Knard 29 x 3": 120tpi vs 27tpi
The Knard is fat, fatter than a Duro Wildlife Leopard, more volume than a Gazz 3", Surly calls it a 29+ and you can believe it’s true! So how does a fat tired 29er ride? Well, as you’d expect, coming from a 2.4" tire (Hans Dampf), the Knard takes some adjusting, both in terms of technique and tire break in. The Knard is a flotation tire, so unlike more common three inch muni tires (Gazz, Leopard, Intense DH), it has a softer feel and responds more to tire pressure, it is less edgy, and it is more spongy than a typical mtb tire. The tire needs to be ridden a few times before it feels right, to stretch out the rubber and rub off the mold release compound.
Folks who already ride a 26" flotation tire will notice some similarities, but it is not a 4" flotation tire, the Knard is far more agile with charcteristics common to a high volume mountain bike tire. The high volume allows low pressure riding that is comfortable and smooth, so it works great for mud and snow, and feels comfortable rolling over rough terrain. Pump the Knard up and it firms up to provide a solid ride, though at high pressures it can get a bit bouncy; this is where finding the pressure sweet spot becomes key.
Knard ultralight, supple and smooth:
The 120tpi Knard uses an ultralight casing to keep the tire under a kilo, so the casing is very supple and feels thin. At 17-18psi it has a good all around ride feel and I was able to do some very nice uphill rock/root crawling as well as some amazing power slides in swampy conditions. However, I found that the 120tpi did not have a enough sidewall strength at lower pressures to maintain stability in hard carves/fast turns on firm surface and off drops. I rode the 120tpi Knard at pressure as high as 22psi and as low as 12psi, at the lowest pressures I had great traction but the tire was squirmy, all I got from the higher pressures was a harsh ride and a lot of bounce.
Knard on the cheap or best for big boys?
The 27tpi Knard has a significantly thicker casing and a much stiffer feel in the tread. In comparing tires to known mtb tires, the 120tpi Knard is more like a Racing Ralph and the 27tpi Knard is more like an Ardent. Though I am still breaking in the 27tpi, so far it seems to be a better tire for bigger riders and more extreme terrain, it feels more “sincere” on firm surfaces and has less sidewall collapse off drops. I have not run the pressure up, so I don’t know if it will suffer from bounce. I started with 13-14psi, bumped to 15psi and left it there; unlike the 120tpi, the 27tpi seems to be less sensitive to changes in tire pressure.
Which one is best for you?
I am heavy, 200#, so keep that in mind when deciding on which version to buy. I would keep the 120tpi if it was the only version available, but for my weight it would be a three season tire. If I were lighter, say <160-180#, the 120tpi would be a nice all around tire. For me, at my weight and the varied terrain and conditions I ride, I prefer a tire with some structure (Hans Dampf, Ardent, The Todd, Devist8or), so I’m willing to pay the weight penalty, and so I would choose the 27tpi Knard for all around riding.
Choosing a rim:
The other thing to consider is rim choice. I’m riding a Nimbus Dominator2, it weighs a hefty 1000gm and is only 42mm wide. On the 120tpi it felt like the tire wanted to pop off the rim, both due to having a loose fit and having a very supple “ultralight” casing. On the 27tpi the tire was still loose on the rim, but when I aired it up to 30psi, it stayed on the rim just fine and did not require any bead adjustment.
The Surly Rabbit Hole rim is designed for this tire, at 50mm it is not that much wider than the KH Freeride, but it may fit the tire better and at 700gms it is a light rim. Sadly it is also a 32 hole rim, so unless Nimbus comes out with a 32hole hub or Surly makes a 36 hole rim (very unlikely), the Freeride is probably the best choice. The D2 is a good rim, it’s inexpensive and it works fine, but it’s also heavy and narrowish.
So, is it worth going to all the trouble of getting a frame to fit this tire?
Absolutely! First of all, if you are a 29er fan like me, this is the fat tire you dreamed of, light, soft riding, and fast. But more importantly, Surly has opened up a new genre of tire/wheel building that will likely lead to more 29+ tires by Surly and others, so having a wheel and frame to accomodate these tires is the price for playing.
Knard 120tpi, 970gm, $120 = lighter riders, cushy ride, more feel, squirmier
Knard 27tpi, 1270gm, $90 = heavier riders, soft ride, less feel, firmier