Ritchey Design 700 X 40mm Speedmax WCS Tires: Checkpoint

Ritchey Design 700 X 40mm Speedmax WCS Tires: Checkpoint – by Guitar Ted

The Ritchey Design Speedmax WCS tires have been out on the gravel several times now since my introduction of them (seen here), so let’s get into how they ride on gravel. I’ll also have a unique take on these tires from a bikepacking perspective and also my impressions of the tire will be given based upon my use of them on broken up pavement and dirt. Let’s go!

A close up of the 'hot patch' on the WCS Speedmax tire in a rural setting.
The Ritchey Design WCS Speedmax tire rode better than I had expected it to.

Ride Performance: I mentioned in my intro about how this tire did not impress me on the paved portion of the roll-down test I conducted. However; I did not notice a negative feeling on pavement rides unless I was pushing a big gear or climbing on a steeper hill. Then you would get a bit of that ‘knob squirm’ which was manifested in noise that tells you that you are working a bit more than necessary against those tread blocks. But this tire isn’t necessarily about paved riding, obviously, so I am not very concerned about this trait of the WCS Speedmax.

A loaded bike with bags and on a gravel road leaning on a railing.
Loaded up, the Speedmax held its own on gravel

Out on gravel, the tire displayed a calmer ride feel. I would hope to have found that to be the case because of the WCS Speedmax having a wider than expected width and that flattish crown shape to the casing. But I also credit the casing which, despite being a full-belt puncture protected casing design, rode fairly smoothly. I ran this tire at my usual pressures as well, not giving any consideration to running lower pressures because of a stiff casing. So, high marks on ride quality here for a fully puncture protected design.

I am testing out an Old Man Mountain Elkhorn Rack for the site and this rack went on the bike with the WCS Speedmax tires. I loaded up the bike and took it out on a few test rides and the WCS Speedmax did a pretty good job handling what I would say was some of the worst gravel Iowa can offer. Looser, deeper gravel is very challenging to ride on with any bicycle here, but these tires did admirably well. I think I would opt out for a wider tire with a bit more cushion if I had my druthers though, as this sort of road condition would call for that. If your bike can handle bigger, more stable tires, why not? But if a 43mm tire is all you can squeeze in and still have clearance? This WCS Speedmax can manage your loaded bike.

A bagged out bicycle on a gravel road

So Far… The Speedmax, with its “bonus” width at a currently measured 44.25mm (average of both), is a tire you should consider for “adventure gravel” exploits. Rides that might take you into territory where a bit of grip, volume, and puncture protection would be appreciated. In other words, this really is not your “racing tire with aggressive tread”. (Note: There are narrower versions of the Speedmax available)

I found the Speedmax to be stable on loose gravel, and capable in a bikepacking situation on deeper gravel as well. I would think this tire would work out well where the back roads have more dirt and rock embedded into the roads. In fact, I think some dirt roads will be on the menu before I close out this review soon in my “At The Finish” update in about a month.

For more details on the WCS Speedmax tires, see this link: https://ritcheylogic.com/bike/tires/speedmax-tire

Note: Ritchey Design sent over the 700 X 40mm Speedmax WCS tires to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We were not paid, nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give you our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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