Over the past 18 months we’ve seen an explosion of plus bikes hitting the market, so we wondered: “Who is buying these bikes and what are the most popular configurations?” As usual, we uncovered some interesting and surprising insights!

Right off the bat we were shocked to find that a lot riders don’t know what “plus” really means when it comes to mountain bikes. Fully 22% of respondents said they owned a plus bike but in reality we determined (based on responses to follow up questions) they did not. We think part of the confusion stems from the timing of the introduction of 27.5+ just as standard 27.5 wheels were becoming mainstream. So for those who may still be confused, 27.5 is not the same as 27.5+.

At the time of our survey (conducted in February), plus bike ownership was split almost evenly between 27.5+ and 29+ bikes, with 29+ having a slight edge. This might seem surprising given the huge number of 27.5+ bikes on the market compared to 29+ bikes but remember, 29+ started out a couple years ahead of 27.5+. This will be interesting to track over time but all indications point toward future 27.5+ adoption far outstripping 29+ and perhaps, 29+ falling off the radar entirely.

Unlike fat bikes, plus bikes aren’t typically marketed as being particularly well suited for riding in snow. Consequently, we’re seeing early adoption happening much more broadly across all regions of the world. Contrast that with fat bikes, which have seen higher adoption rates in places like the Central and Eastern US and Canada where snow is a factor, and lower rates where it is not.

It’s also interesting to note that plus bikes have been adopted by older riders at increasing rates. Starting with under 18-year-old riders, each increasing age group shows higher adoption rates than the age group below it, with the exception of the 55+ group. At this point with overall plus bike adoption rates hovering around 4%, it stands to reason that older riders are the ones with more disposable income and are therefore more likely to be early adopters. Knowing that plus bikes make technical terrain easier to navigate and that they’re also slightly heavier than equivalent bikes with skinnier wheels and tires might also hint at some correlation with age-group adoption rates.

As with any new technology or standard in the bike industry, riders are split on whether plus bikes are a good thing or a bad thing. Generally the tone of survey responses seemed to lean toward the positive.

In looking at the types of plus bikes riders own, it’s interesting to note the differences between the 27.5+ and 29+ bikes being purchased. There still isn’t a single mainstream full suspension 29+ bike on the market, which limits who these bikes appeal to. Based on the survey data, we’re seeing mostly steel, all hardtail, and limited travel 29+ bikes being used for bikepacking and off road touring. In contrast, the 27.5+ bikes riders own are carbon and aluminum, full suspension, and around 120mm of travel. The variety of 27.5+ designs certainly seems to be a strength over 29+ in terms of potential future adoption.

The brands currently dominating 29+ and 27.5+ sales are also very different. In the 29+ market, niche brands with cult followings like Surly and Niner are doing well, while the 27.5+ market is already being dominated by larger players like Specialized and Norco.

In the plus size tire market, we found a surprising diversity in the brands mentioned. Many of these tires started life as fat bike tires and have been sized down to work for plus bikes. The upshot is there are plenty of tires to choose from today, up from just a couple choices only 18 months ago.

Your Turn: What stands out to you about the plus bike data? Let us know if you’re planning to go plus size in the future and which bike you plan to buy!

# Comments

  • fatlip11

    Yep, early adopter here… built up a Krampus as soon as they were first released. Mine is 27.5 lbs and is an everyday trail bike. Regularly ride the trails around Atlanta and hit Pisgah, DuPont, N. GA whenever possible. I agree with a lot of your results. They might not be racing machines but they sure are fun and climb amazingly well regardless of the weight. Even being rigid, I’ve definitely ridden more technical stuff on it than my previous bikes. Can’t imagine wanting to move back to “normal” size tires/rims it’s that much fun.

  • hproctor

    I would definitely buy a 29+ full suspension bike. I’ve been told that the geometry logistics makes it unlikely they will be produced. Not sure why….some time it sucks to be tall.

    • Aaron Chamberlain

      hproctor – with such a large wheel/tire, you’ve got to make some serious compromises for clearance. Think about when the suspension compresses, that rear wheel has to go somewhere. To keep it from hitting the seat tube, you’d have to have really long chainstays. That would make for a really long bike.

      It could be done, there are full-suspension fat bikes after all, but there’s not enough of a market for major manufacturers to invest in 29+ full squish. Lenz Sport – makers of all sorts of weird ass bikes – has a couple 29+ bikes in their line: http://lenzsport.com/mountain-bikes/

    • Plusbike Nerd

      I just bought the 29+ 5″ travel full-suspension Trek Full Stache that just came out this month and after about 10 rides, I give it a huge thumbs up. So check it out. In addition, Salsa makes the 29+ full-suspension Deadwood SUS.

  • jeffperambo

    Love my fat bike for trail riding but wanted a 3.25 to 3.5 fat tire for summer riding so now 27+ will be my next purchase and be used for all non snow riding. To all the people who haven’t tried a fat tire for non race type trail riding you really have no buisness commenting on whether they work or not. Fat tires rule on technical and loose crappy conditions and do have a place in the mt bike scene. If you ride where the trails are smooth and hardpack you can ride any tire size and have fun . But in the end just get out and ride whatever you have.

  • winsail

    Not ready to jump yet but I meet the demographic. I’m 58 like the idea of 27.5+. I was an early adopter of 650b 5 years ago and just demo’d a Carbon Santa Cruz 27.5 Hightower 40mm rims 2.8 tires today for 4 hours. I know 4 hours doesn’t amount to much but It was a great climber with excellent traction over roots rocks and obstacles. I became fatigued near the end with the weight of bike. Downhill was the real amazing part. I tried to take the most direct route and didn’t care about my line. This bike just devoured everything (in comfort).
    My friend was demoing the new Mojo 3 with 2.35 tires and we traded a few times. His description was best. The Hightower was like an old Cadillac you instantly felt comfortable. If I was an instructor I would use this bike for first timers. It’s very forgiving and smoothes out the trail.

  • aiki4us

    Yes, it is true I am a 63 year old with only some mountain bike experience. I did my homework, mid-fat tires performs excellent for the intermediate rider as a trail / all mountain bike.
    I live in Boise, Idaho where we have excellent training grounds: Ridge to Rivers Program with over 190 miles of maintained trails and growing, plus Eagle Bike Park. I selected the Scott Genius Plus for their 27.5 x 2.8 tubeless tires using 40 mm rim width and their Twinloc suspension system. Performs as I hoped: minor speed lost, excellent climber, great traction in sandy terrain, smooth control in steep rocky terrain, and a lot of fun. Currently running 13.5 PSI in rear tire and 12 PSI in front tire. Only swap out was to Wolf Tooth 28t front chainring for our steep trails. No regrets.

  • Mr Mojo Risin

    I’ve been riding my Santa Cruz Hightower 27.5+ for a little over a season and a half. I love this bike more and more every day. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days on a long climb that I missed my normal 29er wheels/tires. But that notion quickly fades away with every tight and twisty downhill or gnarly rock garden. My confidence cup overfloweth with these wheels and I’m riding features I never would have on my old wheel set up. Zero buyers remorse on my end. I love my Hightower….I love lamp!

  • humblpie

    I’m glad I skipped the 29er and fat bikes. I’m sure they have their place for some. I just started gathering parts for my new build. 50mm wide carbon 27.5 rims, tubes and tires 3” for $700. Tires on sale for $53 each off season, $15 each for tubes and the rest for the rims. If you look for 29inch hardtail frames with non curved chain stays then there is a good chance a 3 inch tire will fit if 27.5”. Guess not to many build an entire bike but you can save a lot of money if you do. I have a feeling most of the big guys don’t make much or any of the bike they have their name on so what are we paying for anyway?

  • Plusbike Nerd

    When Surly invented the first Plusbike, the Krampus, they created one of the best innovations that mountain biking has seen while at the same time producing a severely handicapped bike. The original Krampus came with very heavy, non-tubeless, 29×3.0in wide tires,and very wide, heavy, single-wall, non-tubeless, drilled, i45mm (i=internal width) rims that required a heavy rim strip and inner-tubes. Unfortunately, many on the first Plusbikes from other bike manufacturers were built in a similar manner. If you happen to have tried one of these heavy wheeled bikes, you probably wouldn’t have been impressed. However, things have changed a lot in the last fews years. Now, the typical Plusbike comes with light, tubeless-ready 2.6-2.8in wide tires and light, narrower, double-wall, tubeless-ready, i29-36mm rims that use very light rims strips and sealant. This modern wheel can be more than 2 pounds lighter than the old school wheel while still delivering 99% of the Plus goodness. If Surly’s first Plusbike had come out with light tubeless-ready 29×2.8in tires mounted to light tubeless-ready i32mm rims, I believe that Plusbikes would have caught on more quickly. The original Plus tires and rims were just to wide and heavy. For many years, we rode Narrowbikes with ~i22mm rims on which we switched back and forth 2.0-2.4in wide tires. I hope that the bike industry makes a shift to the wider where the standard Trailbike comes with ~i32mm rims on which we switch back and forth 2.4-2.8in wide tires. Basically rims and tires would be on average 0.4in(10mm) wider. The future Trailbike would be both both Narrow and Plus depending on tire choice. Wider really is better!

  • Slee_Stack

    I’m a freak according to the data. I run 2.6″ on my 29er. Admittedly, the tires are expensive unless I plan ahead and order from europe. I have them mounter to 42mm Chinese carbons and run 22psi front/back. Been running that way for a couple years now. I feel they are a nice compromise. Definitely fewer washouts and better stick on gnarly climbs. Yes, they are a bit slower on anything smooth and sticky, but I’m repeatably faster overall then on skinnier.

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