Retro and vintage aren’t just in as far as trendy clothes are concerned, Ritchey is doing its own 90s throwback with a 21st century update on the Z Max. We had a chance to test the 29×2.1 WCS Z Max Evolution this winter and spring and the short of it is that the Evolution is a great all-arounder XC tire, a worthy tire to bear the name Z Max. The long of it complete with weights, technical details, and ride performance after the break.
Both Ritchey WCS Z Max Evolution tires came in at 655 grams and measured exactly 2.1″ (54mm) wide when mounted at 30 psi on 26mm wide rims. Not bad for a tubeless ready 29er tire with a little more meat than your typical race tire.
Setup: The Z Max slips on easily, maybe a little too easily. I never needed to cheat and use a tire lever, but I also blew both of them off the rim during initial setup. Although I’ll admit I was installing them on converted rims, I haven’t had that problem with other tires on those rims. Also, when I tried switching them to another wheelset, the same thing happened, perhaps because they were stretched out from being blown off before and six months of use, perhaps. After that first day of struggling to get them seated and doing the Stan’s shake, set, wait, and repeat, they exceeded my expectations in every category. Once they were seated correctly, they never flatted, burped, or folded over on me, and would only lose 1-2 psi a week, much better retention than most tubeless tires I’ve run. If I had it to do over again I would simply take the time to seat the tires with a tube in first, like they recommend, then be careful not to go over 50 psi during initial setup.
Performance: The Z Max has a nice round profile marked by a center line of Z shaped nobs and dual compound rubber on the WCS version that give the tire nice purchase in a variety of situations without too much rolling resistance. When riding to the trail I didn’t have the traditional, chamois numbing buzz of winter tires and on the trail they hooked up great. I could stand up and grind in wet conditions on my single speed and rarely had the rear break free — kind of like having an old paddle tread tire without the excessive rolling resistance. Likewise, cornering was predictable with no dead spots or unexpected slides into first due to the aforementioned round profile, dual compound rubber, and evenly spaced knobs. They also didn’t seem to fold over as easily as some other tubeless tires with paper thin sidewalls, which adds to the predictable performance and allows us bigger guys to drop a few pounds (of pressure, that is) if we want.
Bottom line: Despite a tricky set-up (which isn’t unusual with tubeless tires) I’ll gladly continue running the Rithcey WCS Z Max Evolution. They aren’t downhill mudslingers or racing semi-slicks, but they’ll do most in between. A little rain certainly won’t scare them away, nor will fast, dry corners or a paved commute to the trailhead. A tighter fit on the rim and some larger volume would be nice. I’d love to run it in a 2.3.
Currently, the Z MAX is available in four sizes: 26 x 1.9, 26 x 2.1, 29 x 1.9, and 29 x 2.1 (tested) in a very affordable comp version for $29.95, and a tubeless ready, dual compound WCS version at $49.95 for the sixer and $69.95 for the niner.