Working in the bike industry for the better part of 15 years, has allowed me the luxury of working on, tweaking, and riding some awesome trail shredding machines and products. It seams like about once every year or so, I sell off a bike and trade up the the latest, greatest model or technology. This spring, I parted ways with my Surly Krampus and opted for the slightly shorter 27.5+ wheel platform of the Advocate Cycles Hayduke. I've always been a fan of the simplicity, efficiency, and fun factor of steel hardtails, and the Hayduke does not disappoint. The 27.5+ wheel size, steel frame, and aggressive trail geometry is a match made in Valhalla.
When buying or building a new bike, it's rare that I don't customize some part of the build (the Trek Remedy 9 was the exception: nearly perfect out of the box). With the Hayduke, I ditched the heavy stock steering components, opting for Thomson stem and carbon bars. I was surprised how big of a difference the carbon bars made, dampening all sorts of trail vibration and chatter. A worthy upgrade.
The riding in Cody a mix of new, machine built, super smooth flow trails, to super rocky, rubber shredding cow trails, to Moab-like slickrock playgrounds. While the Panaracer tires that came on the Hayduke were light, they didn't offer the traction, sidewall protection, or tubless compatibility that I require in a good all mountain tire. They lasted less than 50 miles.
Enter the WTB Bridger 27.5+ tires. Right out of the box, I could tell they were more my style: aggressive tread design, stouter sidewalls, and tubless compatible. On the day they arrived, I trained up the new high school shop employee on tubless systems. We threw on some fresh 45mm rim tape on the WTB Scraper hoops and mounted up the Bridgers. It's a tight fit, but they didn't dislocate my thumb like some curse induing Continentals have... The total tubless noob had no problem setting them up. For the purpose of testing, we used a floor pump, and had no problem getting the tires seated. That night it started snowing, and I didn't get a chance to ride for the next week.
The sun showed up in western Wyoming on Wednesday, and it was time to hit the trails. We've been blessed with 8 miles of new machine built trails, and the talented guys at Trail Source are back in town building more. I hooked up with Adam and Warren yesterday morning for a little trail testing, filming, and riding.
My initial impressions of the new tires are exceptional. The increase of traction over the stock tires is obvious. On fast corners, the side knobs hook up like crazy, leaving me with the feeling that I could lean the bike over even more. On steep climbs, the Bridgers gripped very predictably, only loosing traction when I erroneously threw all my weight over the front wheel. Only time will tell how they will hold up in the long run, but after a number of rides bombing through sidewall gouging rocks, they look to be holding up very well.
Overall, I couldn't be more impressed with the whole setup. Advocate nailed the geometry with this bike. The stock build is pretty darn good, only needing a few upgrades to dial it in. The ride quality is exceptional. I've barely touched my Trek Remedy since getting the Hayduke, and I've already beat some of my Strava times on the hardtail. The extra volume and traction of the plus sized tires is both confidence inspiring and fun. If you can, get on a plus bike for a test ride. If you have one already, do yourself a favor, and get some proper rubber and start shredding some trails.