Luckily, after a long drought of alternatives in 29er+ tires, there has started to be a flood of options being introduced. Bontrager is the latest company to send us tires to test and it looks to be a super solid contender.
Named after a mythical blood sucking creature, I can already tell you there is nothing sucky about this tire. The weight on my tires came in at 895 and 884 grams. That is a few grams heavier than the Trax Fatties that Fat-Bike.com tested but Vee Tire is now listing the Trax Fatty as a bit heavier (920g) and have slightly revised the tread design so the Chupacabra looks to potentially be the lightest 29er+ option currently available.
Bontrager has not released any info about the casing constructions (such as how many TPI) but do use their TLR designation to indicate that the tire is tubeless ready. Sidewalls feel substantial compared to the Knards which bodes well for durability in rocks but are not so excessively stiff as to affecting ride quality.
Up to this point all of the 29er+ tire options have been running true to size and the Bontrager is no different. Right after mounting, I measured the casing on my 35mm rims at 73mm and 77mm wide to the outside of the knobs. Diameter of the tire works out to be the same as the Knard and Trax Fatty at 768mm. Laid flat the casing measures 184mm bead to bead. All of these dimensions are very similar to the other 29er+ options. The Chupacabras should be available sometime around Christmas and the retail price is $119.99/tire.
This is the first experience I have had with Bontrager tires in several years and I am VERY impressed with the tubeless characteristics of this tire. I was able to easily inflate them with a hand pump. Initially I didn’t put any sealant in and the tires held pressure well over night so I took them for a quick spin and still didn’t lose any pressure on the ride. All of this indicates a very dialed tubeless design so you can spend your time riding instead of shaking your wheels in a garage.
Bontrager also supplied us with some bottles of their TLR tire sealant. Normally I would put 3oz of Stans in each tire but with how well the tires aired up (and stayed aired up) with no sealant I decided to skimp and go with only 2 oz per tire and one of the other bottles has gone in my on-bike repair kit. Early indications are that 2 oz is plenty allowing me to drop a bit more weight from my setup. (Bontrager recommends 105mL of sealant for the Chupacabra)
The tread pattern is directional with a variety of sipes in the knobs to increase the number biting edges on the tire. The knobs are slightly ramped to decrease rolling resistance. The knobs are fairly short but widely spaced so it should self-clean well in mud but it sure isn’t a paddlewheel nor dedicated spike mud tire.
The casing is fairly round with knob heights smoothly increasing from 3mm tall in the center to 4mm tall on the outermost side knobs. Speaking of the side knobs, they are well supported and fairly stiff even though they are fairly small.
After a few rides the tires seem to roll very well and hook up well on a variety of dry conditions. They have no weird handling quirks and seem to have a nice supple ride at lower pressures. The small knobs do well on leaves, punching through and finding whatever traction might be available. I am excited to have these tires for the upcoming Iceman Cometh!
editor’s note : We’re pretty lucky to get to test a variety of new tires before they even come to market. Our first post about any new tire is really just an introduction. After 4-6 weeks of riding, we write a review of how we feel the tire performs within the environment and time of year, in which, we test them. This means that most of the questions that you all have about this new tire, will be revealed about two weeks before these hit your local Trek dealer some time around the holidays. I know some of our readers have expressed frustration about the long wait for some of these new tires to become available for purchase. This is especially true for 29+ tires. We try to be the number one resource for fat-bike and 26/27.5/29 plus size news and information and that sometimes introduces the public to products that are not instantly available. Sorry about that. ~gomez~