Back to the realm of cycling (rather than discussing overly-litigious cycling companies).
I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Carbon Beargrease of late, and I’ve been sharing my thoughts on it over time. Today’s post is about the tires: 45NRTH Dillingers, not studded. Here they are in their native environment, from Monday morning at about 5am.
In my fat biking experience, I’ve spent a LOT of time on Big Fat Larrys and on Husker Düs. I’ve also spent a meaningful amount of time on Nates and on Larry/Endomorph combinations. I have not spent a meaningful amount of time on Bud/Lou, and I haven’t spent any time on Specialized or gray market fatty tires. This year, I’m riding Dillingers. One of the most common questions that people ask about fatbikes is this: what tires should I pick for my bike?
The answer: it depends.
Here are some universal maxims:
1) Go Tubeless. I went tubeless on my fatbike for the first time last year. I’ve written a few updates on it over time, as well, like this one, this one and this one. It’s the single best upgrade for a fatbike. The weight reduction is fantastic. Additionally, take a look at this picture, and note that there are 5 fat bikes. Two of the five fat bikes have tubes. Three of the five are set up tubeless. Can you guess which are which?
If you guessed that the two bikes with flat tires are set up with tubes, you’re right. Changing tubes when it’s single-digit temps out is not fun. On this ride, we encountered thorns that weren’t an issue for tubeless setups. The tubed bikes all had flats. Additionally, it has been my experience that you can run lower pressure with tubeless setups on fat bikes. Last year, I was able to run as low as 3psi tubeless, with no issues. I tried going lower, and the limiting factor was my willingness to watch the tires deform.
2) Get the good stuff. Many fatbike tires come in 2 different versions; commonly there will be a 27TPI version and a 120TPI version. TPI is the thread-per-inch count–how many threads there are across one inch of tire carcass. Lower thread count means larger, coarser threads; higher count means smaller, finer threads. Smaller, finer threads are lighter and more flexible–both attributes that you want in a fatbike tire. Higher thread counts are more expensive, and totally worth it in terms of weight, ride quality and traction. If you ever have a chance to ride a 27TPI Nate back to back with a 120TPI Nate, you’ll see what I mean.
Those maxims aside, what about the Dillingers? I view them in comparison to the other tires I’ve ridden.
Big Fat Larrys: Tons of floatation. Great on gravel. Very low rolling resistance on hard surfaces. Very predictable, with a very rounded profile. Reasonable in snow, great on sand. Packs up in mud; not very effective there. Surprisingly light for their size. Rear tire traction is greatly improved by running the rear tire backwards.
Larry/Endomorph: These are no longer relevant. Endomorphs are fast rolling, but that’s about it. Good on sand, but not great in snow, terrible in mud, etc. Endomorphs are just floatation tires, not traction tires. Larrys are like BFLs with less float.
Husker Du: Perhaps the most versatile fat-bike tire out there. Fast rolling on hard surfaces. Pretty good in snow, pretty good in mud. Like the BFL, running the rear tire backwards helps with traction in snow a great deal. The size difference over a ‘standard’ 3.7″ fatbike tire is appreciable. Pretty good as a mountain bike tire, very durable over rocks and challenging surfaces. They have a pretty consistent shape, so as you lean the bike, they’re predictable and fun. They have more traction at the edge than you’d expect. Very durable, and surprisingly good tread wear.
Nates: Amazing traction and self-cleaning in mud. Very good traction in snow. Very good traction as a mountain bike, although the large knobs can get shredded a bit on rocky mountain bike trails. Heavy, and very slow rolling on hard surfaces and gravel. When you lean them over, they can break traction somewhat suddenly–which can be disconcerting. Frankly, I’d only run these if you’re planning on using the bike solely for deep snow and mud–where they’re hard to beat.
Dillinger: That brings us to the Dillinger… It’s not as fast-rolling as the Husker Du on hard surfaces or gravel…but the traction in snow is amazing. These are the BEST snow tire I’ve ever used. I run my rear tire backwards, and have been climbing up (and comfortably riding down) snow-covered hills that were previously insurmountable. I can’t talk about long-term durability yet. I have limited experience with these in mud, and that limited experience was positive. Perhaps not as good as a Nate, but very, very good. The Dillingers I have are a bit lighter than the Husker Dus that I used to run.
So where does that leave us?
Most Likely to Succeed: Husker Du. Jack of all trades, and master of none. Good enough at everything to be a strong contender for any bike. Won’t offend you under any conditions.
Mud-Wrestler: For the worst conditions, Nates are your bet. They’re like a big, lifted 4×4 pickup. In mud, that’s great. The rest of the time, you find yourself wondering why you’re driving to church in a jacked-up 4×4 pickup.
Floater: If you really need floatation (e.g. sand), or you want to roll Gravel fast, Big Fat Larrys should be on the short list.
All-Around Champ: Dillinger. For me, if I had to buy fatbike tires tomorrow, it would be between the Husker and the Dillinger, so kudos to 45NRTH. The Husker Du is a bit better on hard surfaces (less rolling resistance), and the Dillinger has appreciably better traction in snow and mud. For me, notwithstanding how much I like to go fast, my fatbike has to be capable off-road first and foremost. The small amount of extra rolling resistance on hard surfaces is more than offset by the extra traction in snow and mud. I have a friend who rode Dillingers last year and is trying some Husker Dus this year; he immediately agreed–the Dillingers are appreciably superior in snow.
The Dillinger is a winner.