Pacenti Neo-Moto 650B 2.3 Review

27.5 Pro Reviews Tires

Reviewed by Brian Mullin

I have really enjoyed my several months of test time on the Pacenti Neo-Moto 650B 2.3 tires, as they have good acceleration, cornering and traction, and excellent braking. The tire was designed by Mr. 650B himself, Kirk Pacenti, who in addition to being a strong advocate of the 650B attributes, was also an early proponent of the 29er. The Neo-Moto is a 2.3 inch wide tire, meant for multiple types of conditions, from Cross Country to All Mountain riding, and has an Aramid bead, 66 TPI casing and is made in Japan by Panaracer. Kirk had sent me a set of the tires to review back in Sept of 2009, so I have been extremely remiss in completing a review, although my major delay was caused by a lack of 650B wheels. Fortunately, through happenstance, Kirk graciously lent me a pair of his wheels for a couple of months this winter.

Caveat: Running a 650B wheel on a 26 inch designed fork will void its warranty, and manufacturers have lawyer double speak warnings, which all end with “causing serious bodily injury or death”.


The 650B wheel measures in at 27.5 inches, and although the numbers would suggest that it’s smacked exactly between the 26 and 29 inch size, they are somewhat closer to the former. One of the nice aspects of the 650B is that they are much easier to design into a frame, especially when the amount of travel increases to the 4-6 inch range. Designing a 29er with larger amounts of travel (towards 5 inches) can be accomplished, but it is certainly more difficult, and presents a myriad of complexities. The 650B can fit on some of the current 26 inch frames on the market, and my Ibis Mojo is a case in point. I am extremely familiar with a 26 inch setup, and I regularly ride my 29er (Moots Mooto XZ), so I have breadth of knowledge for cross comparisons for the new size. The 650B were in the middle of acceleration between the sizes, though closer to the 26 inch, but it lacked the ability to carry the monstrous momentum that a 29er can attain when it is brought up to speed. It had the excellent braking, and stair step and ledge climbing abilities of the 29er, and its berm and roll over anything capabilities were close to its big brethren. It did share the 29er’s difficulty to turn in sharp switchbacks and lacked laser like steering, somewhere the 26 inch shines, but the 650b were a nice compromise. I personally liked the size, but it is no better nor worse than the others, and it’s just another option.

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About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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  • derby says:

    Great review Pastajet! After 3 year on these 650b Pacenti Neo-moto tires, I can only add that they are very durable, long lasting with tough sidewalls, and shed mud well too. Going back to similar 26 inch wheels on my bike just feels harsh and slow on rocky eroded trails. Cheers!

  • Morpheous says:

    I have had similar success with these tires over the last two years, tried the quasi-moto(summer hardpack) and these Neos(all weather/cond.) Great tread pattern, durability, and grip. Running 650B f/r on my 2010 Jamis XAM2 with no issues and great handling due to the rounded cross sectional profile that I prefer.. Go Kirk!

  • salimoneus says:

    This is the best 650b all-mountain tire out there. The Kendas are similar, but the Neo-Motos are faster, wear longer, and are much stronger in the sidewall. The Neo-Motos also work great with tubeless setups. A superb all-around tire, job well done Kirk!

  • Diesel says:

    For me, this tire measured 55.13mm when freshly installed tubeless on a P35 @ 30psi. I need to go back and re-measure it, now that it has had time to stretch for a few weeks.

    From a grip and tread pattern perspective, it is one of the best front tires I’ve used (I’m running 650b front only on a Mojo). It set up well tubeless, using the velocity tubeless kit + P35 rim. No problems with burps or losing air (w/2 scoops of sealant). I did need to seat it first with a tube, however, in order for it to seat tubeless.

    The jury is still out for me on 650b. I did not notice a huge difference in rollover, though the wheel does not seem to get stuck as easily in those perpendicular ruts that want to stop your wheel and send you OTB.

    The downside for me is the weight. The P35 is a pretty heavy rim, and the steering does not have that light, knifelike feeling, that allowed me to quickly thread a complex line through through a series of obstacles. I’m not sure how much of this is related to the rim, or how much of it is due to the increased gyroscopic effect of the larger wheel diameter.

    Maybe I just need more time on it, as I’ve only had the setup for about six weeks or so. If I could buy a Neo 2.3 in 26″, I’d buy one for my other wheelset.


  • salimoneus says:

    Diesel: the P35 is a heavy rim, but there are several other choices out there now, I like some of the Sun varieties. Also, if you would like a Neo in 26″, there basically already is one, it’s called the Panaracer Rampage. Edit: “The Neo is similar to the Rampage, and is actually made by Panaracer.”

  • Chris says:

    Good review.

    I haven’t ridden them yet but when choosing a 650B tire for my next wheelset for my FS SS it was between the Neo-motos 2.3s and Kenda Navegals in 2.35. I can’t fit a 650B on the rear so I’m going to run one on the front only thinking that may be where you would get the best advantage of the roll over capability of the larger diameter anyway.

    There were a few reasons I chose the Navegal. One it looked like it has slightly larger knobs and a bit wider casing so it might be closer to the fat tire you are looking for and I already know that Navegals hook up well. It is also available in a 127 tpi casing and I’m a fan of high thread count. I’m running a 26 2.35 Nav on the rear.

    The wheels and the tires are waiting for me to return to the Midwest in a few weeks and I’m excited to see how they work.

    It would be cool to see a side by side comparison.

  • Chris says:

    Oh yeah, also I’m running them on 27mm wide WTB Trail rims which are a good width compromise and lighter than the P35s which would have been my second choice.

  • salimoneus says:

    It’s too bad these tires did not get a chance to shine where they do best, which in my opinion is in a tubeless application. The sidewall of the Neo-Moto is quite robust, and using tubes is going to firm them up even more as noted by the reviewer. Many that have tried these tires much prefer to run them tubeless, and I concur. I recommend trying them again but next time ditch the tubes!

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Thanks everyone for the great information and responses. I am very familiar with the P35, since I tested a 26er wheelset fairly recently. They don’t have laser like steering due to the monstrous width, and they take some initiative to roll over from their very stable upright position, but can rail once on their side.

    Unfortunately, I no longer have the wheels, so no additional testing for tubeless can happen, although I am building a front P35 currently. Due to time constraints, and extra steps required for setup for tubeless, and that the wheelset wasn’t owned by me, I decided not to go my usual tubeless route. I am well aware of the changes of going tubeless can make to a tire, but it still wouldn’t have changed my main issue, which was the width (regardless of tubeless).

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