WTB Ranger Review: 29+, 3.0, TCS Tough

The WTB Ranger TCS Tough/Fast 29×3.0” tire is designed to be a do-it-all plus-sized workhorse. WTB claims great performance in all conditions, wet or dry, hardpack or loam. With a low profile tread pattern, promising low rolling resistance and tons of traction, what’s not to love? Read the full review…

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With some photos by Dan Coronado and additional perspective by Cass Gilbert

When the local guys I ride with got a look at the Ranger for the first time, expectations were high. It seems that the Bontrager Chupacabra has long reigned supreme as the plus tire of choice for many riders here in bone-dry San Diego, so when a nearly identical tire became available at a significantly lower cost, people couldn’t wait to see if it lived up to the hype.

WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+

First Impressions and Set Up

The first thing I thought when I grabbed this tire out of the box was, “holy smokes, this thing feels heavy.” Before receiving the TCS Tough/Fast Ranger, I had been running a TCS/Light as a rear tire on my Krampus for several months. At 1145 grams (1140g claimed weight), the Tough/Fast Ranger packs on almost 250 grams (nearly half a pound per tire) over the Light/Fast version I’d been accustomed to. WTB has really pushed the Tough casing toward the Bikepacking crowd, which makes sense if you’re not racing and reliability is king. Weight weenies be warned.

  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+
  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+

I’ve been running the stock Rabbit Hole wheelset on my Krampus for a few years now, set up tubeless using Gorilla Tape. The Rabbit Hole rims have a 44.5mm internal width, barely squeaking in at the upper limit of WTB’s recommendation of 35-45mm. I’ve had tires from about half a dozen manufacturers set up tubeless on these wheels. Some have aired up with nothing but a floor pump, others have needed to get hit with the compressor at the shop, but none have given me too much of a fuss. This time was different.

After many failed attempts at getting these tires aired up with my floor pump (to the amusement of all my neighbors, I’m sure), I took it to the pros. Usually, if I bring a stubborn tubeless setup to my mechanics, they’ll hit it with the compressor and I’m out the door two minutes later. After about ten minutes of trying, my mechanic shooed me away and asked me to come back in a few hours. Apparently things didn’t go well while I was gone; on my ticket I was charged for, “the worst tubeless experience of my rather long and storied career.”

I have a feeling that this was a somewhat isolated experience, however. As I mentioned, I had been running a Light/Fast Ranger on the exact same wheelset without any issues. I’ve talked to many folks who use and love the Rangers, and not one has complained about issues with setting them up tubeless. Thankfully, in my experience, they’ve been rock solid since I finally got them seated.

WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+

  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+
  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+

Performance

So, after all that, how did the Rangers do in real life? At that time I’d been running the Ranger TCS Light as a rear tire, my trusty Maxxis Chronicle was on duty up front, which I loved for its aggressive, squared-off profile and low-drag center strip. I was honestly a little hesitant to swap it out with this uber-round, petitely knobbed Ranger. I already knew the Ranger was a capable rear tire, but was skeptical about its performance up front. I was expecting noticeably less cornering stability on my first ride with the Rangers set up on both wheels, but to my surprise, the Rangers were at least as stable in hard corners as the Chronicles. What’s more, they minimized some of the low-pressure self-steering I’d begun to notice with the Chronicles, especially on pavement. The Ranger’s super-round profile kept things pointed in the right direction and only at sub-optimal pressures did I get even a hint of self-steering.

The real test for these tires came during a trip out to Gooseberry Mesa and the surrounding areas of Hurricane, Utah. A friend and I drove out for a long weekend, mixing trail riding and loaded bikepacking on the area’s unique and challenging trails. The tires performed exactly how they’re supposed to, gripping like crazy on slickrock, floating through sand, and eating up chunk with no issues. I got plenty of strange looks and curious questions about riding a rigid bike on such demanding trails, but the Rangers did a fine job of keeping things smooth for me.

  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+
  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+

I remember one moment in particular when I was riding up a super steep section of slickrock and my rear tire spun out on me. I recall it because it took me completely by surprise. My tires had been so glued to the rock all day that I’d forgotten spinning out was an option. The Rangers have performed equally well on my local trails in San Diego. Quick when they need to be and sticky on steep or loose junk. Overall, they’re a tire you can just forget about.

After several months of riding, the tread and sidewalls are still in great shape. After a similar amount of time on the Light/Fast version of the tire, I was experiencing noticeable sidewall and bead sealant weeping, a common issue with thinner-walled tires. These thicker, tougher casings haven’t shown and signs of weeping yet. It looks like these will last for many, many more miles.

  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+
  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+

A long Distance Perspective

by Cass Gilbert
Speaking from a long-distance, dirt road perspective, I’ve had very good experiences with WTB’s Ranger Toughs in both 29x3in and 27.5x3in flavors. Their sidewalls have proved resilient to my overloaded bike barreling down rocky roads, which is just what you want when you’re far from home. The tires roll well, without even a hint of the self steer you can sometimes feel with plus tires. They corner nicely too, breaking away very predictably. Unlike Weston, I haven’t had any issues mounting them, at least to WTB’s Scraper i40 and i45 rims. I’ve even successfully fit them with a Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV. In fact, of all the tires I’ve tried – and four of us took a set each to Peru last year without so much as a flat – only a 27.5×2.8in Ranger got the better of me, even with a Lezyne Pressure Overdrive. Its stubbornness to inflate tubeless meant I had to fit an inner tube first and leave it a day to find its shape.

  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+
  • WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+

In terms of durability, I consider the Rangers to be good, but not the best. By the end of a couple of months of hard riding in South America, the tread pattern had worn noticeably and the sidewalls had begun to weep a little, though there was still plenty of life in them for local trails and commutes. Although I’m sure I could have eeked more touring miles out of them had I needed to, my overall impression is that Maxxis Chronicles last longer. Then again, Chronicles are also a more expensive tire. For around $70, which I consider good value in the Plus tire world, the Rangers have given me little cause for complaint; they’ve proved their worth and are now my go-to bikepacking tire.

WTB Ranger Review, 3.0 TCS Tough, 29+

Pros

  • Durable and reliable
  • Fast rolling and low resistance
  • Minimal self-steering
  • Excellent traction in dry and hard pack conditions

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Potentially problematic when setting up tubeless
  • Not ideal for muddy conditions
  • Model Tested 29×3.0 TCS Tough/Fast + Light/Fast
  • Weight (29×3.0 TCS Tough/Fast) 1145 grams per tire
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Width (on Scraper i45 rims) 73.6mm at casing / 76mm at knobs
  • Price ~$76.95
  • Manufacturer’s Details Link

Buy from/support your LBS. If you can’t, check Amazon 29×3.0 27.5×3.0

Wrap Up

Despite my earlier complaints about the WTB Rangers Tough being heavy, hard to seat, and so forth, the truth is I would buy these tires again. I think the tubeless issue is probably not consistent to other users, and as a heavier rider I’m okay with some extra grams if it keeps me safe when I’m out riding off the beaten path. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to test these tires in much mud, or any loam, they’ve shined bright in every circumstance I’ve thrown at them. The Ranger is a great tire that just does what it’s supposed to do, letting you simply focus on riding, which is really all you can ask for.

Editor’s note: The TCS Light version of this tire was new and relatively untested at the time of our Kyrgyzstan trip. I took it anyways. After a lot of miles over rocky terrain, I had nary a flat. But, as Weston mentioned, there was some sidewall weeping (in the light casing). Ultimately, after using the 3.0s on multiple bikes, I have been impressed with the fast rolling tread and cornering performance of the WTB Ranger. To speak to its handling in wet and loamy conditions, I ran a pair on the Deadwood SUS, which I put a lot of miles on in Pisgah National Forest. Pisgah is known for it’s slippery roots and muddy conditions, and I was not let down by the Rangers. There are certainly more ‘Pisgah-friendly’ plus tires, such as the Rekon+ and DHF, but with three full inches of tread, traction wasn’t much of an issue and the Ranger stood up to the challenge surprisingly well. – Logan Watts

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  • Gary Blakley

    Just as a data point-. I weigh 140 and travel light.. I’ve worn out 2 Ranger fast/light rear tires with no cuts and no seeping. Given time I would expect seepage but I ride enough that they’re worn out before then. Which is my only complaint – the tread wears quickly. Mine are 27.5×3.0. They seem to roll noticeably faster than the Rekons they replaced.

  • I’ve got quite a few km’s on the Rangers at this point and have been quite happy with them. I have the light version and they’ve been very reliable but I (cross my fingers) have only ever cut 2-3 sidewalls in 25 years of mountain biking. I’m not light at 200lbs plus gear and they roll pretty straight. Plus, I tend to run all my tires at relatively high pressures (25-30 psi) depending on load and terrain here.

    Having ridden and worn out virtually every 29X3.0 tire in existence, this is one of my favorites. Probably only bested by the Vittoria Bombaloni. Thanks for the review.

  • Dan Ransom

    I just threw some tough/fasts on a new wheelset, and they seated tubeless pretty quickly. They are definitely more stiff with that casing, so I did work the sidewalls to the rim edge a bit before hitting the air. No worse than other tires in my experience. Did a 200 mile trip last week over some pretty rough desert terrain, quite happy with how they performed.

  • Funny I was wondering when you guys would review these. I swapped out my old WTB Trailblazers with a 2.8 at the back and a 3 at the front – both hard/fast. Not had a chance to use them yet but tomorrow hoping to ride from Granadaa to Cadiz. Coming from the trailblazers the Rangers feel way more substantial and interested to see how low I can push the pressures. The Trailblazers would squidge and even ‘rim out’ at less than 20 pounds. At eighty quid a pair not cheap but not expensive and very good value for that level of side wall protection. Will report back!

  • Good to hear. I have set up a few pairs of them… usually on WTB Scraper rims. The tolerances are tight, so I never had a problem doing it with a floor pump.

  • Good to know. My wife rode the Bombalonis on out Altravesur route in Spain and liked them….

  • I kept mine pretty low, and they were the light casing. That said, I also had a couple cuts in the tread casing because it was too low. The Tough versions have much better casing though. Have fun on that ride… I am envious.

  • Yeah, they are definitely faster than Rekons, but they they also wear out faster…

  • Chris Leydig

    One of the few 26+ options. I like em, they feel like velcro. I too had an incredibly hard time getting the bead to seat on rabbit hole rims and had to resort to putting a tube in them for a night to form the shape.

  • Idle Prentice

    I love these in 27.5×3. They mount up effortlessly – every time – on WTB rims. Maybe that’s part of the secret? Anyway, they wear great and are absolutely dependable. I’m going to start hoarding them because I know they’ll stop making them. Nothing good lasts.

  • nat

    Sent from my tent in the Everglades… Yes I’m an addict, I’ll admit it!
    So Logan, I just bought a pair of Nobby Nic 2.6s based on your recent article of your new bike set up where you spoke of switching from 3s to 2.6 as your “go to” tire. Currently running WTB Toughs 29/3 based on your Nov./2017 advice to me. They’ve been great. On Baja Divide, all over the desert SW, and Fl. Zero flats or issues. I love them. Now what? Confused in a tent. :).

  • I have a 26 x 3.0 Ranger Tough on my front wheel, which has been awesome. It mounted fairly easily tubeless on a Rabbit Hole rim, using the Gorilla Tape method and a floor pump. I did, however, use a tube at first to press down the tape and form the tire to the rim. I only used the tube while mounting, not riding. Given the wildly different mounting experiences — even on the same rims — I wonder if there are slight variations in the actual size of the tire ( I mean, just enough to be a pain).

    The tire has been on since June or July 2017 and has been all over Portland, a couple weeks at Burning Man and on my last gravel bikepacking trip from Seattle to Portland. That was the dustiest, driest ride I’ve ever been on (and I lived in Austin for a few years) over super soft and thick gravel roads. The tire was fast and stable on all of that.

    I had a chance to test it out in some wet snow (on pavement) and slushy snow. The tire was great through the wet/packing snow and shit in the slush, not surprisingly.

    I’ll run the tire for my ride from Portland to Burning Man (Oregon Outback route north to south, desert gravel roads from Cedarville, CA to Black Rock City, NV) given how well it rolls over Portland’s unpaved streets, the gravel/stone “road” in Forest Park and everywhere else.

    Size limitations in my Troll’s frame (it’s the last model of the old design) keep me from replacing the wonderful Extra Terrestrial with a Ranger 3.0.

    [Will a 2.8 on a Rabbit Hole fit in the frame?]

  • Herbert Harris

    As another 26 x 3.0 TCS Tough two thumbs up. I’ve had them for about a year. Very tight install but definitely do able with WTB Scraper rims – had to use a compressor (after letting it sit over night with a tube at max pressure). However, they are HECKA hard to remove. I found removing far more difficult than installing – trying to get the tire over the bead ridge conjured up all sorts of dreadful words. Now, that was a year ago. Hopefully things have stretched a bit. Absolutely no problems losing air. They roll well on pavement and, with the 26+ version, they are actually relatively nimble and quick (nice for those steep trail climbs). Despite being 6′ 2″ I really dig the 26+ size.

  • Thanks for the review. Seems to be a good tires for dry conditions. Bought a pair last autumn at bargain price but haven’t tried them yet. Currently have Bontrager XR2 on my 29+ wheelset and really like them. So fast also easy to mount tubeless but cornering can be better.

  • I’ve had the same issues with Scrapers and WTB tires… the tolerances are crazy tight.

  • I have heard rumblings that a 2.8 will fit on a Troll, but not sure.

  • Yeah, WTB rims are always super tight…

  • It’s all taste as far as tire size. I do like the 29×2.6 format though. I am getting ready to try out a pair of Rekons…

  • Michael McDonald

    The newest Troll fits 26×3.0 no?

  • The newest one, definitely. I assumed we were talking about the previous generation…

  • Alan Parsons

    Yeah totally agree abotut setting them up tubeless, a nightmare, and one which I still havent completely solved! Im using the Scraper i40 rims, and I have other tyres at the moment (A 2.6 on the front, and a Maxxis Ardent on the rear, and I have had to put tubes in).

  • Sascha

    My Surly ET’s are 2.5 with heaps of space still…I’m fairly sure a 2.8 Ranger will fit a Troll…

  • Cass Gilbert

    Perhaps there are some different batches, because I’ve only had an issue with one of mine (a 2.8 – all the 3.0s were fine), out of probably half a dozen since they were launched, as well as those of friends. The fit can be very tight, but they pop right up on i45s and i40s in my experience… even mid trail with a handpump and a sweaty brow, on occasions!

    Personally, I’ve not had much luck with the Light casings when I’ve toured with them. They cut too easily for my riding style, at least (-;

  • Phillip Fogg

    I had zero issues setting up tubeless, I have Nextie Jungle Fox rims so maybe the tolerances aren’t so big? Great plus tire so far, weeps a bit though, I’m running the TCS Light/Fast.

  • Delan Lonowski

    Being the shade thrower I am…As a big guy I feel the tread on my tough/fast is wearing out too quickly compared to other tires. I will opt for another tire when the time comes. The 3.0 I had on front didn’t feel like it held too well on loose gravelly situations. I haven’t had problems mounting to dually rims.

  • themore weexplore

    My rangers have surprised me with how tough they’ve been, and I have the light casing ones. Multiple trips down captain ahab in moab on a handrail, and still not one puncture.

    They are wearing fast though, and they have been the most difficult tire to set up tubeless by a long shot for me.

    I’ve been quite impressed with these tires, and despite bottoming them out on the rim more than a fewtimes, they’ve remained puncture free. I don’t have quite the cornering grip I’d like up front, and I wondering what a Chronicle would feel like in conparison.

  • Overall I found them excellent and definitely valuable upgrade to the bike. They gripped way more than my worn Trailblazers and the thicker sidewalls definitely stop ‘squirming’ and they keep their shape at low pressure. Unscientifically, I did notice I lost my front a few times whereas this never really happened with the Trailblazers. Either it was just hazard or maybe because the Trailblazers are so remarkably ‘square’ whereas the Rangers are egged shaped, while they corner considerably more ‘fluidly’ than the TBs due to their egg-shaped profile, the blockish TB’s don’t get ‘sucked’ into ruts so much.

    But yeah, overall I highly rate these tires for general bikepacking.

  • odddawg

    Thanks for the great reviews here! I’m having Difficulty deciding which 27.5, 2.8-3.0 tired to throw on i45 scrapers for a few months of mixed terrain packing in Europe this summer. Have trailblazer and fat nimble now, want something different Seeking out as many multi-day singletracks as possible but certainly will be riding plenty of road mixed in . I’ve been a bit back and forth between chronicles, knards and Rangers. Are there others you’d currently recommend right now, or would you suggest one of those or combination of them? Thanks!

  • JB

    Would buy these again, but felt they wore too quickly. I rode the 27.5×2.8 front/back on the divide last summer, and wore the rear out after ~2000k; replaced the front at the end of the trip, about 4700k (I’m 205lbs). On the other hand, no flats, no weeping, felt like the right amount of fast-roll and grip when I needed it. Set up easy on stock WTB rims on my Karate Monkey.

  • Andy

    Thanks for the review. Would you recommend knards or bontrager chupacabra as longer lasting 29+ tyres? I’m looking to avoid postage troubles on a long trip!

  • Knards last a while. Here’s a 7500km review of the 27TPI model written four years ago: http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/surly-knard-review-27tpi-velocity-blunt-35-29er/

    But, the longest lasting 29+, IMO, are the Maxxis Chronicles.

  • Hmm. The Rekons are my favorite for singletrack, but they are only in 2.8 and not as good on the road as others. Chronicles aren’t too bad, but don’t provide the cornering confidence of Rekons. Rangers are a good mix, but wear out faster than the Chronicle. Tough call. I’d say Chronicles or Rangers if it were me.

  • Oh wow, good to hear direct Divide experience with them. Thanks for sharing…

  • Andy

    Most excellent. Thank you.

  • Andy

    I’m blown away by the Knard (27tpi) performance. This is my extra terrestrial after about 8,000km: https://photos.app.goo.gl/jypgJXNvxsq8QQxi2 it seems the knard would almost last longer?!

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