While Mother Nature was a bit stingy in supplying us Michiganders with powder earlier this winter, she has started to make up for it with some great January conditions. Through the course of late fall and early winter I have been able to put the Vee Tire 2XLs through a wide variety of conditions and I feel like I am really starting to see the where the tire shines and doesn’t. If you haven’t checked out the Product Spotlight on the 2XLs yet, that is a good place to start because it has all the basic stats about the tire.
This tire is a big bump up in what is possible on a fat bike. I feel like there has been a series of steps in my fat bike life where tires have redefined what I thought was possible. It started with my first fat bike and the contrast with what I had previously done on normal MTBs. I could ride all sorts of new places and do things I never previously imagined. Then there was a second jump up when I went from the early generation tires like the Endomorph and Larry to the Bud and Lou. The Bud/Lou combo opened up a ton of conditions I never thought would be possible to ride. Now the 2XL has obliterated the boundaries/limitations I had in my head for what can be ridden on a fat bike. The way this tire has shifted the paradigm of what is possible is the aspect that I find most fun about this tire. It is just fun to see something like an untracked trail, super steep hill with minimal snowmobile tracks… and take on the challenge of riding what previously was just futile.
Where the 2XL starts to shine is in powder of at least 4″. In that amount of snow (or more) it no longer feels slow compared to other tires. If you are riding in deep powder (6″ +) the 2XL will match or blows away any other tire out there (depending on the snow type, what is under it…). I find myself running ridiculously low pressures (in the neighborhood of 1 psi) and still plowing along through conditions that would be tough walking or snowshoeing. Probably the only limitation in these conditions is your fitness and/or gearing because with the correct pressure and some determination you can go through almost anything. There are definitely going to be limitation on how much powder you can go through but as of yet, I haven’t found them if I am willing to drop pressure and muscle along.
It has excellent drive traction so digging in the rear wheel is minimized and you can claw your way up grades even while breaking trail in lots of freshies. This is a tire that calls out for me to do every “test hill” I see. I can’t believe the number of times I have thought there was no way to climb something and then I try it and successfully ride it. A ton of fresh powder and you won’t be able to climb a very steep grade but if there has been even minimal fat bike or snowmobile traffic, you will be amazed with what you can climb.
Cornering is good also. The tire feels very mild mannered when feathering the limits of cornering traction. It slips free and hooks up again in a very smooth way so you aren’t getting bucked off your line. On groomed trails there are times that it has less cornering traction than a narrower, aggressively knobbed tire because it sits more on the surface and doesn’t dig in. In deep powder the tires don’t seem to want to wander or have any other adverse effects just allowing you to plow onward.
The width of the tire and low pressures that are possible also seems to really help navigating ruts that are buried under fresh snow. Fresh snow hides all sorts of stuff that can throw you off your line. It is very easy for these ruts, logs… to either slow you down enough that they kill your momentum and/or throw you off balance. When this happens it can be really tough to get going again. Same sort of thing when at the edge of a packed track (including the dreaded balance beam effect on narrow boot packed trails) and/or in off camber conditions. The tire seems to be very good about not slipping sideways and coming out from under you. I have far, far fewer instances with the 2XLs where I am fighting with the bike to hold a line. Even when I do, the added width makes it easier to “trackstand” for a moment and then get going again. It can be super frustrating riding powder where you are stopping and starting all the time so being able to relax more and avoid that frustration is a big boon mentally for pushing onward. If you ride this tire in deep powder and feel like you are slipping around a lot due to stuff under the powder, be prepared to hear a lot of swearing behind you from your 4.8 riding companions.
Another area I have been really pleased with the performance of this tire is on really bumpy conditions like the beach when the icebergs are fresh. We have had a series of big wind days and got a ton of frozen “baby head” chunks of ice when the bergs formed. The 2XLs just crawl over the irregular surface and it is an amazingly smooth ride. The super tall tire really helps with avoiding rim strikes. The mammoth contact patch also seems to find some sort of texture to grab onto so even though it is icy, I am able to grades, off camber and ice ledges that I can’t even come close to navigating with smaller tires.
Lastly, this tire is a great “groomer” tire. If you have one or two guys on 2XLs at the front breaking trail it allows others to be able to follow along on far less powder-capable of bikes. The path it leaves is wide enough that the “game of operation” that you sometimes play while riding in someone’s tracks is doable if you are smooth and relaxed. We routinely put two or three 2XL bikes on the front and then guys running 4.8″ tires can follow in behind. The tire also does a great job of mellowing out ruts in groomed conditions. There are a lot of times I will ride a trail that has some ruts in corners due to previous riders running too much pressure or too narrow of tires for conditions. The 2XL seems to just smooth those ruts right out and turn them into mini-berms to help whomever comes next to hook around the corner. There have been several times that I have been able to fix our local groomed trails by riding them with the 2XL instead of regrooming the trail and completely blasting out the trail imperfections.
So is this tire the panacea of greatness that eclipses all other fat bike tire options? In a word, no. This is not a race tire nor is it an “all arounder” tire that you will want to ride on groomed singletrack, snowmobile trails and some occasional fresh powder. The reason for this is mostly due to the rolling resistance of this tire in hardpack conditions. I would estimate that on nice hard packed groomed trails (where float isn’t a factor), you will be working 1-2 gears harder than someone on a fast rolling tire like a Dillinger 5. I rode these tires back-to-back with Surly Bud/Lous (previously considered to be the king of powder conditions) and the 2XLs are considerably slower than they are in packed and intermediate conditions. Something that seems to contribute to the slow feeling of the tire is that certain types of snow seem to adhere to the tires. This doesn’t seem to affect traction but does seem to add weight, requiring more effort.
The Vee Tire Snowshoe 2XL is a tire that redefines what kind of conditions you can ride a bike in. Don’t get this tire thinking it is a race tire or for all around riding in a variety of conditions. Get it to go explore and see where the new horizon is for fat bike riding.