Wednesday, May 13, 2015


There are effectively four narrative threads that intertwine to tell the story of how this new project came to be.

-I've always loved the feel of high volume tires at low pressures on my trailbikes.  20 years ago that meant a 2.2, 10 years ago it meant a 2.1 labeled as a 2.3, 5 years ago it was a 2.5, and even 3 months ago it was still a 2.5.

-I've tried to like fatbikes on firmer surfaces but they're just not for me.  They lack proprioception, the ride isn't sporty or lively, the tires are too damn expensive and fragile.

-Our local trails are getting more and more crowded and more and more sanitized.  I'd rather go find something off the beaten path to explore instead of getting in line to ride a watered-down version of the trails I used to love.

-Surly sent some aggressive-intent prototype 29 x 3" (aka 29+) tires for evaluation, and I've loved them beyond all rational explanation.

Paragraphs could be written about all of the above, but that's not why we're here.

Backing up a bit, this isn't the first time I've been down this road.  When Surly first introduced the 29+ idea to the world, I was intrigued and convinced Devin Lenz to build a chassis to fit it.  I spent several months trying to love that bike, but ultimately the longish, XCish geometry never did it for me, nor did the fragile and relatively treadless tires.  I loved certain things about it, but ultimately had to admit that for my preferences and uses, 29+ was half baked.  I sold the bike and started drumming my fingers on the desktop.  

In the intervening ~two years I've ridden 29+ wheels on my fatbike when the need has arisen, but the lack of improvement in tires and the fact that that bike is a hardtail meant that my enthusiasm was often lacking.  It was a means to certain ends, but not much more.

The drumming stopped in February when some burly-casinged tires with stickysoft rubber arrived.  The only real directive given for evaluation was to 'compare them to the best tire you've ever ridden'.

It took .0001 seconds for an image of my all-time favorite tire to form in my mind's eye.  If Surly really had their sights set that high, I aimed to be honest in my assessment.

And the truth is that very quickly it became apparent that Surly had met and even exceeded the mark:  The Dirt Wizard could do everything the DHF's have, but often the DW's were even better.  After maybe 20 hours on these tires, I was back on the phone with Devin, hashing out the details of a new frame aimed at exploiting them.

Now, several rides into this new chassis, I am excited to report that there is emphatically something special about the 29+ genre once a modern short/slack full-sus chassis and tubeless/treaded tires are involved. 

That said, we still have a lot to learn about where the bigg'ns really shine, what geo works to bring out the best in them, even how much travel is really needed.

To that end, I'm experimenting with a 110mm RS-1, a 120mm Manitou Magnum, and a 150mm MRP Stage up front.  Out back we have frames with 4", 4.4", and 5" of travel to work with.  

At ground level we are experimenting with DW's and Chupa's on 35, 40, and 45mm rims.  The bike has such a completely different character just going from DW's to Chupa's or vice versa.

Will this morph into a big-hit bike to replace the LunchBox?  Will it shine on all-day techfests, or will multi-day bikepacks prove to be it's raison d'ĂȘtre?  Can this genre transcend silly marketing boundaries and become a true quiver killer?

The truth is we just don't know yet: The jury is and will be out for a bit--lots of variables to pin down.  

Thanks for tuning in--will update this space as we learn the answers to the above questions, as well as others that we haven't even learned to ask just yet.