By Jeff Lockwood
Ritchey bills these tires as their newest pure race tire. In fact, Z.E.D. stands for Z-Max Evolved Design (Z-Max is their previous racing tire). The knobs on the Z.E.D. are fairly low-profile, but fortunately they aren’t the geeky-racer, no-profile circles of bald rubber that seem to be so popular with those people concerned with weight and speed. And they perform quite well in a variety of conditions—I put these tires through just about everything besides competition. Here’s where they went and how they performed: The sandy, tick-infested pine-barrens of southern New Jersey: This was my first ride with these tires. While relatively flat, trails in south Jersey tend to be extremely sandy. These tires held fairly well while I was going straight, but they got a little squirrelly if I was carrying any speed into a turn. If these things were any skinnier, I would have had more than a few mouth fulls of sand.
Verdict: Despite having fairly low-profile knobs, I was surprised at the amount of traction I actually got on these rolly-sandy trails.
The fire-roads and twisty, rocky single track of Jim Thorpe, PA: At some points rocky and slow, and at some points fast and twisty; these trails were a perfect place for me to get a proper feel for these tires. After going into the first few turns at speed, I realized that I didn’t need to hang my leg out in the event that these tires let go.
Verdict: This is cross-country riding and these cross-country tires fit the trails and my riding style quite well.
U.S. Route 30 on the way to my soccer games: As mentioned before, the knobs on these tires don’t stick out too far. That means there is less rolling resistance, which is a good thing for a guy with a bag full of soccer gear riding a single-speed to and from his game on a rather busy road.
Verdict: With these tires, I don’t have to go through the hassle of changing tires if I want to do some commuting the day before, or after, a trail ride.
The true test of a tire, or any bicycle component, is confidence. If I don’t have to worry about it, then I’m satisfied. The Ritchey Z.E.D. Race WCS tires quickly faded from my conscience, so that means they passed muster for me. During my time on these tires, we didn’t see much rain, so I didn’t really get a chance to try these out in the mud. Judging by the amount of space between the knobs, there shouldn’t be much of a problem, but then again, the knobs are low and might spin in the goo.
The 525 gram WCS model of the Z.E.D. tires will set you back $40. The Z.E.D. Pro is the exact same tire with less rubber-life than the WCS, yet only cost $32. They both have the Kevlar bead and come in 1.7”, 1.9” (tested) and 2.1”.
Contact: Ritchey Designs, 860 Hurlingame Ave, Redwood City, CA 64063; 650.368.4018 www.ritcheylogic.com