Friday, August 07, 2015

Friday News And Views

This one's a keeper with B+
Mid-Fat Plans:

I've been fortunate enough to be able to try WTB Trailblazer 2.8 B+ tires on a couple of my single speeds and, of course, on the "Fat Fargo". I've been duly impressed with the wheels on all three bikes I've tried them on. So much so that I plan on building up at least one more set of wheels to accommodate a plan I have to return another oft neglected bike I have to the general rotation.

Of course, you regular readers all have seen my scribings about how this wheel size is coming hard for 2016. That has been confirmed with a bevy of brands doing several models of this size of wheel. Not only that, but the most recent article in "BRAIN" on the wheel size quotes some tire company honches as saying "..it's here to stay", when asked about B+ tires. 29+? Nary a mention, except that asides were made to the wheel size by the trade mag in the article. This fits right in with what I think is going to happen. 29+ = too big of a diameter. Mid-fat/B+ tires = just right. That's because of the overall diameters. 27.5+/B+ is right at 29". The larger 29+ is 31" in diameter which is just too big.

I am going to do a 29+ set up alongside my B+ wheels and then I will get a much better comparison. Both sizes should be up and running here before the end of the year. Stay tuned on that......

Breaking out the Tamland for Gravel Worlds
Gravel Worlds:

The last big event for me this year is Gravel Worlds in Lincoln, Nebraska. This time I am busting out the Tamland. There are a few reasons why this bike gets the call up.

First of all, according to intell received via the PCL, there won't be near the steep climbing that the GTDRI had, and there won't be long distances between resupplies like there were in the Dirty Kanza. What I am seeing is that we will have to be ready to ride up to 40 miles at a crack. That makes things a bit lighter, in terms of what to carry. That doesn't look like Fat Fargo territory to me. With the Tamland's 1 to 1 low gear, I should be fine with the hills, and I can carry four to five water bottles with my Chaff Bag set up and the cages that the Tamland has. Plenty of fluids for 40 mile stints. Then all I have to carry, really, is some food and tools. I'll likely pack up the Tangle Bag for that.

The fenders will come off, and I may slap the Gravel Grinder tires by Challenge back on there, but the Clement MSO's will do fine as well. At any rate, this is the rig I am going with.

Another studded fat bike tire option from Trek (Image pilfered from the Trek World site)
Trek World Bits:

There were a few things not seen before shown at Trek World, and those seemed to all be fat bike related. First of all, there is the new fat bike tire with the goofy name "Gnarwahl". (groan)

Okay..... Besides the unfortunate naming of this tire, it looks to be a solid offering. Some say it doesn't have enough studs, but how many do you need? (Note: I don't think you need very many, but that's me.) It's listed as a 3.8"er, which maybe leaves out those wanting big, wide, floaty meats, but I can see commuters digging this or those that use fat bikes as indoor trainer substitutes being all over this. I know I won't be on board, because I don't feel the need for the studs on fat bike tires, but I probably am in the minority here. By the way, I have heard this will be out in November, but I haven't seen a price on these as yet.

It bears repeating that Trek has moved from 170mm rear spacing to 190mm based spacing on the Farleys. There also will be a full carbon frame, the Farley 9.8, and that bike will feature carbon rims as well. Just think "Carbon Beargrease" with a wider rear. Then you'll pretty much have the idea.

Fat Bikes On The Wane?

 Interestingly, as an aside about fat bike tires, in the referenced "BRAIN" article about plus sized tires that I mentioned above, there is some insight in to fat bike tires. It seems that while molds are not the hold up, the tooling to make the bladders and what not to make the casings is a huge investment that many tire manufacturers are not willing to ante up for. As examples, it appears that neither Continental or WTB are anywhere near pulling the trigger on fat bike tire production. My perception is that the fat bike market is a saturated one now, so I would suspect that tire introductions will not be as numerous as they were a couple years ago. I could be wrong, but I bet this year will be another soft one in fat bike sales, and from what I am seeing, that does not bode well for the future of fat bikes growth as a product category.

I am blaming this B+/29+ for part of that. I am reading a few stories and seeing quotes that refer to the "plus bike market" as being the "sweet spot" from the perspective that it hits a lot of points that riders want in fat tires without the ponderous handling and weight of a fat bike. Makes sense to me, at least from the perspective of cyclists living South of the snow belt.

That's it from this dude! Have a great weekend and keep the rubber side down!


8 comments:

Idionycteris said...

Okay Ted, do I smell false dichotomy?

What about a world with room for two mid-fat diameters? Or even three? Bike makers already fit some models with different wheel sizes depending on frame size.

I'm a big guy. I love my 29+ platform for trail and dirt touring. That is, all of my mountain biking.

Bike frames come in different sizes for different sized people. So do bike wheels. And handlebars, and cranks, and... Maybe mid-fat tires can too. (Wait, they already do.)

Thanks for your great blog, Ted.

Smithhammer said...

For those who may have bought into the over-hype that fat bikes were destined to become a "huge" part of the market, sales will probably not live up to their unrealistic expectations, and will be perceived as "soft." Instead, I see fat bikes as continuing to do what they've always done well - excelling in conditions that even a 29'+ or 27.5" plus bike would be no fun, or impossible, to ride in. Of course, folks who ride regularly in these conditions will likely never comprise a big part of the market, even with the growing realization that these bikes can be a lot of fun on 'everyday' rides as well.

But that's ok - I think there is more diversity in choices than ever, and that's a good thing for the consumer, despite the industry's never-ending quest to standardize things as much as possible. Personally, I don't see fat bike popularity waning, by any means. It seems to me to be continuing to grow steadily (though not crazily), but part of that might be the result of where I live (Rockies). If Continental and WTB have no immediate plans for fat tire offerings, so be it - many other manufacturers are without a doubt offering more "fat" options then they were just a few years ago. This signifies to me that there is growing recognition of a valid market and more than just small niche appeal. If some dinosaur companies are slow to recognize that, or simply don't want to delve into that market, so be it - it only leaves more room for smaller, dedicated companies to respond and fill the void.

Wally Kilburg said...

That Fat Fargo as kitted out is one smart looking bike my friend.

Guitar Ted said...

@Smithhammer: If WTB isn't a "smaller, dedicated" company, I don't know that any tire manufacturer is. I think you missed the point. The companies that make tires live off of OE (Original Equipment) contracts from bicycle companies. Aftermarket sales don't even come close to making a dent in their end of year P&L reports. So, if these "smaller, dedicated" companies are not seeing any business to be had on the OE side that pushes them over the edge to pay for the more expensive tooling to make a fat bike tire, that tells me it isn't going to be a vibrant, growing market, as you seem to think it is. While there are more companies than ever offering fat bikes, I think you will find this tire news as an indicator of future performance in this sector. If the OE's aren't ordering more tires, then the market will flat line, or regress to a point that is sustainable. My point is that mid-fat is where we will see growth and that will come, in part, at the expense of fat bikes.

Guitar Ted said...

@Wally Kilburg: Thanks. Now to put those bags to use..... :>)

Smithhammer said...

Ted - thanks for explaining your point. Good food for thought, for sure. And to clarify, I wasn't suggesting that WTB isn't a 'dedicated' mtb company by any means (i've been enjoying their tires for 20 years), only that they clearly aren't focused on tapping into the fat bike niche, as others such as Vee, Surly, 45 North, Maxxis and even Bontrager have.

But isn't it a curious phenomenon that there are more fat bike offerings than ever before, yet OE contracts don't appear to be promising enough for more investment? How can there be a diminishing market for OE spec'd tires admist growing offerings in that category? I would suggest that while the above is indeniably a major factor, there is also more at play in the equation, and that as with anything else, some companies are willing to risk more than others, and some see opportunity where others don't (in addition to the OE factor). After all, I can remember (and I'm guessing you can too) when producing a 2.25" tire was considered risk-taking on a tiny niche market. Time will tell...

Guitar Ted said...

@Smithhammer: Amen! Time will certainly tell all.....

RGB Nameless said...

There is a problem with weight of 29+ wheels. It is the same, or just a LITTLE lower than 26x3.8/4.0 wheels. So, when I was thinking about new, light and fast wheels for my Pugsley, I decided to build something light and tubeless with 65mm rims and fast tires, like Maxxis Mammoth. Because the volume of air is bigger, so the ride is better.

BUT. There is an obvious advantage in 29+. While you still need a special frame, you don't need a special bottom bracket or hubs. For many this can be a serious advantage above fatbikes. Especially if you have a large collection of parts in the garage or under your bed in the box with stuff. And do not forget about q-factor obsessed people.

BUT 27.5+ seems to be most popular, since you don't need a special frame to try it, if you have a 29er with normal tire clearance, not the "race" model build for 29x2.0" only.

So now I'm a little obsessed with building a B+ wheelset for my 2012 Norco Shinobi 3. I'm 99.9% sure, that I can squeeze even 3.25 tire into the frame and standart 2.8" trailblazer into the RS Revelation.