WTB Trail Boss 3.0 Review: 27.5+ & Bikepacking

The new WTB Trail Boss 3.0 trail tested on the rocky tracks, rugged roads, and endless pisté of southern Spain; here are our impressions after over eight hundred miles of hard riding.

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In an industry of ever-evolving standards, tire size is no exception. Shortly after 29+ perked the ears of adventure seeking bikepackers, a new hat was thrown into the ring. 27.5+ offers the same expedition-relevant features in a nimbler, lighter, and some say, more efficient package: terrain expanding flotation, suspension emulating volume, and confidence inspiring, rock gobbling traction.

WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+

  • WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+
  • WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+

27.5+: The backstory

Until Interbike 2015, mid-fat 27.5” tire choices were limited to only a couple of options. In fact, the first 27.5+ tire to market was the aptly named WTB Trailblazer. But the Trailblazer came up a tad short of being a full 3” tire. At 2.8”, the slightly narrower width and lack of toothy side knobs would allow just enough chainstay clearance to enable [some] legacy 29” frames to be transformed to B+. This was an honest and honorable direction. In lieu of alienating the masses from yet another standards shift, WTB created a way to allow folks to sacrifice their dust-collecting 29ers and give plus tires a try.

WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+

WTB Trail Boss 3.0 tires on the all new Marin Pine Mountain 2… shod for bikepacking!

But WTB didn’t stop there. They grabbed the promising B+ category and ran with it. Following the Trailblazer, WTB released the Bridger, a more aggressive full 3” tire. Now, their latest set of rubber, the Trail Boss 3.0, ups the bikepacking ante by delivering 3” volume, a rounded profile, and a dual compound tread with fast-rolling center knobs.

The New Boss

The Trail Boss 3.0 seems purpose built for bikepacking on mixed terrain routes. As a matter of fact, the tire’s packaging lists bikepacking as its #1 usage. Full plus tire volume serves up extra floatation, which means access to more varied terrain, as well as added suspension benefits, translating to more comfort during long days in the saddle. Harder center knobs make it a fast-roller. And its durable casing helps ensure reliability in the backcountry.

WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+

  • WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+
  • WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+

The Trail Boss is intended to be an all-around trail tire. WTB reworked the tread pattern from their original Trail Boss 2.25” by stacking a double row of tightly-spaced knobs down the centerline. The Dual DNA tread uses 50a durometer rubber on the outside knobs and a harder 60a for the center knobs. Its outer tread wraps low around the sides of the tire, in turn protecting the sidewall from puncture inducing rocks and shards… important when you’re relying on tires to pull you through remote and unforgiving wilderness.

WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+

  • WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+
  • WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+

WTB doesn’t spec their casing in TPI; so all we can tell you is that the Trail Boss 3.0 uses WTB’s ‘lightweight casing’. But do not fear, it hasn’t proved too frail for middle of nowhere bikepacking purposes. Born and built for tubeless setup (TCS as WTB calls it), its casing is sealant optimized with the what WTB refers to as the correct ratio of threads to rubber. In WTB’s words this makes it “more trail worthy than other companies’ lightweight casings, without being too heavy”. It’s all about striking that middle ground. After hundreds of miles of rugged forest paths, loose and rocky roads, stretches of tarmac, and technical singletrack, we can attest to their toughness. I’ve nary a flat or rip on some of the most rocky stuff I’ve ever ridden.

  • WTB tubless, orange seal endurance
  • Orange Seal Endurance Tire Sealant

It’s also worth noting the ease of setup with the WTB Scraper rims. We initially set up these rims and tires tubeless from the comforts of a motel room using a mini pump and 2 ounces of Orange Seal’s new Endurance formula. The scrapers have an incredibly easy and secure seal, and with only 2 or 3 ounces of sealant per wheel, I never had to add any throughout the trip. The image above shows the aftermath (taken at the end of our trip).

In fact, the only real negative comment I can think of at this juncture is weight. Surprisingly, even though it’s a smaller tire, WTB actually claims the weight of the 27.5” Trail Boss 3.0 at about 75 grams more than the considerably larger 29+ tire, the Maxxis Chronicle. This extra weight didn’t prove to be a real issue for us, but we know that there are others who keep a scrupulous eye on the scales.

WTB Trail Boss 3.0, 27.5+ Bikepacking, B+

Wrap Up

Overall, 27.5+ and bikepacking seem like a match made in heaven, especially on trips in the two day to one month long variety, and in locations and situation where tire availability is not a concern – given the rarity of this tire size at present.

After 800+ miles, they’ve proven to be perfect for a mixed terrain route. For a plus sized tire, their speed and acceleration are quite impressive; they help make quick work of gravel and tarmac. They are also confident in the corners, even on loose and rocky paths, of which there are plenty in southern Spain. The Trail Boss’ tread pattern is just aggressive enough to manhandle loose rubble and technical rock gardens as well. Fortunately, we haven’t had to fully test it’s mud capabilities, but the couple times we did hit the wet stuff, traction seemed great.

To boot, they are wearing really well; I would expect these tires to easily clock 2,000+ miles. Their surprisingly generous weight may be an issue for some. But for there toughness and speed, you won’t hear a gripe from me.

  • WEIGHT: 1,125g
  • SIZE: 27.5 x 3″
  • PRICE: $67.95
  • CONTACT: WTB.com

As always, we value your longterm feedback. If you’re had a chance to put one of the products we’ve reviewed through several months of use or more, please share your thoughts below.

  • mikeetheviking

    I will attest to WTB tires being tough as well. Looking forward to reading reviews on some of these new 27.5+ bikes, especially how they compare to 29+

  • Any idea of the pressure at which you used them ?

  • I don’t carry a gauge, so I am not exactly sure; but if I had to guess I would say around 14 PSI in the rear and 18 up front. They are a nice and supple tire, so left fairly soft made for a comfortable ride. No noticeable buckle going into the corners either.

  • NDN

    WTB TCS tires in my opinion sidewalls are to weak and thin. I was using a set of the TCS tires this past fall on a gravel road then the side wall ripped and would not seal up. I had orange seal sealant in tires did not seal up. not good, so a friend gave me a set of maxxis tires with EXO sidewall protection. 100 % better now that I have Maxxis tubeless set up. no more sealant leaking out the sidewalls and no more worries. I did like WTB tires but after switching over to Maxxis tires I am impressed and will continue to use their tires from now on.

  • I’ve used both, but like I mentioned in the post, these were tested on 800+ miles loaded on mostly really rocky tracks. On the eastern side of southern Spain there a lot of thorns as well, including the nasty acacia (porcupine spines). The ride consisted of quite a bit of rugged singletrack, a lot of very primitive 2 track, and rocky farm roads of all shapes and size. Not a flat or a tear. I am wholly impressed.

  • Overall, I was really impressed with 27.5+ for bikepacking. I thought it might lose some of what I love about 29+, but it’s pretty close. Sure, there’s a hair less of that ‘bowl over anything’ feel, but it’s a bit more nimble, which is also nice.

  • mikeetheviking

    Awesome! I can’t wait to ride one!

  • I find that Orange Seal is much slower to hold back a puncture than Stan’s. Your issue could be related to that. When using Orange Seal, I’ve had many punctures that required me to apply crazy glue to hold the seal long enough for the sealant to do its thing. With Stan’s I’ve only ever had to rotate the tire to have the sealant pool on the puncture, and hold it there for ~60 seconds.

  • Nice review. Which do you think you would favour – these or the Maxxis Chronicles – all other things (wheel size, bike etc) being equal?

  • Cam

    Maxxis Chronicle is also available in 27.5+ and 120 TPI casing. I got one ride in on dirt with mine before the snow came. (They actually work reasonably well on firm snow too). These look like another good option as well. I’m running the Maxxis tires on Stans Hugo rims and they just clear an MRP Loop 29er fork. Any chance you all could post a verified width on the WTB’s with the Scraper rim?

  • Rich S.

    No way! Stans for the win. I was pulling HUGE thorns out of my tires (Surly Nate’s) in Big Bend and Stans never failed me.

  • Rich S.

    I spy new kicks…

  • I’m looking forward to a 29+ version… if you think 27.5+ tires are rare….try and find a 29+ in Europe. It seems to me that the only bikes coming out of companies right now are 27.5+, ‘gravel’ or fat bikes….

  • Johan Blom

    Schwalbe now (2016) also have 27.5+ tyres in sizes 2.8″ / 3.0″. They are quite a bit lighter: Nobby Nic (860g / 910g) and Rocket Ron (785g / 830g).

  • Johan Blom

    The mentioned tyres from Schwalbe tyres are Tubeless Easy (Snakeskin), which means you can also save weight by getting rid of the tube (another ≈200g). With their Tubeless Easy rim tape, valve and the puncture protection liquid Doc Blue a normal rim can be converted to a tubeless system. For more info see their website (http://www.schwalbe.com/en/tubeless-technology.html).

    They also have a new lightweight “EVO” tube for 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ (SV13E, SV21E, SV19E) which weighs ≈70g. This is also an ideal spare tube in case the tubeless doesn’t function for some reason.

    My next bike will be fitted with the Rocket Ron’s 27.5+. I will keep you posted…

  • After 1000 miles at Southern Patagonia I LOVE WTB’s TrailBlazer & Scraper combo… now I can’t wait to fit the Trail Boss 3.0 to my Hayduke ;)

  • Clayton Wangbichler

    Ditto on the plus-sizes atop firm snow. I’ve been chasing snowmobile tracks on my Krampus for the last month and am having a blast with it. The Trail Boss 3.0, mounted to a Scraper rim (which has an inner width of 45mm), has a width of 78mm. I searched around for tire clearance on the Loop 29, but wasn’t able to find any detailed specs. If your current setup is of similar width, you shouldn’t have a problem fitting a Trail Boss 3.0.

  • After almost a month in Baja with a similar mix of loose rocks and thorns, the sidewalls of Lael’s 3.0 Specialized Ground Control tires (on WTB Scraper rims) are almost entirely unscathed, compared to my 2.4 Maxis Ardents (on 35mm rims) which show lots of abrasion, but now major cuts or tears thanks to the durable EXO casing.

    But there may be more to it that tough sidewalls, as wider tires tend to ride over rocks and obstacles, rather than through them. The other relationship I have noticed is that too-wide rims and too-narrow tires (such as 2.4″ tires on WTB Scraper rims or Surly Rabbit Hole), is likely to put the sidewall at much greater risk of damage.

  • Eric Blair

    I asked MRP about tire clearance on the Loop SL and this is what Eric from their tech dept said: “That is 80mm. What rim do you plan on running? I personally have run the Scraper rim with both the Bridger tire and the Trail Blazer with no issues on the LOOP SL and STAGE forks.”

  • Idle Prentice

    I have these on Scraper rims and am in love with them. Great traction in all conditions, seat perfectly, no leaks or added air in months. Great wear so far. They feel very supple and i hope the sidewalls are up to it, but I’m hearing lots of good reports. I ride in the Appalachians and they’re perfect for our trails.

  • moneytrain

    How would these fare on a 30mm internal rim? I’ve had 2.8″ on a 29mm rim and it seemed fine, but just thinking the extra size of the WTB’s might be a bit far for 30mm inner rims.

  • I would only put 3″ tires on a 35mm or greater rim…

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