With nearly a dozen wheelsets built in the last two weeks and the new 2016 Salsa Beargrease the en vogue bike as the platform, the 29+ wheel size is finally making it big in Northern Michigan.
When Surly released the dedicated 29+ Krampus to years ago, we were sold on the idea. The heavy, almost lumbering Krampus was still an absolute blast to ride, but at 34 pounds, lacked the snappy feel and able climbing ability of even nicer 26" wheeled fat bikes. While more than a few folks love their Krampii, it was obvious that, in a town where everyone already had a fat bike, the 29+ wheel would be an addition to a bike folks already owned and not a stand alone rig.
And that's a good thing. More and more of our pals are building up a second wheelset for their much loved fat bike, and keeping the new wheel size in mind when buying a new one. So far this autumn, we've done a growing number of wheels with Velocity's 45mm Dually rim laced to hand-picked hubs depending on the customer. Industry Nine, Salsa, Hope, Chris King, nearly every manufacturer has a great fat bike hub option, and more often than not, they come in a color that adds just a bit of personality to that second wheelset.
The 29+ wheels are lighter than the stock 26" wheels that come stock (roughly a quarter pound difference between the Dually/Knard standard and the Sun Ringle/Jumbo Jim) and offer some slightly reduced rolling resistance from a 3" tire to the 4". But it also calls in more momentum over rough terrain and an insane amount of traction compared to a stands 2.25" 29er tire.
While some riders have noticed the bigger wheels can be more work to keep moving on long climbs, new convert Wes Sovis argues that the terrain here is perfect for the 3" tire, even on climbs. "The 3" is perfect for sand and loose stuff, but for me it's the confidence descending and traction climbing. For the one and two minute climbs around here, you can just stand up and crank and not worry about slipping out at all," he noted after his second 50 mile Out and Back of the fall.
Another rider who has made the switch is Austin Johnson, a great bike handler that doesn't see the 3" tire so much as a crutch but as even more rubber to lay over. In the singletrack, he is still learning to use all of the tire, which gives so much more traction and to lean the bike all the way to the side knob in the tight stuff. Austin and Wes are bouncing between 12-15psi, with Austin on the Vittoria Bomboloni, while Wes has stuck to the Surly Knard.
And it's the growing number of choices in tires, hub widths and spacing, and rims that make the wheel size more appealing to more riders, especially those who already simply love their fat bike. So many riders understand that fat bikes are mountain bikes, a point Salsa has been pushing more over the past two years. These aren't snow bikes, they are for 365 days a year, for having fun, for going new places, and for going as fast as you want, whenever you want. In TC, riders have adopted the fat bike as the bike, their main rig, and have the top notch components and bling to prove it.
With dozens of riders now dedicated to one bike with two wheelsets, we're excited to see where the 29+ and 27.5+ wheelsizes take riders in Northern Michigan. Just around the Vasa, the wider tires certainly make the trails more fun and more accessible, and riders of all abilities can get something out of the set-up.