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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Been lurking here for a few weeks. I haven't posted on MTBR in a very long time, but I know a few of you will remember me. Some of you may even remember me pleading endlessly to the echo chamber of the 29" forum, more than 10 years ago, for truly wide 29" tires.

One day, a long time ago, I borrowed a 26" wheel with a 3" Gazzalodi on it, fitting it to my 2003 Karate Monkey for a day's riding. It was terrible. And terrific. The rolling resistance was ridiculous, the sidewalks were way too stiff, and it dropped my bike's front end enough to twitch up the handling. But I loved the "travel", the grip and the squirrel-crushing, rock-flattening beastliness of it. i wanted a fatter 29" tire.

I even got ready for it, having a front 29" wheel built around a 35mm rim (at the time the widest available) for a tire that did not exist. Would not exist. For years.

Then, finally, the Knard came along. The 3-inch dream, fulfilled! Or so I hoped. I bought one immediately ... and immediately found myself underwhelmed with it. Of course more 3" tires would follow in another year or two, but by then I found myself distracted with a second child, a new home in MN ... and a "real" fatbike. My budget being limited, I got a Framed Minnesota 1.0, a ridiculously great value, and a great bike*.

If 3" is good, 4" is better, right? I bought the bike for the snow, but soon found fat tires enjoyable on the summer trails. The positive traits of 3" tires certainly were amplified in 4" tires.

* But ... ugh .. I was just all over the place. Sometimes it was really fun being on those fat tires, but on technical or twisty trails I just couldn't consistently get the bike to go where (I thought) I pointed it. Sometimes it wasn't a bike, it was a wrestling partner. I just could never tame the self-steer despite tinkering with tire pressure. On some trails, if I wasn't getting yanked to the inside of a turn I was overcompensating and washing out on the edge of a berm. The handling just wasn't predictable. It was nice that the fat tires soaked up the rocks so well, because I was sure hitting a lot of them.

So between the aforementioned lifestyle distractions, and the increasing should-be-fun-but-isn't quality of actually riding my fatbike on trails, and my increasing denial of that fact, I haven't been MTBing that much the last couple years.

But this year I vowed to conquer the beast, one way or another. I was going to ride more, get comfortable with this bike, change the fit if I had to, change tires if I had to. And it finally dawned on me that what I'd wanted all along was 3" tires ... cushy, grippy, kinda monstrous, but without the wild handling and general overkill of 4" tires. Maybe I should look into a 27.5+ wheelset ... should be the same diameter as 26fat, so should fit the bike just fine.

Then a few weeks ago I said waitaminute ... I still have the old Knard growing mold in the garden shed ... and I bought the optional 29" skinny wheelset (for all of $100) with my fatbike, which I use (a LOT) for city riding. Now according to everyone on this forum these 25mm-ish wheels are way too narrow for a 3" tire, but I thought why not just try it? Put plenty of air in so it doesn't roll off the rim, and see what happens. It might not work well, but I could just remind myself of what a 3" tire might feel like on the front.

Well, it's a Knard. What kind of miracle did you or I expect? It sucked. Couldn't corner on sandy, gravelly curves, and would slide right down the side of any rock you didn't hit straight on. It was even worse than before, because the skinny rim made it positively egg-shaped, pulling the already-skimpy cornering knobs down out of reach for most cornering.

But it was cushy. And, in a straight line, grippy. It reminded me of the dream kindled years ago in me by a Sisu-crazed Finnish downhill tire.

I tried swapping the Knard and found out that although it is sucktacular as a front tire, it is GREAT in back: fast (for a non-slick), with as much forward grip as I would ever need in the Midwest (not that our trails are buff, but rather that they are only legal if they're dry), and absorbs bumps like a Thudbuster.

It also dawned on me that I don't need a 27+ wheelset after all. I don't want to keep my BB the same height! I've always preferred a higher BB than most manufacturers are giving us, so putting 29+ in my 26" fatbike might not screw up the geometry after all.

Well, having put all this together, I finally bought a 3" ChupacabXR2a for the front, and drove it up to Cuyuna for a few hours on the trails today.

Wow. Not only is this the first time I've really ever felt comfortable on technical singletrack with this bike, but I'm reminded that this is what I (forgot I) have wanted in tires for 15 years! The bike finally handles naturally, going where I steer it. It's not as cushy as a fatbike maybe, but vastly better than 2.3" tires, and comfortable enough for this dedicated rigid rider. FWIW the tires did not roll off the rims or otherwise act weird, even though they're narrower than many would say "should" work with these tires (not that I'm going to try running 5psi in them or anything). And that XR2 glued itself to everything I threw it at: rocks, roots, gravel, sand, kitty litter. $95 sure seemed like a huge sum to drop on a tire, but it is worth every penny to get myself back in the game.

Did I say back in the game? Yeah, I'm back. Mountain biking is going to be fun again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yep, 3" seems to be the sweet spot. Little did I know when I bought my fat bike that what I really wanted was a plus bike. And that I already owned one. I'll eventually get some proper wheels made up with decent-width rims, but this works for now.

I am still glad it's an actual fat bike, for occasional rides on groomed trails where we have a 3.8" minimum-width rule. Still, most of my winter riding is on ungroomed trails: honestly, they get packed down enough between storms that a fat tire isn't really needed, and they get icy enough from freeze-thaw in Minnesota's now-milder winters that unstudded tires are a serious liability. By far the most versatile option for me has been the 2" Nokian Extremes. I do have my eye on those studdable Cake Eaters, though.
 

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Little did I know when I bought my fat bike that what I really wanted was a plus bike. And that I already owned one.
Really well put. So many people are discovering what you just wrote -- so much so that I'd guess ~35% of the wheels I'm building these days are 29+ conversions for fatbikes.

Welcome back. Knards make good temp trailer hitches...
 

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Yep, 3" seems to be the sweet spot. Little did I know when I bought my fat bike that what I really wanted was a plus bike. And that I already owned one. I'll eventually get some proper wheels made up with decent-width rims, but this works for now.
I experienced the same thing. I'm glad I have a fat bike, but I, too, found the plus bike to be a better fit, especially with the tires available. For a hardtail, 2.8-3" is the way to go.
 

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I was there with you back in the day when big DH tires like the Gazz and Duro were the only way to fly fat. The early mid fat tires like the Knard were not great, neither were the early fat tires, lots of auto steer, often heavy, not always durable, etc...

It's good you gave it another shot, the new tires are very good, really just fatter versions of skinny tires with a little extra support.

What you need now is a reboot on fat!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Next I need to figure out a good all-conditions 2.8-ish front tire for the Inbred I keep in Oregon. I still fly back there several times a year for work, and occasionally find myself out there for a weekend of mountain biking. That bike is limited to about 2.5 in back, but of course will easily take a Plus tire in the front. I mostly commute with it, but do want to have a reasonably capable tire for once-in-a-while mountain biking, more often in the drier months.


For this use it has been working for me to compromise absolute traction in favor of reasonably low rolling resistance, and avoiding a tread that is treacherous on wet pavement (meaning rounded profiles are better, with more and smaller knobs). Just need enough tread to keep me on the trail in Pacific NW conditions, both westside and eastside. I have a 2.3 Saguaro on there right now FWIW. Thinking McFly or Coronado?
 

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McFly has less traction than the Chupa you have now. Pretty much across the spectrum of conditions.

Cake Eater is a good bit better on dirt, not sure on pavement.

I have both of these mounted on 35mm rims. 2.55" at riding pressure, fully stretched.
 

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Three things: 1) Welcome back! 2) Since you love 29x3 on your fatbike, you’ve gotta try 29x3.25. Get ‘em while they last... 3) The 29x2.8 Coronado is an awesome tire (for a 2.8). It’s the biggest I can fit in the front of my non-suspension corrected Black Cat. Super durable, big volume, reasonable weight and great grip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Probably won't try the 3.25 until I get wider rims. I'm okay with 3.0 on my current skinnies, but I don't think it would be wise to go wider. I'm assuming you're talking about the Bulldozer here .. the real question is this: are they still free of self-steer at "normal" riding pressures?

Mike, since I'm inclined to go sub-3" on the Oregon bike, what would you think about Coronado vs. the 2.6" version of the Chupacabxr2a?
 

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Mike, since I'm inclined to go sub-3" on the Oregon bike, what would you think about Coronado vs. the 2.6" version of the Chupacabxr2a?
The 3" chupa is a really special combo. Light, fast, and reeeeally supple.

The 2.6" version is good, but it doesn't stand out like the 3"er.
 

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Did I say back in the game? Yeah, I'm back. Mountain biking is going to be fun again.
Welcome back, old friend. I miss the days when you & I used to tour the PNW's deserts together. Think you can carve out a week of bike adventure time in 2020? A few of us wacky Oregonians will be doing our off the grid thing once again and of course we'd love your company.
=Davey Sprockett
King of the Wild Front Tire

P.S. FWIW Addiction Cycles is currently welding up a 29x3" ti AM sled w/170mm fork, 210mm dropper, blah, blah for me... lookout! Guess after all these years I finally listened to you, shiggy & RedHaze about 3" tires -- yeah, I'm takin' the plunge. :) Please come to Fall BC & check it out. Beers on me, brutha.
 

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Probably won't try the 3.25 until I get wider rims. I'm okay with 3.0 on my current skinnies, but I don't think it would be wise to go wider. I'm assuming you're talking about the Bulldozer here .. the real question is this: are they still free of self-steer at "normal" riding pressures?
I've run the Duro Crux up front on my rigid Waltworks for the last 1.5 years. Bulldozer out back. No adverse steering phenomena in the 10.5-11.5 psi range I ride. Just tons of cush, grip and rollover.
 

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Next I need to figure out a good all-conditions 2.8-ish front tire for the Inbred I keep in Oregon. I still fly back there several times a year for work, and occasionally find myself out there for a weekend of mountain biking. That bike is limited to about 2.5 in back, but of course will easily take a Plus tire in the front. I mostly commute with it, but do want to have a reasonably capable tire for once-in-a-while mountain biking, more often in the drier months.

For this use it has been working for me to compromise absolute traction in favor of reasonably low rolling resistance, and avoiding a tread that is treacherous on wet pavement (meaning rounded profiles are better, with more and smaller knobs). Just need enough tread to keep me on the trail in Pacific NW conditions, both westside and eastside. I have a 2.3 Saguaro on there right now FWIW. Thinking McFly or Coronado?
I really like the INNOVA Transformer 29 x 3 as a tire that has more traction than the XR2 up front. The Transformer is smaller than the XR2 so I think on a 35mm rim it will be actual 2.8.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Welcome back, old friend. I miss the days when you & I used to tour the PNW's deserts together. Think you can carve out a week of bike adventure time in 2020? A few of us wacky Oregonians will be doing our off the grid thing once again and of course we'd love your company.
=Davey Sprockett
King of the Wild Front Tire

P.S. FWIW Addiction Cycles is currently welding up a 29x3" ti AM sled w/170mm fork, 210mm dropper, blah, blah for me... lookout! Guess after all these years I finally listened to you, shiggy & RedHaze about 3" tires -- yeah, I'm takin' the plunge. :) Please come to Fall BC & check it out. Beers on me, brutha.
I can't make any promises about next year, although with this much advance notice I'd hope to be able to join you. Meanwhile, I think it's pretty likely I'll make fall BC for the first time in a couple years - one way or another.

And by the way, it was YOU who worked on ME about 3" tires. I remember on a previous BC - I think the spring one two years ago - fat was all I could talk about, and I remember you saying you'd tried fat bikes but thought it was overkill. That 3" was the sweet spot. I think you were right.
 

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GlowBoy, thanks for sharing.
May i ask how much do you weight?
In 2.8 i suggest you check the Maxxis Rekon. I have been using it(rear) for 2.5 months and it never fails.
Being in Quebec i enjoy a 4.8 on snow and moved fom 29x2.3 to + and love it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I guess this is a little off-topic at this point, but Davey I just booked my flight. I *will* be at BC this fall. Bike won't quite be fully plus sized, but it will have a 2.8 in front and a 2.5 in back. Lickin' forehead to seeing your equipment ... er ... see you then.
 
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