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Bontrager Barbegazi Review

P1170705Back in December, we received our set of Barbegazi tires from our amigos at Bontrager and I called dibs on them, because I prefer to run 4.8’s that are moderately knobbed and that accurately describes the Barbegazi (BBZ). I had lost one of my favorite 45NRTH Dillinger 5 tires to a finger sized hole, no doubt, perpetrated by radicalised gnome factions at my local trail center. (but I digress), so I was looking for a tire to replace that critically wounded Dilly Five, and the BBZ’s answered the call. I love it when a plan comes together.

So let’s start with the numbers. When we get a new set of tires to test, we weigh them and take some measurements. This is what we recorded for the BBZ’s.

Tire Spec’s

Weight – 1362g and 1364g

Flat – Bead to Bead Flat = 255mm – Tread to tread Flat = 136mm

Mounted on 100mm Rims – Casing = 123mm – Tread = 123mm

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I tested the tires mounted tubeless on 100mm HED carbon rims laced to Onyx Racing Hubs and those wheels belong to my Fatback 190mm, American Made aluminum fatty, that I call Otis. We’ve done an ample number of big-fat-tire tests with Otis and the Barbegazis are among the largest volume tires that we’ve ever fit and tested. The BBZ’s mounted tubeless very easily. I’ve run them tubeless long enough to have needed to replenish the sealant once in both tires. I run 4 oz of Stan’s Sealant in each tire. After six months, the casing width of the BBZ has remained stable at 123mm. They’re also among the lightest of the 4.7-4.8 category of tires. A pair of Barbegazis save about 3/4 of a pound over a pair of Dilly 5’s.

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The Barbegazi is not an aggressively knobbed tire like the Bud/Lou/Ground Control/Minion variety. I put the BBZ in the same class as other moderately knobbed 4.5-4.8″ tires like the Dilly5/JumboJim/Juggernaut/BigFatKnard. I prefer moderately knobbed tires because, I’m fine with trading a little traction for lighter rolling resistance. Previous to this test period, I spent quite a bit of time running Dillinger 5’s on Otis and I’ve tried to duplicate my testing regiment with the Barbegazis.

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Snow

This winter was not as big of a snow year, in the Big Whiskey, so deep powder testing was not locally available. I did get the opportunity to ride quite a bit of groomed and plenty of 2″ (or less) un-groomed snow conditions. The BBZ’s shined in those conditions. The widely spaced knobs don’t collect a lot of snow and they grip, nearly as well as Dilly 5’s. The casing of the BBZ’s is a little less compliant than the Dillinger 5’s and there’s definitely fewer knobs and diverse tread surfaces than the Dillingers. The fewer knobs probably account for some of the weight savings that the BBZ’s enjoy vs. the Dillingers. When I balance the weight savings of the BBZ with the slight edge in traction of the Dillingers, I come up with a virtual tie. I feel the snow performance of the BBZ’s were equal to that of the Dillingers. Keep in mind that we’re talking about groomed or shallow layers of fresh snow. We didn’t test the BBZ’s in deep powder and we’re not comparing them to BUD/Lou/Ground Control.

Sand

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One of my fave things to do with Otis is hit the beach along the shores of Lake Michigan. The mild winter kept the beaches open and sandy for much of the last 6 months and the Barbegazi beach testing has been ongoing during the spring thaw.

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When the beach leads to Singletrack

Beach riding doesn’t require much in the way of tread, although there can be real authentic mountain bike trail involved in many beach assaults, most beach riding aficionados hold the endomorph or the Big Fat Larry as the benchmarks for beach riding and I guess I would fall into that category, as well. The BBZ’s have more tread than endos or BFL’s, so they do just fine, when the beach turns to singletrack. The BBZ’s tread pattern Has more of an all arounder level of traction, when compared to the classic beach treads.

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Where the BBZ’s really shine is the way they float over soft sand. There’s a section of beach that we ride in Zion, Illinois that is made up of a mixture of pea gravel and sand with just a pinch of lead, mercury and asbestos. The pea gravel sections are really soft and tough to ride. Every time that I ride there, the conditions range from pretty soft to hike-a-bike. The BBZ’s possess huge buoyant volume and just enough tooth to allow Otis and I to ride the soft dry sand up near the high water mark and even negotiate those bands of gravel/sand that pile up, in between there and the surf line. I’ve run them as low as 4-5 psi on the beach with no issues.

Land

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I was going to use the heading trail, but with all of the plus bike and sub 4″ fat-bike options around here, a tire like the BBZ, is not the set up that I grab to ride on the local twisties. It can certainly be done, but we’ve had plus bikes coming through the test labs and that Borealis Crestone with Husker Dus dominated my spring singletrack sessions. I do however do some local agricultural overland style riding that is mixed with some gravel, bike path and doubletrack that I can hit right from my door. The kind of ride that you might want to wear tall socks and check for ticks afterward. Those rides were well within the Barbegazi’s wheelhouse.

Land and Sea!

Land and Sea!

So if you like the Dillinger 5 (like I do) and you wouldn’t mind knocking three quarters of a pound of rotational weight off of your five inch setup, a pair of Barbegazi’s would be a pretty good option. I looked back at my review of the Dilly 5 and I gave it 5 out of 5 gnomes, but that was before a small stump tore a big hole in one of them last summer. I think I’ll revise my review of the Dilly 5 to a 4.5 out of 5 gnomes and give the BBZ’s a 4.625 out of 5 flaming gnomes. I’d buy either one with my own money, (if they were on sale or I had a coupon). Tires are expensive!

4.5 of 5 FLAMING gnomes

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4 Responses to Bontrager Barbegazi Review

  1. thub June 13, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

    Is the Barbegazi ever going to be available with studs? Did you get a chance to ride them on ice?

    • Gomez June 13, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

      Bontrager makes a studded Gnarwhal tire. I ride studs on Ice, If I can help it. You could always run grip studs if you want a studded Barbi T-Bone.

  2. Wade June 13, 2016 at 7:14 pm #

    Otis is lookin photogenic as always! Those Barbz are awesome tires, indeed. They don’t exhibit much in the way of self steer all the way down to 2.5 psi. Good on weight and rolling resistance too.

    Gomez, those beach shots are looking fun as it gets for a fatbike kinda day!

  3. J C June 13, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    The Barbegazi are great tires, if it is not cold. When it is cold (like sub -10f, -20f) they are pretty slow, noticeably slower that D5s. Perhaps the tubeless casing is harder to flex in the cold…
    Otherwise, lots to like in that tire!