Just a Little Bigger: Surly’s Knard 41c Cross Tire Oct 20, 2014


It takes a bit of convincing for most people, but after you go with a fatter tire on your cross bike, you rarely will want to go back. Since riding the Nano for around 6 months, I’ve fallen in love with the extra cushion provided by a 40c tire and while I love the Nano, I really wanted to give the Surly Knard 41c a go. If, for any other reason than the allure of a smidge in additional width.

Trails, sure! But racing? For some reason, people are apprehensive about racing a 40+c tire – USAC allows it, so why not? My guess is, that age old myth that a “bigger tire is slower”… Oh but the contrary, with the right PSI, you’ll have the upper hand on just about any course.

I spent the weekend racing on my new Knards and have some thoughts below…


Surely Surly doesn’t make “race tires”, but that didn’t stop me from giving these a go at this weekend’s races. While we don’t get muddy conditions here too often, I’m confident if we did, the Knard’s tread would handle a few inches of slop just fine. What I do notice is the extra tread on well-worn in lines and when there was mud, the tread pattern shed it a lot better than the Nano.

That said, I feel like the Nano wanted to rip through off-camber lines and downhill sections faster, but that’s only because I spent a lot of time riding similar terrain on both, looking for differences.

Even in sand, and hardpack, the Knard just grips and goes. Having some extra width and cushion helps in rough patches, or ruts in grassy corners. Not to mention, the Knard eats sand like none other. Simply coast through it, while others fight against the criss-crossing ruts.


So what gives? Which tire do I like better? Honestly, I don’t think I have a preference and truthfully, I think I’d like the Knard better up front with a Nano on the rear. Am I going to race anything smaller than a 40c from here on out though? Most likely not. I feel like I had an edge on a lot of the other racers who are still sworn allegiance to a 32 or 33c tire.


For the gram counters, the 120 TPI Knard, even with a whopping “1c” additional width, comes in 5 grams lighter than the Nano. Do I notice a difference? Hell no.

You can set these up tubeless, although I haven’t yet and Surly recommends at least a 23mm wide rim. With the supple casing on the 120TPI tire, and too low PSI, I actually rolled a tire off my rim at around 18psi. I run the front at 25 – 30psi and the rear at 30 – 35psi just fine, typically.

The Surly Knard comes in 120 TPI and 67 TPI casing and is available at your local Surly dealer for around $40 a tire.

  • Sean Curran

    I’d also like to get on some fatter tires for racing (although need wider rims), have you tried/heard anything about the continental cyco x-king’s (they come in 42 and 35).

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Haven’t ridden those yet. I really want to though!

    • http://www.brokenandcoastal.com/ Broken and Coastal

      I’ve heard good things about these tires from my buddies in the East Bay. Putting them on my list forsure!

    • Luke

      The 42’s are ace! having only ridden the X-Kings and MSO’s in 40+ I can’t compare them to the Knards or Nano’s but I reckon they’ll be very similar. They measure a little under-sized and fit with tons of room to spare on my Nature Boy.

  • AttackCowboy

    Anyone have experience running (or trying to run) these or Nanos on an All-City Nature Boy? They list the clearance as ’38 with room for mud’ but I’d like to know if someone successfully pushed up to 40 since the added tire size sounds great.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      They fit. the 45c rock n roads fit.

      • kermitonwheels

        How do these compare (and the Nano too) with the Rock n Road?

    • http://www.brokenandcoastal.com/ Broken and Coastal

      I have the All City Macho Man and have been running the Nanos for over a month now. I actually reached out to All City and they told me they wouldn’t fit but I’ve been riding single track and fire roads on them almost every morning since I’ve bought them. I imagine All City can’t endorse larger tires for legal purposes. They’ve also allowed me to hop on all the bikepacking trips my mountainbiking buddies do. I run them 25 up front and 30 in the rear on my morning rides. For my bikepacking trips I do 30 / 35. With the 25 / 30 set up I do hit rim now and then but thats because I am riding single track in the Santa Cruz mountains. Lots of rocks and roots. I am definitely gonna give the Knards a shot when it comes time to replacing the Nanos.

      • AttackCowboy

        Sounds great! I’m actually riding the same area as you; last week I rode down to Santa Cruz from Mountain View on the Nature Boy with Jack Brown Blues. I only worked in a couple sections of fire road but with Nards I’d like to find a mostly dirt route through the same area and dodge Hwy 1.

        • http://www.brokenandcoastal.com/ Broken and Coastal

          I live in PDX but here for a couple months for work. Look into climbing up Monte Bello. Once you get to the top you will be on Black Mountain where you can make your way to the Skyline Ridge. All single track and fire roads that are CX friendly. Once you get to the end of that you will be dropped off at the Saratoga Gap. You can camp at Castle Rock or bomb down to Santa Cruz via 9 or Big Basin. Maybe 60% dirt?

          • AttackCowboy

            Good ideas. I’ve been riding Dirt Alpine up to Monte Bello quite a bit. I usually don’t go further than Black Mountain since I tend to do it as a loop from my home but I’ll have to head on to Castle Rock and further. Thanks for the advice (and routes/inspiration on your site, I hopped over and read a couple of sweet posts).

            I came down CA from Portland as well but have been here a couple years. I’m looking to make it back to the PNW since I really miss that country.

    • Guest

      I ran them on my Zona without much issue. There might have been slight rub under heavy fire. The tires rip!

    • Matt

      I run the Kenda Happy Medium 40C with no clearance issues at all. They’re a fast tire that I’ve been pretty happy with so far.

  • http://www.negativespace.ca nspace

    This size seems to make a lot of sense to me, at least in my head. When I ran 32c cross tires tubeless, it seemed unreliable to and fairly easier to burp with such low volume. It seemed tubulars made a lot more sense to run low pressures at that size. At this size, to be able to run a larger volume tire that is reliably setup tubeless seems like a big advantage.

    Oh, and I need to get me some of those inline adjusters for the Paul brakes.

  • Jeff Nolan

    Say surely Surly 10 times fast.

  • Rasmus Riemann

    Anyone tried these or the Nano on a Transition Rapture Cx. I really want to try a fatter tire.

    • James Love

      I have not. I’ll be measuring tomorrow…

      • James Love

        Just pulled the rear wheel of a colleagues bike – fitted with a Continental Speedride 42c and measuring 39mm from rim to top of tyre & 41 and a bit mm wide. With the dropouts set all the way back there’s room. Not a lot, but enough 3mm either side perhaps (did not have verniers to hand, just my eyecrometerTM) Going to order some Knards and try them tubeless on Crests…

    • James Love

      aw heck replied to myself :-/ …anyway the point is – I measured and they are going to fit. Yay!

      • Rasmus Riemann

        Cool! Thanks.

    • https://twitter.com/Wrighteous Nick W

      I just got a Rapture frame set. I’m contemplating these tires. Will report back.

  • derrickp

    JensonUSA has the 27tpi Knard for $25 right now. I ordered a set just to give them a try. Couldn’t pass up on that deal! But it’s good to hear this write-up since they haven’t made it here yet.

    • colavitos_ghost

      that’s what they retail for in any LBS as well, just FYI.

  • dan chabanov

    Honestly, my guess is that most people racing cross “full time” stick to narrow tires because they are running tubulars. But these do look fun.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Totally valid point!

  • Blake Terzini

    I commute just about daily on these here in Rochester, NY (as well as hit the trails as part of said commute) and have yet to find a tire I’d rather run for an excellent compromise… not to mention the volume just ignores most rocks. I have to really mess up a line to pinch these.

  • ericschiller

    What frame is that?

  • Adam Hook

    Rode Blankets Creek in Georgia on the 27tpi steel bead Knards this past weekend. Despite being on a drop-bar bike, I was outpacing XC riders. Climbs like a beast, corners like crazy in drypack conditions. Extra-width = confidence to shred. Absolutely love this tire. I wouldn’t recommend riding a ton of road on this heavier version though. Feels sluggish and spins up super slow on the road.

  • Eric Baumann

    i did a few early season races on nano’s and loved em…ran em around 30psi and the ride was excellent, grip for days and roots/rocks disappeared. In a few hillier races though, I was definitely feeling the added weight of alloy clinchers vs carbon tubies. The rotational weight is a real factor in acceleration and climbing, which is really what wears most down over the course of a race. That said, I won’t ride anything smaller than 40’s on a trail ride after trying the nano’s, very curious about these knards and the upcoming WTB cross-boss tubeless jammers, they look rad.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Yeah I’ve never ridden carbon wheels in a race…

      • Eric Baumann

        Carbon is cheap these days, try it out! You know how everyone (yourself included) says that carbon wheels on a mtb makes such a huge difference in performance? Well, its kinda the same for cx, and tubulars are just another layer on the cake. Given the amount of experience you have on a 40c setup, i would love to hear what you think of it compared to the carbon tubular 33/34c ride.

        • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

          Oh, I’ve ridden carbon tubies before, just not in a race. Honestly, it was ok, but nothing compared to a low-pressure, high volume tire, ya know?

          • Ian Stone

            My nanos on my cx bike were so rad on some gravel centuries. So much fun to boost off shit with.

    • David O’Brien

      Ditto. I used the Knard folding 120 tpi in early season races and found the same. On hilly courses, they felt heavy – especially if you needed to accelerate if someone tried to attack you. On flatter, bumpy courses they were great. So its either Knard 41mm or Ritchey Pro SpeedMax 35mm (which measure < 35mm) for climbing heavy courses.

  • charlesojones

    I’m no Sven Nys, but fat is phat IMO.

  • Nicholas Houston

    i dont race, but i am totally diggin my soma cazaderos on my macho man for my riding style

    • c_stekly

      are you using the disc or canti frame macho man for the cazaderos? any rub? hows the clearance? Does anyone else have experience with the Macho man and similar 40c+ tires?

  • alain moona

    Any idea if either works in the rear triangle of a swiss cross?

    • http://www.negativespace.ca nspace

      There was a rep from Ritchey on MTBR which quoted the rear tire clearance on the Swiss Cross to be 35mm.

  • James Acklin

    Fantastic post. High-volume, wide tires in cross might be sacrilege to some, but work totally fine for others (including you, evidently) and are 100% fun. I’m hoping the US market ‘gets it’ and continues to expand on high-performance, supple tires in the 40-45c range.

  • Lemontime

    how do they roll on the road? assuming not that great…?

    • Chris

      The are pretty quiet, I ride a surly straggler with about 15-20 pounds of gear in the panniers. 7 miles each way… Not a tire expert but they ride pretty smooth on pavement and but also feel solid in the gravely sand tree debri crap that ends up in the bike lanes in the rain. I thought I’d be getting more of a road slick on this bike but I’m actually really happy on how they ride. Great tire for a do it all bike.

  • Spindr123

    30-35 psi for cx racing? No thanks. Lower is smoother, smoother is faster.

  • http://sebastianestay.tumblr.com Sebastian Estay

    Hi! Nice bike. Does the Knard rub your front derailleur? Mine does when I shift to the big ring and I don’t know how to fix it :/ Any suggestion?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I don’t have a front derailleur, I’m runnin a 1x with a wolf tooth ring.

    • David O’Brien

      Get a CX bike that uses a top-pull front derailleur. :-)

      I have no problem with the Knard on my Steven’s Super Prestige. But I do see how one could have a big problem with a traditional bottom-pull front derailleur.

  • Tony Apuzzo

    Very late to the party here, but what does anyone think of the Knard for gravel ginders ala Dirty Kanza? I think the Nano has a following for that course. Trying to finish, not to win. Bike would be an older Salsa La Cruz disc, which I think would clear the Knard, but it will be tight-ish.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I’d go Nano over the Knard. My Knards fell apart quickly.