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 In my mind, any tire wider than 2.8 and any rim wider than i35 is obsolete like rim brakes and 3x drivetrains.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.