If you happen to be pining for more skinny, mountain bike tires.... man, you're really screwed. Wide continues to be kind of a big deal, with just about every company under the sun rolling out new 2.5, 2.6 and 2.8-inch rubber. Consider Maxxis... Remember when they used to bring out a couple new tires each year? Now it's hard to keep track of all the fat treads rolling out of their factory.
The company's booth was overflowing with new Wide Trail models including Aggressor and High Roller II models in both 29 and 27.5x2.5 WT (Wide Trail) flavors. EXO casings? Yup. Double Down casings? Them too. Maxxis also has their tubeless-ready, downhill tires (Minion DHF, DHRII and Shorty) dialed in and poised to be in shops within the next few months. The push for wide will soon extend beyond the world of enduro and DH.
"Everything is getting wider. You'll probably start seeing some wider XC offerings as well," says Maxxis U.S. sales manager, Andrew Bartek.
"For us, the biggest demand has definitely focused on 2.5," says Bartek. "The pendulum went from 27.5x2.5 last year to 29x2.5. Yeah, this year has been a lot of demand for 29 tires, as wide as possible. 2.5 DHF and 2.4 DHRII have been selling well."
What about 2.6-inch tires?
"2.6 is definitely the new black. There's surprisingly large demand for it" says Bartek. "Personally, I still think 2.5 is perfect—at least for me—in that you still have to choose your lines, whereas with 2.6 you tend to start monster trucking over a lot of things. But I also think there’s a place for every tire size, depending on who you are riding with and what your skill set is."
Do you think that some of the interest in 2.6 is that riders can get a bit of the benefit of riding a plus bike without their friends giving them shit for riding a plus bike? Sorta like going plus on the d-low...
"Exactly. Plus, from a practical standpoint, riders can fit a 2.6 tire between a lot of rear stays on non-plus bikes and most forks fit those tires. It's easy for people to experiment with them."
"We’re seeing a ton of demand for 2.6," says Sean Cochran of Schwalbe.
More demand than, say, 2.5 or 2.8-inch tires?
"It seems like the market is settling on 2.6," says Cochran. "E-bikes tend to like the 2.8 size, but for people still pedaling, the 2.6 seems to be that happy medium between weight and grip. And for fork and rear clearances, 2.6 is just easier for people to adapt to."
Schwalbe has added a couple of new tire sizes for 2018. The Magic Mary is now available in 27.5x2.6 and 2.8. Those two Mary models are built around Schwalbe's Apex casing, which the companys claims is stronger in the bead area to eliminate that cutting and pinch flatting that occurs with some plus-size tires. Schwalbe will also have their Rock Razor available in a 27.5x2.6 size.
"Last year we brought out the Nobby Nic in a 29x2.6," says Cochran. "Eventually, you’ll see more of our tread patterns move to that 29x2.6 size."
Kenda is also bringing out a new version of the Hellkat Pro (27.5x2.4). The company introduced the DH version of the Hellkat back in April, but is now bringing out a lighter version of their all-condition gravity tire configured around their ATC (Advanced Trail Casing). The tubeless-ready tire features a Kevlar belt for puncture resistance, a dual-compound (55a and 62a) tread and folding beads.
And, for the record, the 2018 Kenda catalog shows both 27.5 and 29x2.6 Hellkat models in the pipeline as well....