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.