What is a Plus Bike?
The Mountain Biking world has come a long way. Especially, in recent years, the introduction of competing standards and technologies has made things incredibly exciting for riders (if also a bit confusing).
Larger diameter wheels
The introduction of 29ers (29” wheels) caused a stir in a world where there was previously only one wheel size on offer. Those in the 26” camp scoffed at these ‘ridiculous’ sized wheels. They said that there was no need for a larger diameter wheel. However, the results spoke for themselves and the faster, smoother wheel all but killed off the 26” wheel standard.
Later, 650b (27.5”) came out to offer a middle ground between the older 26” wheels and the newer 29ers. To give much of the rollover capability of a 29er with the agility of a 26er was the aim. Since then, this standard has now largely taken over as the preferred diameter.
Confounding things further, bizarre things called Fat Bikes then started to emerge. Designed to tackle the harshest of terrain, these monster bikes had giant 4” wide or greater tyres to chew up dirt, sand and snow. Offering unparalleled grip, these beasts started to infiltrate the wider mountain biking community with their out and out silliness. Moreover, the confidence-inspiring grip opened up previously unrideable terrain.
All of these standards offer their own advantages and disadvantages. So, it can be tough to find the right bike for you. If only there was some way to make the best of each and combine it into a single platform…
Enter the Plus Bike
Is there a way to get the best of all worlds – good rolling speed, crazy amounts of traction and a nimble feel on the trails? The answer is the Plus bike. This new standard is quickly being adopted by all the major component manufacturers. At the same time, major brands now all offer Plus bikes in their ranges. Plus is here to stay.
Simply put, Plus sized bikes run bigger tyres with higher volume that give great traction for climbing trails. Then they can run fast, technical descents. The bigger wheels also soak up the bumps and forgive less-than-perfect technique, so you don’t need to carry as much suspension. These bigger tyres mean wider rims, wider rear triangle for clearance, wider hubs, wider fork and wider cranks to keep the chain line.
So, what is the difference between a 27.5 and 29+ bike?
The simplest way of thinking about it is this: 27.5+ means sticking a 3-inch tire on a wide (45 to 55 millimetre), 27.5-inch rim. However, 29+ involves putting a 3-inch tire on an equally wide 29er rim.
Most of the hype right now centres on 27.5+. You can already squeeze 27.5+ tires into a lot of 29er frames. From an engineering standpoint, it should be easy to crank out new 27.5+ bikes.
And then there’s this: 29+ tires should, by all rights, weigh more than 27.5+ tires. A bigger tire, you might guess, would require more rubber and all that jazz. Since heavy tires are the bane of any mountain biker’s existence, this should be yet another nail in the 29+ coffin.
It isn’t quite so simple.
A lot of the high-volume 27.5+ tires actually have a taller sidewall than comparable 29+ tires. This makes them less stable under hard cornering than lower-profile 29+ tires. That extra sidewall rubber adds up. It’s hard to believe, but there are 27.5+ tires that weigh more than some 29+ tires.
27+ is the new kid on the block in the plus-size game and that means there are a lot of tires being called 27.5+ that bear little resemblance to one another. They range from 2.8-inch tires with minimal tread to monster, beefy-lugged 3.25-inch models.
Can you climb hills with a Plus Bike?
Like a goat! The wide footprint will hold any ground and forgive a bad line. Furthermore, the huge range offered by the 11 – 40t cassettes on our Vice bikes will let you power up any hill. You’ll find those technical climbs become easy as you roll over everything in your path. You will probably even start to look at stairs differently…
Will the additional weight and grip of Plus Bike tyres slow me down?
These bikes are not whippet-like racing machines. Nonetheless, they are certainly well-rounded trail bikes designed to blast all sections of the ride – from long climbs to fast switchback descents.
On the climbs, you’ll find that you won’t have to be as active when choosing a line. Additionally, the added compliance and comfort afforded by the larger tyre volume will compensate to a degree the additional energy required to power the pedals. The confidence-inspiring traction will then see you go faster than ever before when the trail points down.
So, who is a plus bike for?
Stable and grippy without a huge weight penalty or loss in handling feel. Reviewers are unanimous that this new platform is perfect for really boosting the skills and confidence of beginners to intermediate riders looking to take on more technical trails. These are fun bikes that push the rider to go faster and brake less. So, if you’re wanting to improve your skills and take on a faster, more playful ride, then a plus bike is for you.