Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meeting In The Middle?

Less "fat"- more "mtb".
As I look at what is going on with off road bicycles, I see a lot of things being tried. It is almost as crazy as it was in the early to mid 90's when so many small manufacturers were putting out dual suspension ideas and components were being turned out of small machine shops at rates none of us could keep up with at the time.

This is almost the case again, only now it isn't about which suspension design is going to end up being "best", but what wheel size, and even more than that, how wide and voluminous a tire are we going to end up with. 

Fat bikes are part of this, but so are the 29+ and the 27.5+ bikes. Big, voluminous tires on wider rims are all the rage now. Regular 2.4" tires, which were considered huge only 5-6 years ago, are now seen as "ho-hum" skinnies. Even I have caught myself looking at 3.8"-4.0" fat bike tires and thinking they were "small". Then I remember when I built up the Snow Dog in 2011 and thought those 3.8" Larrys were humongous!

So, what the heck is going on here? Do we really need these monster truck tires? I've been having several interesting conversations with folks in different parts of the cycling world that have given me a lot to think about. Here's where I think all this is coming from and going to......

29+: Fat and TALL!!
First of all, choices in what you can have in tires, widths of those tires, and in the rims you can mount them to have never been better. You had one choice in the 90's that was wide enough to get you by for mountain biking, and nobody thought twice about it. The reason? No choices. It was simply ludicrous to entertain thoughts of differing wheel sizes and widths of tires when there simply was zero chances you'd ever see it in your lifetime. Or so we thought......

If there was one thing that 29"ers existence did for mountain biking, it was to show the mtb tribes that there might be better alternative wheel and tire sizes to consider. Several years later, the 27.5er size was floated, then fat bikes rose to prominence, and it was on from that point. Surly has been a rabble rouser in the alt tire size scene with its 27.5 sized 26 inch based tires and of course, the 29+ tires which debuted on the Krampus.

Things in the mtb world tend to be cyclical with regard to vast choices. It seems you see tons of innovations and then a weeding out process. For instance, has anyone seen any Allsop stems or Boulder Defiants lately? I rest my case...... well, not really! 

This just to point out the folowing: Expect the tire sizes to weed out to something "in the middle". Fat bikes and 29+ are on the extremes. XC sized rubber in 27.5"er and 29"er sizes is on the conservative end. Somewhere in between I feel things will settle out, and that "somewhere", in my opinion, is 27.5+. 

Vee Tire Trax Fatty 27.5 X 3"
Already we are seeing fat bikes being pushed as "mountain bikes", which they can be. However; do you really need a huge, 3.8" tire that requires a special frame, and what is more, a really wide bottom bracket?

What if you could get some of those "fat bike benefits" in a slightly lighter, more traditional bike dimension friendly package? Fat tires have inherently attractive qualities for the off roader. Volume means lower air pressures which gain you comfort, traction for days, and stability which bodes for more confident, faster railing of terrain. However; fat bike tires, rims, and their dimensions push the weight limits and biomechanic boundaries a bit too far for some folks. Not to mention the special designs for frames and suspension bits.

29+ showed us that going slightly skinnier was a great idea to cut down on the "fat" and super wide bottom brackets. However; the huge diameter of these wheels, (something over 31" in most cases), is ponderous and just too big for a lot of people to have a bicycle designed around them. Enter B+/27.5+ tires and wheels.

Understanding that 29"er wheels have already had every conceivable type of mtb designed around their diameter, the 29-ish diameter size of the 27.5+ wheel is an easier thing to accommodate for. It would fit a wider slice of the mtb populace than 29+, and it can be had in 2.8"-3.0" widths already. Many current 29"er hardtails already exist which would work with the wheel size and full suspension designs could be executed without too much trouble going forward.

Plus sized benefits with fat bike tire traits in a package that is already somewhat familiar to current mountain bikers? Sounds like a plan to me.

22 comments:

Kyle MacDermaid said...

What DT swiss fork is that? I'm wondering if a Reba or other 29er suspensions forks will clear a 27+ wheel/tire combo.

Guitar Ted said...

@Kyle: It is a new DT SWISS model seen here: http://twentynineinches.com/2014/10/14/dt-swiss-opm-o-d-i-29er-fork-first-impressions/

defiance said...

Why no mention of 26+? Its a logical mid-fat tire size, and would carry over many of the arguments for smaller diameter tires (more suspension travel available than on 29 or B+, lowest potential weight of the lot, fits smaller bikes/riders better etc). Also B+ is a cooler name than 27.5+ (especially for those of us still grumpy about the Americanization of the 650B wheel size name).

Guitar Ted said...

@defiance- Surly obviously does this size, but it is too small a diameter to work with 29"ers, and 26"ers are, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Obviously, you could create bikes, frames, and the like to work again, but now you're back to where 29+ is. That's the thing- many have 29"ers that would work with 27.5+ already, many do not have a frame that would work with a 26+ tire. (Won't fit a standard 26"er, obviously.)

I have been informed that B+ is a dead term. The marketing wonks are all gravitating toward 27.5+ instead. We'll see what shakes out.

Shane Buscher said...

More fodder on this fascinating topic: http://www.bikeradar.com/us/mtb/gear/article/trail-tech-exploring-27-5-42832/.

More choices are great, but as a consumer I'm extremely hesitant to make a new purchase because there are, well, too many choices.

defiance said...

I would counter that near as many people have 27.5" frames which would fit 26+ as people who have 29" frames with the width clearance for 27.5+ tires. And since you need new wider-than-standard rims to run 3" tires it really doesn't matter if 26" is "dead", does it? I've been really lukewarm about the 29+ format, but both of these other plus sized concepts seem like winners to me!

Guitar Ted said...

@ defiance: And thos 27.5er bikes are mostly......what? FS enduro bikes, right? I highly doubt a 26+ tire will fit those bikes. It is the same with 27.5+ fitting 29"er FS rigs. Most won't be able to handle a 3" wide tire. (I have experience with that.) Hardtails are a different story.

But 27.5" hard tails? A miniscule market. That cuts your theoretical numbers waaaay down.

I think you're way off on thinking that 26+ is going to be "something" first off,that and your theory that there are a lot of 27.5"ers out there as well that could handle a 26+ is not right.

Dustin said...

I've been a 29er guy for a long time now, but I have to agree that the 29+ format just involves too many design compromises. B+ seems to offer most of the benefits without the compromises. If it can't fit every 29er frame, it at least works with 29er geometries that are I increasingly dialed, making B+-specific designs pretty easy to do.

Bob said...

However you achieve it the ability to reliably run 15psi+/- on a mtb is a very good thing.

Lost the name game again GT but it will always b+ to me.

Guitar Ted said...

@Bob: Yeah.....Slate said he liked B+ as well, but that the powers that be weren't down with it.

Oh well!

Michael_S said...

...like we care what some stuffed shirts say the tire is called? B+ is here to stay with the rest of us!
and where are those new rims, still waiting on WTB or Stan's new B+ rims

Kyle MacDermaid said...

Stans already has a set out...


STANS HUGO 52

Jay Swan said...

Do you know of anyone who has tried 27.5+ on a Krampus frame yet? Considering how well the Krampus rides with regular 29er wheels, I think it would be a natural thing to try. Surely you of all people must know someone who can do this experiment...

Guitar Ted said...

I don't know anyone with a Krampus that has tried this, no. I don't even have access to one of those rigs. I do have another idea I am going to play around with though, but you'll have to wait until I have that done at a later date.....

Dharma Punx said...

Been running 27+ tires on my OS Blackbuck for some time now. I absolutely love it, and at my shop in Phoenix we have been fitting 27+ tires on many of our customers' squishy bikes. I have had a few friends in the area ride my wheels, and the next day they are ordering hubs and rims for their new builds. It is ideal for the desert.

Unknown said...

Curious if there is a list of hardtail frames out there that "are" b+ compatible. Thanks! Rob

Guitar Ted said...

@Unknown: Nothing that easy exists as far as I know, but as a rule of thumb, if you run the Trailblazer on a 35mm rim it should fit any 29"er hard tail that can handle a 2.4" 29"er tire.

Unknown said...

Thanks Mark. This is Captain Bob, sorry about the "unknown" part. My mobile isn't so blogger friendly.

Guitar Ted said...

Oh! Hey there! I hope all is well.

Unknown said...

All good. You too I hope.

Turtleman said...

GT. thank you for your article.
Do you think 27.5 3.0 Trax Fatty will fit Pike29 fork? I have Ibis 741 rim.
Do you think it will fit "usual" 29er full suspension rear?
I know that 3.25 is too big. I am trying to decide to get either 3.0 or. 2.8.
Paul

Guitar Ted said...

@Turtleman: Honestly, I am not sure, but from what I have been told, the answer is no.