Yes, you read that right. It's called 27.5 PLUS, (27.5+) and it's being promoted as "blurring the line between fat bikes and trail bikes". It's a "standard" that started with running bigger tires on 27.5 wheels, and realizing that in doing so the size of the wheel + tire combo gets closer to 29", but the tire also offers an even larger contact patch with the ground. More grip without too much of a rolling penalty is the word on the street - fat bike on a diet, in other words?

In parallel to this new idea, the advent of all the bigger wheel sizes in general creates a need for stiffer yet lighter wheels (isn't that always the case?) - and one way of achieving that is to increase the distance between the hub flanges and thus creating a wider bracing angle between the spokes and the hub. This has already started to happen at the rear end of the bike (Trek's "148 BOOST" system for example), and now, FOX is leading the charge up front by introducing its 2016 Factory 34 Float 27.5+ - a fork built specifically for this emerging new concept.

It's easy to take the high road and scoff at new ideas, but it seems this particular initiative has wider support across the industry than you might think. Hub and rim manufacturers and tire makers alike are apparently busy developing product, and "a number" of bike manufacturers are apparently ready to embrace the new width as well. So what does this new fork specifically offer?

2016 FOX Factory 34 Float 27.5+ Highlights

  • Chassis designed specifically for 27.5+ wheels and tires
  • Hub flanges, brake mount, and rotor moved 5mm outboard
  • 15QR x 110mm wide-flange hub spacing
  • 4th generation FIT4 closed cartridge damper
  • New FLOAT air spring
  • New wide crown spacing and lower leg casting providing clearance for super-wide rims
  • Supports tire sizes up to 27.5” x 3.25”
  • 51mm offset
  • Travel range 110mm to 150mm

FOX were mum on what some of these improvements actually consist of (FIT4, new airspring etc), and also, to what degree this will become "the" trail fork in this category for FOX (more to follow on this fork as well as the evolution of the rest of the line up over the coming months). We also don't know at this point how much the new fork will weigh or cost. What we do know is that you can't really convert a standard 15x100mm hub to this new standard just by changing out the endcaps, as the brake mount has been moved outboard as well (you could theoretically provide different length caps for each side of a 100mm hub and dish the wheel to compensate, but that would completely negate the benefit of the whole exercise in the first place). On the flip side, you could of course run this new fork with your standard, non-oversized rims and tires (built on a new hub), and still benefit from the extra stiffness provided by the wider spoke base.

We'll reserve judgment on what 27.5+ really is and who it's for until we can report on our experiences with it first hand. It certainly seems as though some of the underlying design ideas are rooted in worthy goals, whether or not this goes on to replace the current 15x100 as the major "trail bike" standard obviously remains to be seen. We probably don't all need 3" tires on our trail bikes, but then again, some of us took forever getting wider handlebars and dropper posts too. Stay tuned!

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