Landscape Magazine

Pilot Cycles 29+

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And now for something completely different!

[By our editor Dennis Leidelmeijer]

To start I’m not a fan of 29-ers. And yes, maybe I’m overreacting and too principal and maybe it is fear of the wheel size that comes awfully close to that of a road bike…
So I was very sceptical when I was handed the Pilot Cycles 29-er Plus. But on the other hand, I’m quite curious and love new stuff, exotic materials and techniques. So that put me on a tough spot, because this bike surely is something new and exotic! So I let my curiosity take the overhand and went for a ride.
 
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What makes this bike so special?
Pilot Cycles will custom built the frame to your desire! The tester I rode wasn’t custom-fit-built of course, but the size fitted perfectly. A titanium hardtail frame, a Pilot Cycles homemade titanium rigid fork, a Pinion Gearbox; nothing too renewing, but the uniqueness comes from the combination with the wheels: 29+!
 
Most of you can picture a 29-er just fine, but where does the + stand for? Right, it is the size of the tires. Fatbikes are becoming more and more popular and you most certainly have seen one cruise by on their 4.5 inch wide tires. This of course is a lot of fun in the dunes (loose sand) and in the snow, but in other circumstances not always practical. And that is where the 29-er + comes peeking around the corner on 3 inch wide tires. A bit smaller, but you can still ride with very low tire pressure (we even did 1 bar! But later switched to 1.5 because this rolls a bit faster) and you roll OVER muddy parts instead of through it!
 
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In practice
My first ride was from home to work; bigger part on tarmac with some single tracks. I noticed immediately how light and supple this bike rides, of course partly due to the low weight and of course the buttery smooth gearshifts (I want this on all my bikes!!!). So far nothing to complain about, until I steered into a sharp corner… I felt as if the bike wanted to go straight. Because of the big wheel size and high volume tires the wheels have a bigger turning circle which forces you to lean into the corner a bit more. Nothing too bad and you will get used to it eventually, but it just surprised me a bit and was very different to anything I am used to from a bicycle. 
 
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The second ride was my local XC track that I know by heart. So the perfect proving ground for this machine. Fast wide trails, curved single tracks and the occasional jumps and drops, the 29+ took it all without complaining. Despite of the longer frame the bike corners quite well (after I got used to the turning circle of the wheels) and with the larger volume of the tires you don’t even miss a suspension fork at all, even when landing drops or jumps. This high volume also results a bit in ‘bobbing’ of the bike when you are pedalling hard, but this can be controlled also by the tire pressure. 
 
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Our verdict
Do you love something special, exotic and do you have something to spend (because this bike costs € 5500, but that gets you a one-off-a-kind custom built machine), then this is really something you should check out and contact Pilot Cycles
Personally I am still not convinced enough to want to buy a 29-er, but this bike surely put a big smile on my face and I had a lot of fun on it. With the gearbox and belt drive the bike is virtually maintenance free and therefor ideal to ride in the dark months of fall and winter. Small ‘downside’ is that a lot of fellow bikers will check you out with surprised looks on their faces and you will get a lot of “What kind of thing is that?” But that also makes for a nice conversation-starter.
 
Overall very positive and a bike with a high fun-factor. Only ‘downside’ is the price tag. But hey, quality comes at a price and from that view it’s not really expensive when you realise what you get for your money! 
 
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Very cool detail: front brake hose runs through the fork leg:
 
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Big, bigger, Plus!
 
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Ultra smooth, wide range (18 speed) shifting.
 
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Eye for detail.
 
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