When Subaru-Gary Fisher (now Subaru-Trek) riders Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Heather Irmiger took the US national championship titles last year they did it on prototype 29-0 tyres. Less than six months later, Bontrager had the finished version on shelves for consumers. The 29-0 Team Issue continues as the team’s go-to tread for racing.
We’ve spent the better part of the summer with the 29-0 on our 29er hardtail race bike with success. Despite the minimalist look of the tyre it does surprisingly well in a variety of conditions. Its only real downfall comes when it’s ridden over really rough or sharp terrain, when its lack of volume and thin sidewalls affect both ride quality and durability.
As far as traction goes, the 29-0 seems to handle everything from dry surfaces – including the dreaded loose-over-hard – to moderate mud. We believe one of the reasons it offers such great grip – for a minimalist cross-country racing tyre; don’t try to take on an all-mountain race with this rubber – is its supple 120tpi casing.
Pair this with the longer footprint 29in wheels provide and the traction is surprisingly excellent (we also found that the larger wheels help it damp impacts despite its low volume 1.9in casing). We found the 29-0 to best the grip of Bontrager's XR1 29er tyre despite their different looks.
The side knobs of the 29-0 measure 3mm while the centre knobs are just 1mm tall
When you do reach this tyre’s limit, however, it tends to result in an abrupt break in traction, which can catch a rider off guard. We generally found this to happen at slower speeds in loose terrain. At higher speeds we didn’t reach the angles needed to break the tyre loose.
One thing you will immediately notice about this tyre is its weight – or lack thereof. On our scale, our four samples averaged 418g, which is 8g more than Bonty claim. For the majority of our test period, we used the tyres on a pair of Stan’s NoTubes.com 355 29er wheels, and we ran them tubeless, even though they aren't designed for tubeless use.
Accelerating the wheels was almost effortless and the combination seemed to require less effort than most 26in wheelsets we’ve ridden. We can absolutely see why the Subaru-Trek racers like this tyre.
Though we never experienced a failure while riding our test tyres, they do seem delicate. Bontrager label them as ‘race only’ and the reasons are clear. We put close to 20 hours on the tyres before seeing the first signs of wear, but the 1mm-tall centre knobs are never going to be long-lived. As for the sidewalls, we'll reiterate our initial impression – delicately thin.
The compound is resistant to wear, but the knobs' small stature just can't outlast tyres with more material
We see the 29-0 pairing perfectly with a race hardtail or one of the new carbon full-suspension 29ers that’s specifically designed for cross-country racing – think Gary Fisher Superfly 100 or even the Santa Cruz Tallboy with a lightweight build. We're also struck by the new CX0, which is a cyclo-cross tyre with the same tread design. We reckon it may prove to be one of the best new ’cross tyres on the market for 2011.