Surly has been credited with pioneering plus sized wheels and tires with the birth of the Krampus 29er. Surly followed upon the immediate success of the Krampus with a smaller, lighter-weight 26-inch-wheel plus-size hardtail called the Instigator, which was reportedly the most popular choice among Dirt Demo test riders this year. With most subscribers to the emerging plus movement opting for either 29 plus, like Trek and Specialized, or 27.5 plus, like Rocky Mountain (and most everyone else), we were curious why Surly chose the 26-inch wheel route. We asked Global Sales Manager John Fleck to give us the back story on Surly's evolution from full-width fat bikes to their popular plus-width ranges. What motivated Surly to explore a smaller width version of your original fat bikes?
Fat bikes are very popular in many areas of the world, in fact, out latest market is Dubai, which was almost all road bikes until riders there discovered that they could ride the sandy desert there on our five-inch-tire bikes. But, fat bikes are overkill in many places, so we made the 29-plus Krampus with modern geometry to offer trail riders the traction, climbing capability and stability of our fat bikes, but in a much lighter package. Surly was an early adopter of the 29er. The outer diameter of 27.5-inch plus wheels is very close to that of a standard 29er, so why did you downsize to 26 inches when you re-introduced the Instigator?
We had the Instigator in our line for a long time. We brought it back with wider stays to fit plus tires. By using 26-inch plus wheels, Instigator frames will also fit regular 27.5-inch wheels and tires, so it gives their owners another option.Surly is in the upper mid-west, where our trails are fast and on rolling terrain, where the 29-plus wheels carry momentum and roll faster. The 26 plus is much lighter at the same tire width and offers similar cornering and climbing traction, and stability, and it's maneuverability makes for a great all-around trailbike. The Instigator fits what we are about. Surlys allow riders do as much as possible with the same bike. How do you think plus bikes will affect mountain bike development in the near future?
I really haven't thought of that. I know that plus bikes are good for intermediate riders. I am one, and when I started riding my Krampus, I found I could ride faster and harder. I can actually say now that I can rip a trail. Most people preach that skinnier and lighter is faster, but plus-sized wheels prove that is not necessarily true. Most trail riders could ride better and go faster on wider tires.