Product Review: WTB Trailblazer 2.8″
I recently had the opportunity to try out some plus-sized WTB Trailblazer tires of the 2.8″ variety, thanks to my partners at Worldwide Cyclery. I’ve been reading about plus sized tires for months, and since I recently got a new Ibis HD3 with Boost spacing, I had no more excuses. Time to check them out and report back.
The HD3 wasn’t specifically built to be a plus-size bike, but Ibis recently re-designed the rear triangle to accommodate the bigger tires, so it’s an almost-natural fit. Here’s a rundown of my experience.
- Betasso Preserve, Boulder CO. Mostly smooth, loamy dirt with a several technical rock sections mixed in for good measure.
- Lupine and Gunsight Trails, Crested Butte CO. As smooth as it gets, absolutely perfect dirt with several fast flowy sections and bermed corners. Pure heaven, really.
- Hartman Rocks, Gunnison CO. Very similar to Fruita; high desert riding with mostly smooth trails but lots of technical rocky sections that are challenging to most mountain bikers.
Despite being labeled as 2.8″ tires, these aren’t as wide as I thought. I typically run a Maxxis DHF 2.5″ WT tire up front, and I’d compare them similarly. That said, they’re about 1/2″ taller than the DHF, which makes them roll much more like a 29er. I immediately felt the bike sat higher due to the increased height, and it raised my BB slightly.
It took me a while to figure out the sweet spot in terms of air pressure for the Trailblazers. It’s tough allowing yourself to run lower pressures while the tire feels soft, but for these tires to perform better, that’s what I ended up doing. With too much air in the tires, you get the bouncy feeling and the tires are entirely too harsh. Once aired down to ~18-20 psi, the tires were more on point.
Riding plus size tires takes a little getting used to- more than I expected. Part of it was the profile of the WTB tire, part of it was the extra cushion underneath me. Overall, it mostly felt like I was expecting- the tires took the bite out of the trail, and they made the ride feel more “floaty”. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but it was interesting. For the rockier sections, I felt myself paying more attention… on the smooth, flowy sections, I was having tons of fun.
The one thing I have to mention is the tire profile on wider rims- I had these mounted on both Ibis 741 carbon wheels (34mm internal) and Stan’s Flow MK3 wheels (29mm internal). The “wider” rims really squared off the tire to the point where there is a distinct transition point from tread to sidewall. The sidewall actually sticks out further than the tread, which was interesting. I prefer a more aggressive tread up front with thick side knobs, so it was a different experience for me. This said, I rode these tires hard through fairly rocky terrain and didn’t experience any sidewall damage (or any other issues, for that matter).
- Volume/air pressure. You can run super low pressure in these tires, which really helps absorb the bumps on your local trail.
- Rolling resistance. These seemed to roll very fast compared to the Maxxis DHF setup I typically run. Sure, we’re comparing apples to pomegranates, but you get my point.
- Increased traction. The wide footprint- especially when the tire compresses- really seemed to grip the rocks I rode over and through.
- Sharp transition. This was the biggest mental piece for me- the transition from tread to sidewall going into turns really had me thinking about my tires more than I should.
- Tread profile. Similar to the first con, but I personally like a more aggressive front tire profile when I’m riding my HD3. For those that like more racing-style tires, this is a non-starter.
Plus sized tires are here to stay, and I can see why. With a similar weight, you get a tire that gives you more traction and a more “cushy” feel. That being said, I think there are different strokes for different folks, and I personally prefer a tire in the 2.5″ range- something with a more aggressive tread that allows me to feel connected to the trail.
The WTB will make a great rear tire for anyone looking to make the transition to plus-size tires; I think if you pair it with something like a Maxxis Rekon or Schwalbe Nobby Nic up front, you have a winning combination.