Tech: [R]evo’s guide to understanding 27.5 + size tyres
We’re going to try to present this Plus conversation a bit differently – rather than a set of gospel rules, let’s look at potential pros and cons to help riders have an intelligent dialogue with their MTB resource.
Larger volume allows lower air pressure to be run resulting in additional traction and shock absorption across terrain. This is great in particular through rocks, roots, sand,etc where either flotation or deformation will allow riders to more confidently attack terrain. While developing my riding, I spent a decent amount of a summer running a 26″ DH front tyre on my all mountain bike. I had confidence it would grip and take a beating which helped me learn to ride correct lines through larger terrain. Almost any rider who claims they’re in it “only for the climbs” needs help learning to descend. Being able to enjoy a descent is a tremendous adrenaline fix – a bike that is more confident than you might help advance your technique and trail enjoyment.
As with any new technology there will be the “have’s” vs. “have not’s”. Understanding the new 27.5+ will require thorough understanding of setup and application with a variety of existing technologies. This frankly hasn’t trickled down to every shop and certainly not every online resource. Honestly this will be the weakest part of the market evolution. Sifting through the hype to find the actual performance will be a bit of a challenge at first. A few of the first to market will have it nailed – others will be racing first to market to make a quick capital grab. It is what it is. Buyer beware a bit – understanding tire and rim profile theory will help a lot. Such as knowing where a side lug needs to sit in order to work for different riding styles.
The 27.5+ system seems much more likely to catch on than the initial FatTyre craze. The 27.5+ ‘s performance is much more standard to what mountain bike riders have come to expect and accept. They are not as god awfully slow on typical riding trails (yes sand and snow and etc are great for fatbikes, got it – but I don’t come across many dunes or snow). Many of the 27.5+ bikes are capable of running standard 29″ as well, giving riders a second chance if the Plus isn’t for them – and likely helping with resale value as well.
It’s not going to be for everyone. You’re likely notice you give up a bit uphill as well as accelerating out of corners. By definition they’re going to ride less “poppy” for active riders looking for a bike to flick around.
The rider who will benefit from Plus will notice its riding attributes quickly. If you have a quiver of bikes, this might be a fun one to add for the right terrain. If you live somewhere that most of your riding is techy, chunky, loose, etc, the benefits of Plus for a single bike user are a real deal for the right personality.
Consider a few things which are harder to categorize as positive or negative but need to be reviewed:
Is your sales resource polarizing the pitch (either positive or negative) based on THEIR riding, not YOURS? I sat in on a pair of round table meetings with a wheel manufacturer and it was clear personal opinion was carrying a lot of weight early in the conversation. It takes a moment to clear the air and reset to “these are the benefits” and “this is how we maximize it for the right rider.”
Suspension setup is different. With more “suspension” provided by tyre deformation, how you setup spring rate, rebound and compression is modified. A rider looking for the benefits of Plus might be behind the eight ball with a poor suspension setup pairing.
The 27.5+ system seems much more likely to catch on than the initial FatTyre craze. The 27.5+ ‘s performance is much more standard to what mountain bike riders have come to expect and accept.
Which tyres will work best with which standard? Europe and the US are already looking at different base rim widths (Europe is working a bit wider at the moment).
Is the new Schwalbe Pro-Core system (or equivalent systems in development) when paired with an ideal rim (this is the next big thing you’re going to see from leading rim manufacturers – optimizing this potential) going to become “Plus in a box” so to speak? BikeCo.com owner Joe Binatena is working with this system in a variety of conditions and his performance notes have been really interesting. I’ve had a handful of miles on a prototype “ideal” setup and its performance is quite notable – perhaps the most ridiculous “test” is a dead sprint into curbs in our parking lot which the bike just swallows up. The ultra low tyre pressures provide traction to the point that even seasoned riders are initially shocked.
So there’s a bunch of information – some of it new, some of it things you’ve seen before with wheel size or rim width or tyre profile conversations. Getting it right will mean understanding what happens when the rubber literally meets the trail and how to optimize that.
Hopefully you’ve been able to develop some basic thoughts or at least questions to work through with your retailer. Interested in my personal opinion? I’ve been hit for quotes on Plus from a ton of media this month – and every single one has had a “personal” question. I personally think if you’ve been intrigued by the possibilities above you should review it with your shop and determine if it’s going to benefit you on trail. If you’ve looked at where the benefits lie and are unimpressed – no need to go further with this one, but maybe keep in the loop with your retailer about pairing standard tyres and rim widths for maximum performance. I personally think that there are a lot of people working exceptionally hard to help you enjoy your riding – there are people who really care in the industry about your on trail experience. If you’re not dealing with someone who works to get into your head about your current riding as well as your aspirations you should be shopping other resources. The fact is, Plus, like so many other things in riding, isn’t a cut and dry this is for everyone but if it’s right for you, you’re going to have more fun every ride – and long term that’s what it’s all about.