As mountain bikers, many of us have the ability to dive into long-winded discussions about topics that non-cyclists would find incredibly inane. Gear ratios, head angles, tire pressure, chainstay length – to a bike nerd, those are all perfectly acceptable topics for debate, but to someone who hasn't touched a bike since their grade school days you may as well be speaking in tongues.
For this week's poll we're going to tackle one of those seemingly geeky topics - the minutiae of rim and tire width, the little details that can make a noticeable difference out on the trail. But first, let's take a quick look back at the wheel-related technological changes that have happened over the past few years.
2015 saw numerous companies introduce Plus
bikes, bikes with tires that aren't quite fat bike width, but also noticeably wider than what's usually found on a 'regular' mountain bike, typically measuring between 2.6” - 3.0” and mounted to rims that measure 35mm or greater. The bulk of these new bikes are based around 27.5" wheels, but there are also 26" and 29" Plus bikes, although they aren't as prevalent.
I don't foresee Plus bikes completely taking over the market, but I do see them as a way to make hardtails more appealing, and as a way for beginner and intermediate riders to feel more confident in rough terrain due to the extra stability that the wide tires provide.
Wider Rims Boost
Mentioning Boost causes as much chaos as shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, but the emerging standard does bear mentioning, simply for the reason that the wider spacing creates room to run big tires without worrying about frame and fork clearance. (For those that missed it, Boost
refers to 12x148mm rear spacing and 15x110mm in the front.)
The extra room is especially noticeable when you look at a Boost 110mm fork, where a 2.5” tire fits with room to spare. The same goes for 29ers - balancing chainstay length and tire clearance has always been a tricky proposition for the big wheelers, but Boost helps give designers a little more room to play with.
There's also been a shift towards wider rims, and although some companies have been quicker to jump on the bandwagon than others, there are more and more options with an internal width of 26mm or more. There isn't a clear consensus on what the ideal internal width is, largely due to the fact that going too
wide can make certain tires behave oddly, but so far it seems like the sweet spot for most 2.3" tires is somewhere between 25 and 30mm. The Future
My crystal ball is a little hazy at the moment, but if I had to make an educated guess I'd say that we're going to see tire widths increase slightly from the 2.3" that's currently the norm for non-Plus size trail bikes. There's not one underlying factor that's driving this - it's more of a combination of the factors mentioned above, along with the fact that more and more riders are riding their all-mountain bikes like DH bikes. Maxxis' recent debut of their WT line of tires, which measure in at 2.5" and 2.4" and were designed to be used with wider rims is likely a sign of things to come, and I'm sure that other manufacturers will soon follow suit.
Modern mountain bikes and components have reached a point where building up a 160mm all-mountain rig that weighs less than 30 pounds doesn't require any scarily lightweight parts, which means the extra grams added by wider tires and rims are easier to accept. Riders who used to run 3.0" Nokian Gazzaloddis back in the day may find themselves experiencing deja vu, but don't forget that those tires weighed almost 4 pounds apiece - we're entering an era when tires can be wide and
That brings us to this week's poll questions. Imagine for a moment that you were building up your dream bike. You can purchase your favorite rim and your favorite tire in any width you want - what do you choose?