Dirt Rag Magazine

Tested: Plus-size mountain bike tires

To compliment our recent wheel size explainer (which you should check out, here), we tested four plus-size tires from MAXXIS and WTB that cover various riding conditions.

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Price: $130 (each)
Tester: Eric McKeegan

The more aggressive of the two MAXXIS tires in this review, the Rekon+ looks much like the offspring of an Ardent/High Roller tryst. Alternating wide/long center tread, small intermediate knobs and real cornering knobs are a welcome change from many of the tiny-knobbed plus tires out there.

Mounted up to Easton ARC 40 rims (40 mm internal width), this 2.8 tire measures out at 70 mm at the widest point of the tire, which is the casing; the side knobs are tucked in slightly at 67 mm. I didn’t run into any issues, but I’ve found tires with casings wider than the knobs have a tendency to be more susceptible to sidewall cuts.

The Rekon+ is a predictable tire, with good braking traction and a non-squirmy feel on all but the most traction-y of surfaces. It is not my favorite tread pattern with wet weather, as it can go sideways on off-camber slime with little warning.

At 840 grams, it is heavier than advertised, but still very reasonable, all things considered. There are two versions of this tire, both with a folding tubeless ready bead and EXO reinforced casing. A basic dual compound is $120, I rode the fancier 3C Maxx Terra compound ($130/tire), said to be faster and more durable than the Maxx Grip compound, and more grippy than the faster Maxx Speed compound.

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Price: $120 (each)
Tester: Eric McKeegan

Unlike the Rekon+, the Ikon+ is an adaptation of a standard size tire’s tire pattern. The Ikon, in any size, is unabashedly a cross-country oriented tire, with an emphasis on speed and light weight over traction and durability.

The Ikon+ has the same 67/70 mm tread/casing measurement as the Rekon+ and weighs 820 grams. As expected, this is a fast-feeling tire which handled most dry conditions quite well. It let go a lot sooner than the Rekon+ when things got wet.

The Ikon+ has three options, a basic dual compound without the TR/EXO casing for $100, a dual compound TR/EXO for $120 (tested) and a fast rolling 3C Maxx Speed compound, TR/EXO at $130.

If you wanted to race cross-country on a dry course, the Ikon+ is by far your best bet on the market for plus bikes, even if such bikes are an odd tool for that job. For more aggressive terrain and riders, a Rekon+ front and rear would be a good choice, swapping out for an Ikon rear only if things were dry.

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WTB Trail Boss 3.0

Price: $68 (each)
Tester: Jon Pratt

Built on the tread pattern of the non-plus-sized Trail Boss line, the 3.0 adds a second row of knobs beside the centerline of the tire while keeping the great, fast-rolling characteristics of its predecessors.

WTB uses a Dual DNA rubber compound, consisting of a stiffer 60a durometer rubber along the center and a softer 50a durometer rubber for side knobs. Those more pliable side knobs do a great job hanging on while shoving the tire into corners. The tire’s rounded profile allows more of those knobs to bite when pushing through turns or loamy trails. The overall tread pattern sheds well, and feels great on everything from hard packed dirt to looser, wet soil. Steering is crisp and responsive, and acceleration and braking are great.

As we transitioned into winter, the Trail Boss did incredibly well on the frozen, snow-dusted trails. However, its traction did decrease noticeably as the snow kept falling, but was still reasonable for a tire designed for less fluffy surfaces.

I ran the tires on several bikes. Setting them up as tubeless was easy and even at extremely low pressures I have not noticed any burping issues. I like my tires a bit on the hard side, so I’ve been running just under 20 psi, and they seem to confidently handle just about anything I throw at them.

Even though the tire is heavy, with a pre-production weight of 1,125 grams, the trade off for traction is worth it. The Trail Boss 3.0 is currently one of my favorite 27plus offerings.

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WTB Bridger

Price: $68 (each)
Tester: Adam Newman

The Bridger’s dual-DNA rubber compound is mated to WTB’s excellent TCS bead for idiot-proof tubeless setup. The tread’s squared blocks are directional and feature small siping to help them grip. The profile is a fairly consistent curve, without a sharp shoulder of cornering knobs. While the shape struck me as suspect at first, I’ve learned to trust their traction. I’ve found some other “plus” tires lack the cornering grip of traditional, square-shouldered tires, but the Bridgers have plenty of bite.

WTB touts the Bridger as an all-purpose tread, and I’ve found it works well on everything from dry hardpack to soft, Pacific Northwest loam. I would expect a tire this wide to have more rolling resistance than traditional tires, but the Bridger doesn’t feel even remotely as heavy as a full-sized fat bike tire. Compared to the Trail Boss 3.0, WTB pointed out that the wider-spaced center knobs of the Bridger will perform slightly better on soft surfaces, while the Trail Boss will roll faster on dry trails.

There seems to be more 27plus bikes on the market than there are tires available, so while most of the models released so far are glorified XC treads, it’s great to have a full-fledged trail and all-mountain tire as an option.



First Ride: New Maxxis 27plus, 27.5 and 29 Inch Tires

Words and photos: Emily Walley and Justin Steiner

The mountain bike market is a flurry of activity right now as frame, wheel and tire manufacturers strive to sort out where the current evolution and specialization of mountain bikes will end up. On one end of the spectrum, we have enduro bikes with descending capabilities that aren’t too far behind those of downhill bikes. Some of those bikes are even flirting with 27plus tire sizes. On the other end of the spectrum, we have 29plus and fat bikes that are being used for everything from bikepacking to crushing rowdy trails on fully rigid singlespeeds. Within the last year, manufacturers have thrown a lot of ideas on the wall to see what sticks.

In early April, Maxxis invited us to Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way near Ellijay, Georgia, in order to check out the plethora of new tires it has launched within the last year to fill the broad spectrum of demand for new mountain bike tires.

Before we talk about specific tires, let’s touch on the development process. Manufacturing tires involves having a production mold cut from steel. This process is time consuming and extremely expensive, so it’s something Maxxis, and all tire manufacturers, strive to get right the first time.

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Short of having this mold, there’s no way to produce a tire. In order to facilitate the design process, Maxxis engineers produce 3D-printed prototypes of a tire design in order to visualize the final product. This 3D-printed prototype is then shared with test riders, sales staff and OEM partners for feedback. This prototype might go through 2 to 3 revisions before a design is finalized and the mold cutting begins.

Perhaps the biggest (pun intended) story at the summit was the expansion of plus and fat bike offerings from Maxxis. In addition to some of the lighter, faster tires on offer from Maxxis, the company has recently announced burlier options in both 27plus and 29plus sizes utilizing some of its iconic tread patterns.

Maxxis’ position on 29plus trends on the larger end of the spectrum with size-accurate 29 x 3.0-inch versions of the Minion DHF and Minion DHR. In person these tires looked burly and way grippy. We’re curious to get our hands on samples to see how they roll. All that grip will likely come with the penalty of increased rolling resistance and weight, but Maxxis wasn’t willing to divulge weights since these tires we saw were pre-production samples.

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27plus versions of the Minion DHF, Minion DHR, and High Roller II will be available in a 2.8 inch width. According to Maxxis, 2.8 inches is the sweet spot for tires that are designed to be ridden more aggressively, providing a good balance of air volume and casing stability. The tires also offer the benefit of fitting inside many existing 29 inch frames. Weights for all three of these tires will be 980 grams for 120 tpi versions and 1040 grams for 60 tpi models, which is impressive considering the 29 x 2.3 inch versions of these tires check in between 855 and 925 grams.

Fat bike riders looking for substantial rubber should rejoice in the new Minion fat bike offerings. The Minion FBF and Minion FBR are inspired by their narrower Minion siblings, promising to bring a bit more grip to the world of fat bikes. Weights range from 1225 grams to 1650 grams depending on size and technology featured.

In 2015, Maxxis also launched its DoubleDown casing construction to fill the gap between its tires with EXO sidewall protection and the dual-ply downhill tires. The tires target the hardcore enduro crowd where aggressive riders are looking for a tire that’s tougher than the EXO offerings but not as heavy as a dual-ply downhill tire.

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Maxxis’ trail tires utilize a single-ply 60 tpi casing, where the downhill tires use a dual-ply of the same 60 tpi casing. The DoubleDown casing utilizes dual layers of 120 tpi casing and a butyl insert above the bead to protect from pinch flats. Even though it is a true dual-ply casing, DoubleDown splits the difference, both in terms of protection and weight, between the trail and downhill offerings.

In addition to the go-to Minion DHF, two new Maxxis tread patterns will be offered with DoubleDown construction: Aggressor and Tomahawk. We didn’t have a chance to sample the Tomahawk, but did get to ride the Aggressor in single-ply form. See riding impressions below.

Also new for 2015 is the Forekaster, offered only in 29 x 2.35 inch size for now. Billed as an aggressive XC tire, it looks very well suited to loose and wet trail conditions. The Forekaster tips the scale to 735 grams.

First Impressions

We weren’t able to sample all of Maxxis’ new tires, but here are our brief ride impressions on those we were able to ride.

Rekon 27.5 x 2.8

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Ridden by Justin.

The Rekon is quickly establishing itself as a go-to plus tire for all-around trail use thanks to its balance of traction, weight, reasonable rolling resistance and resilience. On a brief ride aboard the Rekon, I was impressed by its traction during acceleration, braking and cornering. Only in wet turns did the Rekon begin to push the front and drift the rear, but always in a predictable fashion. At 780 to 825 grams, the Rekon is lighter or on par with many 2.3 inch wide tires in 27.5 and 29 inch diameters. The Pivot Mach 429 Trail felt faster, both uphill and down with these tires than the Aggressors in 29 x 2.3 inch.

Aggressor 29 x 2.3

Ridden by Justin.

The Aggressor is designed to be a heavy-duty tire for trail and enduro applications. Weights reflect that: 900 grams for the 29 inch EXO-reinforced single-ply and 1115 grams for the DoubleDown casing in the same size. On the trail, the Aggressor felt, well, aggressive. It bit hard in all situations, providing more than adequate traction. The only downside was that they felt heavier and slower than plus tires on the 429 Trail. The extra weight was noticeable both in climbing and when flicking the bike around during technical moves and in the air. Though I have no data to prove it, I felt faster and experienced a more comfortable ride aboard the plus tires on the 429 Trail.

Minion SS 27.5 x 2.3

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Ridden by Emily.

Tested on the Pivot Mach 6 with the Minion DHF on the front and the Minion SS on the rear. The SS is generally ridden as a rear tire. A center of short, cross-country-style knobs are nestled between chunky Minion side knobs, giving the tire a boxy look. My perception was that this tire would slide around on the rear, but that wasn’t the case. The large side knobs offered ample cornering traction and the square profile was fast rolling on Mulberry Gap’s, moderately technical, Bear Creek trail. The SS saved 95 grams over running a Minion DHF on the rear. The weight savings was worthwhile on this trail, where the extra traction of a DHF wasn’t essential. However, in more aggressive terrain I’d likely opt for the extra weight of a DHF or DHR.

High Roller II 27.5 x 2.8

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Ridden by Justin.

I’m a big fan of the High Roller II, so I was stoked to see and sample this tread pattern in 27plus, even in pre-production form. This chunky tire looks mean in the 2.8 inch width and feels incredibly competent on the trail. Pivot’s 429 Trail is a very capable bike, but the High Roller II felt almost like overkill for both the bike and then relatively smooth trails we traveled. Where the Rekon felt more use-appropriate on the 429 Trail, the plus-sized High Roller II begs for more travel, chunky technical terrain and a hard-charging rider. Despite the High Roller II’s hefty appearance, it felt more nimble and seemed to roll at least as well as, if not better than, the Aggressor on the 429 Trail. Not only that, but there’s only an 80 to 104 gram weight penalty compared to the lightest Aggressor. Aired up to 15-16 psi in the front and 18-19 psi in the rear, as recommended by Pivot President and CEO Chris Cocalis, I wasn’t able to discern any tire squirm or other strange handling characteristics during our brief ride. Though more testing is required, this tire setup shows a lot of promise for aggressive riding in rough terrain.

Ardent Race 29 x 2.2

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Ridden by Emily.

On the 100 mm travel Pivot Mach 429SL, this medium tread tire was about perfect on Georgia’s non-technical Pinhoti 2 and 3, which involved a fair bit of climbing before hitting a rewarding downhill. The Ardent Race tires were quick to climb and capable on the descents, offering a balance of fast rolling speed and plenty of grip on loose terrain. The Ardent Race tread falls between the lightweight Ikon and the more aggressive Ardent.



A look at some of the cold-weather gear we have on test

I had lots of plans to ride fat bikes this winter. But January seemed to have more days in the 50s than the 30s, and I missed the only real snow storm due to a trip to Chile to ride the new Santa Cruz Hightower. Winter is paying us back with some cold weather, and that should give us a chance to get out on some of this cold-weather stuff that has been staying warm inside.


Stan’s NoTubes Race Sealant

First up, a not-specifically-cold weather product, Stan’s new Race Sealant.

  • Twice the sealing crystals = faster, stronger seals to get you across the line first
  • Additional larger crystals = seals larger punctures to keep you rolling
  • Premium low-viscosity latex = reacts fast and works in the widest range of temperatures and conditions
  • Natural materials = safe for the environment

It is also good until -30 degrees, which is pretty important for fat bikers.

This is the first product developed in Stan’s Racing Development (SRD) group, a newly-developed collection of employees dedicated to developing race-oriented products. This new sealant should be checked every two weeks, versus 4-5 for the standard juice. Pricing is forthcoming.

More info: notubes.com


Bar Mitts Extreme Cold Pogies – $125

With below zero wind chills threatening in a few days, I should be able to put these to the test. Lot’s of room inside to keep snacks from freezing and various glove thicknesses. They install via handlebar end-plugs, which seems pretty simple compared to the internal Velcro loops of standard Bar Mitts pogies.

  • Waterproof, 6 mm thick neoprene with Fleece on the inside and nylon lamination on the outside
  • Removable Velcro cuff for easy access & removal of hands with no draw string complications
  • Expandable bar end plug, which keeps the mitts stiff and in place
  • Zipper can be opened for ventilation and temperature regulation
  • Easily installed and removed
  • Reflective material on seam & logo

More info: barmitts.com


SKS FatBoard fenders $55

Fat bikes need fenders, too. SKS has these easy on-and-off set that should provide coverage all the way up to a 5 inch tire.

More info: sks.com


Orange Seal Subzero Tubeless Sealant $14.50-$22

We’ve had great luck with Orange Seal’s standard sealant, and look forward to trying this new Subzero stuff. Should be fun to have a face-off versus the new Stan’s Race sealant.

More info: orangesealed.com


Bontrager Gnarwhal studded fat bike tire – $225 (each)

I paid almost the exact same amount of money for a set of steel wheels and winter tires for my car. That was used, and off craigslist, but still. Front and rear is going to set you back $450. But for riding the packed-down, icy and bumpy trails these might turn what would be a completely frustrating ride into a good time. And good times often have a price tag.

More info: trekbikes.com

Stay tuned for full reviews of all these things in the future. In the meantime, go enjoy the weather, whatever it is doing in your locale.



Inside Line: Continental releases new Baron Projekt enduro tire

Continental showed this tire last year at Eurobike, but it seems it is finally ready for production. We’ve been a fan of Conti’s Black Chili rubber compound, but have been noticing the casing and tread widths of its tire line aren’t matching up as well as we’d like with modern wider internal rim widths. The new Baron Projekt should change that. This is the only image supplied by Conti:


The “Baron 2.4 Projekt” is an extremely grippy, agile and universal enduro race tire with high durability and puncture resistance. During the development period, Continental’s tire engineers optimized the tire tread as well as the size and the structure of the carcass. Its deep-tread, relatively exposed profile is the modification of the BlackChili compound, which has been adjusted to match the needs of enduro and freeride tracks, ensures reliable grip while not comprising the low rolling resistance, even on mud or lose ground. The 2.4″ carcass combines good rolling characteristics with inherent damping without gaining weight. An additional protection layer is incorporated around the entire carcass to reduce risks of punctures. The stable Apex inlay at the lower part of the carcass prevents it from collapsing in fast corners and helps protect the sides from slicing on sharp features in rocky or rooty sections.

I’m extremely interested in getting on a set of these as we enter the wet and slippy seasons. No prices or wheelsize info yet, we’ll update after we get in touch with Continental.



Project 27plus Part 2 – WTB Trailblazer 2.8 tires

By this point you’ve likely heard plenty of watercooler chatter (both excitement and complaining) about the latest crop of bikes with 27.5 wheels and tires ranging from 2.8 to 3.5 inches wide. If you’re looking for some backstory, check out Part 1 of this occasional series.

Here at Dirt Rag we’ve only had some short demo rides on these bikes at all, so we’re not prepared to pass judgement on any of them in particular—or the trend as a whole—but we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.


In installment I’m going to look at the WTB Trailblazer 2.8 tire that kicked things off in the public eye last year when it debuted on the Rocky Mountain Sherpa prototype. We mounted up a pair to some of WTB’s own Scraper rims that have an internal width of 45 mm and seal with the excellent TCS tubeless system.


It’s so good, in fact, that in order to measure these tires I taped over the rim’s valve holes, mounted the tire and stuck a tubeless valve in. When I inflated it with a floor pump the beads snapped into place and the tire stayed inflated without any sealant in it for at least 36 hours. I wouldn’t recommend running these tires without sealant, but it was really impressive to see how well the TCS bead interface works.


Just like in Part 1 I wanted to see just how big these tires are in the real world. I grabbed the Feedback Sports calipers to find out. Mounted on the Scraper rim the Trailblazer measured 70.6 mm at the casing and 59.6 mm at the tread. The tread has a square profile, with the casing actually measuring out a bit wider than the tread. The sidewalls are much taller than a standard tire too. Flattened out and measured from bead to bead they are 170 mm, compared to 160 mm for a WTB Riddler 2.4 tire I measured.


Just as with the Panaracer tires I measure in Part 1, the rim makes a huge difference in the width of the tire. Mounted on a standard 21 mm rim the Trailblazers measured just 2.2 inches wide at the tread. They easily fit in a standard 27.5 frame and fork, but because the sidewall is so much taller I can’t guarantee they will ride very well.


The Trailblazer, left, next to a 2.3 Trail Boss 29er tire. You can see how much taller the sidewalls are.

One of the key arguments for the 27plus “movement” is that the wheel and tire’s diameter is very close to that of a 29er. In reality, these tires are a bit smaller. The 29×2.3 WTB Trail Boss pictured here measured 74.17 cm in diameter, while the Trailbazer is at 72.7 cm. It may not seem like a lot, but it is enough to drop your bottom bracket almost a centimeter if mounted in a 29er frame. Trust me, that’s a lot.

The 29er tire is still a bit taller than the 27plus Trailblazer.

The 29er tire is still a bit taller than the 27plus Trailblazer.

Speaking of, there’s really no guarantee that these tires are going to fit in existing 29er frames as many have championed. Neither tire is even close to fitting in my Santa Cruz Highball, though they both fit in an On One Parkwood frame I tried. Just as a lot of folks were shoving 27.5 wheels in bikes designed for 26-inch a few years back, I think there will be some experimentation and trial-and-error involved here, plus lists of “compatible” frames popping up in forums online.


Some tires lined up for comparison, from left: A 26×3.8 Surly Nate on an 80mm rim, the 27.5×2.8 Trailblazer on a 45mm rim, the 27.5×3.5 Panaracer Fat-B-Nimble on a 45mm rim and a 29×2.3 WTB Trail Boss on a 21mm rim.

Which brings us to the Boost system. The new, wider hubs and forks now coming to market are designed to accommodate these larger tires, as are many new frames.

Will the 27plus trend stick around in the long run? We’ll have to wait and see.


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