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Ritchey has gone inverse with the tread on its Alpine JB WCS Stronghold tyres to create a tyre that grips on light gravel and rough sections of broken country lane while also offering a smooth ride if you want to get a shift on on the tarmac. A very impressive all-round tyre choice indeed.
Inverse tread patterns aren't new but it's not something we see very often; most tyre companies tend to use extruded rubber patterns to provide grip away from the road.
Having the tread recessed into the tyre means the Alpine JBs still run very smoothly on tarmac, not far off something like Schwalbe's dimpled G-One Speeds but with the added advantage that they have a good amount of bite if you take to a canal path or gravel byway, even when pumped up to road pressures.
The Ritcheys have an upper pressure limit of 110psi but for road use I settled on 90psi and they rolled very quickly, with a fair amount of absorbance through the 120tpi (threads per inch) carcass so there are no comfort issues. Because of this they also give plenty of feedback too.
Grip is really impressive. You've got this nagging doubt in your mind that they aren't going to be all that, with a fair bit of rubber not touching the surface, but in reality it's fine and once you've nailed that first twisty descent or roundabout flat-out you soon realise there is little to worry about.
Darting onto the local tank tracks mid-ride, the tyres scrabble about at these pressures but you soon adapt. I've ridden 35mm cyclo-cross tyres at half this pressure that feel just the same, so Ritchey is obviously doing something right.
The 30mm version that we have here isn't tubeless ready so you might not want to run them too soft and risk pinch flats. The 35mm option is though so if you want to go down the route of dropping the pressures low for a full day off-road without running the risk of a pinch flat that might be the better option for you.
They aren't exactly full-blown gravel tyres, though, so I'm not going to criticise them for them for their traction on the loose stuff. For their intended use on smooth roads, those with a slightly broken surface and hardpacked towpaths, they can't really be faulted.
Fitting them to the rims (I tried them on Ritchey's own Classic Zeta wheels and a pair of Vision Team 35s) was simple enough and only required a bit of leverage from the thumbs, though a couple of times I couldn't quite get the bead to pop into place against the hook of the rim as it was sitting too low. A bit of bouncing it around on the patio soon got it seated and from then on I had no issues.
Durability-wise I certainly can't see anything that concerns me. I had no issues with punctures or cuts and the tan wall casing is reinforced, which Ritchey calls Stronghold. This certainly resisted any sharp stones from nicking through when I was riding on the gravel.
Cost-wise things aren't too bad against the opposition. The Ritcheys will set you back £41.95 each at rrp, a couple of quid more than the similarly themed 32mm Panaracer T-Serv ProTite at £39.99.
Schwalbe's dimpled G-Ones are good all-rounders, although admittedly they are aimed more at off-road, but they perform very well on it too. You'll be looking at around £49.99 for a set of those, so when you consider the performance of the Ritcheys I'd say they are priced fairly.
Overall, the Ritchey Alpine JB is a great tyre for letting you get out and explore off the beaten track even on your road bike.
Great tyre for roadies who fancy broadening their horizons without buying a new bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ritchey Alpine JB WCS tyre
Size tested: 700 x 30
Tell us what the product is for
Ritchey describes the tyres thus:
"Jobst Brandt was an important figure in Tom Ritchey's life. Along with Tom's father, who was also a cyclist, Jobst was an important mentor for Tom - faithfully sharing his vast engineering wisdom while also actively influencing Tom's riding. Bound only to the thrill of experience and exploration, for decades Jobst's and Tom's tires rode over more than a few different surfaces on any given ride. It's these adventures with Jobst that helped inspire the Alpine JB tire.
This unique bicycle tire is built to ride wherever your two-wheeled journeys may take you. It rolls beautifully on all-day rides along smooth country roads, yet it has enough tread to gracefully navigate roads with minimal municipal maintenance or long stretches of gritty gravel.
The Alpine JB enjoys a 120 TPI, is tubeless-ready and employs the unique VFA tread design - a pattern that's mostly recessed in the rubber of the tire, rather than relying on protruding knobs more commonly found on such tires. Thanks to the inverse tread, rolling resistance is smoother compared to traditional knobby tires, yet grip and confidence remain inherent features. An added benefit is that the Alpine JBe is more durable because there are no knobs to wear down."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
700x35 and 30
Tubeless-ready (35mm only)
VFA tread design
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Impressive rolling on even the smoothest of tarmac and don't do a bad job when you take to a bit of gravel.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Their all-round capability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Took a bit of a faff to get the bead to sit right.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
A great addition to the market for those riders who fancy seeing where that byway goes without sacrificing on-road performance. A decent weight and price too.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!