WTB Vulpine Tires: Getting Rolling – by Guitar Ted
Today WTB released the news that they have a new gravel tire in the 700 X 36mm Vulpine. Now you may be thinking, “Wait a minute……Did you just say Vulpine? Didn’t WTB have a Vulpine in their line before this?” If you are thinking along those lines, then you would be correct. WTB did have a 29″er tire in the 00’s called the Vulpine. That tire was discontinued, and now the name has been resurrected for this new gravel tire.
This also isn’t your typical wide, larger volume gravel tire. No, this is a tire aimed at those riders who do a large amount of pavement miles along with gravel, or for those who might be looking for a fast, light tire for racing. Or both things and more, of course, but the point is, the Vulpine represents a very different tire in the gravel category than WTB has offered before up until this point, with the possible exception of the Byway in 700c. In fact, I’ll be comparing this new Vulpine with the Byway in this review series.
Here is a bit of information from WTB’s press release on the Vulpine;
“Vulpine prioritizes all-out efficiency without sacrificing climbing or braking traction and is the perfect tire for gravel racers looking to lead the pack as well as daily riders in search of an efficient tire that excels on many surfaces including pavement, hardpack and gravel. Vulpine carries the namesake of a proven semi-slick WTB cross-country tire that delivered years of swift efficiency to racers who required speed above all else.“
What It Is: Riding Gravel has had a pair of the Vulpine 700 X 36mm SG2 tires for a bit ahead of this release. However; we were not told any specifics on the range. Today WTB released some details today on this tire. Here is a bullet point list of features, options, and pricing for the Vulpine.
- The 700 X 36mm Vulpine will be available in three different configurations. 60TPI casing versions will be available in Black or Tan side walls. The 120TPI casing will have Black sidewalls only and will have the SG2 puncture protection.
- All versions are TCS tubeless ready.
- Dual DNA Compound: The centerline of the Vulpine has a longer wearing compound while the shoulders of the tread are softer compound for better grip in corners.
- The SG2 puncture protection layer on the 120TPI version is bead-to-bead.
- Claimed weights range from 381 gms to 434 gms.
- MSRP for the 60TPI versions is $65.96USD while the 120TPI SG2 version is $76.95USD All versions are available now in North America.
- European availability is scheduled for February.
First Impressions: The name of this tire conjures up my recollections of using the 29″er Vulpine of the past, (which I still have, by the way!), and how fast a roll that tire possessed. I liked that tire so much that I had been pestering a WTB employee at that time, Will Ritchie, to have WTB re-introduce the Vulpine as a gravel tire with the TCS tubeless ready feature, which the original Vulpine did not have. So, now that we finally do have a Vulpine gravel tire, what do I think of it?
Okay, so a 36mm tire only, eh? That is definitely in the ‘racy’ width category. I’ll admit that when I was stumping for a Vulpine gravel tire I had something larger volume than this in mind, but okay. This is a racing/go-fast tire and the size makes sense. (Still- I hold out hope for a wider version at some point.) The tread pattern is vaguely similar to that old Vulpine, but then again, it is its very own thing. The old Vulpine was classed as a ‘semi-slick’ which means it would have had almost no tread down the center of the casing. This Vulpine definitely veers from that course with its well defined, tiny center blocks and rows of accompanying ‘fin-like’ tread which is then flanked by larger, a bit more widely spaced edging blocks for cornering traction.
I popped the two Vulpine SG2 tires on my digital scales and they both were 434 grams. Huh! Just like WTB said they would be, and both the same weight! That doesn’t happen very often. I’ve tested a lot of tires through the years, and to have specs match up and weights be exactly the same for a pair of tires? Rare, I tell ya- Rare.
I mounted the Vulpines on the recently reviewed WTB CZR wheel set. The internal rim width on that wheel set is 23mm- perfect for a 36mm tire, and they went on and aired up with no problems. I did have to use a short blast from my tiny air compressor. I do not doubt that a boost-type floor pump meant for tubeless tires would have done the trick as well.
The tires took on a very rounded profile once I got them mounted up. I aired these up to 40psi and let them sit overnight. The measurements I got the following day showed the tires at 36.89mm and 36.93mm for the pair. So, we can assume that these likely will end up at around 37mm in reality once any stretching has occurred. Although I will say that the experiences I’ve had so far with SG2 belted tires shows that stretch in the casing will be minimal.
That said, going from the 45mm Riddlers I was using previously on these wheels to the 36mm Vulpine tires was a bit of a shock. First of all, I lost a significant amount of overall wheel diameter, which has the effect of making overall gearing lower range. Then add in the weight difference and you have the makings of a tire set up that changes direction much easier and accelerates with ease as well. I cannot really compare it to anything else but other tires in this class, like the aforementioned 700c Byway and the Challenge Tire Getaway which I have tested previously. Look for some of those comparisons in my next update.
Ride Performance: I’ve had a few rides on the Vulpine tires out in the country already and I have to say that overall I am surprised by the control and the ride feel of these tires, especially considering how narrow they are. While the expected difficulties with loose, deep, chunky gravel were observed, it wasn’t as bad of an experience as I had anticipated it to be. Of course, the smoother and harder the dirt or gravel gets, the better this tire does. Mud? Forget about that! This tread pattern attracts and holds onto mud like a champ, which is to say that it is not for those conditions at all. Where things are dry, hard, and fast is where this tire likes to be as far as roads go.
So Far… What we have here is a new tire from WTB with an old name that has a new mission: Be fast on gravel. I’ll have to admit that the 36mm casing handled loose gravel better than I thought it would. But, does this tire really roll all that fast? I’ll be looking into this further as I get into the review and I will report back with my findings in the “Checkpoint” update coming in a few weeks. I’ll have to get on it though, as snow could happen here any day now! Also, Grannygear has a set of these tires as well, so we hope to bring you a SoCal take on the Vulpine. Stay tuned…
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.