Hmm, I am running out of "mason" references.
Yesterday I took the Diamondback out to Salmon Falls. The last time I rode there I found the terrain to be a bit rough, so I figured it would be a good proving ground for the 27-plus bike.
The bike is still stock except for new grips, which were too thin and hard for my liking. I also converted the tires to tubeless. The rims were already taped, so it was simply a matter of removing the tubes, inserting the valve and adding some sealant. The tires aired right up. By far my easiest conversion to date. The stock tubes were very thick and heavy, and removing them saved 1.5 pounds. Nice.
Since I bottomed out once on the last ride on a much mellower trail, I ran a bit more air pressure due to the rocky nature of Salmon Falls. Right off the bat I noticed a huge improvement in the way the bike felt even with more air pressure. Tubeless tires simply perform better. Losing 1.5 pounds of rotating weight certainly doesn't hurt, either.
I am having a hard time finding any negatives with the 27-plus platform. It might be a little slower than a 29er in some situations, but I can't even say that for sure. To truly compare I would need to have two bikes of equal quality, and the Mason Trail doesn't stack up to my other bikes from that standpoint. Still, it holds its own.
The first part of the ride is mostly flat trail cut into a steep hillside, with plenty of rocks. It's my least favorite part of the ride, but the fat tires made it much better. Almost fun. On the very first downhill I opened it up and let it fly. I can honestly say I have never gone faster on that section. The slack angles and big tires changed my normal hardtail approach from "picking good lines" to simply plowing over everything. It's a different way to ride, and not without merit.
After some fun up-and-down singletrack comes the grind up Flagstaff, which climbs 675 feet in 1.6 miles. Years ago it was a fast fire road downhill, but today it better resembles a rocky, rutted, overgrown creek bed. I spent much of the first half in the 30x36 gear, but had to drop into my lowest gear (30x40) a couple times. I think for the most part I can get up any climb with the single ring setup, especially with the crazy traction of the plus tires.
The second half isn't as steep or rocky. The view from near the top:
The last steep stretch:
After a paved downhill is the back section, which is a fairly smooth stretch except for all the gopher/squirrel holes. If you've ever ridden a squirrel-holed trail, you know it can be a speed sapping experience. It's here where I noticed the flotation of the tires the most.
As I was motoring along, I caught up to a guy on a carbon fiber Stumpjumper FSR. He looked down at my bike, and the look on his face said, "Did this dude just catch me on that Walmart bike?" Yes. Yes, he most certainly did.
I passed him and he jumped on my wheel for a quarter mile or so. On a slight rise I hit the gas and I heard him gurgle something to the effect of "ughndwuh" and drop anchor. Bye now!
After that you enter a section with twisty, flowing trail. It's slightly downhill and fast. I had a blast testing the limits of traction in the corners.
With two rides now on vastly different terrain, I will say this: I think the 27-plus platform is the future. It's that good. You retain the rollover of the 29er diameter, have similar flotation to the 29-plus tire, yet eliminate some of the 29-plus heft I experience with the Krampus.
The ability to have one bike that can run a fast wheelset (29er) and a bomber wheelset (27-plus) is pretty cool, too. And for the most part you don't lose a lot when running the 27-plus wheels anyway. I haven't tried a 27-plus full suspension yet, but the three-inch tires definitely negate many of the drawbacks of a hardtail bike. It's just enough float to take the sting out of the trail.
More to come. Later.