With a frame and fork that predates 100mm rims and the fattest of fat tires (>4.7”), I’m limited to how fat I can get. Normally, this isn’t that big of a deal and I don’t give it much thought. However, with record snow levels and the prevalent conditions being on the dry and fluffy side this year (A.K.A., ball bearing snow), I’ve been longing for more traction in the front. Once the front end starts to go, the back is sure to follow and once that happens, you’re off the bike. As a result, I’ve found myself thinking on more than one occasion — What if I could just get a little more traction in the front . . .
Enter the Bud. To be honest, I hadn’t even considered running a larger, knobbier tire in the front for the previously mentioned lack of clearance. That is until Uncle Gomez mentioned that he had kevlar bead Bud in testing rotation and he was interested to see if I could cram a big tire in my narrowish-by-fat-standards fork (Schlick Cycles asymmetrical segmented fork, remember, this was built before 5.0 tires were on the radar. Current Schlick forks are made wide enough to fit the Bud with plenty of room to spare). The plan was to see if it would fit and would it make a difference in my search for more traction up front.
Would it fit – Yes, but it’s tight. In fact, I have to squeeze it past the disc brake caliper and if not perfectly centered in the dropouts, it rubs on one side. When I fist aired it up, the tire was really loose on my puny 82mm Holy Rolling Darryl. I actually had to hold it place while I inflated it as it kept falling off. Once it was seated, I took it up to 25 PSI to really seat the bead and let it sit overnight. Damn, is that a big tire!! Even on the RD it makes my Hüsker Düs in the rear look scrawny. Of course, I couldn’t wait and had to see it would fit. With the high PSI, I couldn’t make it past the brake caliper without some serious finagling. Once I got it past and in the dropouts, I came upon the next issue – it rubs. A lot. Since I don’t ride at 25 PSI, I let it down to a respectable 10 and the rubbing subsided . . .Barley. Dropped down to my normal winter level of 5 PSI and all was good with a whopping ¼” of massive clearance.
Did it make a difference – As the Koolaid man would say, Oh, Yeah!
The increased steering traction in the front was immediately noticeable. In ball bearing snow, the front still starts to wash, but those giant knobs take hold, give a little more bite, and help get everything back under control. On groomed/packed/snow mobile trails, Bud provides some nice bite at higher speeds or when things suddenly get soft.
Obviously, the increased air volume of a 4.7” tire is noticeable as well, providing a bit more cushion than my Hüsker Düs. However, on snow this isn’t that big of a deal and I don’t plan (or see the need) on running this tire in anything but snow. The biggest advantage of that extra volume is that it handles lower PSI better and it isn’t as squirmy but still allows the tire to conform and really hook up. Part of this is undoubtedly due to Bud’s thicker sidewalls. This also makes running Bud down to 3 PSI a bit more manageable than on the HDs and combined with the big side knobs, adds up to some serious traction in loose snow.
Another advantage I’ve noticed is when the snow starts to pack up on the tire. My Hüsker Düs become giant wheels of snow with little to no visible tread. The Bud packs up (and quite a bit) with those tall knobs, but those tall knobs do stick through and provide some traction. Of course, those tall knobs also let a lot of snow pack in and the increase rotational mass is noticeable.
Overall, I’d call this little experiment a complete success. Squeezing the Bud in the front has really brought me the extra bit of traction I was looking for and made what can be some of the most frustrating snow to ride in a bit more manageable. In fact, as long as there is snow on the ground, I see no reason to part with Bud.