After rolling out the New Whip: Plan B here, then the First Impressions here, I have been riding this bike pretty much exclusively if I am in the dirt. And I have been engaged in a fairly passionate internal discussion with myself as to what I think about this whole B+ thing and about the 6Fattie as a bike (including the mods I made to the stock bike). So with that, let’s catch up on the bike itself, then I will endeavor to lay out my thoughts and feelings about the genre as I have experienced it.
Separating the bike from the tires is a bit difficult. I mean to say that it is a hard to know how much of what I do and do not like is due to the 27+ tires or is the characteristics of the Stumpy all on its own. Yes, I could throw 29er wheels on it, but I have chosen not to so far. Complicating that tire vs. bike deal is a bit of a dearth of experience on 27+. I have a lot of time on the Fuse 27+ hardtail, but that does not really apply bike to bike. Apples and bananas. I have some time on bikes from Scott and Intense that are in this category, but not enough time to really compare them as I would like.
So I say that in order to not seem like an authority of any kind in this 27+ regard. OK?
I have found the Stumpjumper 6Fattie to be a very good all a-rounder as a trail bike. I am having a hoot of a time on it. For the So Cal terrain, it fits nicely over a wide swath of the conditions we ride in and over. In many ways it has fired me up to ride more.
One of the battles I keep facing within myself is the idea that this long travel bike with the poofy tires is not what I would take on ‘that ride’. ” That” being something with a lot of boring dirt road climbing or a faster trail ride with the A group or…..etc. And I do think that is true. But then I will go out and find that the Stumpy is quite good at most anything that I have done with it so far. It excelled on a recent backcountry remote-trail semi-epic in the mountains of Big Bear, California, eating up the long, rocky jeep road climb with grace and poise, then kept me right side up when things got twisty and techy. I would dearly love to get this bike to Moab.
Rolling to the trailhead is not all that bad really, although I do feel that I am giving up some pace on pavement (I ride to most of the local trails). But what happens when those poofy tires hit the dirt…I swear they know where they are and they get all happy like an energetic puppy on the front lawn. I can feel the bike just go…sand, small rocks, cross ruts…zoom. 29ers are kind of like this but don’t recall that much of a perceived increase in ease of pedaling when you transition from pavement to dirt. Maybe this is because 27+ is dragging on the road much more than a 29er is and so I notice the contrast more? It could be.
My mind goes back to Project Long Legged XC, a build we did a few years ago with a Stumpjumper 29er running a 140mm fork and 135mm rear, decent wheels, and 2.3″ tires. It was 31 lbs ready to roll and it reminds me a lot of the 6Fattie and how it likes to go up the trail. Spin to win. Both bikes were totally capable of getting you through a long day on trail, but they both liked a lower gear/higher cadence approach. Is this due to the weight? Could be. Likely is, and I find that as long as I spin the 6Fattie it feels very easy to move along, almost zippy. Try to push a bigger gear in the saddle and it just feels lazy. But stand and hit it and the 6Fattie jumps along better than you would expect it to, at least to a point.
And that point is when the trail is smoother and even slightly uphill and then I know I am working harder to keep up than I would be on something like a 120/130mm 29er. I am finding that I am working very hard to keep up with riders on 29ers when the speeds need to come up on hard packed dirt climbs. And this is over routes I have been riding for years and years and with riders I know are not faster than I, so I know how it should be. In that somewhat typical So Cal scenario, the 6Fattie is a drag if I am really trying to push the pace. Back it off to 75% effort/pace though and it feels fine. It is enough to have me planning a future 29er FS just to get back that pace for some rides. Granted, this is a niche situation. If I were on terrain that was rougher, looser, rockier, sandier or more rutted, it would be an entirely different and I would be in the game.
It would be very interesting to ride something like the S Works version of the 6Fattie to see what shaving a few pounds of the total bike weight would do for this.
I also do not have the same feel of rolling momentum that I used to get with 29ers…where you can just lay off the brakes on rolling trails and carry big mo from corner to corner.
One of the other less positive things I notice is a tendency of the 6Fattie to feel a bit ‘soft’ and saggy at midstroke on the rear shock when I am seated. When standing, I transfer some weight forward and this feeling goes away and it is very acceptable. Maybe I can tune that out. But in the past, my time on FSR has shown it feels less energetic when seated pedaling compared to DW link bikes, but gives you some really nice suppleness in return. Maybe its a tradeoff. But a sway back feeling or saggy butt is something I do not care for, even a little bit. I am still playing with rear shock sag, and I have been upping PSI settings to see what the sweet spot is for me. I am at 190psi now and that is giving me about 25% sag. I weight about 200lbs all kitted up, so I might have still been low. Autosag seemed to put me on the low end PSI wise.
The components have been treating me well. The SRAM Guide brakes are big stoppers with those huge rotors and they have been quiet and solid even when heated up, something two sets of Shimano XT brakes that were on previous test bikes could not brag about.
I LOVE with a big beating heart emoji that 28T front ring as it is soooo nice for long, difficult climbs. But I grimace with a sad and frustrated emoji face when I run out of gear on faster trails. 28×10 is not very tall. Eagle calling? I think so.
So far I have been satisfied with the choice to run the narrower Roval carbon Fatty wheels with the 30mm internal width. They sure seem stiff enough and the narrower width keeps the rocks off the rim edges where they are fended off by the side knobs. I have been creeping the tire pressures down a bit at a time. 17/17 F/R is where I ran for quite a while. That does begin to reduce that magic fingers feel where the low pressure fatty tire grabs all things and reduces the trail to eezy-peezy lemon squeezy. But you still get the big contact patch and amazing performance in larger rocks, ruts, and sand. I can get the tires to drift at that psi on hardpack, but they feel so safe doing it that it is kind of fun. But at 16/16.5 F/R, you begin to get that supple feel back. I have run 15 and found that to be OK, but I begin to get hints of tire sway in the rear on faster g-out turns on hard surfaces. It also drags more on pavement.
I am happy enough with the suspension parts. The Yari fork is pretty good…stiff, burly. And I seldom feel it is not smooth enough although it is not a Pike in that regard. I am running it lower than the chart says at 70 pounds. You have to consider that more forgiving tire when you begin to tune the suspension. I bet a Pike with this 27+ tire at 15psi would be a magic carpet ride. I have not tried any Token-based tuning but that might happen at some point.
Handling wise, it is surprisingly nimble for a bike this long and with that much travel. I have had it on one trail that was more like the East or Midwest…lots of tight trees and sharp turns…and you could feel the length then, not helped much by the fatty tire as it feels a bit resistant to line changes. I have yet to find a switchback that has defied me, although the front wheel scribes a bigger circle as it goes ’round the bend. Climbing up techy and steep 28×42 gear rated trails has shown little head wag. I do like the wider 780mm bars I swapped to, but the stocker 750mm bars did feel a bit more agile in tighter places. For me, the wider bars and killer green Spank stem are keepers.
I do notice that I am almost always wide on my turns. Not way off trail wide, just a couple of inches wide. Those tires just do not have that ‘snap-to-the-line-I-want’ edgy-ness that 29ers do. So I still need to get that figured out. I do miss the precision of standard 29er wheels.
My biggest dislike remains with the BB height. I have raised the air pressure in the rear shock and worked on my timing, but I have never had a bike like this where it is such a concern. I still get a couple of pedal strikes in places like the high side of an off-camber, side hill trail, a place I cannot ‘time’ my pedal stroke because I HAVE to pedal continuously or lose momentum. This is one of those places where I wonder about all those reviews I read from media on the bike. I do not recall, with the exception of one recent on-line mag, where they mentioned this issue. But read posts in forums from folks who own it and it is the number one complaint. And while Specialized maintains the ‘increases stability and a low CG is nice, etc’ deal, which is true to a point, this is too far along that line of thinking.
The 6Fattie is inherently stable. Sta…a…AAYyyy-ble (say it like Andy Griffith used to talk). Raise that BB a bit…5 to 10mm?… and the resulting faster turn in and slightly quicker response would be no issue and the bennies could be well worth it. I am actually considering 170mm cranks to get my pedals up which actually might compliment the “I like to spin” nature of the bike anyway.
Now then, to be fair, this is not just a Specialized issue. Oh no. In fact I have read that owners of Trek 27+ FS bikes saying the same thing…even more so. Read the geometry/BB height numbers of most of the bikes like this on the market and they all are low-ish. I remember when this 27+ deal was first happening and I was having a conversation with another media guy about “Tire Sag” with 27+, a number that is beyond what any 29×2.3 tire could ever have unless it is pretty much flat. It’s a factor. Not sure how this will play out.
Other than that the Specialized Stumpy 6Fattie is ‘barrel of monkeys’ fun and I look forward to riding it every time I pedal out.
Thoughts on this whole 27+ deal for trailbikes.
It makes it too easy. It dumbs down the trail. It is for beginners. It is not for advanced riders. It is slower. It makes you lazy. It’s for old, fat guys.
I could go on, but these are just a sample of the thinking and name calling that has accompanied the entry of Plus tires into the market place. On the innnerweb, where everyone has an opinion, including myself, it is easy to sit back and be the expert dead horse whipper of the moment.
So what is the deal? How has it changed my riding or the way I feel about riding? A couple of things stand out.
“I am loving what these tire sizes have brought to my riding and going backwards for some trails would be hard to imagine.”
It makes riding easier.
Now I define easier as what makes riding in a given situation more comfortable, more confident, more capable, or more doable. Disc brakes do that. Suspension does that. Better shifting and dropper posts do that too. So in that way it really is another step forward in technology that makes what we do a bit easier. Is that a bad thing? Is this just a ‘paving of the trail’ by tire size and low PSI? All the other techy improvements I listed let a more skilled rider ride better and safer. And, of course, they let less skilled riders ride better and safer too. A rising tide lifts all boats. With ‘normal tires the fast guys are going faster than the average rider anyway. The honch’s will still push the limits within the bounds of any improvement, better brakes, whatever…and the groms and freds will be happy with what they get out of it too. What about me? Do I want this to be way easier?
I am getting older or at least I have been so far. When that ends I will let you know. And frankly I am still a decent trail rider, but just that and no more. My skills are diminishing. I am not so interested in pressing the limits anymore. But years and years of honed abilities do not go away just like that, so I still appreciate and strive for a well chosen line and a smooth, clean execution. What I have found is, with only a small exception, 27+ (and 29+ too) allows me to do that at a higher level of speed and comfort and not feel like I am risking big. I am more relaxed and confident in tough places. And that means, not that I am faster, per se, but that I am sure having more fun and my adrenaline glands stay a bit less occupied. What is wrong with that? Nothing really. I mean, what is this all about anyway? I want to enjoy the time I spend riding. I want to push myself and get totally knackered trying to KOM all my buddies who are trying to do the same to me. I want to ride new places and take some risks too, but feel safer doing it. I want my rides to be fun, not some bleeding edge, macho experience that means I have to forego this kind of betterment for the sake of ‘keeping it real’ or ‘not making it too easy’. Phaah on that.
The hills are still as big, the trails are still as steep and the rocks have not moved at all. I can challenge myself to death (literally) if I want to. There is always a bigger trail. But I am loving what these tire sizes have brought to my riding and going backwards for some trails would be hard to imagine.
I do miss a couple of things in comparison to 29″ wheels. Mostly there is that way with a narrower tire and a stiffer, lower sidewall, where you can drive that tire edge into the trail and rail a corner just so…hitting that mark and spanking it out the exit line. There is an edgy-ness that I do miss with the ‘normal’ 29er that this tire size will likely never have. I feel less precise at any given time, often finding my line is “a few inches off, but good enough, and with a tire that size, it really does not matter anyway”. Now when I have gone back to 29ers, I have felt like I am more at risk, like the trail just got all sketchy all of a sudden, which is not true. Its the same trail. It’s the same rider. I used to ride here all the time and not notice. So are my skills diminished by riding 27+/29+? Good question. Maybe they are. But when I suck it up and point that 29er into that corner and rail around it, not minding the skipping and scratching around as the tire searches for grip and finds it…well, it works just fine. Perception is a cruel mistress.
“It has got me thinking of fun places to go and ride that I have not been to for years”. Industry Marketing Dude
I was speaking with a former marketing person of a large bike company. We were discussing our time on 27+ and comparing notes. He had been riding a bike that was juuust slightly more aggressive than the Stumpy 6Fattie…a bit more travel and a bit slacker…and he was stunned by his Strava times that were equal to or better than his rides on a much lighter and more XC 29er FS. And he was just loving riding this thing. Then he said something that rang true for me and echoed my own thoughts completely. He said, “It has got me thinking of fun places to go and ride that I have not been to for years”. Yes. Yes it has.
Because I went through the same thing when I began riding the 6fattie. Art Smith Trail near Palm Desert, CA. Burro Down in Moab. Trail 401, CB. Blue Diamond, NV. I was thinking how much I wanted to revisit those places on this bike. Many other trips and destinations were popping into my head. It was like a revival of passions and giddy let’s-plan-a-road-trip fever!
I do wonder what Plus will look like in a couple of years. One thing I do see is the trend to move down to 2.8″ and now 2.6″ 27+ tires. And I expect that is in response to the negative aspects of Plus tires. There is that big, vulnerable sidewall, that while it can be made beefy, would result in a pretty heavy tire. There is also the undamped bounce of that big tire, especially at a 3.0 size, that feels a bit moon-buggy-ish at speed, but I am hearing about addressing this with different tire casing designs never before used on MTB tires.
2.8×27 does feels better in all those areas. 2.6×27 would likely feel even better, but here is the deal. When is Plus no longer Plus? I say that 2.6x anything…27″ or 29″…is NOT Plus anymore. It’s just a pretty big tire. You will be fast losing the flotation and low PSI abilities with a 2.6 tire. And if we are talking about 27×2.6″, then that is really a pretty small overall diameter, so we are now not even close to a 29″er with a 2.35 tire. Rolling performance will be impacted.
I also wonder what happened to 29×2.6″? I do get why Surly made that jump to a full 3.0 when they did 29+. And now we are backpedaling to smaller Plus sizes and still wanting them to be Plus. I would like to see what 29×2.6 in a lighter casing mid-knob tire on a 30mm internal rim would be like. I bet that would be amazing. Weight would be about what a light 27.5+ tire would be. The size would be enough less than a 3.0 29er tire to get away from moon bounce. Traction would be better and we could probably run a tire like that at 18-19 psi.
Regardless of this, my future will have another FS 29er in it. But I will not be emptying my garage of any Plus bikes either.
More to come.
Note: The products shown here were purchased at a discount to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.