650b+ (27.5" Plus) Mountain Bikes for 2018
January 10th, 2018
January 10th, 2018
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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Since the creation of mountain bikes in the 80s, the 26" wheel had been the norm. When 29" wheels came out, I was sure that would just be a fad, but it stuck, and I soon realised why after I tried one. 650b (or 27.5" wheels) came about not long after, and was probably ignored for a while because of the 29er hype on the cross-country scene. Why go back to smaller wheels, right? But then, enduro happened, and suddenly there was a place for both speed and agility, so 650b stuck around and good old fashioned trail riding fun was back on the menu, with people seeking out fun and adventure more than speed. Enter 650b Plus!
There's been a few changes in the 650b+ bikes on offer for 2018, so if you fancy trawling the shops or internet for an out-of-season bargain, check out our 2017 Guide, and note that prices will now vary thanks to sales and end of stock clearances. For those wanting something bang up to date, here's our must-see line-up:
Bianchi Jab Plus
We tested this (see review here) and loved the fact that it's a thrash-able hardtail. The Jab Plus is an aluminium frame, and the range starts with a Shimano SLX and RockShox Reba 120mm forks. The top spec remains aluminium, but with an upgrade to Shimano XT. Prices are not yet confirmed for 2017, but the 2016 top model retailed at £1,750 with Shimano XT 2x 10-speed spec. The 2017 Jab Plus comes in three different colours; orange, green, or classic Bianchi 'celeste' blue, depending on the spec option you choose. This is one for the riders on the look out for something stylish and uncommon.
(Pssst... Official Bikesoup Seller Bianchi UK has an ex-demo Jab Plus for sale in the marketplace!)
Cube Stereo 27.5+
The Stereo 150 is now the only 27.5" Plus bike on offer from Cube, with 150mm of standard (but Boost) Fox travel and Shimano XT 2x11-speed groupset, weighing in at 14.5kg (32 lbs) for the aluminium bike, coated in a bright blue paint job. This may be a meaty weight, but it's a comparatively good price at £2,799 for up to date components on a full suspension bike. They don't appear to be doing a Plus hardtail just yet.
Specialized have a few 650b+ bikes in their range, referred to as "6Fattie" bikes, the most affordable being the Stumpjumper Comp 29/6Fattie, meaning you can use both 650b+ wheels or 29er wheels in the same bike. They look super slick and have opted for a 1x11 SRAM drivetrain, favoured by many trail riders and racers theses days, and carbon frames are on offer if your budget exceeds £3,000 and, of course, all 6Fattie Stumpjumpers come with SWAT™ Door found on the down tube for storing tools seamlessly inside the frame. Also, chek out the Rhyme for a female-specific version (although only available in carbon from £3,500), the Fuse (or the Ruze, for women) for their 6Fattie hardtail, and the new 6Fattie Enduro for long-travel trail riding and enduro racing from £2,999.
Cannondale Beast, Cujo & Bad Habit
Cannondale have dropped the Beast and the Bad Habit, meaning that 650b+ wheels can only be found on their aluminium hardtail; the Cujo. Cujo is dedicated to plus tyres, and comes in three very affordable models, all under £1k and starting at £700.
Trek Fuel EX Plus
Trek only offer plus sized wheels on full suspension bikes, and that includes the Powerfly e-mountain bike, if your budget! stretches over £3k. For non-electric bikes, you'll be looking at the Trek Fuel EX Plus. The range starts from a very reasonable £1,800 for the Fuel EX 5 Plus with Shimano Deore 2x 10-speed groupset and RockShox Sektor 140mm forks, and RockShox 130mm rear shock. The Fuel EX Plus is only available as an aluminium frame and is designed with a relaxed geometry that is predominantly aimed at riders new to mountain biking. The same goes for the Fuel EX 5 Women's Plus, which shares the same characteristics and specifications at the men's, but with a slightly shorter reach, a women's specific saddle, and suspension shocks that are for lighter riders. You'd be hard pressed to get quality like this for under £2k elsewhere.
Worth a mention, if only for it being the only steel option I've come across from the mainstream brands; the Tarn is said to be 'the quintessential steel UK trail hardtail'. What I think they mean, is that it's a hard-hitting, mud-hugging Plus bike that's very suited to mucky UK trail riding. It certainly looks tough, and will surely have good mud-clearance with skinny steel tubes, which is all good in my books. This year they have dropped the Tarn 10 (which was £1,199 if you fancy seeking out a post-season bargain) leaving us with just the Tarn 20 with largely Shimano SLX groupset and 120mm RockShox Pike front suspension ofr £2,199.
Rocky Mountain Pipeline & Sherpa
One of the first to start playing with Plus tyres are Rocky Mountain, and it fitted well with their Sherpa ethos of "carrying you and your gear to the ends of the earth". This back-country trail ride surely gets my vote for most beautifully painted mass-production bike with the gold Sherpa decals emblazoned across the frame and matching up with the rarely used, but beautifully plush, Manitou forks. The Sherpa is a 120mm front / 95mm rear (also Manitou) suspension ride with carbon frame (yet durable aluminium rear-triangle) retailing at around £3,399 with Shimano XT Shadow 2x 10-speed, and weighs 13.8kg (30lbs). For more aggressive trail riding, check out their Pipeline with 150mm / 130mm Fox travel. These are super hard to get hold of outside of Canada, but there are some UK dealers out there that can order in or get demos.
It's worth noting that Scott have stopped making their 27.5 Plus bikes, but you may be able to find an out-of-season Scale or Genius from their 2017 range. Also, Canyon, Merida and Giant don't yet make a Plus bike, hence they are not on the list, but have we missed anyone else? Have you had experience with one of these already? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.