Tested: Surly Dirt Wizard 29+ Tires

A few days prior to the latest 270 mile bikepacking suffer binge, the folks at Surly were kind enough to shod my Krampus with a pair of Dirt Wizard 29+ prototypes to put through the wringer…

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Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

Another nice P.S.A. from the folks at Surly.

The Virginia Mountain Bike Trail was the perfect proving ground for these toothy monsters. The route is an intricate amalgam of ceaseless technical rock gardens, steep stone studded slopes, loose switchbacks, long gravel slogs, and hoof pounded mud pits. And all of it had a fresh blanket of what we back East call brown ice.

Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

Lucky #7… with a 3″ casing.

I have been riding 3” Knards religiously for the past year with my only complaint being in the traction department on particular surfaces. Prior to that, I was an addict of Kenda Nevegals, so I was curious to experience the mystical juju birthed from the mix of high volume and mad traction. The latest iteration of the DW 29+ is a full 3” wide 60 tpi casing with a dual tread compound design, similar to that of the Nevegal. The beveled outer knobs are softer and much taller than the center tread giving it a flattish profile which equates to an aggressive, control-focused tire that can handle loose corners and fast women.

Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Bikepacking

The Dirt Wizard is comfortable on rocky and technical terrain, both up and down.

Come Crawling Faster

The unique tread pattern of the DWs is characterized by two rows of tightly spaced center knobs and the amply spaced outer rows of larger side knobs. This dichotomy seems to be the underlying force behind the way the Dirt Wizards perform. Being used to the softer profile of the Knards, on an initial 1,000’ ascent, the pugnacious tread design felt slightly awkward climbing up a steep and rocky grade, but then I settled in to it. After a short adjustment period, I was hooked and enjoyed feeling these tires clawing their way over rocks, roots, and even slick leaves (brown ice) like a tank. In addition, after peaking out the climbs, I found the DWs to be surprisingly responsive and quick to accelerate on flats and descents. The inner tread are formed of a harder rubber compound designed to roll fast and wear less.

Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

The prototypes I tested had a 60 TPI casing.

On the Gravel

Numbers 6 and 7 (see the photos) seemed almost as comfortable on the gravel forest roads that interlink the singletrack morsels on this route. As expected that are not as fast as their Knardy cousins, but they aren’t bad as all. It was also interesting to find that these tires roll OK on tarmac; surely due to the harder rubber used on the inner tread. However, the DW is a purpose built tire, and they can feel a bit draggy on long hard surfaces; they are meant to be off road… and that is where they shine.

Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

The exterior knobs are pretty long in the tooth.

Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

The flatter profile provides excellent traction with minimal loss in the suspension department.

In the Mosh Pits

The latter portion of the VMBT rolls through a few sections of the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail which, as it’s name implies, is used by a fair share of weekend horsebackers. Anybody who’s ridden shared trails can attest to the mud pits that these beasts can hammer into the ground. After a couple day’s worth of afternoon rains I was able to test the mud slinging properties of the Wizards in this area, and they didn’t disappoint. Whether trudging through horse swamps or ripping soft corners, there is no shortage of traction.

Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

Some of the mud pits of the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail were no match for any tire, but the Dirt Wizard does very well plowing through goo.

All mud is different, but on first Impression the Dirt Wizards seem to perform well in the mud shedding department. Unlike I’ve experienced with Knards, there was never an issue with the tire tread carrying 15 pounds of chocolate cake along for the ride.

Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

Brown ice usually results in a couple of loose moments, but the DWs held their ground better than any tire I’ve ever ridden.

Bonus Round

For this trip I ran the Wizards with normal 29er tubes and had a single flat over 6 days… a pinch flat from skulling a brick-sized rock. That’s pretty impressive considering I had four flats on the same terrain one month prior. I plan to set the Wizards up tubeless soon and will update this post. Fortunately, that should be pretty easy; the latest iteration of the DWs got a tubeless ready kevlar bead designed to work for Surly rims (but also plays nicely with other rims). If you’ve made it to this point of a tire review, you probably know that these tires have been delayed on multiple occasions… and for good reason. From what I understand they have undergone several rounds of tweaking to get them just right. The traction aggressive tread design combined with the suspension performance of a high-volume tire sold me on the Dirt Wizards, but the addition of DTC tread and a tubeless ready bead should seal the deal for a lot of folks eagerly awaiting the spring.

Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

The 3″ casings on the Wizards absorbs small bumps almost as well as Knards.


The Dirt Wizards I was provided are an early prototype; and production tires may vary slightly. Surly is testing out several configurations and trying to find the sweet spot between rubber compounds, casing features, casing thread count, weight, price, and durability. So these specs and what they release may change slightly when it’s all said and done. As of now, there will likely be two versions, a 120 TPI (DTC/TR) variation and something similar to the ones I rode:

  • Weight: 1134 grams per tire
  • Casing: 60 TPI
  • Bead: Tubeless Ready Kevlar
  • Rubber: Dual Tread Compound
  • Release Date: Within 6 lunar cycles of the 43rd anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin IV

Surly Dirt Wizard 29+ on Krampus

At home in the rugged mountains of Virginia.
Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

After 200+ miles on all kinds of rough terrain and 60+ miles of road riding, the tires show almost no signs of wear…
Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Review

… only the rubber hairs are worn and a nice rounded patina on the knobs. But, the rubber wasn’t even worn to the shallow lines.

Surly Dirt Wizards 29+ Bikepacking

  • Joe

    Thanks for the review Logan. This confirms my thoughts that these will be good for SW Virginia trails that go from loam to clay to rock and back in a very short time. It will be nice to have a set of these on my Krampus.

  • Definitely worth the wait for east coast dirt riding IMO!

  • Matt

    How big is the difference in rolling resistance on the road? I’m considering building up a Krampus frame and with some of the new 29+ tires that are coming out, the Knards are no longer the “defacto” tire. Some of the east coast routes I’m looking at have as much as 40-50% road or gravel so rolling resistance is a big factor.

  • Matt, they aren’t as bad as you’d think… due to the dual tread compound. Pretty good actually, but not for a ton of miles on the road. However, the Knards are great on gravel and pavement IMO. I rode 27tpi Knards through Africa and put over 7, 500 kilometers on them… great tires for mixed terrain / distance bikepacking. The review is under the Gear category…

  • Mark

    How does the volume compare to the Knard? From the pictures it looks smaller in casing width, is that the case?

  • Mark, they are slightly smaller in volume. The casing width of the DW is 67mm vs about 70mm for the Knard. The tread width is the same for both ~74mm. The height from rim edge to casing top differs slightly: 56mm for the DW and 60mm for the Knard.

  • Matt

    I tested out a surly instigator that had dirt wizard tires on it. I felt very much the same, those tires can cruise through any type of terrain no problems.
    Loved them!

  • Bob Jenkins

    I notice your spare tube is attached with zipstrips. You should check out some the products on Back Country Research’s website. I’ve been using their Awsome straps and Tube Tarps for quite a while now and they’re VERY good quality.

  • Thanks Bob, I’ll give it a look…

  • Whats the story with your saddle angle if I may ask? I have the same WTB and am sruggling with it on longer tours. Was thinking of the Selle Anatomica NSX but I may check out different angles with the WTB first. Yours looks quite extrem though.

  • Yeah, I am not a big fan of the WTB on longer rides… I am thinking about trying something else soon. The angle is pretty dramatic, but I find that it helps keep my back inline, and takes a little pressure off the soft bits in the undercarriage ;)

  • Dave

    We’re coming up on the sixth lunar cycle shortly…any chance there’s an update on availability? Thanks!

  • I am not sure Dave… I would hope very soon!

  • matthew

    Hi! Looking for some sage advice on tyres:

    I’m planning an extended route across the eastern Tibetan Plateau and thru the mountains of the ‘Stans starting next year, on dirt roads and tracks as much as possible. My ride is a 29+ with Krampus-like geometry and clearances, and while a tubeless Maxxis Chronicle on a WTB Scraper rim gives me ‘adequate’ clearances of about 5mm to the chainstays, I’m concerned about how tight that is if I run into thick clay mud or (worse) if I whack a rim a few mm out of true in a way that can’t be immediately remedied on the road.

    So: tyre choice? A Dirt Wizard is a bit narrower than a Knard or a Chronicle, but not ideal for the long inevitable distances on pavement. A Vee Trax Fatty is closer to a 2.8, but no one really rates it highly. An Extraterrestrial is an option, but wonder if the tread is really aggressive enough should I go off-piste in search of adventure. I could run any of a variety of 29×2.4 tubeless-ready tyres (some of which are wider than others), but I really have no idea what would be a good choice. Or am I better off just sticking with what I have?

    Any wisdom to provide on this subject?
    Cheers and thanks as always!

  • Mdf76

    Hi Matthew. I have no wisdom to provide on this particular subject, but I’m also looking at a similar trip some time next year. I’m riding an ECR with a Chupa on the front and a Knard on the back. I’ve had issues with tubeless setup on the Knard. Would like to pick your brain and share info on your upcoming trip if you’ve got the time/inclination.

  • Matthew Crompton

    Absolutely! Send me an email at matthew[dot]e[dot]crompton[at]gmail[dot]com.

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