We have been riding the new WTB Trailblazer tires both here in the U.S.A. and in Europe on several different bikes and on vastly different trails. We have already said much about this “B+” format, and what it may mean for 29″er riders, but now it is time to give you our final take on these fat, puffy interlopers on the mountain bike scene. The previous impressions from c_g can be seen here and Guitar Ted’s can be seen here. Now, let’s get to the final conclusions!
WTB Trailblazer 27.5 X 2.8″ Tires: Exclusive B+ Review: Final Verdict- by Guitar Ted
After trying out the Trailblazer on my rigid bikes, I decided to go with a suspended set up. The first bike in the stable I tried in this vein was the Sawyer single speed. The front fork is an “ancient”, (by today’s standards) Fox F-29 at 100mm travel. With the Trailblazer, I found a similar result as did c_g- That being that the suspension along with the voluminous tire at a lowered pressure seemed to work in concert with each other. In fact, I also increased the compression damping setting to a stiffer one and increased the air spring pressure by 10 psi, which still left me in a spot that felt “normal” to my way of thinking. The previous settings suddenly felt too soft with the big Trailblazer.
Speaking of air pressures, for these tires I lowered them some….then I lowered them by a lot! I found the practical limits for my riding style were at about 10-12 psi. That’s a bit bouncy, but for deep sand or loam, it tractors you right through with little extra effort. Unlike c_g, I found the fat bike-like float a boon to traversing the deep sand we get here in patches on our trails at times. The best speed and grip were up towards the 20 psi area, but I never did go beyond 20 psi, and for the better part of the testing period, I was normally into the mid-teens with air pressures. I weigh a bit more than c_g at 230lbs.
As with a fat bike, air pressure is king. A few psi difference in one direction or another makes big differences in feel and performance. Regardless, the Trailblazer always seemed to have uncanny low rolling resistance and always felt lighter than it really is. The central ridge really works, and as long as you use a rim that allows the tread to bite, which is also dependent upon air pressure, you have really decent traction as well. I was very impressed with the combination of speed and traction on dirt that this tire offers up.
The fit of the Trailblazer on rims is covered well by c_g, and I agree with his findings. I will concentrate here on two other questions: Fit for full suspension 29″ers and whether or not the B+ is really a thing, or if a big 27.5″er is just as good. First up- the fit on full sussers.
I have couple old full susser frames and the B+ tire on the Blunt 35, (35mm outer width), was not going to work. Both frames were older- 2007-2008 vintage. However; as seen with c_g’s newer Cube Stereo, the tire would only fit on the rear of the bike if he used the Frequency i25. That isn’t ideal. Conversely I have fitted the tire to at least five different hard tail frames with success. While it isn’t possible, or even our intentions to list all the frames that would work, it is my belief that, in general, full suspension frames will be less optimal and hard tail frames will be met with mostly a successful fitting of the Trailblazer on a wide rim.
So, while the Trailblazer may not fit all 29″ers, the other side of the premise for this tire was that it would bring a “plus” sized tire experience without requiring a new frame/fork to do it with, ala 29+. Does the Trailblazer bring that, and why wouldn’t a big, meaty 27.5″er tire do the same thing? In other words, is the Trailblazer any better than a big, fat 27.5″er? I aimed to find out, so I ordered in a GEAX Goma 2.4″er in the 27.5″ format and mounted it tubeless to the very same Velocity Blunt 35 I had the Trailblazer on. No doubt about it, the Goma is a very big 27.5″er, (in fact, it is a 28″er!), but is it a “plus sized” 27″er?
Bead To Bead Measurement (A measure of the casing from the edge of the bead to the other bead uninflated and with the casing flattened out.)
- Geax Goma 2.4″- 160mm
- WTB Trailblazer- 173mm
- Weight: Goma 1030 gm- WTB Trailblazer (of four samples I am aware of) 890 gm to 990 gm.
- Width of Casing At Widest Point: (NOTE- I have several measurements of the Trailblazer but am going to stick with the Blunt 35 for this comparison) After airing up to 20psi tubeless- GEAX Goma- 60.4mm Trailblazer- 65.4mm.
- After airing up the Goma to 30 psi, the measurement was the same. I have a set of GEAX Gato 2.35’s in the 29″er format with the same TNT sidewalls and they typically stretch very, very little. The Trailblazer measures 66.3mm and 67mm respectively at 20psi today.
- Diameter: Trailblazer is 28 9/16ths after mounted tubeless for 24 hours. The Goma is 28 1/8th”.
While the Goma is a mighty big tire, it is not as big as the Trailblazer, and with the casing of the Trailblazer having more volume, more width, and a much more supple ride feel than the AM casing the Goma has, I have to hand the “plus size crown” to the Trailblazer here. Now, with that said, the Goma and the Trailblazer tires are completely different in intention, but if we take the Surly Knard as the current definition of what “plus sized” is and means, then the Trailblazer fits the description much better there as well.
Final Verdict: The WTB Trailblazer, as a tire, disregarding the “plus size” factor”, is an outstanding tire from the perspective of a hard tail, fully rigid ride set up. The casing is supple, and with all that volume, you can really get a very smooth damped ride from this tire. The tread is interesting, with the central “ridge” of knobs lending a very fast roll. Given the weight, this tire feel much faster than it should, and I think those center knobs are a big reason why. Grip is very good, as long as one stays to dry types of terrain, as this tread pattern does not seem to get on with sticky, muddy dirt well. All the previously mentioned traits are hinged upon the rim width, which I feel should be in the 30-35mm range to keep the tread from becoming too squared off, which would compromise the grip.
As far as this being a “plus sized” tire experience, I will say that it definitely is that, much more than it is not. Of course, a 29 X 3″ tire has different characteristics due to the larger diameter, slightly wider casing, and heavier wheel weight, (all things being equal). This then leaves the Trailblazer to be its own, unique experience. Neither 650B nor 29″, but something quite different, and something I found to be very fun and capable on trails that are dry to loose, dirt or rock. If you find that you have an older hard tail 29″er gathering dust, you might want to give this B+ thing a whirl. The Trailblazer just might make that old bike one of your favorites again.
c-g’s Final Verdict will appear tomorrow.
NOTE: WTB sent over these Trailblazer 27.5? X 2.8? tires and a set of Frequency i25 rims for test/review at no charge to TNI.com. We are not being paid, nor bribed, for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.