Friday, October 26, 2018

Why Plus Bikes Make So Much Sense

There was a time when I obsessed over skinny tires.  2.1, 2.0 and even the svelte 1.9 inch offerings in bike catalogs and seedy online part wholesalers got me all hot and bothered.  In my mind, less rubber on the trail equaled less friction and more speed. Skinny was fast. Skinny was light. 

But skinny was wrong.

In case you haven't picked up any mountain biking magazines, or perused the new bike section in your local bikeshop, I'm here to tell that that plus bikes are taking the world by storm.  And with good reason.

They are stable, they are fun, and they are versatile.

Plus bikes are those bikes whose geometry accommodates tires with a width between a burly all mountain 2.3" and the 4" of fatbikes - with the most common widths between 2.6" and  3".
Big beefy 27.5 plus rubber.

While the majority of the market consists of 27.5+ offerings, you can also find 29ers that will handle a plus sized tire.

I made my first foray into the plus bike market about two years ago, with the 2016 Scott Genius 27.5 Plus and haven't looked back since.  Indeed, a year later I purchased a Rocky Mountain Sherpa, also adorned with 27.5 plus rims.

The Sherpa with 27.5+ x 2.8 wheels.  Adventurebike!

The Genius employs 130mm of travel in the rear and a whopping 140mm of travel in the front.  Add in the plushness of a low pressure tubless 2.8"tire, and the bike practically floats over classic New England gnar.  I began having so much fun, I ditched my clipless pedals for flats and even started wearing enduro shorts and drinking energy drinnks.  (Okay maybe the energy drink part is a lie, but I certainly FEEL like I'm hopped up on a gallon of taurine and ginsing on my rides.

I'm a big fan of the Scott suspension lockout system, which turns the bike into a rigid hardtail for the ups.  And I've simplified my cockpit by converting the gearing to 1x11 from the standard 2x11 setup.  I'm able to scramble up pretty much everything Eastern Mass has to offer on this setup, even if I have to use a pieplate of a rear cog to do it.

One of the advantages of a frame that is designed around the 27.5 plus wheels is that is also ideal for a regular sized 29er wheel given that the outside diameter of a 27.5 x 2.8" tire is about equal to that of a 29 x 2.3" setup.

The Sherpa with Stans 29er wheels in full bikepack mode.
By adding a set of ultra light 29er hoops from Stans, I essentially have two bikes for the price of one.  That means less maintenance, less space in the garage, and less sideways looks from my wife.

I keep the standad 27.5 plus setup for wet,rooty, rocky rides- and the whispy 29er hoops when I'm going long and lean on gravel or flow trails.  Although this suggests that the 27.5 plus tires may be faster for everything except pavement. 

So if you're in the market for a new bike, think plus bikes.

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