By Eric McKeegan
Since the original introduction of the 29plus platform with Surly’s Krampus, riders in love with the plus-size concept have been wishing for/hoping for/ demanding a more aggressive tire than the all-purpose Knard found on that machine. While there are more plus-size tires in the pipeline, these two tires are the first we’ve ridden enough to get a proper review together.
Vee Tire Trax Fatty $120
Vee Tire’s Trax Fatty was the first non-Knard 29plus tire available to the public. While marked 29×3.0, it is noticeably smaller than the Chupacabra and Knard, although at 880 grams it’s substantially lighter as well. This reduced width and height may allow it to fit into more forks and frames than the “full size” plus-size tires. Tubeless setup was painless and the tires held air well.
The casing width exceeds the knob width on both 35 mm and 45 mm rims, which makes for an odd-looking tire shape. The center knobs are ramped, and on hard surfaces these tires are fast. The transition and cornering knobs are small and feel a bit squirmy on pavement. On dry dirt cornering is acceptable, but as things get slick the transition knobs let go easily. Leaning farther over onto the cornering knobs doesn’t always catch the slide started from the transition knobs, leading to some interesting moments.
The tires I tested are 120 tpi folding bead with a silica compound. There is also a 72 tpi version with a less-expensive rubber compound in wire bead for $100 or folding for $110. Those riders placing an emphasis on light and fast over absolute traction will find what they are looking for with the Trax Fatty.
Bontrager Chupacabra $120
This tire came as a surprise, since Bontrager’s parent company, Trek, did not offer a 29plus bike at the time it was released. This has changed with the recent availability of the 2016 Stache.
In the meantime, the Chupacabra should help quiet some of the clamor for a more aggressive tire. While the small square tread and less- than-beefy cornering knobs certainly don’t look much more aggressive than the Knard, the Chupacabra is more confidence inspiring in every condition I tried. I set them up tubeless and they snapped into place on both Syntace W35 and Velocity Dually wheels; they seemed to work best between 8 and 12 psi. I was happy with 12 rear and 10 up front in everything but snow, where dropping things a few psi helped immensely with traction but led to a lot of rim strikes and some burping on the Syntace rim.
The 120 tpi casing is supple and the sidewalls are a great middle ground between weight and sturdiness; their 940-gram weight is very surprising for a tire this size. The Chupacabra rolls quickly and corners with confidence and predictability in both the dry and the wet. This tire comes highly recommended.