From 26 inch wheels, I am now a convert to 27.5 wheels.
It took a while for Dirty Harry (Haro Extreme X7) to evolve due to the fork restrains but once I got hold of the Marzocchi 350 Enduro specific 27.5 fork, everything fell into place. The rear triangle for the X7 was spacious enough for another refrigerator so I decided to go plus size instead of the usual 2.35 downhill tire.
Marzocchi 350 Fork
I acquired a Marzocchi 350 (with air and coil) that is specific to my riding style. I de-badged it and left a little M just to quiet all those folks who ask what my fork is. (As of date, Fox Racing co. bought the Italian brand Marzocchi, so no need to worry about after market service.) I love Marzocchi for it is an install and forget fork. Minimal maintenance, bombproof, works wonders and it looks mean. How can you go wrong with that?
I researched and asked the local bike shops in the vicinity what were the available 27.5 tires…
I ended up with what I really wanted: a WTB 27.5 x 2.8 Trailblazer. TCS and fast rolling light, as claimed by their brand. The pattern is OK, with center knobs to roll easy on pavement and hard packed terrain. The knobs don’t look too knarly and wild as the knobs I used to ride so I would have to test it out in the mud this weekend.
Due to the plus size fatness of the tire, it is not your usual fancy to see such heavy tires on mountain bikes. They are quite heavy and the toll on the bike is felt but I am used to riding a heavy bike so it wasn’t really an issue from the beginning.
I followed the psi instruction indicated on the tire which was 30-45psi. I pumped 30psi on my front and rear wheel and rode around the local university. The wheelset felt like a 29er due to the fat side of the 2.8s. The bike grew taller significantly and it felt like mounting a 29er bike.
The geometry is odd considering that the frame is built for freeride and all-mountain, the seat is somewhat advanced unlike the modern enduro frames with the seat set back from the center of the crank. Having the seat advanced though has an advantage especially when going fast downhill, you just have to put the seat in front of your crotch and sit on the rear wheel and the bike is instantly balanced.
Before I changed my set-up, I timed myself in the local university dirt track. My best time in “dirt track # 1” using my 26inch wheel is 3:17. Sometimes it was 3:21 or 3:23. But when I used the 27.5 wheels, my best time was 2:58. Is it the new bike feel? Was I pumped up the morning I tried out the experimental set-up? Was it the bacon and eggs I ate during the experimental set-up testing?
The bike was faster significantly on a trail that was flowing with minimal turns and berms. On tight turns, the bike overshot but I just let the suspension handle the outside line. One flick on the rear brake and the bike was on line again.
The bike was heavier on gunstart due to the large diameter of the wheels (power transfer was slow) but once you get it going, it accelerated like a beast. Small bumps and rocks were easier now due to the massive width of the tire.