Clint was kind enough to let me assemble and ride his new 125mm travel 27.5+ bike and after some ridiculous waiting for the I9 rear hub, it’s finally together.
So I’ve got a few miles on it, and here are some random thoughts for those folks who are on the fence on 27.5+ vs 29+.
First, the build: this bike is full of really nice stuff. Easton Haven and I9/Derby wheels, XX1 drivetrain (with some cheap but nice RF Aefect cranks because Clint’s desired NEXTs are still out of stock), nice Hope brakes, etc. It’s about 29.5 pounds with tubes in the tires and my cheap/heavy TIME pedals. You’ll note that it’s got a rigid post on it – that’s because I didn’t want to mount the dropper and tempt myself to go ride rough/steep/gnar because I have a broken hand right now and really probably should not be riding at all. But who can resist riding a new bike for free, when winter is coming on soon?
I couldn’t go totally nuts because of the broken hand, but I took it out on the behind-the-house loop and formed a few impressions:
-The RS1 fork is IMO awful. The torsional flex (you can see it in this video, I tried it myself and it’s just as bad as it looks) makes it just not hold a line at all on anything where the tire encounters an obstacle at an angle – cornering is weird, and cornering over rough sections/rocks? Downright terrifying. It’s manageable at low speeds and in a straight line but not when going fast over even moderately rough terrain. Some riders may not be bothered by this, and the fork is super plush and pretty darn light. Online reviews seem to be mixed between glowing and awful and I’m guessing each rider is going to have to try for themselves and find out what they like. I personally wouldn’t ride this fork if it was free.
-The 415mm chainstays are awesome. It’s super easy to get the front wheel up to manual or jump onto/over little obstacles. Still stays planted pretty well on steep climbs (the loop I hit
has 1000 feet of climbing in about 2 miles, with plenty of ~20% pitches), and that’s with my ridiculously high saddle height (about 32″) Riders with normal length legs should have no trouble keeping the front end down going up.
-I think the overall geometry is about right for a bike that can go up or down really well. I didn’t install the dropper (I knew I wouldn’t be doing anything crazy with my hand issue and wanted to reduce the temptation to get air) but it would be amazing on a flow trail or even a full DH run, I’d say.
-The Bridger tires are awesome, even at 20psi with tubes in them (I didn’t want to risk any flats on Clint’s carbon rims, or make a mess with sealant on a bike I’ll only be riding for a day or two). Excellent predictable traction except on wet leaves, and really, on wet leaves, you’re just screwed no matter what.
-The Derby/I9/Predictive front wheels are crazy stiff and nice. Of course, that makes the issue with the fork even more obvious.
-Total bike weight is about 29.5# (but with a non-dropper post). I am guessing with the dropper on and tubeless setup (I put some pretty heavy ~250g tubes in), it’ll stay right in that range. I went pretty hard up the steep part of the climb (again favoring my hand, though) and was right in the same time range as I am on other bikes, so it’s no slowpoke going uphill.
-As expected, the shorter rear end of this bike makes it better at being “thrown around” and it *feels* more intuitive on tighter turns than my 29+. Direct comparison there is really hard, though – the bikes have different geometry and different parts, and one was built for me, while one was very much not.
The bottom line, for me, is that if you’re on the fence, 29+ has some noticeable rollover advantages (as you’d expect) and feels, overall, smoother to me, even with less suspension travel. For a rigid bike or hardtail, if you can fit, 29+ is going to win every time. For FS, it’s a little more nuanced. With some suspension in the equation, the 27.5+ really feels pretty similar to me in most ways – it’s not a dramatic difference where the wheels are constantly getting hung up on things the 29+ would just blast over. 27.5+ is about the same diameter as a normal 29er tire, too, so you have some alternate options if you want to go non-plus. They’re both really good.