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Since the introduction of full suspension fat bikes, one of the most often asked questions seems to be, “why?” The fat tire creations are definitely one of those bikes that has its own little niche, and to understand the need you really have to ride it.

As someone who can appreciate the use for a full suspension fat bike but never really felt the need to buy one, the full suspension Plus bike poses an interesting question. Now that there is a fat tire middle ground for full suspension, for a company like Salsa is there really a need for both? Apparently I wasn’t the only one to ask that question at the Salsa demo for Biketoberfest, and the answer is really one you have to decide for yourself….

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After asking that very question, Salsa stated that yes, there absolutely is a need for both. However, it’s typically not for the same rider, but as an option for one or the other. It would seem that you’re either a Bucksaw or a Pony Rustler kind of rider, not both. After receiving this information I set out to try it out for myself, riding both the Bucksaw Carbon fat bike and the Pony Rustler carbon 27.5+ with 3.0″ WTB Bridger tires back to back on the same short loop at Rocky Ridge County Park near Lancaster, PA. The loop wasn’t exactly challenging, but did offer a few sections of classic East Coast rock, sandy trails, and some decent climbs and descents.

I started out on the Bucksaw Carbon, and from what I was told, I could almost instantly tell I was a Pony Rustler “type.” The followup ride on the Pony Rustler confirmed it. I had so much more fun on the 27.5+ bike, it wasn’t even a contest. But upon asking around, there were riders present that preferred the Bucksaw over the Pony Rustler, and it seems to come down to riding style. I found myself actively picking better lines on the Pony Rustler (did I mention I’m not a fan of the name?), an option afforded by the relative lightness of the wheels and tires. The bike felt far more agile and seemed to float over the few rough spots in the line. The Bucksaw is much more adept at just crushing over anything in its path for a ride that was described as more motocross inspired. There is probably terrain out there that I would pick the Bucksaw over the Pony Rustler, but for the bulk of my mountain biking the Plus bike wins.

Even when compared to other full suspension bikes with smaller tires, to me the Pony Rustler is a definite winner. It was so much fun, and so easy to crank up the speed regardless of the terrain that for me it was the stand out of the entire Biketoberfest demo.

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Technically, the Pony Rustler is the exact same frame as the Horse Thief and will be sold with 27+ or 29″ builds depending on the name. Salsa points out that this makes the frame truly able to run 27+ or 29″ wheels and tires with clearance for 27.5 x 3.0″ or 29 x 2.4.” One difference for this year is the ability to use 130mm travel forks to compensate for the slightly smaller diameter of the + wheels and tires, but the 120mm frame will be running 130mm forks for 29ers as well which will add a bit of BB height and slacken the head tube angle.

Frame details include the Split Pivot suspension design with 120mm of travel, high modulus carbon main frame and seat stays with alloy chain stays, Boost 148 rear spacing, a PF92 bottom bracket, and High Direct mount front derailleur capability with 36×24 or 32t max single ring compatibility. Pony Rustlers will be available in two carbon builds and one full aluminum model for $3,499-$5,499 and are shipping out to Salsa dealers soon.

salsacycles.com

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22 Comments
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Rp
Rp
6 years ago

If every 27.5+ can run 29er wheels without issue or too much change to geometry, then I will consider one in a few years.

Scott Vines
6 years ago

Stay Gold “Pony Boy”.

JBikes
JBikes
6 years ago

“Technically, the Pony Rustler is the exact same frame as the Horse Thief and will be sold with 27+ or 29″ builds depending on the name.”

This to me is the advantage of “+” frames. They are essentially 29er frames and one can get 2 bikes for the price of a 2nd set of wheels, without the compromises fat bike clearance entails.

Eric.NM
Eric.NM
6 years ago

“…there can only be One…”

Tom
Tom
6 years ago

In a couple of years (or next year) I suspect that savvy bike companies will ensure that EVERY 29er they sell will safely allow the use of 27.5+ wheels/tires. It just makes sense to me.

CarolinaRider
CarolinaRider
6 years ago

I picked up a base model Stumpjumper 6Fattie last month, and I must say, it is amazing. Climbs like a goat, descends like a demon, it feels strong and agile, and I hardly notice how heavy it is (31+ lbs). I looked at the Pony Rustler, but lack of availability meant that Spesh got my money. Taking it to Dupont next weekend, can’t wait.

bearCol
bearCol
6 years ago

Marketing is funny. We didn’t call sun ringle double wides and gazza 3.0’s + size ten years ago when the industry first played around with wide rims and fat tires. What’s comical this time around is the industry thinks they can now offer such large tires in light weights. Tire casing technology hasn’t really changed. You can’t make +tires light and have durability. If you want 27.5×2.8 tires you need to accept 1,200g tires. If you want fat tires and don’t mind pedaling the weight have at it, wide tires can be fun and eye opening, but don’t be fooled into thinking you can have + size at 1000g and have durability.

JBikes
JBikes
6 years ago

@bearCol – yeah its marketing but it is also the fact that mountain biking has grown in popularity the past 10 years making all products more mainstream.
If sub 1200 gram durable + tires aren’t achievable and don’t meet consumer needs, the market will eventually speak.

bearCol
bearCol
6 years ago

@JB: True, the sport has blown up in the past decade. I’m sure the market will respond when people experience tire durability issues. We are spoiled with composites that keep weights really low but when it comes to tires pretty much nothing has progressed as far as the weight/durability compromise is concerned. I like that schwalbe is experimenting with material alternatives (EVO tube material not proven yet) Maybe in the near future we’ll see materials that will bring tire weight down without compromising durability? Until than it’s foolish to think + size tires can be had without a big weight penalty.

MB
MB
6 years ago

@bearCol: Yeah, but who really thinks that? Nobody I know. Bigger = heavier, always. Tires will get better marginally but it will be throughout sizes so there will always be a size penalty.

Mr. P
6 years ago

@bearCol, 10 years ago we had 1000 gram 2.1 26 inch tubeless tires. No tubeless ready. No exotic cut-resistant sidewall materials. No texturing of the sidewalls for protection. And rims that had stupid high bead hooks. “pretty much nothing has progressed”, really?

So yeah, it can be a more viable product than 10 years ago.

P

bearCol
bearCol
6 years ago

Mr P: You are right, I shouldn’t say zero progress for tire materials but The facts are there’s still no substitution for a thicker casing when it comes to durability. Materials like EXO for example are different but have those materials really changed the game? You still need a thicker casing for durability meaning more weight anyway you cut it. Until there’s a materials breakthrough that’s just the way it is.

bearCol
bearCol
6 years ago

MB: Companies putting out competitively light +size tires seem to think so. You and your buddies clearly get it but companies seem to think they can sell us ballon tires without a big weight penalty. I guess they don’t want to scare people from trying + size with heavy weights.

Bigwheel
Bigwheel
6 years ago

The bulk of mountain bikers are either clueless as to their tire weight or just don’t care because they are after a long lasting tire and/or one that gives them the ride quality they seek. Cheap can also factor in to the equation. And speaking of cheap, $5500 is not in that ball park.

Bazz
Bazz
6 years ago

27.5+ guys: can you tell me what the tires are like in trail sand? Are they noticeably better than say a 29er with 2.35-2.4″ wide tires? I’ve got a proper fat bike for sandy trails and races with lots of sand that I use 26 x 4″ tires on but if 27.5+ is nearly is good i’ll be rebuilding my wheels and maybe looking at a new 27.5″ compatible frame.

Walt
6 years ago

I like plus stuff a lot, and the folks who bitch about the weight – you should try it first. In my experience the rolling resistance and traction advantages more than make up for it, and I was expecting plus tires and full suspension to, well, suck:
http://waltworks.com/2015/10/braap-real-world-testing-riding/

-Walt

Sevo
Sevo
6 years ago

Bearcol hasn’t done his research. Course he’s never ridden B+ so….

Panaracer has effectively a 2.8″ (real 2.8″ that is) that weighs in around 800 grams.

After riding B+ for a year I have to say one thing is for sure, it’ll be the dominate tire/wheel size in a few years. Only perceived disadvantages by those who’ve never ridden them. It’s quite superior to 29ers and standard 650b. My testing (Strava based for 4 years same trails faster all around over other bikes) is not super scientific, but Specialized and Scott threw a bit of money at it. Both determined a 1% penalty on a smooth climb worst case over a 29er.

Jacko
6 years ago

Apparently Bearcol hasn’t followed what Scott / Schwalbe have done with the 2.8 Nobby Nic – pretty sure that is under”1200 g’s”.

S
S
6 years ago

@bearcol pretty sure the bontrager chupacabra is 850 grams for 29+ not even 27.5+ and I promise it is plenty durable.

NaturBoy
NaturBoy
6 years ago

27.5+ vs 29er : I ride a 29’er with 2.35 Rampages. Demo’d a couple of 27.5+ this summer in dusty conditions, and yep they had more traction in sandy/moondusty corners. The Scott Genius+ blew me away – it so d*mn light and frisky, and a solid descender. Then I found out about the $8K price tag (for the top demo model) 🙁 But even the Pony Rustler was a couple pounds lighter than my Rip9… My next bike will probably be a 27.5+, since I already own a fat bike.

cobi
cobi
6 years ago

Rented a 29+ hardtail (Stache) vacation this year since it was easy trails. Some of the most fun I had on a bike this year. I will definitely be demoing B+ and trying more bikes before my next purchase. I don’t know how people can be so judgmental without ever bothering to try it.

Bazz
Bazz
6 years ago

Now that top end 26×4″ tyres are getting into the 900 gram range, I wonder how long before 650b+ tires weigh the same as today’s 29×2.2″ tires.