Top-spec vs value tyre compounds: is there any difference?

Is a premium tyre worth the extra cash over a cheaper version of the same tread? Joe Norledge finds out…

Does forking out on top-end cross-country tyres really make a significant difference to ride performance? Or can you get the same or nearly the same performance from a budget version? That’s the question BikeRadar‘s resident XC mountain bike racer Joe Norledge set out to answer in this test.


Joe wanted to know if the top-end tyre compound was faster and better handling or whether there was in fact little difference.

The test compared two sets of Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres, pitting the top spec version with Addix Speed compound in a 2.2-inch size with Snakeskin casing against the Performance Compound version which comes in around half the price of the former.

Tyres chosen, it was time to choose a test track to do repeated runs, plus the good old stopwatch and power meter. 

The results are surprising, and closer in some areas than might be expected.

Top-spec vs. value tyre compounds — is there any difference?