Advice please! Would you race a 29+ MTB?

I bought a Trek Stache 9.7 hardtail in 2019, and had a blast crushing trails that summer and racing a few collegiate races with it. I’ve just come around to racing again post lockdown, but my gut is telling me I won’t get very far with 3’’ tires…

The thing is, the bike is only about 28lbs, and despite being a little harder to accelerate, it seems to roll pretty fast. Some quick google searches seem to indicate wider tires aren’t as much of a speed detriment as many think, and its a hell of a fun bike to ride.

For background, I raced road in college (graduated 2020), and have been training fairly consistently since. I’m going to be racing a few crits this summer, but would like to get back into XCO races and maybe even score a Leadville slot in 2022/2023. Obviously I could enter races and have fun, but if I wanted to be a moderately competitive 4/5, and soon cat3, should I ditch the thing in favor of something more traditional?

110% RACE IT!!! Unless you are trying to nail podium steps in the top level, having a bike that you know, like and feel comfortable on is king, IMO.

The Stache is a formidable hardtail and can be ridden to a fast pace, depending on the course and rider. I don’t consider it the peak for racing but at those levels you mention, rider ability largely trumps the bike. The tires have some rolling, traction and cornering benefits that you can potentially exploit against those on bikes with smaller tires, if you and the course align.

You could consider some smaller rubber (2.8 or so) to ditch a bit of weight more than anything. But that is kind of splitting hairs and probably unnecessary.

I think accepting the bike as is (particularly focusing on the strengths it offers) and doing your best to bury the thought that it may be “slow” will make you faster than any component upgrade. Kind of in the placebo / sugar pill world, but just having the slow thought in your head is not helping your case to roll it as is.


Thanks for the response, @mcneese.chad! I live in FL so a lot of courses do align with its strengths. I definitely think its fast, I guess my doubts come from the fact that I’ve never seen anyone race 29+ before. If I’m able to keep progressing in cycling through my career, I’ll always be able to upgrade later on :grinning:

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I raced a Trek Farley 9.6 that I put a Rockshox RS1 on with 29x3’s in the Shenandoah Mtn. 100 a couple of years ago & it was fun. I also raced it rigid with the 29+ in a local 6 hour race so yeah, like @mcneese.chad says, go for it!!!

I found Maxxis Chronicle 29x3 to roll quite fast & they were pretty tough. The Rekon Plus 29x2.8 have, to my feel anyway, far, far more rolling resistance than the Chronicles. I really like the Bontrager XR2 Team issues in 29x3 but I don’t think they’re making them anymore, unfortunately.

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I agree with @mcneese.chad

“Run what you Brung” :call_me_hand:

I’ve recently found out for myself that extra large, large volume tyres (2.6" for XC tyres) are in fact slower, but that’s an easy fix.


I raced my Trek Stache and absolutely loved it. As you said it does roll really well. I had rubbish skill and it’s strength was its ability to roll over so much when you picked a bad line.

I had some great results on it, and it was skill that held me back not the bike.



@Kris_Wyman I’ll look for the Chronicles, last time I needed tires I only found XR4’s which I really like, though I think they’re a bit heavy. I’m impressed you did the Shenandoah 100 on 29+, how did the bike hold up against the terrain? I’m from VA and have that race on my radar next time I visit home!

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I’m all in for racing what you have. But considering your end goal, I would get on a traditional XC bike pretty quick. For me, I would worry about the feel of front grip going from a 3.0 tire to a 2.3 front tire. Or you could qualify for and complete Leadville on the Stache and I would give you a high-5 and buy you a beverage of your choice.


I’d just race it and see how it goes. Your first races will be a case of “getting back into it” anyway, and if you then feel the bike is holding you back, you can still change it. You’ll then also have a better idea of what type of bike would be best for the type of courses you’re riding.


I’d race it and see how it goes.

I have a 2018 Stache and while I don’t race, I bought it because of the flexibility to swap in different wheels. If you want to race it as a regular 29er instead of a 29+ you just need a new set of wheels instead of a whole new bike. I think you can also put 27+ (?) wheels on it. So you have that flexibility to swap in different wheel sets for training / racing / etc.

  • This is NOT recommended. The BB drop even with at 27.5" x 3" tire would get the pedals REALLY low.

From a quick search via the official info, Trek did not recommend tires smaller than 29" x 2.8".

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ok. I guess they changed their guidance as one of the main reasons I built that bike up from a frameset at my LBS (Trek / Cannondale shop) was so I could do 29+, 29, and 27.5+ wheelsets if I wanted.

Edit: After looking at old emails, switching to 27.5+ would require a different fork. So not completely hot-swapable, but at the time I thought if I didn’t like 29/29+ a new fork and wheels was better than new everything.

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@Craig_G @mcneese.chad I assume 29er wheels wouldn’t be an issue though? That could be a great solution/upgrade if I’m not happy after a few races (assuming wheel manufacturers have any inventory, lol)

@ST165y next MTB purchase will realistically be 5 years from now, making that jump will definitely be an adjustment. I’ll hold you to that, though!

The bike did great! I was a bit beat up & next time I do it, I’ll be on a full suspension bike. Wanted to do it again last year but Covid happened. This year I was planning to again but life is dealing me a ton of stress & I got a pretty good concussion about a month ago so I’m out. But anyway, I highly recommend the race! The terrain is great, trails are great & the people are fantastic. I can’t say enough about it really, what a great time!

Also, you shouldn’t have any problems running “normal” sized 29er wheels on the bike as long as you get the proper spacing front & rear which I’m pretty sure is Boost -110x15 front & 12x148 rear.

actually, scratch that - @mcneese.chad mentioned above that Trek recommended no smaller than a 29x2.8 on the Stache

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Run what you got! I’ve been trying to buy an XC bike for a couple of years now. There was an XC marathon last month that I wanted to do, so I rode my ‘big bike’: 160mm fork and 2.6 inch tires. I love that bike and know it well, so I didn’t feel held back at all. Sounds like you would be in the same boat. Go for it!

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Sure! I did road races on a completely unaerodynamic 9 kg endurance road bike. In case of doubt, you can put narrower XC tires on it. Try to see how you stack up and where you need to improve. If, say, off road bike handling is a weakness of yours, a bike with more travel can be more forgiving. XC mountain bikes need to be moved about with more precision when it comes to line choice.

I try not to assume. The core issue remains the same, and BB height is key. Reducing the functional tire diameter enough will lead to more risk of pedal strikes upright and in corners.

Per official Trek Q&A:

Anything is possible, but do keep in mind the impact of using a tire smaller than they apparently recommend.

I think for Florida flat style racing, you will be just fine on that bike. If you want to consider doing something like Leadville, maybe consider something else when the time comes. 10k climbing is probably something you don’t experience in Florida.

USAC MTB starts at Cat 3 and goes up from there, no 4/5 like on the road side. Cat 2 is a free upgrade, you just step up when you want to.

I haven’t seen him in a while, but a local fast guy (Cat 1 roadie I think) used to race a rigid Stache at some of our local races. Think it was just for fun, with road being his main gig. Our local races are about 3000’ of climbing at 7000’ of elevation, for XCO.


I used to race my Stache in all sorts of events ranging from 1 hour up to 9hr. It was a lot of fun, but eventually I got a 100mm xc bike for racing.

I still have a friend that does very well in XCO races on his Stache. Last weekend he won a sport level race on his.