WTB Vulpine Tires: At The Finish – with Guitar Ted & Grannygear
The time has drawn nigh to wrap up the review of the WTB Vulpine 700 X 36mm tires. You can check out my second installment of the review here and there is a link from there to the first introductory post. Now I will be giving my final verdict on these new gravel tires from WTB. I also will be adding in comments from Grannygear, as WTB sent him a set to check out as well. So, we will get a bonus, “SoCal” viewpoint, and some awesome images to boot, if I may say so.
Okay, so with that out of the way, let’s get to it here…..
Guitar Ted: In my summing up of the Vulpine in my mid-term report on these tires, I had this to say, “Paved surfaces are done with a fast roll, so if you mix paved and gravel roads on the same ride, this could be a tire that does it all for you.” Well, as we will soon see, this was really a big part of Grannygear’s riding with the Vulpine, but he also put this tire through some paces off-pavement which I think we will see are quite challenging. First though, let’s check in with Grannygear to see where his viewpoint is coming from on WTB tires in general and what his expectations are for gravel tires in general.
Grannygear: Up until now I would say that the only tire I really loved from WTB was the Resolute in the 42mm size. I did sample many of the other new tires as well, but none of them really clicked with me. Some of that was due to my priorities for a tire that works on pavement, hard dirt, rocks, sand, but not really in loose, deep gravel or mud. The Resolute rocks for me but is a big tire…43mms on a typical rim…and it’s more tire than a lot of folks need or maybe can fit onto their bikes. I love a bigger tire and I do not mind hauling it around even when it is not needed, as long as it rolls well (and the Resolute does roll really well). But less weight and less tire into the wind and less drag all around feels nice in a lot of situations. So a 35mm-38mm tire can be a smart choice, but looking down on the skinny Vulpine does give one a feeling of….well, inadequacy.
Guitar Ted: Yeah! The “inadequate” comment was exactly my thought upon first looking down on the Vulpine when I first mounted these tires to my bike, but – as we shall see- that feeling soon is replaced with confidence.
Grannygear: I mounted the Vulpine on a rather narrow 19mm rim because the wheels were sitting around and were fast and lighter than most of my other gravel bike wheels. The Easton EA90SLs are really a road wheel now, with all the rush to wider rim profiles, but they still work fine. The Vulpines have settled into a true 36mm width on these hoops. Guitar Ted: This is a great point on the Vulpine. Its size really works well on those, now archaic, narrower road rim inner widths. I think if a person happens to have an older, tubeless compatible road wheel set, or older gravel wheels with narrow rim widths, this tire would be an ideal match for those wheels. That said, the Vulpine works great on 24-25mm inner rim widths as well.
Ride Performance: Grannygear: So…riding them. Fast. Fast. Fast! This is a fast rolling tire on anything with a hard and firm surface. Like pavement and fire roads. You might expect that by looking at them, but they have enough tread to hook up well on hard dirt surfaces. Braking, turning, accelerating…so far they have not scared me. I do have to tip toe a bit on the rocks but running a 43mm tire makes you a bit complacent. As long as I am prudent, these have been fine in rougher situations. Guitar Ted: I completely agree with Grannygear here. My only addition to his comments would be that due to the Vulpine’s lack of volume I find that it doesn’t have that stability in the fast, loose, deeper gravel we get out here a lot. I feel as though the size of the Vulpine is what slows it down in those situations versus a wider tire with more volume, like the Resolute Grannygear and I both like.
Grannygear: It’s been raining here in SO Cal a lot…a lot a lot a lot! So, my riding has been lots of road and dirt here and there as I could. But I knew I needed to get into more difficult terrain before I could say much about how the Vulpine handled those situations. I did have a few rides in techy areas while the dirt was still dry and I was quite surprised how well it did for a smaller volume tire, but I needed more.
On New Year’s day I did a ride with the guys on a local climb called ‘The Beast’. It’s a 3.5 mile ascent (with options to extend that) and climbs significantly in those 3.5 miles. It’s all dirt and ruts and rocky areas with, on this day, frozen earth and muddy sections. My first thought was “I have the wrong tires”. My second thought was “I need one more gear”!
But the Vulpine handled all of it just fine as long as I rode with some reserve. Yes, mud was not the best showing, but none of the other guy’s tires were doing much better in the tread-packing clay soils we have here. Yes, I had to ease into ruts with more care and I chose cleaner lines in the rocks, but I never felt sketchy.
And if I had ridden to the base of the climb on the road through town, it would have handled that too, and excelled on the pavement parts. It also turns with a very even and smooth response, not feeling like there is an odd transition off center like there was with the recent Kenda tires or even WTBs own Byway. Guitar Ted: Yeah, this Vulpine does not like wet soils! I agree 100% there. I also can concur with Grannygear here on how well this tire handles pavement. It can be leaned over and you can drill a corner pretty well. Much more so than with many other ‘gravel’ tread patterns I’ve tried.
Grannygear: I have been running 40psi most of the time and tried dropping to 35psi just to see. Unlike the Kendas, these Vulpines ride really well even at 40psi and at 35psi still rolled well on the road. I think 40psi for my 180 pounds is the go-to setting. Whatever WTB did with this cut resistant casing seemed to retain decent ride quality. Guitar Ted: Interesting! I have been running the Vulpine at something less than 40psi all along and I don’t think I’ve run it over 40psi ever. I weigh significantly more than Grannygear does, so this surprises me a bit in that I have had no issues with running these mid-30’s to upper 30’s psi air pressures. But then again, given the vert Grannygear has in SoCal, I may have had to bump pressures up a bit more over what I have to do here in the Mid-West for terrain.
At The Finish: Grannygear: Every so often you get a product to review that is so impressive, that works so well for you, that you wonder- ‘when it will let me down‘? I am still riding the new WTB Vulpine and I am still waiting for the let down. So far, so good. More than good actually. Like really good. Quite frankly, I love these tires. And the only thing I can think to make them better would be to give me a set in a 40-42mm size. Till then, this is a valid tire as long as the size and conditions where it excels rings true with you.
Guitar Ted: What he said! This tire is kind of an oddball in WTB’s line up. The other SG2 cut protected tires I’ve tried are good, but this Vulpine is so much nicer riding that it boggles my mind to think that it has SG2 cut protection in there. The Vulpine is- by far– WTB’s best riding tire for gravel yet. The Resolute with no cut protection is pretty good as well, but somehow the Vulpine is smoother riding. Okay, maybe that 650B Horizon is smoother, but- that’s a different tire altogether. The point here is that the Vulpine is a very impressive tire from a ride quality standpoint. It is an impressive tire from a performance standpoint in that it can handle a wide range of surfaces- as long as they are dry! The Vulpine is a tire that makes you think, “What if this were available in a wider size?”
And that, dear readers, is probably our only negative in regard to this tire. There are times where you just have to have that volume, and the Vulpine’s 36mm can only go so far. But that 36mm covers a lot more territory than you might think, and really, it may be all you’ll ever need. I know Grannygear and I won’t be taking these tires off anytime soon.
For more information on the WTB Vulpine see their webpage here; https://www.wtb.com/products/vulpine
Note: WTB sent over the SG2 Vulpine 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 our honest thoughts and reviews throughout.