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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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