Written by : Andy Oleson
I’ve been able to log some decent single track mileage on my 29+ wheelset up at the Southern Kettle trail system, and have done some side by side comparison testing, swapping wheelsets between laps, and one thing is for sure, the 29+ Rabbit Hole/Knards are faster than the 26” Darryl/HuskerDu set up. The results, really didn’t surprise me, however there are some trade offs.
The first thing that I noticed after blasting the eleven mile Blue Loop on the 29er+ was definitely feeling a little more beat up than running the fat tire set up. That may be due to tire pressure because I tend to run my tires fairly hard for speed, knowing that the larger surface contact is still going to give me good grip in the corners. That particular lap I was running 14psi front and 16psi in the rear, which is the exact same pressure I run in my Fat Tire set up. My average speed was 12.2mph on the 29+ wheels and then I switched wheelsets, to my Darryl/HuskerDu set up and went out for another lap. The average speed on the fat tires dropped to 10.8mph. I wasn’t really trying to ‘kill it’ on either set up, but rather ride consistent and try to get a true indicator as to the real feel and speed difference. Down hills on the 29+ just freaking ripped, hitting 34mph somewhere out on the trails, max speed on the Fat Tire set up was 29mph, both wheel sets climbed like crazy, but where the 29+ made a noticable difference was the speed I was able to carry on downhills leading up to climbs. I run single speed so momentum is my friend. On the rocky baby head sections was where the fat tires did a better job, taking on everything in their path and destroying it! With the 29+, I felt I had to pick my line a little more cautiously but maybe I was babying my new wheelset a bit. My first weekend of testing was a blast!
One of my other goals was to determine the best gearing for my new setup. With the HuskerDu’s I usually run 34/18 off-road, and given the larger diameter of the 29er+ I opted to go with a 34/19 to compensate for the difference. It was pretty close, although I found my self chugging on some of the climbs. Next time out, I’ll run a 34/20. I weighed my new 29+ set-up and it’s 2 1/2 lbs. lighter than my fat wheels, using stock Surly tubes. You could shave additional weight by switching to lighter 29r tubes.
26”x3.4” / 29”x3.0” / 33”x12.5 Does size really matter? In my opinion both the 3.4 HuskerDu and the 29+ out perform a standard 26” mountain bike wheel, hands down! I had thought about going to a “Standard” 29er mountain bike a couple years ago, but was always holding back, because I had so many 26” bikes and wheelsets. I found it hard to justify the switch to a “New” format. Then I got my Fat-Bike and that changed everything. Knowing that I would be able to put 29ers on my fattie from the beginning, softened the blow a bit. I built my Mukluk before the introduction of the 29+ wheel format, but as soon as Surly announced it, I knew they would be on my bike sooner than later….especially after riding “FAT” and realizing all the benefits of big tires, like massive tracion, and shock absorption. Although the 29er+ are a bit more harsh on the rocky stuff, they are still quite a bit smoother that lets say a 2.2 or 2.4 standard 29er tire.
As for tire clearance, the Mukluk with it’s alternator drop outs has no problems. It’s shown (above) in the middle of its range of adjustment. It shows plenty of clearance on the seat and chain stay bridges (below). Granted this is a Ti Mukluk, but from what I understand, any Mukluk with alternator drop-outs will handle a 29+ wheel. Beyond the awesome ride quality and increased speed is the ‘straight up baller’ look this bike has now! It’s a freaking beast! I’m used to hearing all kinds of comments when I’ve got the fat tires on it, but on a recent ride at Kettle, I came across numerous 29er riders, and they were all like!…..”WTF! that thing is a beast!” In fact I think I heard one guys bike start leaking air, like it just pissed itself!
As much as I’ve totally fallen in love with my fat-bike and massive tires, this set up, takes fat-bike trail riding, to the next level! Now I’ve got one bike that can do it all! I hope to get some time in on a Krampus, so I can compare and contrast it to my Rabbit Hole’d Mukluk. I’ll be checking that out and reporting on further 29+ ride impressions and testing data over the next couple of months.
Cheers and Happy Trails ~ Angry Andy
Interesting read. I’m upgrading my 2012 Mukluk to one with the alternator dropouts for this purpose, so it is nice to finally see some real ride impressions for the setup. It seems to perform as expected, then.
I don’t think you will be disappointed, 29+ is an awesome way to go. One thing I noticed was the stand over height was just a bit more, due to the larger diameter.
Hey Buddy nice write up! I’ve been beating the hell out of my Krampus out at the southern unit for a few weeks now. I’m loving it! Sooo much fun! It truly does rip down hills! The steamroller from hell! If you that unmistakable bass boat green sparkle,and monster tires out there. Say Hi! i’ll gladly let you have a go on the green monster!
I like the look you have with your Mukluk, I have 2012 and I am thinking of getting the alternator dropouts for mine so I can run the wheel set off of my Niner EMD (plus its forks). Did you have to offset the back wheel or is it centrally set up. Really thinking of getting rid of my Niner altogether and using my Mukluk as a do all bike (I have a XT derailleur kit waiting to be fitted to it )
Adrian, The rear wheel set up I used is a 170mm hub centered, that is the spec for my Mukluk frame spacing. Chances are that your Niner rear hub is a 135mm. As for me I have found my Mukluk is definitely turning out to be my do everything bike. Whether I run it Fat or 29+ it rocks in just about every scenario of riding I put it through. From winter snowy Fat bike races to Gravel Grinders, to 200 mile solo hammer fest rides.
Nice bike. I have one in my garage as well.
What fork are you running?
If you had to do it again now that they’re available,
would you go one super light 26″ wheelset or still one each 26″ and 29″?
I’m Running a Carver fork, been super happy with it, I beat the crap out of it and not a single issue with it. As for wheels, I will be building a super light set for racing in the future.
Hi! Do you ride in sand? Not deserts and beachs, but eventual segments. Where I live it is a very annoying problem in the months that not rain, making nearly impossible to ride with a 26 or 29″ with tubes. 29″ tubeless are much better, but still very far for solving the problem completely. Wheels sink in and you lose control.
How do you think 29+ and Fat compare in this annoying sand? And speed (for very smooth terrain with moderate climbs – and the f*cking sand)?
Not a native english speaker, hope you understand everything. Thanks!