The WTB Ranger 3.0 is positioned as a “do-all” plus tire for bikepackers tackling hard-pack roads, muddy trail and everything in between.
The Ranger is offered in three wheel sizes, two widths (2.8 and 3.0) and a few different casing compounds. I recently mounted up a set of the 27.5″ WTB Ranger 3.0 “TCS Tough/Fast” tires to my Marin Pine Mountain 2 for a bikepacking trip on the Colorado Trail to see how the tire performed in a wide range of trail conditions and weather. Durability is king when bikepacking, but long days in the saddle also demand a tire that responds in a calculated way on a number of different surfaces – no easy task for the tire engineers out there.
I attempted to seat the Ranger 3.0’s to WTB’s own Scraper i45’s using only a floor pump, as this approach had worked well for me previously with WTB’s Trail Boss tires. I was able to get one of the tires to seat properly while the second refused to snap into the rim. There’s a number of possible factors between the tire, wheel, and my technique, so I can’t fault the Rangers for this – a quick trip to the shop later, the second tire mounted up without issue. I haven’t had a single problem with the seal since. I don’t have a pair of calipers, but the Rangers fit about as well as any 3.0 tire I’ve mounted to the bike with no concerning clearance issues.
Since I was riding with a fair amount of weight, I had the Rangers inflated to somewhere between 14-17psi, with slightly more air in the rear tire for the majority of the review period. With a significant amount of vertical, it’s tough to keep tabs on exact pressures so I’m not sure my setup was always optimal. To be honest, I didn’t mess with tire pressure much as I had other factors to be worried about on the trip, but it’s possible the ride quality may have changed with minor psi adjustments in either direction given the nature of plus tires. I also didn’t weight the tires, as I ride a steel bike with plenty of heavy things strapped to it so I’m not inclined to penalize for a few grams.
The first thing I noticed while testing the WTB Ranger 3.0’s was how predictable their ride was in comparison to some of the more aggressive tires I’ve had on my bikepacking setup. The rounded casing profile (when mounted to 45mm wheels) made cornering on road and dirt uneventful, and the evenly-distributed tread pattern gave the tire a consistent feel when leaning the bike on-edge into corners. This held true on looser singletrack where I was confident in the wheel’s tracking behavior even after the rear wheel came loose; I could guess when it would hook back up in most situations. The downside to this consistency is that I wouldn’t expect the Rangers to ‘save’ me on the front of the bike as I’ve experienced with more aggressive tires like the Maxxis Rekon+ or WTB Trail Boss 3.0, where aggressive side knobs can give you a second chance at life after you’ve lost traction. That said, the market for these tires is bikepackers – maybe I’m alone in this, but I don’t push it quite as hard in the backcountry as I do on a regular ride, rendering this a moot point for the Rangers.
My second reaction to the Ranger 3.0’s came when I hopped onto pavement a day into my trip. I could not believe how fast the tire rolled on the road, and I was glad for the added efficiency while slogging away at a wilderness detour that tracked about 25 miles on paved highway. I’ve previously run the Specialized Ground Control GRID 3.0 on my rear wheel for it’s high-rolling qualities, and I felt the Ranger 3.0 was significantly faster – I would attribute this to the tight tread pattern in the tire’s center and the “Tough/Fast” compound, which seemed harder than the offering from Specialized. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I didn’t encounter much in the way of wet conditions on my trip, but the somewhat loose tread pattern leads me to believe the Ranger would shed mud quickly and keep rolling – to be determined.
The only time I found myself disappointed with the Ranger 3.0’s was on steeper sections of road or trail when things got really dry and loose. These tires simply didn’t have the straight-line bite I’m used to from a more aggressive tire, manifesting in a loss of traction in some situations. Specifically, powering up a hill out of the saddle often required shifting my weight further to the back of the bike than usual to get traction. The same was true on (very) steep descents, where locking a rear wheel sent me ice-skating to the bottom of the section a few times. With a fully-loaded rig, this quality can be a bit frustrating on the way up and unnerving on the way down, and I would expect it to get worse when unloaded. This may be related to the tread compound which is geared toward high durability vs. high grip. It is definitely a trade-off to consider when you’re looking at the tire’s various casing options.
Durability-wise, both tires rolled straight with zero wobbles or sealant leaks after four punishing days in the mountains. I can’t speak to the tire’s longevity quite yet, but I had a few concerning sidewall impacts during the trip where I stopped to check integrity and was pleasantly surprised to see no damage to the tire. After a while, I just stopped worrying as the tires had proven they could take a beating and keep rolling. I would attribute this to the Ranger’s “Tough” casing, as a previous experience with WTB’s “Light” casing had not shown the same resilience when faced with similar hits.
Ok, so looks are far from the most important element in a mountain bike tire, but it’s always fun to have good-looking rubber on your setup. To that point, the Ranger 3.0’s are inoffensive and there isn’t much to say here. Besides the company logo and product name, the sidewalls are lacking in any flash whatsoever. And that’s OK with me, considering they’re likely to be covered in dust, mud or whatever else the trail has to offer on a bikepacking trip. However, I certainly wouldn’t complain if WTB offered a set of these with a tan sidewall (hint hint hint) like recent plus offerings from Teravail, Vee, and onza.
WTB Ranger 3.0: Bottom Line
It would be tough to ask for more in a bikepacking tire than what the WTB Ranger 3.0 provides. The Rangers performed great in a variety of trail conditions and were a pleasure to ride on roads as well. However, low rolling resistance and predictability comes with a price – in this case, riders looking to push hard and fast on the trail might want to look elsewhere.
- Predictable, consistent handling means no surprises when you’re knocking out long days
- Super-fast rolling on pavement and hard-pack surfaces means higher efficiency on the road
- Tire’s performance is lacking when things get too steep, loose and dry
- The Ranger’s plain looks will please the minimalists among us, but let’s see a tan sidewall option!
Great durability and predictable performance make the Ranger 3.0 a solid option for bikes that can accept a 2.8 / 3.0 tire. This would be my pick for bikepacking trips when I’m not sure what conditions to expect.
Disclosure: WTB provided the Ranger 3.0 tires for testing and review. We did not receive any monetary compensation in exchange for the content of this review and strive to provide an honest and objective review of the product’s strengths and weaknesses to our readers.