Seen and Heard at Dirt Demo: Surly on Plus Wheels - Interbike 2015

Sep 15, 2015
by Richard Cunningham  
Surly's John Fleck poses with a 29-plus Krampus on the left and a 26-plus Instigator on the right.

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?

Surly's Krampus 29+ hardtail is a simpler option for trail riders.

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.


  • 52 4
 I don't understand the "it's for intermediate riders" point of view.
Is it not a universal thing, that we all want to keep improving on our riding?

So plus bikes are like stabalisers for middle aged men?
  • 13 40
flag johnski (Sep 15, 2015 at 8:39) (Below Threshold)
 Did you type this from your steel rigid 26er?
  • 62 1
 I don't have a beard
  • 22 0
 Your profile pic seems to indicate that you at least once had a beard.
  • 15 1
 I yearn for one. Alas, I'm not man enough (to grow one or ride rigid)
  • 9 0
 surely you just stop shaving?
  • 17 3
 Still don't understand this plus size tyre thing for trail riding. I run 2.35 ideally for trail riding, and a 2.5 would be overkill, so why would I want to run a wider tyre than 2.5? To support my point, world cup downhillers often run 2.4 tyres instead of 2.5 - if the 2.5 is too thick for them for downhilling, why would I want a thicker one on an infinitely less gnarly trail? It seems to me like a confidence boost for riders afraid of "the edge" of their riding.
  • 5 1
 I lack the plush fullness of a Dan B certified beard.
  • 16 0
 Buy one of these bikes and the beards just comes in, like overnight.
  • 2 0
 That makes for q much better argument! I'll take two
  • 54 2
 The argument for plus size tires for beginners and intermediate rides is: the larger tires give more traction/grip and the larger diameter help roll over stuff better. This is good for riders who have less technique thus allowing them to overcome technical climbs and obstacles better. Basically making mountainbiking easier.
Better riders tend to prefer thinner tires because they want more precision and have the technique to compensate for the lower grip of 2.35 tires (eg better line choice on the climbs, getting out of the saddle at the right time, gear ratio choice, etc.)
Whether or not you agree is another matter but this is what the brands thinking is. The problem is they don't know how to say it in a way the doesn't offend//or put off potential buyers (eg you're not good enough to make the most of our latest race inspired bike so why don't you buy our plus size bike in the mean time).
  • 8 0
 ^ Good explanation
  • 1 1
 His myopic comment doesn't take into account his mass. Rider weight has a huge effect on the roll over ability of the wheels. Of course big balloon tires will once again allow you to plow through the chunder unimpeded! Lap times will improve.
  • 12 2
 All I know is that I am well beyond the beginner/intermediate stage, but I am buying a plus+ bike cause you can lean them dang near horizontal and they won't break traction in a corner. There is nothing I have seen come close to ripping a corner like one.
  • 12 2
 I surly would get a krampus from pedaling that bike.
  • 6 2
 @SintraFreeride Wait, you really think it's easier for someone who has beginner legs to climb with plus size tires?
Maybe in theory, but imo, this beginner will be more tired of carrying these big tires over the hill so he will lose his power faster, and then he will fail to climb technical stuff
  • 6 1
Couldn't agree more.

Rode a Surly ice cream truck the other day. Expected it to be a cumbersome pig of a bike. It was, but my god does it grip. Went round loose off camber gravelly corners like my dh bike goes round a hardpacked berm. Really surprised me how much you could just lay off the brakes on the downhills. Lean it in and turn the bars and it will pretty much go round any corner at any speed. So much fun. But my god you pay of it in thigh burn when things level off a bit. Or even worse, point uphill. God forbid...
  • 6 1
 I'm on 3.5" tires and am a pretty aggressive and progressive rider, though I wouldn't put a label on my riding level. If you are comfortable at high speed in pretty rough terrain, you have to keep those tires pretty firm to avoid snake bites, tire roll, and wonkiness when jumping, which negates a lot of the traction benefits you'll get at lower pressure. If you transfer into, or pump through a rock garden, those thin sidewalls are at higher risk for cuts than a standard size tire.

Even at higher pressures, there is still some added compliance, extending the useful range of a HT into chunkier terrain, providing a stable jumping platform, even on sketchy and rutted lips, and is less likely to flat on square edge hits IME.

Bottom line is that I send it more and ride closer to the edge than on my AM hardtail, even though it has 20mm more travel and more ideal geo, because those tires don't need manicured lips and are less susceptible to the minutia.
  • 3 0
 @Thustleweiner & AllMountin - agreed. Gona try to get on a demo come spring, such as the Stumpy 6fattie. Dialed geo, just the right amount of travel, fattie tires for insane traction. As long as all around climbing isn't too much of a penalty, would definitely consider a + size for the next rig.
  • 5 2
 I ride with my kid a lot (he loves to ride). I have him on a hard tail with skinny 2.1 inch tires. I do this so he doesn't one day become a middle aged man trying to justify riding on plus-sized tires.
  • 3 0
 2" tires are for dirt roadies
  • 3 0
 There is a downside to massive tyres tho. Great for loose gravelly corners as I said, but if you hit hard rough terrain at speed (rock gardens, root sections etc) the tyres tend to bounce around. All that cushioning with no damping makes for a sketchy ride on any surface that isn't relatively soft or smooth. Let the tyres down to the point that the don't bounce so much and you risk pinch flats and carcass damage. Pretty sure thats the reason DH racers don't use them. Loadsa grip, but very little control. Not great for pushing the limits. That is the reason I went from 2.5's to 2.35's on the dh bike. Not as grippy, but much more controllable. Feels more like I am riding the bike, not just a passenger.

I did chat with a Schwalbe rep about filling fatbike tyres with some sort of foam (eg cafelatex), in the hope that the foam would impart some form of damping to the tyre carcass. Could work. Would weigh several tonnes tho. Frown
  • 3 3
 2" tires are for little kids starting out, so that they can learn to pick lines and handle a bike, so they don't grow up to be entitled hipsters and middle aged men looking for the easiest way to go fast, with minimal effort and practice on your dumbed-down trails.
  • 2 0
 Wow, someones bitter! I'm pretty sure your tyre size has little to do with how old you are, how skilled you are, or indeed how big your penis is....
  • 3 0
 Wheel size and girth directly correlates with age. This is why I run 26x2.35 tires on my bike. I'm 31 and you would never know it.
  • 2 3
 You know, if you always go straight to dick size, it may be time to break the old magnifying glass out and see what you're packing. Penis envy is no way to go through life. As far as tire width goes, well I guess if ain't got the skills, here's the perfect crutch for you. Keep sucking while everyone else progresses. And I am bitter since this tire shit goes hand in hand with the dumbing down of trails. This sport isn't supposed to be easy.
  • 3 0
 I see fat bike on trail near my house I go to prison again for what I do to him ok.
  • 3 1
 If you want a fat bike, you don't need to steal one man. Thats not cool. Just buy one like everyone else...
  • 3 0
 you pay me money I ride fat bike. I take your money and spend on schnapps, cigarettes and buy girl like real man ok
  • 2 0
 Buy girl like real man. Lol.
  • 2 0
 poison my body like real man okay
  • 2 0
 real man, cigarettes, schnapps.... ok
  • 21 0
 "i haven't really thought of that". It's just the epicenter of my company
  • 4 0
 That's what I was thinking!
  • 15 1
 I have an Instigator set up with 26+ and a 160mm DVO Diamond. Most fun bike I've ever ridden (and I've ridden lots!). With the extreme dumbing down of trails that has happened recently, riding a HT brings back some of the technical excitement, plus they jump amazing with proper/modern trail geo. My next rig will likely be a DMR Trailstar built with 26+
  • 9 1
 I feel like the idea of dumbing down trails AND dumbing down the bikes to be pretty contradictory, if the bikes are getting easier to ride, shouldn't that allow the trails to get harder too? Why will we ever need +bikes if all the trails are freeways in 5 years? Brutal.
  • 8 1
 You guys are so silly. Why the hell wouldn't I buy a bike that can rock anything from 26" wheels you all bitch and whine about being dead, to massive rubber which helps with mud and snow and FUN, and even squeeze 29" wheels just for kicks? I tested an instigator at the demo day in '13 and ordered one as soon as I got home. Big tires are fun, what is there to piss and moan about?
  • 7 1
 because you're not having fun unless it's in the very specific way that we say so!
  • 10 4
 Surly is one of the cool companies left in our sport. They build burly bikes meant to take abuse (across the entire line). They also take the risks that the big companies don't. Definitely on the list for next bike purchase.
  • 5 1
 The Instigator is one of the most fun hard tails I have ever owned, maybe even one of the funniest bikes. It is super shreddable and feels like a downhill dirt jumper. It's climbing capabilities are unreal. The chubby tires make root crawling amazingly fun. A single speed instigator is a bike everyone should have in their stable.
  • 7 2
 While the plus size discussion is somewhat interesting, I found today's blog post on Surly to be much more interesting.

You hear that? Sounds like barriers being broken down.
  • 2 0
 Great blog post - thanks for sharing it. Infinitely more interesting than hot air about wheel sizes.
  • 3 0
 RIGHT ON -- so glad to see this being called out. Looking forward to the day women feel safe, equal, and valued no matter the venue. Is that really too much to ask?? (And as a man, how great would it be not to feel the weight of my gender's shitty track record overshadowing the possibility of two humans meeting as equals, with a baseline assumption of respect and good will as the starting point?).
  • 5 2
 I rode a trek 29+ hardtail on some really rocky but pretty flat trails in austin and it was pretty good. Traction was insane for the short crumbly climbs there, it smoothed out a lot of the rocks but still had that hardtail jump when you put power to the pedals. I'd have to do a back to back to tell if it was better overall than a short travel bike, but it definitely wasn't bad
  • 3 0
 I love my Krampus. All you guys are clowning on this tire size thing just get over it and try one you'll love it. Now I want at least two more surly bikes. One Ice cream truck for me and on for my lady.
I ride my krampus from almost sea level to the top of Galbraith. i am 6'4" 250# and I break anything with regular sized tires. 3 fargo's! plus for ever!
If any one wants to clown on plus sized bikes specialized is making the six fattie with less than 30 spokes on the rear wheel! WTF! 24 on the front. Not gonna do it my kids ride spechies but thats cause no one makes a better kids frame. Now my boy can keep up with me on the climbs when I have the 2.4 tires on my krampus.
Not only does the new size grow the sport we have more choices. I love the different bikes in my quiver. Always room for more Surly's at my house I always say.
  • 2 0
 Amen brother... i also love my Krampus.... once you got fat youll never go back
  • 3 0
 Funny how the truth about + size gets people all confused, but truth is that wider tyres & rims make for better gripping tyres they may drag a bit more
But unless you have tried them, they work better & inspire confidence when riding as well as being fun
Which is what riding bikes is about right?
  • 7 1
 Smashing my head against wall ,,, who will be the first to make 30" wheel
  • 15 10
 "Most trail riders could ride better and go faster on wider tires."

LOL. Thats a bit of a desperate lie.
  • 5 3
 i don't know, on some trails, wider tires let you be less discerning with your line. that can sometimes mean faster times. not better or more fun, or worse or less fun, just faster in some circumstances
  • 5 4
  • 3 1
 Most of us suck, so no, it's probably not a lie. Most trail riders probably would go faster on some trails.
  • 2 0

something to edit: Specialized does 650+ just like most of the others, yes? the Fuse/Ruse hardtails and the Stumpy/Rhyme FSR bikes are all 650+. Unless there's something the Big Red S is revealing this weekend......?
  • 2 0
 I just threw 27.5x3.0 tires on my DB Mason hardtail Sunday. I crushed a steep sandy climb and descent 15 seconds faster than my best time without trying that hard. I haven't done better in at least the last 10 times I rode that hill. There's something to this setup...and it involves a kick in the pants good time!
  • 3 0
 I wouldn't ever say any of these bikes are light...!?!? or even lighter...they already did 24" plus on the 1x1 rat ride...Mr. Jose Brav
  • 2 0
 Instigator look super fun. But at 32lbs stock, I gotta agree that it ain't light.
  • 4 0
 Light is a relative term I suppose, if you were coming off a 5" tyre proper fatty fat fat fat then 32lbs is a pretty light bike.
  • 2 0
 The Instigator 2.0 is a blast to ride. My daily driver is a 32 lb Banshee Rune V2. I demo'ed a 'Gator that had some custom bits on it and it was probably right in the 31-32lb range. I believe that author is saying is that it is light compared to a full-on fat bike. That said, the handling is dialed and the ride is plush feeling like you have rear suspension. It lives up to it's name and begs pushes you to ride it like a trouble-maker. If you opt not to run the 26+ wheels it easily doubles as a 27.5 AM hardtail like the Kona Explosif, Transition Trans AM, etc. It is on my "to purchase" list.
  • 1 0
 My canyon dude is 27.5.... With saint pedals that weigh a pound themselves, so yes, these bikes can be competively light.
  • 1 0
 The first fatbike I rode was an ice cream truck and I thought it was awesome, I decided to buy a fat bike. The whole we use no name crap generic whatever we can get our hands on steel tubing to build our bikes that they boast on their website made me buy something else. Instantly, and it's not like they're charging less than anyone else.
  • 1 0
 I ride my instigator on trails where people usually ride 8 inch full sussers and it rips, i can't imagine i could do this on regular 27.5 or29 wheel without busting them especially considering my svelt 250 pounds. Then the next day on the same bike i can do lil' xc loops! And no it's not the nokian gazzalodi 3.0, the Surly tires are about the same weight as a regular 27.5, paired with the wide rims is where the magic happens!
  • 1 0
 Wasn't there 3 inch wide tires like 15 years ago? I don't see how this is a new concept other than applying it to 29ers and 650b. My 26x2.1specialized tires (more of a 2.35, almost as big as 2.6 gazzaloddis) are good enough for my fr bike lol
  • 5 0
 now do 24" plus
  • 1 2
 they exist, junior fat bikes from On-One, KHS, Norco, Mongoose and others.
  • 4 1
 More stuff for more knuckleheads to complain about. Buy it if you like it, move on if you don't.
  • 2 0
 I don't know about you,but I would love to see somenone climbing a steep,muddy,sticky,grassy pitch abord one of those. I would even pay to watch.
  • 5 1
 Aaaand here we go
  • 6 4
 How can they call this pioneering when it was done (and failed) a decade ago...
  • 4 0
 12"+ for life!
  • 2 0
 I have a Krampus. It's fun, plain and simple. Don't care about anything other than that.
  • 1 1
 When, as a mountain biker, have you ever said or heard "whoah, I had way too much traction going through that turn and then climbing that hill!" If you haven't ridden a good plus or fat bike, you don't really have a clue....
  • 4 1
 26+ for life!
  • 1 0
 What's 26 inch plus, I thought it used to be normal massive tyres 15 years ago.
  • 1 0
 All the intermediate riders have his sandals?
  • 1 0
 Let me guess, 8 more years and we will be riding 1.95 again?
  • 1 0
 They've had boTh of these out for at least 2 years now
  • 1 0
 So what the hell is Heller Bikes all about?
  • 1 0
 I want a Krampus for Festivus
  • 2 2
 Why would anyone go + on any size tire? Seriously gtfo
  • 2 1
 love Surly bikes!
  • 1 0
 plus size, eh
  • 1 0
 cool bikes

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