Surly’s Dirt Wizard is the Shredliest 27.5+ Tire I’ve Ridden – Morgan Taylor Mar 24, 2016

Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3

Photos and words by Morgan Taylor.

I’m not going to get away without laying down some bad puns here. Sorry if that’s not your thing. 27.5+ tires have really blown up this year. Just look at this year’s NAHBS galleries. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a 27.5+ hardtail out there.

Last year, in my long term review of the Surly Ice Cream Truck, I casually mentioned that I thought this bike was a good candidate for a 27.5+ conversion. John told me he had a pair of WTB Scraper rims that had yet to be built up and, with a promise to keep my mouth shut for a while, Surly sent me a proto pair of their now-available 27.5 x 3” Dirt Wizards.

Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3

The 27.5+ Dirt Wizards both weighed in at a hair under 1225 grams. Heavy by mountain bike standards, light by fat bike standards. Nice thick sidewalls and big, gummy tread blocks. Promising. John surprised me by having Mellow Johnny’s lace the rims to a pair of Industry Nine fat bike hubs and the project was underway.

Mounting the Dirt Wizards tubeless went like this. I pulled out my worn out, ten-year-old floor pump, and pumped them up. Ping-ping, the beads mounted without complaint. Swapping from the 26 x 3.8” fat bike wheels, the Ice Cream Truck was transformed into a trail smashing hardtail that I spent the entire summer and fall riding.

Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3

One of the first plus tires to market was Surly’s 26 x 2.75 Dirt Wizard, touted as a tire that you could run in a 27.5 frame to enjoy the benefits of increased volume. I’ve ridden that tire on a few occasions and am non-plussed by it. Actually, that’s too nice of me. I don’t like that tire. Tightly spaced, hard knobs that don’t wrap around the casing far enough.

The 29 x 3 version was highly anticipated by the Krampus crowd looking for a Knard alternative, and it was not a disappointment for adventure riding. More traction than a Knard, and great as a front tire in combination with one. It came in two versions: a 120tpi with firmer rubber, and a 60tpi with softer rubber. The 27.5 Dirt Wizard continues the progression, skipping the firm rubber, producing a trail shredding feel similar to a super tacky downhill tire.

Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3

I have ridden a lot of plus tires over the past couple years, from Surly’s first efforts to WTB’s Trailblazer adventure tire to the wafer thin and traction-light thousand-gram tires on mainstream production plus bikes today.

Here’s the problem. The 27.5+ tires that have been available so far equate to extra-large XC tires. Basically no tread, and sidewalls so thin they necessitate over-inflation to avoid flats and weird riding characteristics. The result? Kind of like putting fast XC tires on a longer travel trail bike. Bouncy and gripless. Not great for actual mountain biking.

Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3

Watching mainstream mountain bike magazines review plus bikes with first-effort tires from companies that make trustworthy tires for normal mountain bikes, I noted a theme: plus tires were panned for their thin sidewalls and inability to provide cornering grip. These tires became the limitation that an entire genre of bikes was judged by.

I get it. OEM suppliers are tasked with making tires that product managers will buy in mass quantities for bikes that end up in showrooms around the world. Heavy tires don’t sell bikes, but as it turns out, light tires do make for bad reviews. Of entire bikes. Bummer.

When 27.5 mountain bikes hit the market hard a few years back, we were lucky. There was exactly one tire with a trustworthy casing and enough grip to be used in technical terrain: the Maxxis HR2 EXO 2.3. This is still a trustworthy tire today – not a trait I’m likely to give to the pile of 2.8 and 3.0 tires we have been presented with over the past couple years.

Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3

If the Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3 had been the only tire available as the market became flooded with bikes from bigger manufacturers, I feel like the reviewers’ tune would have been different. This tire grips amazingly, and is happy at 15-18 psi even when pushed hard. I keep just enough pressure in the rear tire to avoid having the side knobs contact while riding up fire roads. The thicker sidewalls and sticky rubber provide damping which is a welcome contrast to the basketball effect produced by thin sidewalls and high pressures.

At the other end of the scale, I’m sure the weight is of concern for some. If we expect these tires to perform as well as aggressive mountain bike tires, they’re going to have to be some amount heavier. Maxxis and Schwalbe are both making enduro race tires with sturdier casings, yet neither makes a plus tire with such a casing. The Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3 is the first truly confidence inspiring tire available in this segment.

Tires can really make or break a bike, and it’s too bad that there aren’t more tires like the 27.5 Dirt Wizard on the market. We deserve to be able to run less than 20 psi and not have our tires fold over. The bikes are out there and we’re ready for tires to match.

Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3

Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 3

  • Ham Sandwich

    im holding out for the shit magicians. expected release 2017, which means theyll be available 2021.

    • Ultra_Orange

      Christmas is supposed to be the release of the 36+ Diarrhea Druids

      • Lewis

        Nah, its all about the Crap Conjurer 29- tyres coming out in mid southern hemisphere winter 2018

        • caliente

          I’m waiting for the 12″+ Dookie Droppers. Only available on the moon, 2087.

  • Craig R

    This is good news! We have two 27.5+ bikes in our family’s stable, and I’ll be looking for these when they are released.

    • They are in stock at QBP and available now!

      • Craig R

        Cool! Thanks, I’ll pick some up and see how they perform. It’s good to see more tire options for 27+. Thanks for the tip!

  • caliente

    Let’s see the entire bike!

    • Noah Behnke

      You may not see the entire bike. Tire only.

    • I uploaded it and forgot to put it in! Done.

      • caliente

        Yesss! thanks.

  • I’m seriously debating selling my expensive full suspension enduro nightmare bike and running DW 27.5+ on the Wednesday with a dropper / bluto.

    Good to hear they’re decent. I hated them on my Instigator.

    • The 26 x 2.75 DW is not even in the same league as this one. The tread pattern looks similar, but the knob compound, size, depth, and spacing are way different.

      I will get my hands on a 170 hub and another Scraper so I can run these wheels on the Wednesday. It is that good.

      • tb

        Morgan, which 26 Dirt Wizard did you try? They have 2 versions, 27tpi and 120tpi. I see these 27.5 Dirt Wizards are 60tpi, right in the middle. I just bought an Instigator complete and it came with the 27tpi version, I find them ok, but the rubber compound could be softer. I’m replacing them with 26×3.0 Knards, which I love in the Summer on my fatbike, as a 4.0 tire.

        • I’ve ridden both versions and neither is confidence inspiring. For reference, the 120tpi 29″ DW is actually a harder compound than the 60tpi 29″ version, and the 27.5 is softer than both of those. All three DWs are different tires in practice, even though they share a basic tread shape and a name. Haven’t ridden the 26×3 Knard, of course that’s more of an adventure tire than a shredding tire, which is how the 26″ DW should be classified as well.

      • Jana Mansour

        Morgan, you have the Wednesday, too?? How do you find it compared to the ICT Ops?

        • So far I have kept my Bluto on my Rocky Mountain Blizzard, so my thoughts on the Wednesday are limited to riding the rigid fork. Not really a fair comparison, yet. I do think the Wednesday has a couple advantages: price, and the short rear end. The bottom bracket is a bit higher which I think more people would actually prefer, though I am happy to ride low bikes. I would have to get the Bluto on the Wednesday before I could really say much about geometry comparisons.

          • Jana Mansour

            Ok, I will stay tuned. I picked up an ICT Ops based on your recommendation (among others) and am loving it. At the time, I was hesitating because the Wednesday had just been announced, but I got a good price and more bike time by jumping on the ICT right away… So my question comes from sheer interest, rather than in advance of buying a Wednesday. Like others who previously commented, I would also appreciate any other thoughts you have on the ICT’s behavior 27.5×3 vs. 26×4… And perhaps 29×3? For instance, I am currently riding Van Helgas sans Bluto and have no reason to complain (even during amateur hour at the local singletracks) – do you think the Bluto becomes a must in 27.5+ or 29+ configurations? Thanks!

          • Enzo N.

            Do you think it’ll be an issue to run a 120mm Bluto on a small ICT op?

    • Brian Richard Walbergh

      My Heart is telling me that is exactly what I should get, My wallet is telling me otherwise.

    • you won’t do it… do it! :P

      • Able to make it up this weekend? There are a bunch of new trails I can show you!

        • Just saw this now, hope I can make it out soon, maybe mid april

  • Mike

    those knobs curl around really well for a wide tire, i bet cornering is pretty good.

    • Seriously, they shred so hard. I had to make up a new word to describe how hard they shred.

  • Even though I have Bridgers sitting for my pony/thief/wrangler you swayed me into swooping some of these for the peace of mind.

    • I think you’ll be happy with the extra material in the sidewalls.

  • willnicks

    do these fit into the rear triangle of a tallboy?

  • rmee

    Hey Morgan, any chance of you doing a more complete review of the Ice Cream Truck with the 27.5 set up? I picked up an ICT (which I am thoroughly loving!) based on your previous review and I am contemplating going down a similar path with a plus wheel set and the Bluto. Curious what your thoughts are with this set up. Thanks!

    • Cullen

      Hello, did you go through with the 27.5 idea? If so, I’m curious what your thoughts are.

  • Chad DeVall

    i agree whole heartedly with you Mr. Morgan Taylor. Dirt Wizards are dope !

  • Enzo N.

    Nice! Mind sharing the specs of the wheel build? Particularly interested in the spoke length needed. I’ve had a 29+ setup before coming from your previous article. The 650b+ looks more natural on the ICT imho.

    • Not sure what the spoke length was. We had these wheels built up at Mellow Johnny’s quite a while back when John was still based in Austin.

  • Enzo N.

    Hey Morgan! I’m discerning whether I should continue building a 27.5+ wheelset for the ICT. Is it worth having the extra wheelset or is it better to just stick with the 4.0 tires? and could you share a photo of the spacing for the rear and front tire? I’m particularly conscious of the value for money of building an extra wheelset vs just getting an inexpensive 650b+ bike. Thanks!

  • Marcello Corazza

    Hi Morgan! I did my fatbike conversion to 27.5+ but it lowered a lot the bottom bracket height and sometimes I hit the ground with pedals, mostly on rocky terrains… did u have the same issue?

    • Depending on the tire, you’re lowering the bike by 10mm or so. I don’t think many fat bikes would let you get away with running 27.5×2.8″ tires.

      • St-Jean Mathieu

        Can you please tell us the exact overall diameter with the DW? I did the same setup with WTB trailboss 3 and they are at 28 7/8″. Significantly lowered bottom bracket … ~12mm, but a great option for made my ICT more versatile and so playful! It just miss a shox for me.