This review is the first of many in a series of reviews and articles written for Ride Alongside by various guest contributors.
Many thanks to Scott for his contribution in helping us kick off this series!
Panaracer Fat B Nimble – 27.5 x 3.5 Tire Review
by Scott Schaefer
I built a set of 27.5 x 50mm Nextie rims to Hope hubs in April to ride on my 2014 Mukluk 2 and haven’t looked back. I’ve raced it in a 6 hour race, a bikepacking race, multiple tours and a lot of miles both singlespeed and geared. I recently put all the parts on a Kokopelli Single Wide Ti frame which is the best frame that I’ve ever ridden (more on that a different day). I’m looking forward to the growth of this wheel size which I feel is going to big a big part of the future of mountain biking.
The toughest part of getting my first build together was getting a set of tires for my new set up. I chose the Fat B Nimble as the best option of the three tires available in the late winter/early spring. The shipping strikes held up delivery, but I received a set just days before a 6 hour race and a week trip to Sedona. The tires mounted up tubeless very easily, but weather kept me from riding them before the race.
Fast forward a few months and I have been able to formulate a pretty good opinion about the Fat B Nimbles. I had very high hopes for the performance of these tires, but I also had some concerns. In the end, I walked away with mixed feelings about these tires that pretty much matched my initial concerns.
I don’t own a scale or calipers, but the numbers that people have posted match up pretty closely with what I felt about them. These tires are light and fast. The weights seem to be in the 725 gram area. The low tread profile made for very low rolling resistance, while the width and lower pressures available seemed to take up the slack on the traction side of things. The casing measurements have been consistently wider than the knob width. I did find that when leaned as far as they were able, you can get past the knobs and break loose a bit quickly. Once I got the hang of where this point was I was able to deal with this by holding back on the lean just a bit. Basically, they are a fast, fun tire that excels in cross country conditions.
Unfortunately, the light weight comes at a price. I have managed to tear multiple sidewalls in two months of riding. As soon as you pick one up, it is obvious that this is a distinct possibility. I spoke with Panaracer about this issue and they said that their goal was a light, fast tire and it might not do well for all riding styles and trail conditions.
Having ridden these tires in Moab, Sedona, St. George and Park City, I learned that rocky trails took their toll on the thin sidewalls, but there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when this would happen. While you might expect that the cuts happened at speed over sharp, rocky terrain, I managed to do the worst damage on a steep climb where I caught the only rock in sight. It was more a matter of catching the sidewall just right and I think that the casing being wider than the knobs was a contributing factor to this as well.
If they choose to add a tougher sidewall that can handle rocks, this would be a great tire for anyone looking for a light, fast tire with decent traction. If you live in an area with smooth or even rooty trails, I’d take a serious look at a set. As for me, I’m looking forward to some of the new offerings in the next few months and hopefully another tire from Panaracer.