If you don’t ride & race a 29er this post will make abolutely no sense to you. You’ve been warned.
Tire selection for 29er race tires is limited at best. Switching over to tubeless 6 years ago was a big performance improvement. As far as cycling equipment innovations go, tubeless tires are on the level of suspension forks and clipless pedals. 29ers are a blast – but one of the tougher nuts to crack is tire selection. At this time there is not a single tubeless 29er tire available. The only tubeless option is some sort of conversion using non-tubeless tires. This involves a rim strip to seal the spoke holes and putting some sort of latex (or other chemical) sealant in the tire. Stans makes is a popular commercially available conversion kit for 26ers and 29ers.
This is not without significant risk, however. There seems to be no standard for producing 29er tires. As opposed to their little 26″ cousins, 29er tires almost always fit loose. You can mount a 29er tire by tossing it across the room, it’ll land on the rim just fine :) Also, the beads have been breaking or simply blowing off the rim when converted to tubeless. Not good!
Last time I checked Stans recommends only one type of tire for 29er conversions: wire beaded WTB. That’s what I’ve been using all season. The race setup is a Nanorapter rear, Motoraptor front. They weigh in at about 760-780 g each. Ouch.
The big red S comes to the rescue. They’ve previously announced that they’ll never make 29ers…but their defunct WC star was at one point interested in 29ers, so they set about designing a decent race tire for 29ers. The Fast Track is the end result of their work, and after one ride I’m jumping for joy.
Finally their is a viable 29er race tire. They are light. Compared to the wire bead WTBs, 300ishg lighter, and that’s rolling weight. The weight difference is immediately apparent in moderate to high speed turns. The bike loses some of its longboat handling qualities. They are grippy, much more so than the nano/moto combo. The comparison ride was a snowpacked dirt road, and in those conditions the tires felt like velcro. They are supple. I ran them at 32R30F and at those pressures found them to be very compliant in the rough. They are not as high volume as the nano. On the Dos, rear tire clearance is an issue. With a nano on my Mavic Open Pro there is only about 3mm room between the top of the tire and the bottom of the wishbone. There is more than twice that now with the Fast Tracks. They come with an aramid bead, which as I understand it is considerably stronger than typical kevlar beads. I’ve taken the leap and mounted them tubeless. They aired up much more easily than any other tire I’ve mounted tubeless on 29ers, probably because they actually fit snugly on the rim. So far so good.
I’m thinking this tire outperforms anything I’ve used to date on 29ers…but I’ll hold on that call until I abuse them on trails. But putting my bike in the 23 lb range by changing tires? How could that not be exciting! So long as that bead holds…