Surly Knard Tire Review

Surly Knard 29 x 3" tires...

Surly Knard 29 x 3″ tires…

I’ve spent a couple years riding a pair of 120tpi Surly Knard 29 x 3″ tires. I use them mostly for bikepacking although I have rocked my Surly Krampus on trail rides now and again. The tread is now starting to show some wear, but for non-technical riding they’ll keep rolling another season or two. So far only 2 flats and both were before I went tubeless.

Setting the Knards up tubeless on some Rabbit Hole rims was easy using the split tube method. They have been 100% reliable with no flats and I can leave them 2 weeks+ without adding air.

For non-technical riding [ie. logging roads] I’ve found the Knard to be an excellent tire. It rolls quickly, provides solid traction and its big volume floats over loose terrain with ease. Even when I have encountered snow and mud on non-techy rides I have liked how the Knards worked for me. If you are forced to ride 100kms of pavement on a tour you will not hate life on these tires.

Lots of small knobs...

Lots of small knobs…

Where the Knards have shown their limits is in challenging technical riding. For me the biggest issue has been loose dirt/gravel especially on off camber trails. The front Knard just doesn’t have the side knobs to grab into the trail and keep the bike tracking straight which means you either go really slow or your front tire washes out and you crash. 😦

The very tall and wide [for normal MTB rubber] 29 x 3″ tire smooths out rough terrain, keeps you rolling fast and floats through softer conditions with speed as well and control. Despite the extra weight you can moving around I find the Knards let me move up and down just as fast as skinnier tires. The large volume also makes riding a rigid bike quite pleasant on all but the most broken ground.

Knard in a Fox Float 34 fork...

Knard in a Fox Float 34 fork…

Wanting a slacker front end I have mounted a Fox Float 34 fork on my Krampus and jammed the Surly Knard + Rabbit Hole rim combo in there. It requires the removal of a small amount of the fork brace to fit this big tire inside.

I have used Knards on skinny Stan’s Flow rims and 50mm Surly Rabbit Hole rims. If I was starting over today I’d build up a set of 35mm carbon Light Bicycle rims for my Krampus to get a nice blend of stiffness, lightweight and wide enough rims to support the 3″ tire.

All in all I think Surly’s first 29+ tire is a great option for bike touring and non-technical riding. I just bought a lightly used set of 120 tpi Knards from a rider on so I’ll have some Knards to keep me going for another few years of bikepacking.

Enjoy some moist trail riding on my Surly Krampus...

Enjoy some moist trail riding on my Surly Krampus…

Krampus Float 34 Mods Redux…

3" Surly Knard + Fox Float 34...

3″ Surly Knard + Fox Float 34…

I got around to another Fox Float 34 fork brace modification session today. I’ve used a rotary tool once before to create more clearance for the Surly Knard 3″ wide 29+ tire. I don’t want to get too crazy removing material so I figured going at it over a few sessions will keep me in check and let me evaluate the current clearance without any pressure to get it “right” in one go.

Ready To roll...

Ready To roll…

I’ve got enough clearance to keep my mind at ease now. I’ll see how things roll during the first couple shorter bikepacking trips in the spring.

Surly Knard & Rabbit Hole Tubeless…

Surly Knard + Rabbit Hole tubeless...

Surly Knard + Rabbit Hole tubeless…

I’ve been thinking about setting up my Krampus’ wheels tubeless for a while, but it really only made sense at the start of the spring/summer touring season. That slipped by last year without getting the project done so when this spring rolled by I jumped on it.

Going tubeless has a number of advantages:

  • less likely to flat
  • better traction
  • less rolling resistance

You’ll notice I didn’t mention weight savings. I didn’t do the math to 8 decimals places, but my feeling is that going from a 29er MTB tube to this method of tubeless doesn’t save much weight.

Why the split tube method?

  • easiest and most reliable method for rims/tires not designed to be run tubeless
  • reliability is critical on a touring bike
  • easy to remount bead and seal on the trail with a small pump


What I used...

What I used…

What you need:

  • Surly Knard tire [I use the 120 tpi version]
  • Surly Rabbit Hole rim
  • duct tape or other rim strip material
  • a 26″ bike tube
  • tire levers
  • scissors
  • sharp knife
  • Stan’s sealant
  • CO2 cartridge x 3 [1 is minimum, but having some spares is nice]
  • floor pump
  • bucket or something else to lay wheel on its side to seal up
Sealing tire/rim after seating bead...

Sealing tire/rim after seating bead…

How to:

  • remove tire from rim
  • remove existing tube [save it as an emergency spare for your pack]
  • inspect rim strip and replace if needed
  • cut 26″ tube in half so it forms a rubber strip with a valve stem in it
  • lay split 26″ tube in your rim roughly centered
  • install one side of tire bead so that bead pinches split tube against rim [excess split tube can flap around for now]
  • then install most of the 2nd bead inside the split tube
  • I find the next step easier if the wheel is hanging off a work stand or get a friend to hold it
  • shake your Stan’s bottle really well and fire 3 scoops into your Knard through the section of bead still open
  • pop the 2nd onto the rim
  • make sure the split tube is showing all the way around [doesn’t have to be even]
  • use a CO2 cartridge or a compressor to inflate the tire and seat the beads
  • optional – lube beads with soapy water before you seat them
  • tip – if bead won’t seat [CO2 blowing out sides] use a cargo strap of tape all the way around the tire to compress it a bit
  • use more CO2 or a floor pump to get tire nice and hard – say 30psi
  • shake tire for 3-4 mins to get sealant well distributed
  • let wheel sit on each side for 10-15 mins at a time
  • shake well and flip to other side
  • trim excess split tube with a sharp knife [sharper the better]
  • open beer and celebrate being finished! 😉