Teravail Cumberland Review: Is 2.6 the new 3.0?
Just as soon as plus tires go mainstream, along comes “semi-plus”. In case you blinked, it seems that 2.8″ tires quickly replaced 3.0″, and now 2.6″ tires have taken the spotlight. Is it all industry hype? To find out we tested the Teravail Cumberland 29×2.6 on 300 miles of trail, gravel, and pavement…
As if by some collective conscious brainstorming event – and just when you thought the world was being taken over by the 27.5+ platform – several companies have recently breathed new life into 29er tires with a brand new width: 2.6-inch. Considerably larger in volume than any traditional 29er tire but not quite ‘plus’ enough to fall into the “mid-fat” category, it’s a size that tire companies are targeting more towards orthodox trail riders than enduro or downhill racers, as might be expected. Designed to maximize cornering stability on a 35mm rim, teamed with just enough volume to enjoy a little of the extra floatation, traction, and lower tire pressures favored by Plus riders, it’s certainly a tire size that had me intrigued.
For plus tire aficionados and haters alike, this new tire size isn’t quite “plus” — typically defined as 2.75-3.25 inches wide — and that may be the point. Old-schoolers might see 2.6s as just small enough that any stigma associated with plus tires gets tempered. But for those of us who got addicted to bigger tires via 29×3 Knards and are still waiting for the perfect 3″ tire to come along, we’ll likely have to keep waiting. Just as fast as a crop of 2.8″ tires seemingly displaced many potential full 3.0s, 2.6 has become the new flavor. Will it stick? Will there be new bikes built around this tire size? Only time will tell, but if you’re at all 2.6″-curious, you’ve got plenty of new tires to consider, including the new semi-slick(ish) Teravail Cumberland which, according to Teravail, is made specifically for bikepacking.
Like the Teravail Sparwood, which was purpose-built for the gravel-centric Tour Divide, and the new, sand-specific Coronado, the Teravail Cumberland features a pretty unique tread pattern. On first inspection of the tire’s small, fast rolling center tread, one might think the Cumberland was designed for gravel or cross country riding on packed dirt roads. But, the massive side lugs tell a different story. Unlike the Coronado and Sparwood, which are more specialized, the Cumberland was clearly designed for a broad range of surfaces — everything from pavement, to dirt roads, to backcountry chunder.
But will they fit?
The biggest caveat with the 2.6” tire format is finding bikes that will actually accommodate them. The Deadwood SUS is the perfect candidate. With a short travel suspension platform and a rather high bottom bracket, losing a little over 1/4″ (7-9mm) of BB height is not an issue. The Surly Krampus and Salsa Woodsmoke might also be well suited. Otherwise, many 29ers were built to fit standard 29×2.2-2.4 tires, and 2.6” may be too tight a squeeze. Measured on 35mm rims, the casing on these particular Cumberlands came in at 2.62″ (66.5mm) and the side lugs at 2.79″ (70.9mm), even bigger than the 27.5×2.8″ Maxxis Recon, which measured 2.72″ (69.1mm) wide on 40mm rims. Fortunately, several bike companies foresaw ‘wide trail’ and released bikes made for such tires. Ibis specced their new Ripley with Schwalbe 29×2.6 Nobby Nics, but claims it won’t fit the yet to be released Maxxis Recon 29×2.6. That said, I think any 29+ bike with a little extra bottom bracket height could easily transform into a quick ultra-endurance rig by sizing down a little. The latest 27.5+ specific bikes probably won’t fit them though.
Most long distance bikepacking routes, like the Trans North Georgia, Stagecoach 400, and the ultra-long Altravesur have a significant percentage of gravel, some singletrack, and a share of pavement that stitches it all together. In the past, finding the perfect plus tire for such routes could be challenging. It needed to have a thick enough casing to eliminate the risk of being torn to shreds in the backcountry and the proper tread pattern, one capable of blending speed with traction. Even if you aren’t on the race clock, it’s never fun to have over-lugged tires that make pedaling feel like trudging through molasses. On the other hand, not having an aggressive enough tire can result in too little traction and keep you from enjoying some of the trails along the way.
In preparation for a Trans WNC (Western North Carolina) route scouting mission, I tried to keep my rig extremely light and fast. I knew we’d be riding between 60-100 miles per day on some pretty rugged terrain mixed with tarmac and a bit of gravel… a great opportunity to try out some 2.6” tires. I figured the smaller tires would significantly reduce weight and rolling resistance compared to the 29×3″ WTB Ranger+ tires that came on the Deadwood SUS. Teravail sent the Durable 60 TPI versions for testing, and, upon unboxing them, I was a little concerned. They have some of the thickest casings I’ve ever seen on a mountain bike tire. At 1,148 grams (2 1/2 pounds!) a piece, they also far outweighed the 3″ Ranger+ (light casing) at 902g. Having said that, the Ranger+ Light might be a little too light; I’ve ripped two over the last few months (now WTB makes a Tough version that weighs in at 1140g though). The specific pair of Cumberlands that I demoed are technically pre-production versions, and, according to Teravail, the end production weight might shift a little. Also, Teravail will be offering a lighter version with a 120 TPI casing, although they haven’t yet announced its weight. Ultimately I decided to take the plunge, deal with the added weight, and feel confident that I wouldn’t tear a sidewall en route.
I didn’t regret the decision. Due to the semi-slick tread design, even the heavy Durable Cumberland is fast compared to any 3″ tire I’ve tried. While there was some noticeable rotational weight in comparison to the Ranger Plus, the Cumberlands were easy to pedal up to speed and felt quick on pavement and gravel. I ran them tubeless at about 15-18 PSI while bikepacking. This gave them enough cushion to feel somewhat like a plus tire. Mounting them on the 35mm WTB Asym rims gave the Cumberland 2.6 a nice rounded profile, allowing the center treads to stand up on hard-pack and pavement while preventing the side knobs from adding resistance on tarmac and gravel. On the other hand, when the terrain got loose and twisty, the side lugs seemed to dig in and add welcomed traction. I was surprised by how much grip they provided when climbing on steep gravel grades. However, they did seem to spin out when clamoring over slick roots, fallen logs, and slippery hardpack recently wet from rain. The Cumberlands also seemed to corner nicely. Given their size, and the stout rubber casing compound, the sidewalls are stiffer than those of true plus tires. As the rounded center gave way to the side knobs, the lugs bit in on both rubbly surfaces and loamy dirt. Part of this is likely due to a nice medium durometer rubber compound on the tread which seemed fairly sticky. But not too sticky so as to wear out quickly (see below).
- Model Tested 29×2.6 Durable Casing
- Rim Width Tested 35mm
- Actual tire width Casing 2.62″ (66.5mm) / Side Lugs 2.79″ (70.9mm)
- Average PSI tested 15
- Weight (per tire) 1148g (40.5oz)
- Price Durable: $80 / Light & Supple: $70
- Contact Teravail.com
- Super tough casing built for rowdy surfaces and long-distance durability.
- Center tread that’s nice and fast on gravel and pavement.
- Side lugs that dig in when cornering on trails.
- Nice rounded profile makes the side knobs work at the right time when tires are run at a lower pressure.
- At 300 miles the tread still has plenty of life.
- Durable casing version is very heavy; at 1,148g it weighs about 100 grams more than the 120 TPI 3″ Maxxis Chronicle and 8 grams more than the WTB Ranger+ 3.0 Tough version.
- Center tread can be slick when climbing over roots and other slippery surfaces head on.
There are several plus tires on the market that do a fairly good job at mixing fast rolling center tread with more aggressive outer lugs to balance speed and traction, but Teravail took this to another level, with their new ‘semi-plus’ tires. The tread pattern is unique, to say the least. I am impressed with how fast they roll while still having the ability to carve corners and not feel undergunned on more rugged terrain.
As for the new 2.6″ width, I now get why a lot of new tires are coming out in this wide trail concept. Ultimately, the 29×2.6 has made me question my decision to settle into the 27.5+ platform on my trail bike. After riding the Deadwood for a while, I started lusting after a new 36mm I9 Backcountry 360 wheelset and dreaming about spending more time on an oversized 29er.
If you are looking for a tire (and new tire size) for long-distance bikepacking routes where stretches of gravel and pavement are mixed in with backcountry singletrack, the Teravail Cumberland is a solid choice for those who want to get some of the benefits of a plus tire, but still go fast. The Durable version is extremely heavy, but there’s no doubt that it’s durable, and might be better suited for a long trip where the need for durability is more important than overall weight. I am interested in seeing how the 120 TPI “Light and Supple” casing compares; and should I get some time on them, I’ll make sure to update this posting.
Other 29 x 2.6-inch Tires
– Schwalbe Nobby Nic 29 x 2.6-inch (available)
– Teravail Kennebec 29 x 2.6-inch (announced)
– Maxis Rekon 29 x 2.6-inch (announced)
– Vee Flow Snap 29 x 2.6-inch (announced)
– Kenda Saber 29 x 2.6-inch (announced)