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I introduced the Travers Rudy Fat 29+ here a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve been on various trips and rides in its company, some were loaded and some weren’t, some were dry and sunny and others … most certainly weren’t.

If you’ve bothered to read part 1 then you’ll know that I had reservations about whether 29+ held any benefits as far as bikepacking was concerned. I never doubted that it looked a fun way to spend a couple of hours down the woods or round your local bicycle-scalextric-centre but for actually getting from A to B and back again … I wasn’t convinced.

I’m going to ignore the Travers Rudy part of the bike for a moment and concentrate on the 29+ aspect.

The 29+ bit.
The very name ’29+’ implies ’29er but better’ and on paper it should be but … does the larger tyre circumference smooth the ground out or does it make the bike feel draggy and lifeless? Do the large volume 3″ tyres add a useful level of suspension and offer masses of grip or are they just a heavy burden to be cursed at every hill? 

I can see the sea from here!

The only 29+ tyres available as I type are Surly Knards. There’s 2 flavours available, 27tpi and 120tpi, they both share the same tread pattern and look exactly the same. The difference is in the carcass, the higher thread count of the 120 results in a more flexible (maybe even supple) tyre which is both lighter and more expensive than its sibling but possibly a touch more fragile too … you pays your money, etc, etc. Whichever you choose you can’t deny that they’re a pretty hefty tyre, the 27tpi weighs 1270g and the 120 is a comparatively feathery 970g. When you’ve spent years trying to shave weight from your wheels and tyres and are happily charging across the countryside with 500g tyres spinning at each end, the thought of adding a second 500g to each wheel seems crazy BUT in reality a 1kg tyre doesn’t turn your world upside down as much as you’d imagine. The reasons could be really complicated or as I suspect very straightforward.

Natural environment.

I think a lot of the potential nasties are cancelled out by the rim. The Northpaw rims fitted to this bike are 47mm wide (lots of aluminium = heavy) but have very, very
large cut-outs (big holes = light) which means they tip scales at 600g each. While that’s not an xc race rim, it’s not that heavy either. I believe the second reason for the surprising lack of drag is the shape of the tyre when it’s fitted. The 47mm rim produces a nice rounded profile, so the tyres contact patch isn’t as big as it’s 3″ size would have you believe (obviously tyre pressure plays a part here). If you then take the tyres tightly spaced, shallow tread pattern in account, the lack of rolling resistance you might have expected comes as less of a surprise. I’m not going to tell you that you don’t notice the tyres when gravity isn’t on your side, you do but it’s not as much as you’d expect. As a comparison, the difference between riding an unloaded bike and one packed with a summer nights worth of gear is far more noticeable.

Ti bike = Fanny magnet

Before I carry on rambling there’s one thing you need to understand … A 29+ isn’t a fat bike! The 3″ tyres don’t provide the same levels of flotation as a fat bike tyre and they won’t offer the same ‘suspension’ (cushioning) effect either. I feel that the last point is actually a positive trait rather than a drawback. Any ‘suspension’ provided by a tyre is completely undamped and you wouldn’t dream of fitting an undamped fork to your bike – even if someone paid you. The ‘suspension’ action of the Knard is just on the right side of too much and while you can feel a tiny amount of uncontrolled rebound on fast rocky descents, it never gets out of hand or makes you think slowing down might be a good idea. The 29+ effect really comes into its own on rocky tracks when gravity is on your side. I’m not talking fields of football sized boulders, more rocky bridleways and tracks where the bike really does seem to float over the top of everything beneath it.

So what about grip? … Grip’s something that’s difficult to quantify in any meaningful way. Technique and individual riding style will play a major part in how much grip’s available, so all I can do is compare it to a ‘normal’ 29er ridden in the same conditions. Descending was never an issue, even when negotiating slippery off camber sections, I never experienced any ‘iffy’ moments but I very rarely do on 2.2″ tyres either, so I honestly can’t say whether the 29+ is better or not (sorry). Climbing on the other hand is something I can comment on with a little more insight. I’ve always found that 29″ wheeled bikes have the potential to grip better than 26″ wheeled bikes … and the 29+ has the potential to grip better than a 29er. The large contact patch of the tyre obviously helps but the bigger circumference does too. There’s much less traction breaking ‘snatch’ when climbing, your jerky, breathless on-off, on-off pedal action doesn’t get translated into on-off, on-off wheel rotation, so there’s less chance of the tyre breaking free. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Knard isn’t the most aggressive tyre in the world, so the bikes climbing ability certainly isn’t enhanced by it … it’ll be interesting to see what effect one of Surly’s soon to be launched ‘Dirt Wizard’ tyres would have.

The Travers bit.

The Travers Rudy Fat 29+ (to give it its full name) is a Ti frame designed for 29″ wheels and 29+ tyres. The quality of manufacture is superb and equal to any other Ti frame I’ve had the pleasure of riding including boutique frames costing three times as much. The frame’s available in 4 standard sizes which should cover most riders but because they’re made to order, any tweaks to sizing can be catered for. Unlike most ‘fat bikes’ the Travers rear-end is spaced at 135mm so any standard mountain bike hub can be used. The pointy end features a tapered headtube and semi-integrated headset so no ‘special’ fork is required. If you decide that you can’t live without front suspension just remember to check the fork has clearance for the big rim / tyre combo … however, if you do decide to fit suspension forks rather than the Travers carbon fork, you’ll be missing out on one of the nicest rigid forks I’ve ever ridden.

The right hand seatstay features a rather neat split (it’s that neat most people miss it) to enable the fitment of a belt. When I first noticed it I was a little confused due to the lack of ebb or adjustable drop-outs. I contacted Michael Travers to see whether there had been an oversight and if some type of belt tensioning mechanism (or chain for SS) had been overlooked … I’m glad to report it hadn’t. The Travers runs a press-fit (PF30) bottom bracket which I know isn’t everyones favourite but it does allow the fitment of just about every conceivable bottom bracket or crank set-up ever made … including an eccentric to take care of belt / chain tightening duties.

Full fat and the low fat alternative.
One of the really nice things about the frame is how versatile it is. The standard frame / fork spacing means that you could ride the bike in 29+ guise one day and simply by changing wheels run it with 35c cyclocross tyres the next … if you fitted the previously mentioned ebb then the possible combinations of wheel / tyre / drivetrain are vast – maybe you could just have one bike after all?

The test bike weighed 27lb complete with my heavy flat pedals. While the build contained some nice bits there was nothing on the list that would be considered weight-weenie exotica. Although the test bike was fitted with a 1×10 drivetrain, I’d suspect 2x? would make life a little easier and that the majority of people would willingly sacrifice a little weight for the helping hand uphill. Even with a double ring up front I can’t see why a sub 30lb build isn’t possible without resorting to a second mortgage … you won’t be using budget parts to achieve it but you won’t be using XTR either!

So does it deliver everything it promises? In a word, yes but it’s subtle rather than earth shattering. If you’re the kind of rider who likes to let the bike do all the work, crash through everything and generally behave like a passenger, then chances are you might not ‘get it’ … but chances are you’d have no interest in riding a rigid bike anyway. On the other hand, if you have the ability to ‘ride with your head’ rather than your ‘bollocks’ and are willing to work with the bike, then the benefits of the 29+ will be obvious and you’ll be rewarded handsomely! 

If you widen the drop-outs a touch?

The Rudy Fat 29+ is available as a frame only or as a rolling chassis kit. Prices start from £1199. The Travers ‘Prong’ carbon fork is also available separately from £249 in both 26″ and 29″ versions.



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