Pacenti Neo-Moto 650B 2.3 Review

by Brian Mullin on February 21, 2011

I have really enjoyed my several months of test time on the Pacenti Neo-Moto 650B 2.3 tires, as they have good acceleration, cornering and traction, and excellent braking. The tire was designed by Mr. 650B himself, Kirk Pacenti, who in addition to being a strong advocate of the 650B attributes, was also an early proponent of the 29er. The Neo-Moto is a 2.3 inch wide tire, meant for multiple types of conditions, from Cross Country to All Mountain riding, and has an Aramid bead, 66 TPI casing and is made in Japan by Panaracer. Kirk had sent me a set of the tires to review back in Sept of 2009, so I have been extremely remiss in completing a review, although my major delay was caused by a lack of 650B wheels. Fortunately, through happenstance, Kirk graciously lent me a pair of his wheels for a couple of months this winter.

Caveat: Running a 650B wheel on a 26 inch designed fork will void its warranty, and manufacturers have lawyer double speak warnings, which all end with “causing serious bodily injury or death”.

The 650B wheel measures in at 27.5 inches, and although the numbers would suggest that it’s smacked exactly between the 26 and 29 inch size, they are somewhat closer to the former. One of the nice aspects of the 650B is that they are much easier to design into a frame, especially when the amount of travel increases to the 4-6 inch range. Designing a 29er with larger amounts of travel (towards 5 inches) can be accomplished, but it is certainly more difficult, and presents a myriad of complexities. The 650B can fit on some of the current 26 inch frames on the market, and my Ibis Mojo is a case in point. I am extremely familiar with a 26 inch setup, and I regularly ride my 29er (Moots Mooto XZ), so I have breadth of knowledge for cross comparisons for the new size. The 650B were in the middle of acceleration between the sizes, though closer to the 26 inch, but it lacked the ability to carry the monstrous momentum that a 29er can attain when it is brought up to speed. It had the excellent braking, and stair step and ledge climbing abilities of the 29er, and its berm and roll over anything capabilities were close to its big brethren. It did share the 29er’s difficulty to turn in sharp switchbacks and lacked laser like steering, somewhere the 26 inch shines, but the 650b were a nice compromise. I personally liked the size, but it is no better nor worse than the others, and it’s just another option.

It took me a short period of time to get used to 650B size, since it has a combination of attributes and deficiencies of both of its compatriots, so it gave me a slight amount of brain confusion, although it felt a lot more like my 29er.

When the Neo-Moto was tossed into ugly terrain, they were the happiest, as they had tenaciousness traction and a meaty robustness, and they especially loved rock gardens. On flatter terrain, when it was covered with baby heads, they tended to get bounced around, and were deflected sideways too often, although some slight balance and awareness alterations helped. Even with the low rolling resistance, they seemed to feel like they got bored on mellow singletrack, which is conjecture on my part, since they can’t be of that mindset. Which isn’t to say they don’t perform admirably in those conditions, as they love to roll along, humming away, and pep up when they get more chances to be able to slam over into berms and rollers, taking advantage of the 650B size and lovely chunky side knobs. Take them up onto steep loose terrain, and their braking ability was pretty amazing, and though they had good traction on climbs, you did need to watch your balance to keep the ground torque in the slop. When they were hammered through rock gardens, and rolled up to high speeds in rocky terrain, their low height and lack of width meant you sometimes felt the brunt of the trail. They certainly liked to fly, and the forward ramped tread pattern on top really made them sail out from underneath you, like they had after burners cranked on. The side knobs gave a good grip when tossed over on their sides, and they stuck well when railed hard when cornered, and rolled and carved into the berms with aplomb.

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!

They had a decent grip when wet, and didn’t seem to slide around much on slicked rocks and roots, though for the latter, we don’t have the East Coast extremes in that department. I have this one root/log that lays diagonally across a section of a local trail, and if its wet I usually walk it, else you are going down, and when I tried it on the Neo-Moto, it flew through with flying colors. I used them quite a bit in moderate amounts of fresh to packed snow, which can feel like riding in sand, and they did really well, and always held their line. I think one of their hallmarks, is that it did just what you told it to do (tire you go there now), and didn’t need to be over handled to coerce it somewhere. I do wish the tire had a bit more width, since it came in as a skinny tire, and I would call it more of a 2.2 (measured 2.19) than a 2.3. I misplaced my calculation for their height, but they are moderately low, which is a good thing since it does help them fit within a larger set of the 26 inch bike frames on the market. I ran them at 23-25 psi with tubes, and they worked better with lower pressure, which increased tenacity, grip and feel. They tended to shed mud and snow quickly, though I didn’t get them in any gumbo type of conditions. In loose gravel and sand, they did pretty well, though the width issue cropped up when they were placed in some of the super deep local Pikes Peak gravel.

The rubber was plenty sticky enough and gave a nice tactile feel, and it definitely felt like Panaracer rubber, with a slight node towards a harder than softer compound, and had a tough thick casing. They fit fine within the confines of my Ibis Mojo, and I never had any interference in the rear. I would like to try them some time on the Velocity Pacenti P35 rims (35 mm wide) to see if it would help spread the width out a tad more, since I like my tire fat. I abused the tires pretty good, and I never had any sidewalls issues, and they seemed tough as nails, with exceptional durability and tread longevity.

Measured Specs:

  • Weight 722 and 719 grams
  • Width: 2.19 inch


Bottom Line
The Pacenti Neo-Moto 650B 2.3 are a great tire, with excellent braking, good traction and climbing attributes, a useful and functional tread pattern, and tough sidewalls. The 650B is a nice cusp between the 26 and 29 inch sizes, and has enough of each other’s properties that they are a unique and productive addition to the bike industry.

Thinking back on the tires, I mostly remember how much they liked it when you treated them roughly, and tossed them into the meanest terrain, and that’s when they started to sing. Get them on the flats, and they felt and performed fine, but just seemed out of place. The great ledge and rock garden climbing, predictability, cornering, and excellent braking abilities were real highlights of these tires, while the lows were the lack of width, mediocrity on the flats, and a harsh ride flying down rough terrain.


  • Fits in many 26 inch frames
  • Excellent braking
  • Traction in rock gardens
  • Ledge climbing abilities
  • Sticky
  • Good Cornering


  • Mediocre on the flats
  • Bounced around by baby heads on flat climbs
  • Lack of width – Too skinny
  • Harsh ride in rocky terrain at high speeds

MSRP: $59

Overall Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Visit the Pacenti Cycle Design website at

Pacenti NEO-MOTO 650B 2.3 Specs

  • Size: 650B x 2.30” [approx. 27.7” wheel diameter]
  • Weight: 725 g
  • Use: All condition XC / AM tire
  • Bead: Aramid
  • Casing: 66 tpi, high volume casing
  • Low rolling resistance
  • Incredible cornering grip
  • Works with Stan’s No-Tubes Sealant
  • Made in Japan

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