Wednesday, July 15, 2015

News Season: Plus Bikes

Possibly the best name for a B+ model- The Felt "Surplus" for 2016 Image courtesy of BRAIN
"Plus" bikes. I've been telling you here for a long time that these sorts of bikes, and specifically the 27.5+ bikes, were going to be "the next big thing" in cycling.

Some early releases bear this out- Specialized has not only embraced the hard tail 27.5+ bike, but has a full suspension Camber (Whoops! That's a Stumpjumper FS) variant sporting the fatter rubber. Obviously, Rocky Mountain has one as well, since they teased that Sherpa over a year ago and have made good on the promise to bring that bike to market. Rock Shox tipped us off to the future of B+ by introducing 27.5+ specific forks, as well as Manitou. Fox won't be far behind, you can bet on that. If fork makers, who won't make anything specific unless there are boatloads of orders for it, are doing 27.5+ specific forks, that pretty much tells all. You can bet that just about every mountain bike related press release for the next three months will have 27.5+ news in it. Mark my words folks.

But what about 29+? Well, we haven't seen a whole lot of movement on that front. Trek is basically going to keep 29+ alive, in my opinion, because of their commitment to the category with the introduction of the Stache. However; this will prove out to be the odd introduction, and won't be joined by many more. I know of one bike coming out in 29+ guise and about five times that number in 27.5+ wheels.

As I have said many times, 29+ is too big for most folks. With an outer diameter of 31 inches, give or take a bit, the 29+ is just too much. Too much diameter to make it work for smaller folk. Too much weight to get going from a stop or slow speeds. Too much is only going to work for fewer folks. That isn't good business. Despite Trek, Manitou, and QBP's commitment to 29+, I give it about five years more before it goes away.

Talk about yer wagon wheels......
In contrast, the 27.5+/B+ format has several advantages going for it. The first is that geometry for this wheel size favors fitting a much wider slice of the mountain biking populace. It is essentially a fatter 29"er, with the overall diameter of 27.5+ being that of a 2.2" or so 29"er wheel/tire combo. So, all manufacturers really needed to do was get the clearances a bit wider, and 27.5+ was a no brainer. Add in the "Boost" standard which widens out the hub spacing enough to give these wheels a bit more breathing room, and it really becomes simple to push this size as the next big thing in mountain biking since the 29"er to be successful.

In fact, I foresee that if this deal really gets a foothold we will also see the demise of the 29"er as well. Manufacturers would then be able to sell across one bead seat diameter for rims and one ISO bead size for tires. Manufacturers like that, and so do retailers. Smaller bikes and lighter, XC oriented bikes would all be 27.5, with the "bigger diameter option" becoming the B+ wheel. I even see fat bikes becoming 27.5/584 ISO based bikes, since that would eliminate 26 inch based wheel/tire stuff altogether, as it has mostly been wiped out anyway by 29"ers and 27.5" today.

Anyway, back to reality! The thing is, this 27.5+/B+ thing is going to become a droning sound in your ears for the next several months, so ya'all better get used to reading and hearing about how awesome it is. Because it is coming, whether you want it to or not.


BluesDawg said...

Looking forward to checking this new thing out for myself. BTW, Specialized has a Stumpjumper FSR midfat variant, not a Camber (afaik).

Guitar Ted said...

@BluseDawg: Whoops! Thanks, and corrected.

Randy Harris said...

I find it to be crazy talk if, 27.5+ being the demise of 29ers. Not a chance in the world in my opinion.

And as a recent rider to 29+ on the front of my rigid, I hope that doesn't go away in 5 years, it's a great setup.

"that's just my opinion. I could be wrong."
quote from Dennis Mil

Doug G said...

Yea, I expect 29+ to be around for quite a while. I have two 29+ bikes and love em. The Stache may have wagon wheels but it hauls Azz :-) Besides americans are always into bigger/badder.

Irishtsunami said...

GT, I love you but you have got to quit using the word "standard." It has no meaning in the bicycle industry. The only thing "standard" about the bicycle industry is a new standard every year.

Unknown said...

If by going away it is ment that 29+ will go back to (or rather remain) the omnipresent small-brand/custom-made market's beloved niche, then that's fine by me.

Btw, I'm 6" tall and I never felt that my 29-inch Ardents would be too much if slightly beyond that proverbial 2.4“. But who knows, maybe I see the sweet spot where it’s not, and Mr. GT knows his onions once again.

Unknown said...


I'm considering a plus size wheelset for my rigid, single speed 29er. I would, of course, go with 27.5+ in the back but was wondering whether you think the benefits of 29+ (e.g., easier rollover) would outweigh the cons (e.g., weight) for the front.


Guitar Ted said...

@Steve Ritchey- Much like it was when folks were trying to fit 29 inch wheels to the fronts of their 26"ers, you would experience a very different set of handling characteristics. So, if you really like the way your bike handles currently- don't do the 29+ front. If you feel like experimenting, then by all means- go for it. However; just be aware that your geometry will be affected by a slacker head tube angle, a different trail figure, (higher figure = more stable), and a higher bottom bracket, not to mention a slight slackening of your seat tube. You'll need to accommodate with changing your saddle position, and possibly your stem/bar combo.

It would affect all those things, but most importantly, it will definitely change the way the bike steers and handles off road.