Finding the right tires for a plus size bike can be a bit of a challenge at times. With a much more limited selection, it is crucial that the tires that are available can handle multiple riding conditions. In this review, our customer Clay builds up a custom Surly Krampus with a Maxxi Chronicle tire in the rear. How was it? Read on to find out!
A Golden Colorado local who spends too much time wrenching his bikes and turning nobs. A man who needs to get out and ride more and worry about his equipment less. To this end, he aspires to return to a simpler life of steel frames and a minimal assortment of moving parts. Enter the Surly Krampus.
New bike purchase justification achieved. My 26" UK-made steel hardtail currently features a cracked top-tube. Breaking a steel frame is tough work, but with dedication and rocky trails, it can be done. The best part about steel, when compared with aluminum alloy, is that it can be repaired and welded IF it ever fails. I chose to ignore this fact and proceeded with a bike requisition that has been seeking justification. With a brand new "Bruised Ego" purple 2019 XL Surly Krampus on the way, the goal was to retain the perks of a hardtail without suffering the ride quality of a hardtail.
Before judgment is cast down upon me for being a weak, soft plebeian (completely justified), know this: If you are an aggressive rider living around the Colorado Front Range, you more than likely are riding a full-squish bike. The reality is that hardtails while being well-suited to riding the flowy, loamy, dirt filled trails of our dreams, are not well suited for most of our trails. My previous hardtails were not spared the merciless rocky trail abuse, nor will the Krampus be spared. Hopefully, it survives a bit longer than the last few.
Big tires, burly suspension fork. Nuff' said.
Where Schwalbe Snakeskin, Specialized Grid, and Continental Chili tires seem to puncture at the mere sight of a rock, Maxxis EXO tires are my go-to for their durability and wear life in rocky terrain. The Maxxis Chronicle is heralded as one of, if not the best 29+ tires available. Despite its low profile and reduced rolling resistance, grip is found in surplus; maybe it's the massive tread patch of a 29+ tire at work here? The only reservation is the 120tpi casing. The higher thread count makes for a more supple and lighter tire; the trade-off is that this results in reduced pinch flat resistance. A trait easily remedied with a home-made foam tire insert.
Over the years I have owned bikes with almost every Fox/Rockshox configuration imaginable: Fox 32-36, Gold 30, Revelation, Pike and Lyrik. Recently I have favored Fox solutions with their "Evol" air springs; the mid-stroke support, suppleness, and ramp-up are dead on with very little tuning required to get to the sweet spot. This favoritism made the budget-oriented Yari that much more of a surprise. Sure, it's heavy and doesn't have all the knobs of some of the higher end options, but it makes up for these drawbacks with a plush, supportive feel at a less cringe-inducing price. Color me impressed. I'll still run Fox on my next build if for nothing else than the force of habit; it appears RockShox has done some catching up lately.
The Krampus will be used primarily for the local trails, winter training, bike packing, pub runs, and some light bike park action (pics to come). After the first few rides, the benefits of a hardtail are brought back into focus. In addition to the diligence required to pick better lines and weight the bike properly to maintain a smooth ride, the pace slows down a bit and allows time for some reflection. Views that would otherwise turn into a vague featureless blur, instead open themselves to consideration. Really, all that I am trying to say is that I ride slower on a hardtail and I really couldn't care less.
Not every ride needs to be an all-out "enduro" ride. However, If speed is imperative, nothing trumps a well-tuned suspension platform. The un-damped (i.e. spring-like) action of ridiculously large volume Maxxis Chronicle 29+ tires still don't cut it when your speed picks up and your trail no longer resembles a trail. In this case, I was willing to trade capability for simplicity and cost-effectiveness while retaining a bit of comfort and a heaping helping of traction. Is this the fastest bike to grace the Front Range? Hell no. Is it the smoothest? Nope. However, as someone who doesn't get on with the boat-like sensation of true fat bikes, I find that the Krampus as spec'd is just comfortable enough (and skinny enough) to get along with.