About a month ago I got a package from Fat-Bike.com world headquarters with a pair of Vee Tire Trax Fatty 29 x 3.0” tires. This is the same pair that they took a First Look at back in April and that article contains all of the numbers for the TF. I say, ‘screw the numbers’, I got this pair to find out about the ride, so I mounted them up on my 35mm Light Bicycle carbon rims tubeless with 3 scoops of sealant and they popped right into place using a floor pump. With the exception of a hole in the tread area from a previous tester that sealed up quickly the whole tubeless process was as easy as any tire I have worked on (of any size). Good signs all around!
My first ride on them was one of those “choose your own adventure” rides where I took off with a lot of food and water, a National Forest Service road map, some aerial photography and a general idea of where I wanted to end up but no specific route or plan. The goal was to use the Lake Michigan shoreline and the least amount of road possible to access some old school ORV trails. These trails would link me up with Forest Service roads that would get me out to one of our local trail systems before reversing the process to get back home 5-6 hrs and 60-70 miles later. I purposely chose this ride because the diverse surface types I would hit along the way would give me a good idea of what this tire can do in a lot of different situations.
Even on my short ride on trail to the Lake Michigan shoreline I was amazed at how much faster the bike felt due to the half pound rotating weight I had lost switching from my knards. Beach conditions were ideal with low wind and wet sand from a good soaker rain the night before. After several miles on the beach I couldn’t tell any difference in float/sand performance between the Knard and Trax Fatty. Neither is as good as a 4” fat bike tire but they get the job done in all but the deepest beach sand.
I then hit the road for a couple miles and immediately noticed how fast the Trax Fatties rolls. The big blocks in the center of the tread roll with minimal noise and a sure feel on the road and hard pack dirt. They do exhibit a weird feeling though when cornering at speed. “Squirmy” is too harsh a description but there is a discernible transition when leaned over and you move from the big center blocks to the smaller and more sparse side knobs. The tires actually cornered well on hard pack/road but the feel was just a bit disconcerting initially. All in all “interesting” but positive.
Next up was the ORV trails which consists of loose two tracks, super sandy “test hills,” and mudder runs. Similar to riding along Lake Michigan, the sandy sections did more to confirm the overall versatility of the 29er+ then highlight any differences between the Knard and Trax Fatty. The mudder runs were what surprised me. By no means would I describe the Trax Fatty as a mud tire because the overall traction wasn’t great, but I was impressed with how little it clogged up and kept me rolling. Granted this was loamy mud, not a heavy clay mud but it cleared better than the Knards and allowed me to keep rolling through sticky mud.
After a lot of playing on the ORV trails I moseyed out to our local singletrack. The tires seemed to hook up well and I had a ball ripping around and roosting corners. That said, I could already tell it was going to be difficult to see if the absolute cornering traction was better or worse than the Knards. Nothing but a bunch more miles and also some racing on them was going to flesh out where the Trax Fatty stood in this regard.
Now seems to be the time to hit what is the elephant in the room with a lot of Vee Tires – the narrow tread. For a given casing size, most Vee Tires have considerably more narrow tread than other tire manufacturers. For example, on my 35mm rims the Trax Fatty has a 71mm casing width and 67mm wide knobs whereas the Knard is 72mm casing/76mm knob. If the narrow tread design is going to work on any setup, it is going to work on what I am running because the more narrow rim (35mm vs. 50mm Rabbit Hole) will make the casing more rounded and allow you to lean the bike over further before you run out of side knobs.
The first few times I really leaned the bike over hard in a corner with the Trax Fatties I was a bit worried about the tires hooking up because of the narrow tread but it was completely not an issue. My biggest beef with the Knards for our local trails is seriously lack of traction in the transitional zone from being more upright to leaned way over. The Trax Fatty didn’t exhibit any similar issues and had surprisingly good traction until you leaned it really far over. Up to about 45 degrees of lean angle the Trax Fatty seemed to have a bit better cornering traction than the Knard and if you push the bike over a bit more, the Knard seems to take the lead on cornering traction. Which tire wins out for you is really dependent on your style of riding and trail conditions.
I was curious how their silica rubber compound would hold up considering I have always heard that it aides winter traction. After about 400 miles of trail, asphalt and gravel the knobs are a bit more rounded and none of the knobs are missing chunks or ripped. I would rate the tread durability as better than average.
Overall I am impressed with the Trax Fatty. It has many similar characteristics to the Knard making it a fast rolling and versatile design. Tread wear seems to be a bit better than the Knard and the weight of the pair I tested gives the TF a definite edge while the Knard is the better tires for aggressive, high lean angle cornering. I am planning to run the Knard on the front and Trax Fatty on the rear for a while to leverage the strengths of each option. It is so nice to finally be able to use the word “option” when talking about 29er+ tires! Speaking of which, a pair of Maxxis Chronicle tires is headed my way for testing so stay tuned for how those stack up.
KBS Trax Fatty Rating: 4 out of 5 Pints!