When I first read about the Snow Shoe 2XL on fat-bike.com I fell in love. It made every other fat bike tire on the market look like they were anorexic. There was only one problem, most frames would not accommodate a tire that measured 5.05 inches on a 100mm rim. This tire is marketed as a 5.5 inch tire, but that is only done to create even more confusion for fat bike consumers. Some manufacturers put the actual width of the tires on the side (like the Surly Nate 3.8 reviewed here) and other manufacturers put how fat they wish their tires were (like the Vee Rubber Snow Shoe 4.5 reviewed here). How do you know what you’re getting? Your best bet is to read a review from someone who has actually bought and mounted the tire you want on a real rim. There really is no other reliable way to tell. The tires will also stretch over time, especially if you are running them tubeless so minor rubbing problems right after install can become real rubbing problems after a few hundred miles .
The only fat bike frame on the market that is specifically designed for this tire is the Quiring Triple B alloy frame which runs about $1175 for a frame (M,L,XL) & $300 for the fork. Don’t think for a minute that you’re going to be able to mount a 100mm BBS02 or BBSHD 1000W on this frame because the BB is squished in and the chainstays intrude very much into where the motor’s secondary reduction gear needs to go. All is not lost though because there are at least 3 factory frames that will fit this tire (barely) within their frames and forks. The Bikes Direct FB 5 2.0 34lb $797 (complete bike), the BD 38lb Lurch $999 (complete bike) without a Bluto Fork (you must get the 120mm BB BBSHD with this bike, the 100mm kit will not fit because of the chainstay), and the Salsa Blackborow ~$2500 (complete bike). Between these three options, the FB 5 2.0 was a clear winner so I built one up with a 1000W BBSHD called the Phat Phuk which I have been very, very happy with. The bike rides awesome, even with tubes at <10psi pressures I don’t get pinch flats. It just bounces over everything in its path and even the really gnarly rock gardens are a breeze if I get up some speed before I hit them. It feels a lot like my Bluto forked Dark Matter BBS02 750W build but with a lot more rolling momentum in the tires and more power out of the drive unit.
The tires weighed in at around 1850 grams, not the claimed 1740. I tested them with tubes although I will set them up ghetto tubeless this week. I suspect that they will work even better tubeless and allow me to safely go down into the 5-6psi range without any risk fo serious tire or rim damage. The FB 5 comes with double walled rims which originally really bothered me due to the extra weight. Now that I realize how light they are and what low tire pressures I’m going to be running I am happy to have double wall rims because they will be able to take hits that a single wall rim would never be able to survive.
What did I think of these tires? They hold 50% more air than the Surly Bud or Lou which means if you have to fix a flat on the trail it’s really going to suck. I would expect that you would have to do several hundred pumps with my portable Blackburn pump to get the tire back up to a ride-able pressure. It’s unlikely that the ultralight Qtubes are going to work very well in a tire this size. The lug pattern is almost identical to the Lou which is my favorite rear fat bike tire. I’m very glad that Vee Rubber has given up on their crappy creative tread designs like the Mission 4 and the Vee 8 tires which are both great ways to ruin an otherwise perfectly good fat bike.
The traction on these tires is more than anything else I’ve ever tried. They are pretty massive with double walled rims and once you get up to about 15-20 mph be prepared to plow through just about anything. Even with the added power and torque of the BBSHD 1000W unit (1500W peak) the rear tire never spins out and seemed quite good at not damaging the trails. Even when the trails were wet and covered with leaves and mud I found that the massive contact patch on the rear rarely skidded out and the front tire never did. I always run a few PSI lower in the front tire than I do in the rear since my frames are so big my seat is so far back with the Thud buster that almost 75% of the weight is in the rear.
I liked the feeling of stability that these giant tires gave me once my momentum was up. The added height of the bike also allowed me to clear obstacles that I had to gently walk my bike over with smaller tires so I didn’t end up smashing the drive unit repeatedly. I did not notice any problems with oversteer or understeer on these tires, they always seem to go exactly where I point them without hesitation or complaint.
The rating is 1-5 with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst
Powder – 4.5 : The Snowshoe makes a decent rear tire for snowy conditions and turns winter riding in powder into something that feels a lot more like riding a snowboard through the woods. I was a little disappointed with the performance of this tire as a front tire in snowy conditions. Nothing I’ve ridden as a front tire works as well as the Surly Bud which is still the gold standard for fat bike front tires.
Mud – 4.5 : In a word awesome, a great bike to ride on muddy and wet trails because it gets great traction and does not spin out at lower tire pressures. Did not seem to clog up with mud and leaves which I thought it might do.
Ice – 4 : Does well on rough ice but still skids out (predictably) on glare ice. Decent choice for rear tire but don’t use it on the front if you’re going to be hitting ice, get something with studs.
Singletrack – 5 : As near as I can tell this is the next best thing to actually having a suspension fork on your fat bike. This tire is WAY to big to use with any suspension fork currently on the market. Traction and performance far surpassed by expectations. It can get a little bouncy on jumps and in the rough stuff, but it is still very predictable.
Road – 2 : No really a road tire. Very high top speeds due to the large tire diameter, an insane amount of road noise, everyone will hear you coming.
Rolling Resistance – 2 : There is a lot of rolling resistance to this tire, it gets even worse at lower tire pressures. I would not run this tire without a motor assist.
Weight – 3 : Claimed 1740g. Actual 1850g. Liar, liar pants on fire. It’s a good thing that they’re not selling cocaine, that rounding error would amount to almost $9,000, an error of that magnitude is likely to get someone killed.
So should you run out and try or buy a Snow Shoe 2XL for your bike? If you have a Surly ICT fork then this tire will fit on it handily. If you mount a tire this size on just the front and have a normal 4″ fatbike tire on the rear your bike is going to really have some strange geometry because this tire has a very,very large diameter (31.25″). The Snow Shoe 2XL is like a poor man’s suspension fork that works well for snow and rough terrain. It seems like Vee Rubber is really stepping up it’s game and putting tires on the market that actually don’t totally suck, even though they won’t really fit on most of the bikes on the market.
Vee Rubber may make a believer out of me yet.