Shift in Perception: An ode to plus bikes

Rocky Mountain’s Wade Simmons and Jesse Melamed go biggie size

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Shift in Perception: An ode to plus bikes

The freedom that comes from riding two wheels is a like no other. From the first time you rolled past the end of the driveway, to the most recent ride on your favorite singletrack trail. The evolution and context of every ride will change but your love for the ride never should. Professional athletes like Wade Simmons and Jesse Melamed are generational masters of our sport, and are driven to push their own limits using new technologies to help ride trails in a new light. [All photos courtesy Rocky Mountain Bicycles/Robin O’Neill. Video by by Max Berkowitz.]

“My motivation in mountain biking has always been to find creative lines and link uber-tech sections with fluidity,” says longtime Rocky Mountain rider Simmons. “Having up to this point ridden 2.3-2.5 tires for 20+ years, I know the limitations. Now with the addition of the plus tire, I find my line choices evolving and that’s awesome to me.”

Shift in Perception: An ode to plus bikes

Creativity has always kept things fresh for Simmons. On the trail, he makes things happen that simply shouldn’t be possible, all while navigating extremely technical terrain with ease. He’s always been this way. Looking back at his segment in “Shift,” a breakout role for a much younger Godfather, it’s always been about pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Shift in Perception: An ode to plus bikes

“It’s become apparent to me that the big advantage of running plus tires is the ability to maintain momentum and speed over rough terrain,” he says. “The tires eat rough for breakfast. It can be a bit more finicky dialing in the tire pressure, but once you find the right balance, it’s game on.”

Shift in Perception: An ode to plus bikes

Melamed is laser focused, and his enduro race results against the world’s fastest are proof. He knows when to go for it, and anyone who’s ridden with him will attest that he’s all in once his tires hit the trail. Commitment is in his character, and being able to unlock and tap into unconventional lines has set him apart at the EWS and back home in Whistler.

Read Mtbr’s first impressions of the Rocky Mountain Pipeline and Instinct here.

Shift in Perception: An ode to plus bikes

“Running plus tires is great for reminding me there is more than one way to see a trail,” says Melamed. “It opens my mind to what’s possible and helps me visualize the different lines when practicing for an EWS race. Riding the new Pipeline is like riding any new bike, it’s fun and exciting. I like to jump around and play with the trail, and the Pipeline lets me get away with landing in even the roughest sections and calling it a “landing”. Every time I get away with riding a stupid line, it motivates me to find another one. It’s my favourite way to ride a bike, and a trail.”

Shift in Perception: An ode to plus bikes

The new Pipeline has 140mm of rear travel, 10mm more than the previous version. Being able to fine tune the geometry and rear suspension of the bike is made possible by the RIDE-9 Adjustment System embedded on the link. Melamed, who is known for charging hard and as fast as possible, has his Ride-9 set to Position 1, the slackest and most progressive setting. Simmons, who loves a supple top end and a bit more linear feeling suspension, prefers his Pipeline in Position 3.

Shift in Perception: An ode to plus bikes

“Jesse shreds, I love riding with that guy,” says Simmons. “He puts a smile on my face because he reminds me of myself when I was younger; just bouncing around on his bike trying stupid things. He’s who I would consider to be a “true” mountain biker, someone who enjoys all aspects of riding. When we ride together we constantly challenge each other, and session sketchy features and fool around… this is what mountain biking is all about.”

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Mtbr

Mtbr.com is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.


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  • Mark says:

    The offspring of the marriage of Plus and Enduro is becoming the new normal trailbike. 6 inches of travel. Downhill geometry yet still climbs. 30-35mm inner width rims. 2.5-2.8in wide tires. This ain’t nuthin’ like the Narrowbikes of just 3 years ago. Some 2018 examples. Pivot Mach 5.5. Scott Genius. Ibis Mojo HD4. Specialized Enduro. I like big wheels. And I cannot lie.

  • Smithhammer says:

    It’s only a matter of time before we evolve past this silly bias that plus bikes are for “beginners.” Of course, most of the people who say such things have spent little, if any, actual time on one.

  • VPJC851 says:

    Have a boost 29r with two sets of wheels (29 and 27.5+). The 29er’s are great for a lot of stuff, but I am sold on the 27.5+. In almost all instances, rolls faster, smoother and as Wade indicated, I am choosing, and enjoying lines I would never have considered on any other wheel. They are just plain fun. As a long time rider of the Shore, (I lived at the base of Fromme and ridden there for decades), I simply can’t say enough about 27.5+ and what it has done for my riding and enjoyment. I’ve ridden every type of bike and wheel and this is simply my favourite. I am able to climb things I wouldn’t have ever made before and the speed on descents is amazing. As mentioned in the article, tire pressure is key and even 1lb difference one way or the other radically changes how the tires perform so if you’re trying a plus, do a solo ride and play with pressure until you have it dialed. I’ve got a plus bike for my wife and the change in her riding has been even greater. I’ll still keep my 29er hoops for super dry summer backcountry adventures, but for day to day, the 27.5+ is the choice.

  • Dean says:

    Couple of rad guys there but I still haven’t figured out why we keep trying to smooth out MTB trails. If you want to ride smooth stuff, go find a smooth trail. Do you advocated taking rocks etc out of trails to smooth them over too?

    • VPJC851 says:

      I don’t think anyone is advocating actually smoothing out trails; I think they are implying how the tires/wheels ‘feel’ and the ability to push even bigger, more challenging lines that simply weren’t possible before which will take riding to an even higher level. One unintended part of the plusses is I truly think I am impacting trails far less; I brake far more smoothly, take straighter lines where lines should be straight and my sense is I am not beating on the trail like with my smaller hoops. I feel like I am way lighter in terms of how I drive the bike into corners or through janky sections; Overall, I ride way quieter which is great from a trail impact and sustainability context. Just sayin’

  • derby says:

    Plus tires have enabled me to try a dirt-moto wheel and tire width setup with nearly the same tire diameters. Currently a 29×2.6 aggressive knob front on Derby 40i rims, and a wider 27.5×2.8 more easy rolling and pedaling smaller knob rear on Derby 45i rims. This combo is easier to ride technical trails than any narrower tires and wheel sizes, neutral balance through gravely corners without the front washing out first, very rocky rooty with more line choices, and climbing steep loose is so much easier with confidence to put more power to the pedals without spinning the rear. The plus tires roll and pedal easier everywhere except pavement, even on hard-pack. I recently tried the same 29/27.5 wheels except 2.6/3.0, wider rear, and climbing gravely steep is even easier than with a 2.8 rear, but I feel more rear float drift in faster loose corners. At the DH park I found a rear 27.5×2.8 Minnion with aggressive tread, to match the aggressive knob 29×2.4 Minnion front tire tread, floats too much and washes the rear for some high speed corners. In my opinion narrower tires up to 2.6 maximum for heavier riders, work better for DH park cornering speeds.

  • WP Mtber says:

    I own a SC Hightower that can run both 27.5+ and 29″ wheels. I originally bought it as a Plus bike and after 6 months, purchased a second set of 29″ wheels (with 2.3 Minions F/B). For a short period, I went back and forth. What I found was that the Plus set really “numbed” the trails. They do roll over & through most anything and certainly provide confidence. I found myself leaving the 29″ wheels on more & more. They forced me to work harder and choose better lines. One of my main purposes for riding is to stay in shape with a full body workout. The 29″ wheels made my upper body work as hard as the lower and I appreciate this facet of riding. The Plus wheel set has been gathering dust in the garage for most of 2017. I probably will replace the front tire with a 2.5 Minion DHF, when I wear out the current 2.3 but that’s about as wide as I want to go.

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