The following is an open letter sent to us by a frequent reader that posts comments under the pseudonym – Bike Nerd. The content of this editorial do not necessarily represent our viewpoint, but that’s sort of the idea. There are some interesting thoughts about rim widths and tires contained in what Bike Nerd honestly portrayed as “my point of view (or opinionated rant) about Plusbikes”. Let us know what you think in the comments.
—-How the bike industry screwed up Plusbikes—-
When that first Surly Krampus rolled off the factory floor with 29×3.0 tires on i45 rims they got one thing right and that was that Mountainbikes could benefit from wider tires, but in nearly all the other details they got it wrong. It was too much tire and especially too much rim. (I think the crew over at Surly were a bit high on Fatbike Kool-Aid). This is not a dis on Surly. They might be the most innovative bike company ever. (Think 29er’s, Plusbikes, Gravel bikes, Fatbikes, Bikepacking bikes, etc.) If you put a 29×3.0 1200gm tire on an 800gm aluminum i45 rim, you’ve got one mighty heavy wheel. I remember test riding early Plusbikes, and thinking, “This feels great but it sure is heavy.” The Krampus was the start…but how did the bike industry then go on to screw up Plusbikes?
The bike industry just followed the 3.0/i45 model. Nobody stopped and said, “Isn’t this just a bit much.” To be honest, there were a few bike companies that quickly moved to 2.8/i40 but most didn’t and even an i40 rim is too wide. When I converted my Fatbike to 29+, I used 600gm aluminum i35 rims and 900gm 3.0 tires. And boy, I was worried that those rims were too narrow for those tires. But no, they worked great. Myth busted, 3.0 tires don’t need i45 rims. However, 900gm 3.0 tires just aren’t durable enough. I shredded more than a few of them. But if I went to a more durable 3.0 tire, things got heavy fast. Next, I put 1000gm 2.8 tires on the i35 rims and I almost reached nirvana. I’ve kept the weight down while still retaining durability. However, I think an i30 rim would be fine on a 2.8 tire. If an i35 rim is great on a 3.0 tire, it stands to reason that an i30 rim on a 2.8 tire would also be great and you can shed another 50gm. 1000gm-2.8 tire/550gm-i30 rim = Perfection. This rim/tire combo is 450gm (1 pound) lighter than the original Krampus wheel. If I can figure this out, why can’t the bike industry? In my mind, any tire wider than 2.8 and any rim wider than i35 is obsolete like rim brakes and 3x drivetrains.
I think of the i30 rim as the “universal” rim. You can reasonably use 2.2-2.8 Mountain tires on i30 rims. One rim width can work for all the Mountain tire widths I would be likely to use. You could even reasonably use 45mm or wider Gravel tires on i30 rims. With i30 rims on your Krampus, you could go from 45mm Gravel tires all the way to a 2.8 Mountain tires. If you used i35 rims, you could use 50mm or wider Gravel tires and 2.4-3.0 Mountain tires. I’ve run 50mm Gravel tires on i35 rims and surprisingly, it worked quite well. Say yes to tire width versatility.
Enduro/Downhill tires and Plus tires don’t mix. A true Enduro tire can weigh 1300gm in a 29×2.5 size. Make a true 29×3.0 Enduro tire and it’s going to be stupid heavy. Plus is best with Trail tires that weigh no more than 1050gm.
2.6 tires just aren’t Plus enough. I’ve tried 2.6 tires and they just don’t deliver enough of that Plus goodness. If I was ranking tire widths, 2.8 would be first, 2.6 second, and 3.0 in third, and 2.4 fourth. I wish the bike industry would make more 29×2.8 tires and more bikes that fit 2.8 tires. There is only one truly good 29×2.8 Trail tire currently available and that is the Teravail Coronado I would love to see a 29×2.8 Maxxis Rekon with the EXO+ casing come out. Durable light-weight fast-rolling 29×2.8 Trail tires are what we need more of.
In regards to Plusbikes, the bike industry pretty much gave a big f— you to 29er riders . Very few major bike companies make 29+ Trailbikes. Trek and Salsa are the only ones. I got nothing against 27.5 but a dedicated 29er rider wants taller not smaller. 29+ rollover is amazing. More bike companies need to make 29+ bikes.
The current crop of Plusbikes is stale and hasn’t been updated in a few years. Consider the Trek Stache which still comes with 850gm (too fragile) 29×3.0 tires on i45 rims, old school geometry, and short travel. Come on Trek! Update the Stache with some durable 2.8 Trail tires on i30-35mm rims, progressive geometry, and longer travel. Nearly every 2019 Plusbike out there is a fossil from 2015 and not up to modern standards. The bike industry has been too busy chasing Enduro bikes and Gravelbikes and has not given Plusbikes the updates they deserve.
Ultimately and counter-intuitively, I think Plusbikes as a category of bikes needs to go away. Instead, I would like to see most Trailbikes come with i30-35 rims and frame/fork clearance for 2.8 tires and all be capable of using 2.2-2.8 tires. I don’t care what tire width the stock bike comes with. You like 2.4, ride your bike with 2.4. I would ride 2.8. There are four 29er’s that I know of that currently come this way, the Salsa Timberjack hardtail and the full-sus 2020 Trek Fuel EX, Salsa Deadwood, and Trek Full Stache. All come with 2.6 or 3.0 tires on i30-35 rims but have clearance for 2.8. There are also many more 27.5 bikes that come this way. This is the direction that the bike industry should go. Using 2.8 tires should be possible for all Trailbikes. The bike industry could easily make all Trailbikes like this. They just don’t, but they should!
Durable Trail tires wider than 2.8 are just too heavy. Rims wider than i30-35 add unneeded weight and are not compatible with narrower (down to 2.2) Mountain tires. If the first Surly Krampus had rolled off of the factory floor with 29×2.8 tires on i30 rims, I can’t help but speculate that Plusbikes might have caught on a good bit more.
Editor’s Note – Bike Nerd lives and rides in Southwest, CO, He bought his first Mountainbike bike in 1988 and has been hooked ever since. He describes himself as a big fan of Plusbikes.
Hits on a few points. For me wider is better. I never give much mind to tire weight. I care more about how it looks. Fat bikes are the cats meow. 29+ bikes seem to have an identity crisis and can’t decide where a regular downhill tire stops and plus begins. What’s next? A plus mixer? 29+/275+
You dont state your height, weight, riding style or terrain preferences, the lack of these details may send the industry in a less than desired direction for some of us. Expanding the “normal” wheel width to 2.8” might be a better approach, leaving plus bikes to chart their own adventurous direction through the woods.
Im 270lb 6’4” and love my Trek full stache. I enjoy riding animal paths and other less travled routes. Sometimes pulling a loaded bob ibex trailer. Id like to try a 29×3.5 full stache. The weight of this bike is not a concern to me.
Already the push for 2.8” has negatively affected me in that there are no 29×3” studded tires on the market. So please let the Plus market be it own thing, ok?
I am average height and weight. I live where the desert meets the mountains. One day, I could be riding super steep, high altitutde, rocky, technical trails and the next day ride slickrock and deep sand. I ride a hardtail Farley Fatbike converted to 29+ and a full-sus 29+ Trek Full Stache. I don’t claim to have all the answers for every rider. I’m just trying to describe what works well for me where I ride.
Extra weight = extra workout. I ride a heavy tire fattie when I want to go slow and dominate all before me.
Rode Bikerpelli/Kokopelli on 32mm internal rims with 29 X 3.0 Fat B Nimble’s (27.5+ tubes). They worked really well for me, no issues at all. I’m 180lbs and I rode at sensible pressures as to not ding my carbon hoops. I’ve got some Terrene McFly Light 29 x 2.8’s waiting in the wings that I’ll pair with tubeless foam inserts when the Panaracers are done. The sled is a Rocky Mountain Suzi Q, very fun Fat/Plus platform.
What you are doing is exactly what I’m talking about. The 29×3.0 Nimbles are known to run narrow and are actually 2.8 wide. However, they only weigh about 800gm. I would be concerned that I would shred a set of Nimbles in no time.
Bike Nerd – Thanks for the reply!!
It’s funny how we attach ourselves to numbers, at 800gm and approx 14,000′ of climbing and 150 miles in 3 days of Bikerpelli, I blindly said I’m giving the folks at Panaracer a chance. Not sure who actually makes them, but these svelte little plus tires made the climbing portion of the trip very pleasant. I also rode the hell out of them on Rebecca’s Private Idaho Big Potato last fall. She put in a “Diablo” section that kept the skinny tire crowd asking for mercy while the Nimbles had me floating over hell. Since these tires are NOT rated “TubelessReady” proceed at your own risk. Again I used 27.5 plus tubes and weigh 175lbs sans bodily accoutrements, so with bike/gear/rider I’m probably in the ballpark for acceptable weight range for these tires. Next summer I want to try the McFly Lights with a light weight foam insert and sealant, see the pattern here 😉
I got one of the first Kramps to hit the UK and had a revelation – you don’t need suspension. I set it up with heavy (but cheap!) unicycle rims and those horrible knards. Since then I trimmed weight a bit (velo duallys) and got some proper boots (Chupas and chronicles) I now have a Jones. The only benefit of the narrower rims and tyres is less weight and this isn’t necessarily a benefit. I’ve never ridden any plus bike and thought “this is a dog”, they all ride sweet. If you compare back to back you’ll feel the difference but if you just ride one, you won’t. Wider rims have a big benefit in reducing rim punctures and maximising tyre width. My latest weight loss campaign (Carbon rims) is more a side benefit of increased durability and reduce rim punctures that carbon rims allegedly provide – we’ll see. The views above are all valid. What we really need is choice
Quality choices is the key.
I agree that quality choices are also what I want. However, what we get is what the bike industry makes. If they don’t make bikes that fit Plus tires, then we don’t get Plusbikes. When’s the last time a new Plusbike came out or an old model got a modern update. I have seen very few in last 2 years from any of the major bike makers. I’m a little concerned that bike makers are going to stop making Plusbikes. The only thing that gives me hope is that a lot of new bikes are now coming with 29×2.6 tires on i30 rims. Unfortunately, they seldom have clearance for 2.8-3.0 tires with the exception of the 2020 Trek Fuel EX
Plusbikes can be so much more than 3.0 tires and i45 rims on full-rigid steel bikes with old school geometry. I would like to see a review of the new 2020 Trek Fuel EX mounted up with a set of 2.8’s. (Hint, hint, wink, wink at Fat-Bike.com.) That’s the type of Modern Plusbike that I am hoping to see more of. I would hate to see bike makers give up on Plusbikes. My 2108 full-sus Trek Full Stache with 2.8 tires has the best ride quality of any bike I have ever ridden but I suspect that the updated Fuel EX with 2.8’s would be even better. In my opinion, modern Mountainbikes with 29×2.6-2.8 tires are the best Mountainbikes ever made.
If you look at Brands like Bearclaw and Why Cycles – They have models that offer plus wheels that would fit the parameters that you’ve described.
So you can have it your way – Like a whopper junior with extra pickles and hold the mayo. It’s available just not as common as 29×3.0 on 45mmi rims.
I am still rocking the Krampus, but have seen 29+ go to the wayside. When I got a Krampus I got it when they went on sale last of the first gen Green ones. When I got it I waited until Carbon-tubeless rim was an option. Once Nextie made that happen I started rocking Krampus Nextie 50mm Carbon Rims with Knards, Also the old white bros carbon fork I had could fit 3.0 tires. So this made a pretty light ride. For me this bike serves a purpose, for close street trail rides, Rigid is great. Also for rides on fast flowy trails we have in the DC area. These trails on a full suspension is overkill sometimes. I also got a deadwood before they stopped making those. Have two wheelsets, one 40mm carbon with Dirt Wizards which are more like a 2.8. I also have a 35mm rims with some Racing Kenda 2.6s on for fast trails. I am about to buy some Transformer Tires 3.0 cause they are not being made any more.
You got and get it wrong in so many respects when you make hyperbolic statements like Surly got it wrong in every respect save one. There is a value for SOME applications in a narrower rim, but it’s a loss or trade off as many things are. The geo on the Krampi 1.0 still has a great many things going for it. To be clear, i ride a fair amount of the current market concepts, am personally not currently a Krampus owner (i have been) and i am a BIG plus bike proponent.
I’m in agreement with Bike Nerd, all trail bikes should be built to accommodate 2.8’s even if they come with a 2.6 front & 2.4 rear. Got my first fat bike in 2012. Got a Yeti SB5 plus in 2017, 27.5 x 3 specialized purgatory front 27.5 Rekon rear on I 40’s. My first 29er came w 29×2.6 fr and 29×2.35 rear. Never bonded with the 29” tires so swapped in the plus tires off the Yeti and the bike was so much more fun to ride. Currently riding a 2022 Turbo Levo mullet and was able to swap the stock 2.6/2.4 combo for a 2.8 WTB Vigilante in front and a 2.8 Teravail Kennebec rear. The bike rides amazingly well. My biggest fear is losing the availability to purchase 2.8 tires