Those of us who ride fully rigid hardtails need a big fat front tire, or at least that's what I'm leaning makes for a smoother ride.
So, I've been searching around for a high volume, nice big fat front tire that's not too heavy, got excellent grip and rolls . . . and I think I found it. Fritz put me on to this tire - he's been goo-goo-for-gaa-gaa over them for a while now, and I see why.
Schwalbe 2.4 Racing Ralph weighs in at a claimed 640 grams is a big fat weight weenie's dream compared to the 2.2 Neveal at 827 grams or even the well rounded 2.1 Karma at 779 grams.
I borrow this tire from Fritz, who had previously run it tubeless a handful of times. Mounting it on the Stan's ZTR Arch rims was a piece of cake and actually went on easier and faster than any Kenda tire I've been using. Left it over night, and not a psi down in the morning - probably helped that it had been previously mounted and sealed up with Stans.
I've played around with the air pressure - first ride started out around 23-24 psi and found it good, but after dropping it down to about 20-21 psi it took even more sting out of some nasty rooty, rocky single track.
Can't get enough of a good thing? If lowering made it better, why not try lowering it more? Well, you can only go so far. On a ride last Wednesday I had too little air in it (probably around 18-19 psi) and burped it off a rock, later took a corner and it rolled sideways on me and then could feel the rim want to bottom out on some smaller bumps. Pumped it back up to 21 psi and it seemed to be the perfect pressure.
The 29'er 2.4 Racing Ralph is more like a 2.55" - outside knob to outside knob. Nice and fat, biting side lugs, grippy and fast centre. With a wider rim (such as a Flow or the new Crest), these would given even more spread on the trail.
In technical trails I usually will run Nevegals - front and rear. It's a shame that Kenda doesn't make a larger volume Nevegal for 29'ers, the 2.2 is the largest it comes in. A 2.5 would be ideal - perfect for snotty, wet rooty/rocky trails . . . but terribly slow rolling. The Ralphs on the other hand accelerate super fast and roll, roll, roll. No sliding or washing out on hard braking.
I have yet to ride them in wet or muddy conditions (no, the two don't always go hand-in-hand). I did get them muddy in a few holes, but noticed no lack of ability to cling to the trail or rock.
The only 'con' of this tire, which if you've read any reviews of it you'll find a common theme, is the price. Having the Kenda Rider Support program, tires were very reasonably priced, so having to pay full price on a premium tire is a hard pill to swallow, but well worth it for such a good tire.
Will post some thoughts up on them after giving them a spin in wet conditions. Also have a couple new front tire coming: Panaracer Rampage 2.35 which I'll post some sort of half-assed (cause my whole ass is too big) review later on down the road.