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The Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge tyre, in this Endurance casing, redefines how to go fast and far off-road without compromising grip or feel. With a noise-cancelling knob design that works extremely well and a shoulderless cornering feel, it's like riding a slick on tarmac – it's that good. You're paying absolutely top whack for it, though, and it may not fit your frame.
Anyone into the gravel scene will know René Herse (pronounced reNAY AIRS) tyres. Ultra-endurance riders such as Lael Wilcox have been totting up huge miles on epic rides spanning continents. This Fleecer Ridge tyre came from a collaboration with Wilcox, in fact, aimed at winning the 2,750-mile Tour Divide.
As such, it's a strong, light, grippy and comfortable tyre that rolls fast on or off-road. It's offered in four casings (Standard, Endurance, Endurance Plus and Extralight), and the Endurance tested here is – for me in the Scottish Highlands – the Goldilocks version. It offers a higher thread count (and a puncture-protection strip) than the Extralight for better protection, but keeps the super-supple feel.
The Endurance Plus is for super-nasty environments, while the Standard and Extralight casings are designed for smoother trails and finer gravel. You get one choice of colour – the Dark Tan looks very natty, and the sidewalls stay clean.
At 55mm (2.2in) it's the size of many cross-country mountain bike tyres, and in 700C that means many litres of low-pressure air suspending you from the trail surface. The maximum pressure of the Fleecer Ridge is 55psi, but you don't need anywhere near that for optimum performance.
The 665g per tyre might seem hefty if you're from a road background, but the weight disappears once up to speed, when the huge volume translates to rapid progress, reduced fatigue and supreme comfort.
There's no escaping the fact that this is big rubber, and few gravel frames will be able to accommodate it with room left for mud, let alone mudguards. They size up at 55.7mm on 23mm internal width rims. My Sonder Camino alloy frame takes them with a few millimetres spare (there's lots of room in the fork, as is usually the case nowadays).
Setup is straightforward, and the Fleecer Ridges went on my Hunt carbon rims without tyre levers: 4oz of Orange Seal Endurance and 220PSI in the Birzman Pump Up Tubeless Tyre Pump saw them in place and sealed first time.
Two years back I reviewed the Compass Steilacoom, the knobbly that rewrote the fast-grippy-comfortable rulebook. The Fleecer Ridge sets fire to that book. It's the undisputed new king. It's that good.
It's actually hard to believe such a large, knobbly tyre can be so quiet and smooth on tarmac. Honestly, I've ridden noisier slicks. The knobs are offset so none is aligned with the leading edge of another, and the company's patent claims this design is noise cancelling. Whatever the reason, the Fleecer Ridge is very quiet.
As with the Steilacoom, the tread is designed so there's no feeling of a transition as the tyre rolls onto the shoulder in corners, and the result is confidence-inspiring both on and off road.
The Fleecer Ridge impresses over some very chunky gravel. Test sectors that require significant braking on 38mm Steilacooms were blasted in the smallest cog with hands off the levers, such was the confidence inspired.
Safe to say the tyre's capability far exceeds my own middle-aged willingness to discover the edge of my personal competence envelope. The ability to change lines mid-corner whilst transitioning between gravel, silt, mossy grass and mud can lead to a sense of control possibly at odds with the laws of physics.
It's impressive uphill, too. The climb from Aberfeldy to the summit of Beinn Eagagach includes a long, loose, fist-size-rocks stretch near the top. The 20 per cent-plus gradient sees you constantly shifting back and forth to create drive grip and effective steering, yet at 25psi the Fleecer Ridge is like riding a Velcro strip.
On flatter or more rolling terrain, though, they're... still great. On one very pedally route where long stretches can be spent in top (if you have legs for it) I managed not just a PB but a Strava KOM, beating a Celtman Extreme Triathlon athlete by 46 seconds. This is testament, frankly, to the unfair-advantage nature of the Fleecer Ridge.
Strava stats are not the be-all and end-all, but what they do offer is empirical proof of speed, while the audible proof of quietness, the physical proof of reduced jarring, and the mental evidence of confidence further add up to on-bike happiness that is rare indeed.
What price happiness? It's £89. Per wheel. That makes the Endurance-cased Fleecer Ridge one of the most expensive tyres on the market, period. To be clear, it's named after the toughest climb on the Tour Divide route, not what it does to your wallet...
WTB's 50mm Venture comes close to matching the Fleecer Ridge for width, and is less than half the price, though it's not a true knobbly. Schwalbe's 700C G-One Ultrabite maxes out at 50mm, and weighs pretty much the same – and is half the price at £42 – but Jamie found the Ultrabite rather heavy and slow-rolling, and it can't match the René Herse for suppleness.
More recently, Matt rated the 50mm Maxxis Rambler as exceptional. What’s my logic in matching that rating for a tyre of similar width and weight but nearly twice the price? Well, I haven't ridden the Rambler, but looking at the tread pattern – close to slick spaced knobs in the centre – I’d be very surprised if the grip and feel matched the Fleecer Ridge.
Where a tyre needs close-spaced knobs to roll fast and has wider-spaced shoulder knobs for grip, my experience – and I’ve ridden many tyres of this design – is that it's a compromise both on the road and off: you either run out of grip while upright in soft stuff, or hit the squirmy knobs going fast into tarmac corners.
At the £50 price point the Rambler is possibly as good as it gets, but if you can stretch your budget to the Fleecer Ridge, you will, I believe, receive a very different experience.
So you're paying a premium of around £100 a pair over the logical competition. If you're into far and fast bikepacking, and happy to spend the money on the very best, the René Herse Fleecer Ridge Endurance offers speed, grip, comfort and quietness. Pick four, and enjoy.
State-of-the-art fast, grippy, quiet and tough tyres for bikepacking over pretty much anything
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road.cc test report
Make and model: René Herse Fleecer Ridge tyres
Size tested: 700C x 55mm
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's focused on fast and far bikepacking off-road. René Herse says:
"The ultimate tire for bikepacking and gravel adventures! Developed together with bikepacking legend Lael Wilcox, the Fleecer Ridge measures 29'x 2.2'(or 700C x 55 mm), making it a perfect fit for bikepacking bikes."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
All models feature:
Clincher, folding bead
Maximum pressure with tubes: 55 psi (3.8 bar)
Maximum recommended pressure – tubeless: 55 psi (3.8 bar)
Actual width on 21 mm rim (internal): approx. 56 mm
Actual width on 23 mm rim (internal): approx. 57 mm
Extralight casing: +1 mm width
Tubeless: +0.5 mm width
Recommended rim: 17 - 40 mm (inner width; hookless: +1 mm)
Our Extralight casing in a denser, stronger weave
Protective belt under sidewalls and tread
Ideal for rough gravel and tough conditions
Dark tan sidewalls
Usual René Herse high quality.
These tyres make you a better rider...
I've battered them up and down some exceptionally rough surfaces, and they look like new.
Not the lightest, but for enhanced protection while retaining suppleness, well worth it.
So soft and supple, major surface irregularities just get soaked up.
Expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Fabulous, far exceeds my capability to outride their specs.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The noise – it's so quiet.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Very expensive. It's twice the price of many competing tyres.
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
Really the only negative is the price, though their equally high performance goes a long way to justify it. That's it. Everything else is awesome.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L