I have been messing around on the Jones with a Surly Nate front/WTB Trailblazer rear for a little while now. Having got hold of a third Maxxis Chronicle (non-TR falvour, thanks Sideways Cycles!), the time was ripe to see what the mix of 29+ front and 27.5+ rear has to offer.
To be fair, this was the first ride, so conclusions should not be drawn just yet. It felt good though. The weight loss was noticeable. The Paul wHub to old-school Uma snow 29er rim (50 ish mm wide) is far from light, but the 27tpi steel bead Nate/Uma combo weighs a staggering 3.25kg! The Chronicle weighs 1050g and the 29+ front wheel dropped 550g from the front. Riding, you can feel that easily, particularly as the Chronicle rolls well.
The handling was pretty good, though the conditions meant I could not truly try and bend the bike out of shape on any tricky terrain. With the smaller-than-29er rear wheel and bigger front, the angles relaxed a bit. Not bad, but again, noticeable.
Overall, the bike was nimble and playful, even in the slop and snow – with which the 3″ tyres dealt admirably.
I have a hunch that 29+ front/27.5+ rear might be a pretty special set up. Lots of advantages and few disadvantages. Time will tell. For it to work at the very best it can, I believe a true 3″+ rear tyre is necessary – 75mm wide. The Trailblazer *is* superb, but it was clearly designed to fit into a 29er rear end – for my goals, I would be looking at 100 or so press fit BB shell, with a 150/157 rear.
Anyway, that is for the future. For now, I am going to try and keep my fingers away from 40-50mm carbon rims. Dropping more wheel weight (tubeless as well) would be ideal to really try this thing out. More miles and I will report back.
In other news: the Shimano TL-CN41 is superb. On measuring a chain that the TL-CN42 suggested was to be replaced (but my gut and a vernier gauge suggested was not) it shows there is life yet. I am optimistic this tool is the one chain checker to rule them all.