Eurobike is just a few hours away and we're all frothing to see what direction MTB's crystal ball readers (the brand engineers and product mangers) will say our sport is heading. Many brands have already presented 2017 product and it's clear that things are more complicated than ever if you're a modern mountain biker.

Ten or 15 years ago, the chief MTB debate was pretty simple. Two camps basically existed; the 26-inch hardcore rider embracing a full suspension bike or the 29-inch XC nerd on a hardtail. There were those brave, early adopters venturing into "enduro" territory on bikes like a Santa Cruz Bullit but they were still just "riding XC" on a long-travel contraption that really didn't pedal well. Now, in 2016? Forget about it.

27.5 x 2.3 Maxxis High Roller II left vs 29 x 3 Maxxis Minion DHF right.

MTB Wheel and Tire Size Disaster Zone

Put frame materials and travel on the back burner; those are easy to figure out compared to mountain biking tire and wheel sizes. It nearly takes a Harvard diploma to understand what's going on with wheel diameters, rim widths and tires volume anymore.

  • 26-inch - Slopestylers and dirt jumpers hold down the fort for good reason. Trail-riding hold-outs that comment, "Will your new tire come in 26?" need to embrace the loss of their friend.
  • 26+ / plus - Yep, it's a thing and seems to be gaining traction (pun). 26-inch diameter wheels with tires that hit the 3-inch-wide range but can fit into a 27.5-designed bike.
  • 27.5 - MTB's standard, including DH.
  • 27.5+ / plus - Trying to be MTB's secondary standard. 2.8- to 3.0-inch-wide tires on wider rims that can fit on a bike designed to run 29-inch wheels, too.
  • 29 - MTB's other standard with plenty of rippers arguing the merits of a well-designed 29-inch-wheeled bike over a 27.5.
  • 29+ / plus - MTB's weirdo second cousin that you'd think about making out with if you had enough to drink. 29-inch rim diameter with 2.8- to 3.0-inch requiring frames built around the rolling behemoths. Generally seen on hardtails only with some niche builders making full suspension options.
  • 36er - Ok, now this is just getting carried away.

Vital MTB Poll

I have seen plus bikes on the trail

Could you imagine working for a wheel or tire manufacturer in 2016? Every MTBer with a Facebook account starts a wheel/tire size fanclub and demands that your brand make their favorite tread pattern in this random size so all 13 people in the fanclub can have the option of buying this random size. It has to be rough out there and we're glad we can just sit here and write about it. 26 x 3-inch Nokian Gazzoloddi tires existed years ago as did those tall-butt, mom-style jeans. Fastfoward to 2016 and 26+ is a thing on bikes and every teenage girl at the mall looks like a fashion-starved housewife from 20 years ago. It's weird out there.


29 x 3 Maxxis Minion DHF vs. 26 x 2.3 Specialized Butcher.

What will see for 2017? Eurobike may confirm some things that we've seen leak out and have heard in the rumor mills. Terms like "mid plus" float around implying we're going to have to get used to learning a new, branded label for every tenth of an inch in tire width - sort of like how defining Enduro vs. Trail. vs. All-mountain on our bikes came to be. To this author, it's still all just "XC."

Like everything in mountain biking (and life), the kooky left and right fringe trends of materials, suspension and even wheel/tire size have their place in the spotlight only to be forgotten when a nice, happy medium of research, development and thoughtfulness prevail.

Here's to 2017 and the embrace of all weird things in mountain biking that end up being normal a few years later. Stay tuned to Vital MTB for our Eurobike coverage starting soon.

Maxxis High Roller II 27.5 x 2.3 in front of a Maxxis Minion DHF 29 x 3.

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