WTB Riddler TCS 45c Tire: At The Finish

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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.

Riddler 45c
WTB’s Tubeless Compatible System (TCS) allows you to run with tubes, or without (using sealant). The choice is yours, but the on-the-road benefits of tubeless are many.

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.

WTB Riddler 45c tireIn 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.”

WTB Riddler-equipped Singular Gryphon
The 45c Riddler fit easily on MG’s Singular Gryphon, with clearance to spare. The fit was much tighter in Guitar Ted’s Raleigh Tamland.

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.

Riddler and Nano comparison
Sitting knob-to-knob with WTB’s 40c Nano, it’s easy to see the increased width of the 45c Riddler. The increased volume let us easily run lower pressure for increased traction and ride quality.

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.

The Verdict

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.

Discuss and share your questions or thoughts about gravel bikes, gear, events and anything else on the Riding Gravel Forum



Author: MG

Matt Gersib is the 2014 Gravel World Champion in the Fatbike category. He's also finished some of the most challenging gravel events in the country, including the Dirty Kanza XL, TransIowa and the Dirty Kanza 200, among others. In 2015, Gersib was an inaugural inductee into the DK200 "1,000 mile club" of five-time finishers. In addition to his gravel cycling, Gersib is an accomplished mountain bike racer, with numerous race wins and championships, including the 2012 Nebraska State Marathon MTB Championship.

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25 thoughts on “WTB Riddler TCS 45c Tire: At The Finish

    1. I have both the 700×40 Clement MSO and the 700×45 Riddler. The MSO is a better 50% pavement & 50% gravel tire, while the Riddler is better in unusually deep and soft gravel. However, both the Riddler and MSO are very capable in all conditions and surfaces. Both are ultra versatile but the Riddler has an advantage in knarly roads with hidden defects and marble-like stones. The MSO rolls a little faster in most conditions but can start to swin in soft conditions. Both are top-tier gravel tires.

      If I had to travel fast conditions with friends on Cyclocross bikes, I’d pick the MSO. If I had to cover washboard and jeep roads with friends on 29ets, Id pick the bigger Riddler.

      1. I’d say that’s a good summation of the two tires… For my riding style and the bike I’ve got the tires mounted on, I hands-down prefer the 45c Riddler. That said, I’m currently testing a set of (marked) 40c Terrene Elwood tires on that bike, and in many ways they remind me of a slightly larger, slightly better MSO. Look for a review of the Elwood to come soon on the site.

  1. Thanks Roger — The Clement tires (at least the 40c MSOs I own) are significantly smaller in both width and volume than the Riddler. The shape of the Riddler is flatter across the crown, so it floats better over loose gravel, and the side knobs are more aggressive, so the Riddler is more confident in most gravel corners. Also, WTB’s excellent TCS tubeless-ready bead and casing make it very easy and reliable to run tubeless (my Clements were made prior to them making a tubeless-ready version, and I actually delaminated the casing on a 40c MSO trying to run it tubeless).

    All that said, Clement tires have a very nice casing feel. It’s a special feel compared to the Riddler, which isn’t the liveliest casing on earth. But in heavy, chunky gravel, I’ll choose the WTB every time, because with that supple feel comes a perceived fragility that I don’t want to have to deal with on the road. The less I have to think about the performance of my tires on the road, the better, and that’s doubly true for gnarly, rocky, long events such as the Dirty Kanza 200, or the Gold Rush in Spearfish, SD.

    1. MG- I have a follow-up question about making the most of fork/frame clearances when selecting tires for that kind of rocky, gnarly event you mention. With my fork/frame/rims, I know that the 45mm Riddler won’t work as a rear wheel (I think a 40mm knobby tire is the widest I can get into the rear triangle), but it’s tempting to consider it as a front tire. How does its overall height compare to the Nano 40? Aesthetic considerations aside, do you feel like Riddler 45/Nano 40 combination would be too mismatched? Or do you think their respective casing shapes and central knob heights might get them pretty close to the same size? Thanks!

      1. Great question, Bryan, and thank you… I actually meant to talk a bit more about running a Riddler on the front with a Nano on the rear, but the review ended up pretty long, so I left it out. That said, I think running such a setup could be a good option for a lot of folks, as many bikes have more clearance on the front than the rear.

        Overall, the diameter of a Nano isn’t quite the same as a Riddler, but it’s darn close. Close enough that it wouldn’t look weird, and if it gives you the clearance you need, it’d be a stellar setup for a race like the Dirty Kanza. And the 40c Nano is a tire that gets faster with age/wear, so it’ll get better with time (up to a point).

        Good luck!

        1. I’ve heard in actual measurement that the 42c Resolute is actually slightly smaller than the Nano 40c on the same rim. Can you confirm this or have you compared?

    1. @Smithhammer: Sorry for the delayed reply, but so far, the 45c Riddlers are holding up well for me. The front could practically pass as new, and the rear is just barely starting to show wear. I’d estimate the tires have 400 miles of mixed pavement, gravel and singletrack riding on them. The Riddler is an excellent “one bike” tire, as in, if you’ve only got one bike to do lots of things with, it’ll work well in most conditions (at least here in the Midwest).

    1. @Tinman: Hey, MG hasn’t ridden a Caz, as he states, but I have and I also have the 45mm Riddler as well. To answer your question is tough. They both roll really nicely on pavement, but they both have differences in feel. I would say that both have equal speed, rolling resistance is similar. The differences there would be splitting hairs, and of course, you can do so much with air pressures and rim widths.

      But Panaracer made, (which the Caz is), and WTB tires have completely different ride feels, in my opinion. I won’t go any further than that except to say that you may prefer one over the other for that reason. That’s purely a subjective thing, but in terms of performance those tires are on pretty equal footing.

    1. Sorry for my delayed reply @Robert Painter. When the post was published, I had a Salsa Woodchipper on the bike. Since then, I’ve replaced that bar with a Salsa Cowchipper, after I found a crack in the older bar.

      It’s a good reminder to keep an eye on your parts… Things do wear out!

  2. Another outstanding review for this Gravel Newb! Only question I didn’t see answered… did you get a final width measurement on a 23mm wide wheel? I’m leaning towards this for piece of mind when bombing down a big gravel road.

    1. Thank you! I don’t have calipers, so my measurements are a bit rough, but both Riddlers are measuring at about 46mm at their widest point (the side knobs).

        1. @Bob H. – Though I haven’t used the Riddlers on Stan’s rims, I have had no issues running other WTB TCS tires on another bike with Stan’s rims. Based on that, I’d say you should be fine.

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