Whenever a new 'standard' bursts onto the scene, there's a bit of lag as other companies research, retool, and eventually release the components to match. With new wheel sizes and widths, tires are often behind the actual wheel or bike offerings, making your choices limited.
When 29ers got big, it took a good eighteen months for brands likes Maxxis, Continental, Schwalbe and others to offer a full, wide range of tires, and even longer for those offerings to find homes in your local bike shops. That lack of choice and promise of delay often keeps riders from pulling the trigger on new options for a season or two, waiting to see exactly how pervasive the trend is and what companies churn out to pair with it.
For 29+ and B+, there was certainly a delay. Way back when, Surly's Krampus and its stock tire, the 3" Knard, stood alone in the market before tires like the Maxxis Chronicle, Surly's own Dirt Wizard, and Vittoria's Bomboloni finally got off the review sites and into the real world. B+ tires, too, were limited, and it took times for options to become readily available. Now, even the stock tires chosen by brands like Kona and Rocky Mountain are nicer than some of the very best offerings from even two years ago.
With so many options out there now, it can be tough to choose one. We looked at a few of our favorites for some specific conditions, and we'd love to hear your recommendations as well.
For the all-rounder, the techy trail guy, it's very tough to beat the traction of a Schwalbe Nobby Nic. It's one of the most aggressive treads available in the width, and comes in a new 2.6" width, in addition to 2.8" and 3" options for 27.5"+. The various widths and casings vary the weight from 850 grams up to 960, but there's plenty of minute details to get the exact tire you want.
For the racer, Schwalbe offers their famous Rocket Ron in a 27.5"+, and as you'd expect, they're some of the lighest options out there. Like the Nobby Nic, the Ron is now available in a 2.6" and weighs in at just 650 grams. On a wide rim, perhaps 45-50mm, you could almost certainly expect to get that tire to 2.8" and save yourself some weight in the process. That's a full half a pound lighter than the same width set of Nics, and while the traction isn't the same, it's a great savings for folks on fast, wide open trails, or places with plenty of elevation, where weight adds up fast.
We're almost obligated to offer something with a sick skinwall, and so far, Onza has been the first to jump on the bandwagon. They're offering their Canis tires in B+ in both 120 and 60tpi. Unfortunately, the skinwalls are only available as 60 tpi, weighing in at a somewhat chunky 910 grams. 'Normal' black in a 120 tpi is 840 grams, but it's hard to give up the style points. As far as the performance of the tire, they're a lot less aggressive a tread than the Nics. Our experience has been on the 29er version of the tire, and they worked well in hardpack conditions, but not great in loose, dry sand. The more black dirt you find yourself on, the more you'll like these tires.
29+ seems to be in a bit of a hold; the industry has turned toward B+ as the standard, but there are many die-hard believers in the big wheel. For bikepackers, who may find themselves on long gravel roads, two-tracks, and even pavement, the momentum and roll-over might outweigh the added grams and higher center of gravity.
All due credit to Surly here, too. After riding a lot of 29+ tires, it's hard to top the lighter, 120 tpi Knard. It's simple, square tread lends itself nicely to an awful lot of terrain and conditions, although black mud and wet conditions are not ideal. They roll well and still get a lot of grip, especially in the annoying Michigan sand. At 980 grams, they aren't too heavy, either.
Next to the Knard, the Maxxis Chronicle is a similar choice but with a more dynamic tread pattern. It works best at low pressures on loose or dusty trails and, like the Knard and many 29+ options, might be best paired with a different tire up front. An aggressive, meaty Surly Dirt Wizard up front with a Knard or Chronicle in the back is a great idea for singletrack, and one that might be especially usefully if you tend to push the envelope in corners.
Stop by the shop to find out more about plus bikes, tire options, and anything else you want to talk about...except your feelings.