WTB Vulpine 700 X 40mm Tires: Checkpoint – by Guitar Ted with Grannygear
The WTB Vulpine was a tire that Grannygear and I really liked a lot, which was a bit of a surprise given that it was only a 36mm wide casing. We wished for a wider Vulpine and guess what? We got it! (I’m sure it had absolutely nothing at all to do with us!) Actually, racers were opining that a wider version would make them happy campers, so WTB obliged and well, here we are. Are the racers and Riding Gravel happy? Read on….
In this Checkpoint update, Grannygear and I will give you our own take on what this tire does for us. Then I will distill that down into what we are looking at so far. After a another month or so, we should have our final takes ready, but for now. Let’s dive in and see what we think up to this point.
Grannygear: Okay, so these are my first impressions of the Vulpine 40’s. I say “first impressions”, but I am betting these impressions will hold long term as well. We shall see. But if you read what I said about the 36mm version of these tires, then the 40’s follow in those footsteps, only they leave larger footprints.
I mounted them onto the 25mm internal width Hunt 4 Season Gravel X Wide wheels, easily setting the bead with a floor pump, and they have not leaked/weeped any sealant at all. I have been running them mostly in the 30PSI range and that seems to be a decent mixed surface PSI setting. After some miles now they are 40.5mms wide.
Guitar Ted: I’ve posted that my tires were not quite 40’s when mounted and then that I noted that they had stretched somewhat. Interestingly, the WTB CZR wheels are not as wide as the wheels Grannygear is using as the CZR is a 23mm internal width versus Grannygear’s 25mm. Tire variances and rim width differences account for the discrepancies we noted, so I think it is safe to say that this tire is good on advertised width. In fact, now my set measures 40.22mm on the CZR rims at 35psi. Pretty spot on there.
Grannygear: I have been doing my normal local loops with that typical So Cal blend of pavement, hard dirt, loose dirt, scrabbly dirt, and late season sand. To add to that, I also took the 40mm Vulpines along for the Grizzly Gravel ride hosted by the Fresno Cycling Club. That gave me a near 60 mile ride with 20 miles of dirt climbing before I had any descending, then tossed in a fast and loose gravel over hard pack descent of five miles, followed by a fabulous paved downhill, and ending with about 10 miles of rolling lakeside paved road. It was great fun and a good test of the new 40mm Vulpines.
The Good: (Grannygear)
- Fast tires. Fast! As long as the road surface is decently firm, they fly. I have set two new PR’s on a local 1 mile rough dirt climb with double digit grades on the 40mm Vulpines and those Hunt wheels.
- Traction is not an issue. They hook up well enough for a small knobby tire. But mud cannot be a friend. Out of the saddle climbs do not bring wheel spin and cornering is solid. For as fast as they roll on the pavement, that is a nice bonus.
Guitar Ted: I’d agree on both of Grannygear’s points here. On Mid-West crushed rock, as long as it is not too chunky and deep, this tire is fast. It takes a bit for it to come in, in my opinion, as I feel the SG2 casings need a bit of ‘break-in’ before they reach their potential, but otherwise, yeah- Spot-on.
The Less Than Good – (Grannygear)
- Sand. They hate sand. The 36mm versions do as well, but I wondered if that was the smaller tire or the tread or casing or all of the above. It seems that it is more than just the narrow width of the 36’s as the 40’s are better, of course, but not by much. They cut into sand and defy you to stay straight ahead.
- They do seem to deflect a bit more than I would like in the rocks, but it’s not terrible.
Guitar Ted: Again, I agree here, but I’d like to amplify his last comment on deflection in deeper, loose rock. This is definitely still an issue with the 40’s, as it was with the narrower Vulpine. It seems that there just is no way around it- ya gotta have volume for those conditions. A big, poofy tire with a flat-ish profile eats up the rougher gravel as nothing else can. Had this been a 43-45mm tire? Hmm….. I can imagine I’d have been much, much happier. But then, is that a race tire? You’re adding weight with that volume, and an aero penalty as well. Racers are – seemingly – willing to suffer some consequences for speed, so with that in mind….
Grannygear: I remember thinking that this tire would be great for Rebecca’s Private Idaho, a ride I have done many times. On the Grizzly ride I never found a situation where the Vulpine did not shine. And back home they are big enough to replace my 36mm versions for faster days. I will be moving them to a set of wheels that are just slightly lighter and just slightly narrower so that should be a good overall combo for me.
For rides with more challenging soil conditions…bigger rocks, sand, etc…I will run the 42mm WTB Resolutes, still my fav tire for where I live and dirtier days.
So Far… (Guitar Ted) Racers may love this tire on drier courses with a hard pack surface, little sand, and not a ton of fresh, crushed rock on the roads. But as I read Grannygear’s last sentence above, I was nodding with approval. There is just no substitute for volume for most riders. And listen- I am not asking for a 2.2″ 29″er tire, but a little more volume here would go a long, long way to making this tire a favorite with me.
I typically have ended up gravitating to these old Hutchinson Touaregs which we tested a couple of years ago. They are a bit too rounded, but they have a great puncture protection belt and they roll pretty fast at their 45mm width, which is a great width for my general purpose riding here when things are dry. That said, a 45mm Vulpine? Hoo-boy! The ride quality would kill that Hutch tire and the flatter profile would sail over crushed rock here. But again- is that a racing tire?
So, looking at this tire as what WTB has described it as – a gravel racing tire – I have to hand it to WTB at this point. As long as it is dry, and not sandy, or as long as you aren’t riding miles of fresh crushed rock, this is a racing tire to consider strongly. For the rest of us? We might still be waiting for a wider Vulpine yet to really make us happy. But until then….
Hang on for a bit and we will have that final review coming soon!
For more on this tire and WTB’s other offerings see their website here: www.wtb.com
Note: WTB sent over the new 700c X 40mm Vulpine tires to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We are not being bribed, nor paid, for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.