Just when one thought about every wheel size for bicycles had been invented, ridden, discarded and finally settled on, another player shows up on the field. The 29+.
Since Surly (bike Co.) introduced the new bike last spring, I’d been chomping at the bit to give one a spin. I’m already a full fledged fatbike disciple, singing the praises of big tires on dirt and snow, so having even bigger (read: taller) wheels had me drooling like Pavlov’s dogs..
The twenty nine plus platform is basically a 29” mountain bike, now the most popular wheel size on singletrack, with wider and taller tires. The wheel sets are built around a 50 mm wide rim (Rabbit Hole), much wider than a standard 29” wheel and shod with 29”x3” tires.
The bigger rubber is actually much taller than a standard 29er as well, thus earning the 29+ moniker. All this means there is a lot more tread on the trail-bigger contact patch = more traction. Normal fatbikes use 26” wheels, but with their huge 4” (or more) tires, the diameter measures out to almost a 29er, making the ride much smoother.
The Krampus, with even a larger circumference, rolls even better I found out.
But why 29+? I believe the same reason many mountain bikers have left twenty six inch wheels behind and embraced larger wheels-they provide a better ride, less rolling resistance and are just faster all around. Although fatbikes are close in size, they do weigh more, and are somewhat slower handling.
Make no mistake, I love my fatbike for all year riding-so much so, that my pricy carbon framed 29er sits now in someone else’s garage. I enjoy the ride feel, the traction and just plain fun of barreling down the trail on a fatbike. But ... this Krampus 29+ thing-that could mean most of the benefits of a fatbike, plus a quicker handling, faster and lighter bike. All true, as I would discover.
At the recent Gnomefest, I had an opportunity to swap my fatbike for a Krampus test ride (the Surly Krampus being nearly the only 29+ bike on the market at this time).
Fatbike Guru and friend Gomez, leader of the big bike tribe, loaned me his bike 'Silver' which he had been testing for Fat-Bike.com. It was my size, so after a quick change of pedals, I was off to do some rookie evaluations myself. Local Langlade trailbuilder Lloyd quickly guided us through some of the sweetest singletrack in the area-the Bear Paw trails and River Trail. These are rocky, bouldery, twisty fast swoopy trails that I could not stop grinning at. I flew thru the turns and downhills, forgetting all about the bike beneath me and just hanging on! The extra wide bars on the Krampus and lots of wheel in front of you give tons of control-and as Gomez shared, maybe providing more speed and nerve than is prudent. Not knowing the trails, I keep the rig under warp speed, but the 29+ wheels really wanted to faster than my medical deductible would allow. It took no time to be comfortable on this bike and I really liked it-the fully rigid frame provided all the suspension needed through the 10psi Knard tires (that, plus the larger hoop size, made rolling over rocks and roots super smooth).
Although I usually run fairly narrow bars, the monsters on the Krampus came in useful when climbing. My legs are not quite 1x10 capable for spinning up steepies, so leveraging on the bars and getting out of the saddle got me up and over some fall line climbs. As we neared the end of the River Trail, we hit a section of ruler straight old tote road, slightly downhill and with a dump of the gears, the bike was flying and overtaking my more fit riding partners-scary fast! A short road ride back to the Bear Paw meant the end of the test ride and I’d have to give the rig back ... maybe a little prying it out of my hands would be needed? I have to admit, reading and hearing others testimonials on the Krampus 29+ and how great they are, was not just hyperbole. This really is a great platform and I was sold. A test ride that’ll most assuredly cost me two grand down the road sometime ... soon.
Steve Meurett lives, works and plays in West Central Wisconsin and spends about every free moment outdoors where his passions lie. His outdoor interests take him on and off trail, pursuing mountain biking and skinny skiing, photography and hunting, while keeping an eye on wild mushrooms and the next fruit for craft wine. Steve is the Trail Director at The Levis Mound Trail System and member of the Clark County Trails Advisory Committee. He resides, teaches and is a photographer in Neillsville. Steve can be reached at email@example.com.