As we discussed in the Preview the Rocket Rons are lightweight race oriented tyres that Schwalbe claim can handle a mixture of terrain.
In reality this mixed terrain performance is best achieved by varying the tyre pressure, which on more than one occasion I got wrong during testing, with fairly disastrous results. Muddier conditions will see you aiming to run pretty low pressures. We managed to do well with 30psi; however, once out of the mud onto firmer ground, these tyres will wallow around a lot at that pressure. Go to within the recommended tyre pressure range, say to 50psi, and the mud traction is nowhere near as good. So it’s definitely a fine balancing act. As with most cross tyres, and essential with the Rons, training on them in a variety of conditions at different pressures and recording your findings could prove invaluable on race day.
So how did we get on with the Rocket Rons?
Pavement (2 out of 5): This tyre is not called ‘rocket’ for its tarmac capability. The big knobs make things hard work on the black stuff and at pressures that this tyre works best at, it will squirm away in the corners, though to be fair it never feels loose for long as it’s nicely supple and rolls well. As with other mud oriented tyres I reckon you’ll want to look at faster options for courses featuring a lot of tarmac; for instance, its sibling, the Racing Raplph is definitely a faster tyre when on the road.
Hardpack and dry grass (2 out of 5): The Rocket Ron is grippy enough on hardpack but, as on tarmac, the aggressive, large knobs reduce your speed more than a true hard pack or even an intermediate tyre. Like other tyres with aggressive tread the side knobs help the grip round the corners and the Ron’s never feel like letting go. They do still squirm about especially if your speed drops but on the flip side the supple casing does give a very smooth ride over rougher sections. At race speeds they are better and hold their own on mixed condition courses, but you’d only choose them if hardpack was limited.
Wet grass (4 out of 5): The Rocket Ron is good on wet grass. It has bags of grip and, if you can get the pressure dialed, has good speed – but that’s the catch; as mentioned above, get the pressure wrong and you’ll struggle. On the plus side the Ron’s will work better as the ground gets more cut-up, churned and muddy, especially in the corners where I found that they offer bags of traction.
Sodden grass and light mud (5 out of 5): This is where the Rocket Ron really comes into its own. When the grass gets really wet and the going gets muddy, the Ron’s go really well. I was amazed at times at how I could really lay the bike over and carve the turns with these tyres in the wet. Cornering grip is superb. In one race I definitely had a huge grip advantage on a grassy corkscrew section over others around me on intermediate tyres. Dropping the pressure helps them work even more effectively on predominantly wet, grassy courses. They are supple enough to handle it and I ran them as low as 25psi without any real issue, though 30 seemed better for this rider’s 75kg weight as speed can be adversely affected if you go too low.
Mud (5 out of 5): Mud is where the Ron really shines. In wet muddy conditions, it keeps gripping when other tyres seem to become laden down with the brown stuff. They also clear mud really well, better on one occasion than a pair of FMB Super Muds that also came along for the ride. So on really muddy days the Ron’s are a good tyre to have fitted, though making time to experiment with the tyre pressure is essential. I did struggle with them on one occasion in really tacky mud, which they did not seem to like, feeling ‘stuck’ which severely compromised forward momentum, making me head for the grassy verge to gain extra purchase but that was a one-off. Most of the time they performed well, especially in more typical wet, muddy conditions.
The Rocket Rons are great tyres for wet grassy or messy muddy days. If there’s a fair amount of hardpack on the circuit with some mud sections, you could experiment and find a tyre pressure that makes them work, though we’d probably look at an intermediate such as the Racing Ralph. However, on all those typical wet, grassy, muddy cross courses, common in the UK, these tyres are a favourite.
All in all a competent mud tyre that won’t let you down, and leaves us very keen to see the test of the tubular version (which Tim is in the process of reviewing).
Schwalbe Rocket Ron CX RRP. £47.50 / $91.65
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