Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Future Is "Wide Track"

Wider IS better!
Unless you've been hiding under a rock somewhere, you've probably heard about all this wider rim that and wider tire this chatter on the bike forums, in ads, and in reviews. The bicycle industry is rediscovering its roots in stuff with width and volume for your wheels.

It used to be that rims for mountain bikes were pretty wide. Heavy, but wide. Tires were.....well, big tires weren't easy to get. They were out there, but if the early mtb guys had the really big meats, we would maybe have had the voluminous rubber sooner than we did. Then something odd happened.

Rims back in the early 80's weren't all that great, and like I said, they were heavy. The best stuff was going to roadies. Keith Bontrager saw that and started rolling down some old Mavic rims to get 26"er size with the strength and weight that he felt 26"er mtb bikes should have. Of course, these were skinnier rims, but what could he do? Without thinking about it, the industry just jumped down that trail and started pushing skinny rims for mtb and we never really recovered fully until recently.

Velocity's Dually- Meet the new width for rims.
Think about this: Stan's Flow rims were considered All Mountain/Trail rims when they were introduced. They have an outer width of 28mm. That's considered an XC width today! Want proof? Velocity USA recently introduced a new Blunt SS rim, 30mm wide, XC light weight. Okay? So what......

Well, the new set up for the XC/Trail rider is to slap on a 2.1"-2.2" on these wider rims because the tires are better supported and can be run at lower pressures to absorb more of the trail surface and go faster. And what if you are not an XC/Trail speedster? Well, you go even wider. Trail rated rims and tires are going to go fatter and wider. The diameter of the wheels are going to be......unusual. Next year, by all accounts, you'll be seeing these wheels, and they will be called "B+". Oh.....and you'll be seeing them all over.

Muy Grande' Gravelo!

 If you run gravel, or even on the road, you also will be seeing wider stuff, and really, you already have. Road cyclists are now considering 28mm tires because 25mm tires have become "normal". It wasn't all that long ago that riders were pining for 20mm tires and "big" tires were 23mm.

The missing piece of the puzzle here is tubeless technology. Companies are working on it, and before long, it will happen. Pushing to go with wider tires will help. However; the hurdles to jump over with this are proving to be high. Riders need to be able to service these tires out on the road if necessary. That hasn't been the case so much as of yet.

Then there are fat bikes. Yes- you will see more and more of these out there too. They will slowly shed the "snow bike" nomenclature and become more of an "ATV" on two wheels in most folks minds. Weights will stabilize at under 30lbs for most average fat bikes, and at the high end we'll see a 20-ish pound fat bike someday for sale anywhere. It won't be an odd thing. The "other" fat bikes- the "mid-fat", 29+ bikes and aforementioned "B+" stuff, that will become more and more accepted and widespread. It is my opinion that out of all of these, B+ will become the most popular choice due to its better fit for most riders and its balance of weight and fat bike flotation characteristics.

The bottom line is that the 29"er and traditional road bikes will fundamentally change and become less prevalent on bike shop floors and on trails and road ways. Wider will become the new normal, and "skinny" will be weird. 26 inch bicycles will go the way of 27"ers and become the "old" bikes with about three tire choices. Tubes will be weird, and everyone will know and understand how tubeless bicycle tires work on the wider formats.

That's the future.


Doug Mayer said...

Been riding big fluffy true 28s on the road for the last 3 years and begging anyone who will listen to try it full time. So much better! And you can take that dirt road, poach that non-technical trail, cruise for miles on the Erie Canal Path in comfort and with speed. I don't prefer riding on the road, but I have to in order to get miles where I live, and 28-32s make it much more enjoyable.

Looking forward to trying some B+ stuff on the trails though!

Gravelo said...

Of all the silly things to remember from commercials, when Pontiac re-introduced the Grand Prix they ran a tagline that said "E aho laula" with a surf champion.