth noting as we are stacking these tires up to my favorites. Rolling along they also “felt” fast too. I let out a little bit too much air at the bottom of my lane of course, so I turned around and set tire pressure accordingly by feel at first (I’d check it when I came home to see what it was with a gauge which came out to be about 25psi front and rear, which compared to my normal 30-35psi for the Nano’s is interesting to note). I do things by feel first and then double check with a gauge. The loop then heads up Old Temple West and turns to dirt. On hard pack they accelerated well and hummed along at a nice clip. The first climb is heavily washboarded right now in sections with loose dry dirt. No spinning out and those small tightly packed knobs held their own. Up to a section that’s labeled “Not Maintained for Winter” which translates to the cyclist: This is where the fun starts.

Ride Part 2 // Road Bike

Just before things get really rough.

And here’s where large volume tires really sing. If this were a race, anyone running 28’s or even 32’s for that matter, are going to be checking speed while you’re going to be pouring on the power and speed. It was surprising just how much MORE comfortable 5mm’s or tire could make it appear. The end of this section is kind of on the rough side but the Riddler’s did not flinch even if I was but I laid on the power and kept picking them up and putting them down. Confidence inspiring and sure footed feel. All to be expected of a large volume tire. A bit more comfortable than the Nano’s.

The elusive Double Ride in the books...

At the midway point we have a stretch of pavement so you can put your head down and drop the hammer. Light was waning as I had bumped into friends and we got to chatting about some conservation stuff. But that chat gave me some reward with bright colors in the sky. Typically I spook some horses at the Horse Power Pony Farm. I still spooked them despite the notably more quiet set of Riddler’s. From this stretch of pavement you have options and I chose to hit a hard turn into more unmaintained road beds and loose sandy conditions. There’s some fist sized random rocks thrown in there too at times or the occasional tree limb/dead fall to bunnyhop. All super fun to tackle with these tires beneath me. The course twists it’s way on old dirt road beds past long forgotten apple orchards and some additional route options to head on older farmers double track so when the apple trees are in blossom in the spring, you can head into them to check out the blossoms and smell those sweet smells which don’t last too long.

From here, you take a long steady climb followed by two punchy loose climbs all via dirt of course. I tried pedaling slowly and deliberately up the first and then hammered up the next both seated and standing at intervals. Still these tires held their own. In a few of the washboarded sections they skipped a bit but I adjusted me weight a bit, sunk my butt or slid a bit more forward on the saddle lowering my elbows a touch more and the tires dug back in. I’ve noted the same thing with the Nano’s. Fine adjustments to body position and weight distribution and both tires react but don’t talk back at you or argue the point. And the final stretch home for the climb back up to 44HQ is just all down hill, fast and fun.

In summary, the WTB Riddler TCS 45mm tires held their own. My initial impressions are that these tires offer good grip in both loose and dry hard pack conditions. When the terrain got rough, the extra girth of the 45mm tire lent itself well to a tad more comfort over the Nano 40mm tires. How much more is yet to be determined as time will tell and I’ll have to ride them for a much longer time (this is only first impressions of course – which are important to draw I think). I’ll also be swapping back to the Nano’s just to repeat some of the typical rides I do to see just exactly how different the Riddler 45’s are in comparison with the 40’s. The small tightly packed knobs on the Riddler were nice and quiet in comparison to the audibly louder Nano’s. This should be noted NOT to be exactly a bad thing. In places far off and less ventured, a bit of noise is a good thing I’d say. You alert critters to your approach as well as the other weary traveler otherwise unaware. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bumped into riders on horseback or hikers or hunters who all said they were lucky to hear me coming so as to be alerted of the approach in otherwise dense tree cover or less than obvious turns in the terrain. So yeah, I can see the benefit of some audible noise when you get out in the back country. I’ve come across my fair share of bears too btw… All ended well and we were both as surprised to see each other. Tire pressure was a bit lower than I’d have expected when all said and done? Clocking in at 25psi respectively front and rear. And I could go a bit higher or a bit lower depending on conditions I think. Set up was easy for tubeless. Cornering was confident. Speed, to my legs, felt like I wasn’t wanting nor did I feel like they were a drudge up any of the steep climbs (albeit short and with a punch). But I don’t think you go looking for a 45mm tire with added rolling resistance at the top of the chart? My biggest concern was the smaller tread pattern honestly. It was unfounded and I’ll continue to run these tires well into the fall to see if they still deliver. But first impressions are important and these tires did not disappoint given the fact that I was coming off a set of tires I absolutely love. It should be noted that when mounted they fill out to 45mm’s exactly. This is a spot on measurement so check your frame clearances first! They fit an ENVE CX Tapered 12mm TA fork just fine on a rather wider than normal rim too by the way. So if you’re looking for a relatively fast rolling tire with good grip in a variety of conditions and packs a bit more girth in the 45mm range, I’d say the WTB Riddler TCS 45mm tire is worth your second glance. They also offer this tire in a 37mm width which I’m definitely going to take a close look at for my Wife’s Huntsman. I’m stoked and look forward to putting this tire through it’s paces as the leaves begin to change up here in NH. Till then, hope everyone’s out there getting after it and finding Shred.