Many of the first crop of plus-sized bikes are being spec’d with WTB’s Trailblazer tire. That’s no surprise since the Trailblazer–in conjunction with WTB’s Scraper rim–is largely responsible for ushering in the midfat era. There’s just one problem: the design of the Trailblazer is too narrow for the rim, resulting in some undesirable handling characteristics. So, when I saw my recent test bike, the Marin Pine Mountain 2, was coming with the Trailblazers, I got in touch with WTB about sending some of their newer plus-sized treads. WTB obliged and sent over their Bridger and Trail Boss 3.0.
The Bridger, which we first spotted at Sea Otter last spring, is one of the most aggressive plus-size tread patterns currently available. It’s a simple design–basically a double chevron pattern with tall lugs, all of which are roughly the same size. There is some slight alternating on the side lugs with a two outboard/one inboard arrangement. The lugs in the center of the tread are ramped on their leading edge to help the tire roll quicker. A majority of the lugs have small “Xs” on top of them to provide a bit more surface area. With plenty of space between the lugs, it would take some chunky peanut butter-style mud to pack up this tire.
WTB currently offers the Bridger only in a 27.5×3.0# size that uses their TCS Light casing and Fast Rolling compound. Claimed weight for the Bridger is 1207g, so I was happy to find that my sample weighed in just under 1100g.
As I’ve found with WTB’s other tires, they can be tough to get onto a rim. Jeff joked that they should call themselves “Wilderness Tight Beads” from now on. The Bridger was a tight fit, but expletives were kept to a minimum during installation.
Getting them to seat required a little more effort at the pump, but was still doable even with my 10-year-old Topeak Joe Blow. With a healthy amount of sealant sloshing around inside, the tire had no trouble holding air throughout the test.
On the Trail
I can admit that I’m a tire snob. But once you’ve felt the difference between a really good tire and a mediocre tire, it’s hard not to be. I’ve said this countless times, and I’ll go on saying it: the easiest way to improve the performance of your bike is to upgrade your tires. And the Bridger would be a serious upgrade to many of the current crop of plus tires.
Mounted on a 45mm internal rim, the Bridger measures out to a full three inches–WTB isn’t fudging that number. The profile is fairly rounded, which helps it roll better than I expected. The aforementioned ramping to the center knobs helps in this regard as well, but with the round profile fewer knobs are in contact with the ground when the tire is upright.
Leaning the bike over is a carefree affair–no weird transition zones or vagueness. Between the low pressure and the sheer quantity of knobs, it feels as though there’s always something there to support you. On the Marin I used to test these tires, I was able to reach speeds unthinkable on other hard tails. The Bridger took every root, rock, jump, and berm in stride. I was never left wanting for traction–going up or down–with this tire.
It was also largely unfazed by different trail conditions, performing admirably on everything from dry hard pack to wet rocks. It’s not the best for really muddy conditions, but most tires aren’t. Tread wear was excellent, and WTB’s TCS Light casing continues to impress me with its combination of suppleness and durability.
There’s only one drawback to the Bridger that I can see–the fact that it’s currently only available in a 3.0″ width. While most forks will be able to accommodate that size, it may be a tougher fit in the rear triangle. This is particularly true for folks out there doing 29 to 27.5+ conversions.
Apart from wanting this tire in more sizes, I’ve got nothing bad to say. The Bridger has a solid design, great rubber, a durable casing, comes in at a respectable weight, and rings up for under 70 bucks. If you want a bigger, more aggressive tire for your midfat ride, look no further.
Thanks to WTB for providing the Bridger for review
I picked up a set of these from REI on clearance for $30 per tire early this year (2017). Have put 200 or 300 miles of single track on them this year so far on a Cannondale Cujo 2 hardtail (not tubeless yet). Run them aroumd 19 to 15 psi, well under the recommended 30 psi, on an i40 rim. They do well in tacky earth and hard pack, fine on rock faces too. They do not do well in mud (gum up and do not clean out), nor do they do that well if the hard pack has any fine particulate on top (front washes out). They are heavy compared to some of the other options out there. I will be changing these out as soon as the replacements arrive but will put them back on for the spring when all the off road trails are closed and only paved trails are available. They are challenging to mount but so were the Rangers that came with the bike. Decent tire for the price.