The Trailblazer from WTB is a 2.8-inch, 27.5+ tire designed to fit many existing 29er frames and forks. Say what?! Read this first, then read my review.
The WTB Trailblazer features a fast-rolling tread pattern with fairly tall but closely-spaced square knobs. The centerline sports an almost continuous line of tread, while the transition and side knobs get a little more breathing room to grab the terrain. However, the overall tire profile ends up being squarish (clearly calculated to make sure these tires fit most 29er frames) which places the side knobs where riders might expect to find transition in corners. As such, I found myself leaning into corners less aggressively to avoid slipping on the sidewalls.
Of course, one way to deal with a mohawk-style tread profile is to run lower pressures in hopes of allowing the tire to conform better to the terrain. That’s certainly one of the benefits to plus-size tires, though curiously WTB placed a label on the tire stating “ride only at these tire pressure ratings: 30-45psi.” Now, keep in mind this is a tubeless tire and it’s plus-size, so I would assume most riders can get away with pressures in the low 20s. Perhaps this warning was put in place by overzealous lawyers but suffice it to say, riders will get much better performance out of the Trailblazer at the lower end of the spectrum.
The Trailblazers get WTB’s TCS (tubeless compatible system) label, and I’ve been running these tires tubelessly throughout testing. I was able to air up both front and rear tires on WTB Scraper rims using just a floor pump and zero soapy water. In fact, although I had sealant in the tires at the time, I probably didn’t even need that. These tires work extremely well with WTB rims and I haven’t experienced any sealant leaks or burps on the trail. The rear tire seems to have a slow leak (we’re talking about adding air once a week), though I don’t know if it’s the tire, rim, or valve.
WTB claims these tires weigh 980g and feature a lightweight casing. The Trailblazers are dual compound, which means the center tread should be longer lasting while the side and transition knobs utilize a grippier rubber compound.
I’ve been testing these tires for several weeks now, and I have a real love/hate relationship with the Trailblazers. I love the added volume of a 2.8-inch tire and the fact that it fits in my full-suspension 29er frame. On dry trails I can simply rail with this tire and my bike feels like it’s more dialed than it’s ever been. The Trailblazers simply float over loose soil and embrace rock gardens with a big marshmallow hug.
But when I try to lay the bike down a little too low in a corner or I hit something off camber in wet conditions, the Trailblazers are disappointing. (Interestingly, neither the front or rear seemed to work better or worse than the other, no matter what the conditions.) These tires aren’t great at mud shedding either, which can be an issue since most riders will have little side clearance on 29er conversions. As a point of comparison, I found the negative handling characteristics to be similar to my experience with Hutchinson Pythons.
To be fair, I understand why the Trailblazer struggles in these conditions: after all, a rounder profile and more robust side knobs would mean less volume in a 29er frame. At the end of the day, the love side of the equation wins out for me–I never stay mad at the Trailblazers for long!
If you want to give the Trailblazers a try this summer, good luck. WTB is all sold out (this is at least the second time) and the company doesn’t expect to receive another shipment until late June. The Trailblazers offer a good solution for anyone with a 29er who is ready to step up to plus-size riding!
Thanks to WTB for providing the Trailblazer tires for review.
Nice honest review! There’s definitely a refining process that needs to take place for this new wheel/tire size, but I’m excited to see where it ends up!
hey jeff, it’s been 2 years since you’ve written this article… I have the same bike as in this article (Santa Cruz Tallboy Carbon), and am desperately seeking to keep on riding this bike but want to fatten it up. Have you landed on what you think is the best combination rim and tire (27.5+) that would fit on this specific 29er? thanks!
I’m still running the same tires and rims and it’s going great!
If I were to make a change, I would try slightly narrower rims (40mm or so) and a different 2.8″ tire. I have some Maxxis Rekon+ tires here in the office I hope to review soon.