Gear

The plus-size tire

The pluses and minuses of plus-size tires

The mountain bike industry wants to reinvent the wheel. What gives?

Moab, Utah: Where mountain bike tires go to die.

“The sandstone wreaks havoc on rubber,” says Chad Guyer of Poison Spider Bicycles in Moab, Utah. He should know. Since transplanting from the tacky dark and deciduous forest trails of northern Michigan, he’s gained first-hand insight to how hard the baked bedrock is on mountain bikes in general. No matter what, you need a burley tire.

“Moab has a lot of rocks and drops and changing terrain,” he says. “The chunkier knobs on the (tire) side do better over a long period of time. Especially if you don’t want to buy tires every three months.”

Burley? Check. But are tires getting bigger?

Yes.

According to Guyer, most standard tires are coming in larger sizes, but riders are finding solace in what is being called plus-size. Not a standard-size tire, and not a fat-size bike tire. A plus-size.

How plus is plus?

Standard mountain bike tire: 2.0 to 2.5 inches wide

Fat bike tire: 3 to 4 inches wide

Plus0size tires: 2.8 to 3 inches wide

It’s noticeable at first glance. Not as crazy big as a fat bike, but pretty hunky.

“I don’t think one is more popular than the other,” Guyer said. “We do a mix of both and they both have their benefits. It’s rider preference.”

While many new riders find comfort in the surefooted plus-size without the cumbersome heft of their fat bike cousins, it doesn’t take long for any rider to note the added stability, enhanced traction and all around inspiring qualities of these big hearted treads. And you can ride them a little soft, with less air pressure, which makes for a plush ride.

There is a downside to the plus size: weight. More rubber equals rotational weight, which feels way heavier than if it was just sitting there. So, it’s not for everybody. Many riders (like this one) are happy on a larger standard tire size, say 2.3 out back and a 2.5 up front.

But there’s always plus.

“It does give you that confidence on loose sketchy downhill style terrain that we have,” Guyer said.

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