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Harking back to the good ol’ days of long bar ends and loud colours, the Onza Canis 27.5 x 2.85” Skinwall tires not only look great, but offer low rolling resistance and enough tread to tackle a wide range of trail conditions. Read on for our full review after riding dirt, sand, roots, and rocks across British Columbia, Colorado, and beyond…
Skinwall tire options are all over the place these days. Brands like Teravail, Maxxis, WTB, and Onza are all offering slightly modified editions of a select few of their benchmark tires, which in some cases creates a lighter and more supple tire, depending on what kind of sidewall process is used. In the case of Onza’s limited edition skinwall tires, which include the Ibex, Citius, Canis, and Svelt, the sidewalls are not treated with butyl rubber like the regular ‘black’ wall variations, resulting in a bit of weight savings and major street cred. Whether or not you have good reasons to opt for a skinwall tire, you can surely expect a compliment or two and a classy dash of colour to your current bikepacking rig. Skinwall tires are in, at least for now.
Setting the Onza Canis tires up on the stock Alex MD40 rims on my Karate Monkey proved to be a bigger challenge than expected. I first attempted the setup with a good quality floor pump. Not even close. I brought the wheels to my local bike shop where they also tried with a floor pump, no bueno. Out came the compressor, and even with increased pressure, it was all hands on deck, plus a few other bike mechanic tricks, to get the tires seated. I know this often comes down to the rim in use, including the internal profile, shape, and width, but I figured it was worth mentioning anyway. A few satisfying pops later and the tires haven’t come off in over four months now, and have needed very little upkeep to maintain their tight seal. The 40mm internal width of the Alex MD40 rims hits a sweet spot for this size of tire, allowing some wiggle room if I choose to go back to a true 3.0” tire or even play around with the newish 2.6” mid-plus offerings we’ve seen, including the Maxxis Rekon 27.5 x 2.6” tires.
27.5 x 2.8” Tires Compared
The Canis 27.5 x 2.85” skinwall, which is currently only offered in a 60 TPI version, weighs just 70 grams more than the standard 120 TPI version, coming in at 910 grams. Compared to other 27.5+ mountain bike tires available, the Canis’ weight seems to fall right in between the standard light casing and tough casing options. For example, the Maxxis Roller II Plus (27.5 x 2.80”) weighs in at 915g (120TPI) and 970g (60TPI), and the WTB Ranger (27.5 x 2.80”) weighs 803g (light casing) and 1044g (tough casing). The skinwall will save you a little weight, and, after a pretty extensive review period, we can confirm that it won’t fall short when it comes to durability, particularly in the sidewalls. We should note that the 27.5 x 2.85” version is also offered in a 120 TPI freeride casing that shares all the same specs as the skinwall, but comes in at 840g at the expense of some sidewall durability. Beyond the 27.5+ offerings, the Canis comes in 27.5 x 2.25” and 29 x 2.25” in several different casings, skinwall or not, and various TPI options. All are tubeless ready, and utilize a dual compound that is made up of a harder, longer wearing rubber towards the middle of the tire and a softer rubber for cornering grip.
The mid-plus 2.6” to 2.85” width is a sweet spot when it comes riding on larger than average tires, especially on the 27.5 platform. They roll quickly, offer almost identical riding characteristics as 3.0” wide tires, like floatation and traction, but can still tackle technical terrain and tight corners playfully. When it comes to singletrack-heavy bikepacking routes, it’d be hard for me to go back to anything else at this point. I used the stock Surly Dirt Wizards (27.5 x 3.0”) on my Karate Monkey last fall, all winter, and into the spring. They were pretty much indestructible and provided more grip than I knew what to do with. However, they weigh in at around 1,225g, over 300g heavier than the Onza Canis, and the aggressive tread meant I wasn’t going anywhere fast, unless it was a gnarly downhill. Compared to the Dirt Wizards, the Canis has a drastically more rounded profile that really exploits the different tread when riding in the flats and while taking sharp corners. Unlike the Dirt Wizard, or other beefy 27.5+ tires, the transition from the fast rolling centre tread to the side knobs isn’t always as predictable feeling as one would hope, and the few times I caught myself daydreaming on tight turns, well, I didn’t catch myself at all. Down I went.
I blame these unpredictable characteristics of the Canis on their lightweight casing, which at lower pressures can buckle under the weight of a fully loaded bike. This was quite apparent when riding rough terrain, or when the rear end of my bike took big hits when letting loose on fast trails. My rear rim has made contact with the ground more times than I’d like to admit, but the solid tubeless setup and average stock wheelset have held up great. There was some chatter in the comments section on Spencer J Harding’s recent Maxxis Rekon+ review, and it appears that there is a consensus on heavier (+180lbs) riders avoiding lightweight casings. Makes sense to me, especially when riding a mid-plus tire between 2.6” and 2.85” wide. Although, many of these experiences are purely situational, so consider your own experience first!
Above three photos by Logan Watts
Oregon Timber Trail Tested
A quick look at the tread pattern will show that the Canis is made for low rolling resistance. The numerous, closely spaced lugs are fairly shallow, especially towards the centre of the tire, creating a fast rolling strip that keeps up speed well when riding at higher pressures or on hard surfaces. Dropped to lower pressures (12-17PSI), the side knobs provided more reasonable traction when cornering on almost all of the terrain I’ve ridden on. The only times I completely lost control of the tires were when riding some incredibly hard packed singletrack (we’re talking pavement like) mixed with a thin coat of granular dirt, during one of the last few descents along the Oregon Timber Trail along Mitchell Ridge Trail into Hood River. My riding partner, Ben, who was running Maxxis Rekon 27.5+ tires, a substantially more aggressive tire, had no problem with traction through these sections. During this section, and this one only, I was definitely missing the aggressive claw-like traction of the Dirt Wizards. It’s a good thing I was only an hour or so from reaching Hood River.
Otherwise, I was pleasantly surprised with the performance and overall durability of the Onza Canis’ both on the Oregon Timber Trail, the Vapor Trail, and a substantial amount of other riding in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona over the past few months. I’ve taken them through thick sand, grippy slickrock, loamy singletrack, and chunky descents with complete confidence. The savings in weight, although relatively small, was noticeable when riding unloaded, and I can’t argue with lightening up my base weight where I can. I think my success with these tires during the Oregon Timber Trail – as it covers some demanding and varied terrain – speaks loudly for what the Canis can handle.
Lastly, I noticed that the Canis wasn’t quite as voluminous compared to other 27.5+ tires I’ve seen and used in the past. This is a good reminder that not all 27.5 x 2.85” tires are created equal, and overall size and shape will always differ in some way. For example, Ben’s 27.5 x 2.80” Maxxis Rekons appeared to be slightly larger than the Canis. Although, the tread on the Rekons is far less rounded and more aggressive, so this likely played a part in what just may be an illusion. I definitely noticed a decrease in size going from the 27.5 x 3.0” Surly Dirt Wizards, which at first may have limited my desire to just roll over whatever obstacles lay in my path.
Seven months later, I am still running the Onza Canis tires as my primary rubber and I’m happy to report that they are holding up great. Although I have found myself commuting on pavement most days, a 31-mile journey in itself, the 27.5+ platform has proven extremely versatile. The tires are indeed showing some signs of wear, but that comes as no surprise considering how much on-road riding I’ve put in over the last few months in British Columbia. I’ve currently got my eyes on a new 29er wheelset, something a bit lighter than the stock Alex MD40 rims. I look forward to eventually comparing them to the 27.5 plus category, which is often thought to be the end-all be-all of bikepacking wheels.
So, are the Onza Canis tires worth the higher-than-average price tag? I’m not entirely sure. The significant weight savings might mean they are, and I’m pretty happy with how they performed in a wide range of conditions. I currently have somewhere around 1,000 miles on the pair I’ve been testing, and they look like they are holding up pretty well. With a retail price of around $145 USD, they aren’t the cheapest plus-sized 27.5 tire out there by any means, but they are one of the lightest. That’s about all I have to say about that!
- Weight savings when compared with other 27.5+ tires.
- Spruce up your rig with the skinwall edition.
- Low rolling resistance for those used to riding more aggressive tires.
- Tight tubeless seal has held strong.
- On the pricier side of things, compared to other 27.5+ tires available.
- Rounded profile can be unpredictable at times, particularly on tight, fast hardpack corners.
- Not quite as voluminous as other 27.5+ tires.
- Lightweight design can result in soft sidewalls at lower pressures.
- Model Tested Onza Canis 27.5 x 2.85″ Skinwall
- Weight 910 grams (32 oz)
- Price ~$145 / tire (can find better deals online)
- Manufacturer’s Details onza-tires.com
It’s awesome to see so many different plus-sized tires becoming available. Whether you are on the hunt for something more aggressive, less aggressive, or perhaps a bit larger than the tires you are currently using, there is something out there. Those converted to 27.5+, a truly fantastic option for bikepacking, can really start to dial in a wheelset to complement their riding style and the terrain. I don’t often require the extra beefiness that the Dirt Wizards provide, so the Onza Canis’ low rolling resistance and lighter tread actually ended up suiting my riding tendencies much better. The various and closely spaced lugs of the Canis’ tread create a tire that can handle a wide range of conditions, as I’ve seen first hand over the past few months.
Although Onza may not be the first tire manufacturer that comes to mind here in North America, I’m happy to report that the Switzerland-based company is making some high quality tires that shouldn’t be overlooked. At the very least, you’ll earn some street cred with the skinwalls. That is, if they’re still cool tomorrow…