From my old haunt in Cape Town – old poster but I do like it ….
They’re all at it…
So, after spending a few days in among the latest new products, with glimpses of next year’s stuff at the Sea Otter, it is quite obvious that there’s something going on with this 27.5in thing.
So much so, that I can make a prediction: The 26in wheeled bikes on sale now are as good as they’re ever going to get.
Every bike manufacturer currently offering 26in wheeled bikes is actively redesigning their entire range for 27.5in wheels. Companies that mainly do 29in wheels are still looking at 27.5in wheels for their enduro and trail bike models, and even their full World Cup DH bikes. Companies that only do 29in wheels, like Niner, are looking on with interest and puzzlement. The 26in wheel, I’m afraid, is suddenly, inexplicably, going to disappear virtually overnight on production bikes of any quality. This is not conjecture. This is going to happen.
Every wheel company I visited at the Sea Otter, had a 27.5in wheel. Every tyre company. Every fork company. They were all ready for the revolution. “But what about all those great, existing 26in wheel bikes?” you ask. Well, they’re carrying on just fine. Take Turner for example. He just showed his new 29in carbon bike, the Czar. He also had his staple bikes like the 5Spot (26in) and the Sultan (29in) and the Burner (27.5in). Will there be a 26in carbon 5Spot. “Never” apparently. Even if he’d been considering it, to come out with a new 26in model at a time when everyone is promoting 27.5in (and clearing out their 26in models) would be suicide.
Is it a fashion thing? Or is there a real advantage? The less hype-prone riders and journos who’ve ridden both will all agree that there’s not a great deal of appreciable difference. However, they’re bigger wheels and bigger wheels are in. Imagine trying to sell a 26in suspension bike to a customer with a 29in hardtail. They know that they like the bike wheel rolling feel, but not many people can make a long travel 29er that isn’t tandem length. So what’s the shopkeeper to do? How about trying this new inbetween size. It can still behave like a 26in bike, yet it’s an nth better at rolling over stuff.
And what about racers? We know what a fickle, results-driven lot they are. All it will take is for a single race to be won on 27.5in and there’ll be an overnight switch. Teams are already testing 27.5in wheels for World Cup downhills. By Fort William in June, most factory racers will have a 27.5in bike available to them to ride. On the XC side, where many riders are still on 29in hardtails, it’ll be less pronounced. Although Nino Schurter raced (very successfully) on a 27.5in Scott all season, everyone else seems happy on 29ers. However, smaller riders will make the switch, and anyone else lured by the thought of a lighter bike with lighter wheels. Scott reckons the system weight is only 5% more than 26in, whereas a 29er is something like 11% more. It doesn’t alter the fact that 26in wheels will always be the lightest option, but despite that, racers have gone bigger.
The 26in wheel seems set for overnight obscurity. At least, looking around the Sea Otter. I saw one single new 26in bike (a carbon Kona Operator DH bike). Obviously, the UK has always been a bit different. You can buy 26in steel hardtails with 5in forks here – something you’d struggle to find in the US. So the small wheel flame will be held aloft on our little island, especially with the smaller builders. However, the big companies are all, ALL, working on 27.5in bikes. Next year, or the year after at most, I doubt that a company like Scott, or even Santa Cruz or Turner, will have a 26in bike in their range. They’re certainly not going to be launching any new ones in future. Santa Cruz admits that it’s made the new 27.5in 6in travel Bronson purely due to customer demand. And I reckon that when the current Chameleon, or Nomad, sells out, then it’ll be replaced with a 27.5in version. I might be wrong – and I’m not privy to much that any of the bike companies are planning. But I really don’t think I am.
It doesn’t make 26in wheels less great. And you’re going to still be able to enjoy riding your bike as you’ve always done. The simple fact is that when you come to buy a new bike in a few years, it won’t have 26in wheels, that’s all.
By Mike Cushionbury
Tom Ritchey built his first 27.5-inch wheeled off-road frameset in 1977 (which he called a 650b) as a personal bike. It never caught on at that time but now, 36 years later, the industry and many riders have begun to create demand for the in-between wheel size. Though most brands are looking towards longer travel, a few companies with roots in cross-country racing are utilizing the wheel size for that application as well.
Built from Ritchey’s classic heat-treated, triple-butted Logic 2 steel, the P-650b has new forged, socket-style dropouts and lightweight, chainstay-mounted disc brake tabs. The rest of the bike, including its iconic red, white and blue color scheme is a throwback to the past. The 68mm bottom bracket accepts English threaded cups (no BB30 here), seatpost size is standard 27.2, and the head tube is non-tapered at 1 1/8”. Our test bike came with a rigid, Ritchey-branded full carbon fork, though the geometry is adjusted to accept a 100mm travel suspension fork.
The parts build is just as cross-country specific, with a SRAM X0 2×10 drivetrain, alloy Ritchey Vantage 2 tubeless ready rims, WCS Shield tires and a carbon seatpost and handlebar. I was impressed with the ease in which the wheels were converted to tubeless and the quality of the wheelset in general on the trail.
I’ll admit, the P-650b was a bit of shock to my overly suspended system on our rougher east coast trails. Ritchey’s steel tubing remains one of the most refined and compelling materials for cross-country riding and racing, albeit with a weight penalty compared to carbon fiber, but this is still a fully rigid race bike no matter how nice the frame feels through the rough. I would have liked the addition of a suspension fork for some added comfort but for long, west coast fire roads and smooth singletrack this build will flat out fly.
After a few weeks with the P-650b I’ve developed a bit of an attachment to its old school charm. I’ve also realized just what type of rider will more fully appreciate everything the Ritchey has to offer.
Want to read the full, long-term review? Grab a copy of Issue #171 and check it out.
Digital EPO is a website that allows you to ‘enhance’ your ride data before you share it with your friends, teammates and so on. It lets you cheat, basically.
Countless riders have gone to great lengths over the years to convince people that they’re better than they actually are. Often that involves drugs, but drugs cost money, they’re potentially dangerous, and you run the risk of a ban. If you’re going to cheat, Digital EPO is an altogether less hazardous way of doing it.
Why go to all the trouble and pain of training and actually working up a sweat? You simply need to go for a ride at whatever intensity you like, upload your ride to GarminConnect or a similar performance-tracking website, then export it out as a TCX file.
Then you upload it to the Digital EPO website, entering the amount of ‘juice’ you want to add to your ride. So, you can increase your speed, lower your heart rate, or increase the amount of climbing you’ve done. Then you can upload the file to Strava or something similar and bask in your undeserved glory.
As an exercise in Mickey taking, we reckon it’s quite funny. They say that you know you’ve made it when people start lampooning you, so we guess that means Strava has definitely hit the big time.
We can’t see it going down too well with people who take their KOMs seriously, though. In fact, we’d urge you not to get involved. Cheats never prosper – ask multi-millionaire Lance Armstrong. Oh no, hang on, that doesn’t work.
Anyway, check it out here: http://digitalepo.com/
[Apologies if you saw this months ago, by the way, but it’s a new one on us and well worth sharing].
The Womens Race was first
HOW THE RACE UNFOLDED
After an early lone attack by Anda-Jay Burgess (Sandy Wallace Cycles), the peloton was thinned to a lead group of 18 riders containing all the main protaganists.
From this an escape of five riders including Laura Trott, Emma Trott, Lizzie Armitstead and Dani King was instigated by Amy Roberts who had escaped mid-way through the eight-lap 112km race.
Small groups of chasers tried in vain to bridge the gap, but it was impossible and with the escape established, Roberts could drop back to a now complete group two minutes down and out of contention.
Ahead, Armitstead wasn’t prepared to wait for a sprint finish against fellow Olympians Laura Trott and Dani King and she attacked on the penultimate lap. This only succeeded in dropping her own teammate Emma Trott however, and if Armitstead wanted the title, she would have to defeat the team tactics of Laura Trott and Dani King.
Behind, Joanna Rowsell had attacked out of the chase group, catching and passing Emma Trott, while Amy Roberts also recovered enough to ride alone.
On the final lap, thoughts of a sprint finish went out of the window when Armitstead attacked and quickly split her rivals, gaining ten seconds on Laura Trott, while King held on grimly a further five seconds back.
Her pace continued to prove decisive, and the lead grew to around 30 seconds by the time she had her arms aloft at the finish.
1 Elizabeth Armitstead Boels Dolmans CT 3:12:40
2 Laura Trott OBE Wiggle Honda 1:03
3 Danielle King Wiggle Honda st
4 Joanna Rowsell Wiggle Honda 2:58
5 Emma Trott Boels Dolmans CT 3:20
6 Sharon Laws Lotto – Belisol 4:49
7 Claire Thomas Unattached 4:52
8 Emma Grant Matrix Fitness Racing 4:54
9 Natalie Creswick Mulebar Girl – Sigma Sport 5:33
10 Elinor Barker Wiggle Honda 7:29
HOW THE RACE UNFOLDED
The 13-lap race on a 14.2km circuit started with an early attack by Ian Stannard (Sky Procycling) and Andy Fenn (Omega Pharma Quickstep) which gave them a lead of 20 seconds to a small group and 40 seconds over the peloton.
At the end of the second lap Stannard and Fenn were still clear over a group of four chasers of David Millar, Mark Cavendish, Peter Kennaugh and Ben Swift.
By the end of lap three Stannard and Fenn had a small gap over the four chasers with a group of Ian Bibby, Kristian House, Russell Downing, Luke Rowe, Owain Doull and Scott Thwaites 1:18 down with the peloton two minutes back from the leaders.
By the end of lap four Stannard and Fenn had a gap of 30 seconds to the Cavendish group and a second group of Rowe, Simon Yates,House Thwaites and Ian Wilkinson were 1.30 back.
After six laps the Cavendish group caught the two leaders to make a leading group of six which were: Millar, Stannard, Swift, Kennaugh, Cavendish and Fenn with a chasing group of House, Yates, Rowe, Thwaites and Wilkinson a minuteback.
With five laps to go (71km) the six leaders were working together and the chasing group of five riders had fallen back to two minutes behind the leaders.
With four laps to go (56.8km) the leading group had been reduced to four after Fenn and Swift were dropped and joined the five chasers who were three minutes down.
With three laps (42.6km) to go the four leaders were still working together and Rowe had attacked the chasing group which was down to four due to Fenn pulling out.
With two laps to go (28.4km) the leading four were still working together with Luke Rowe in 5th between the leaders and the chasing four riders.
With just over a lap to go Ian Stannard punctured leaving just Kennaugh for Sky in the leading group with Cavendish and Millar.
Stannard had caught back up with the leaders going into the last lap (14.6km) after the leading trio waited for him.
On the final lap Stannard was the first to attack before being brought back and then Cavendish attacked the leaders before being brought back with 3km to go when Millar attacked.
They hit the final straight together where Cavendish beat Stannard into second and Millar took third.
1 Mark Cavendish (Omega-Pharma-Quickstep)
2 Ian Stannard (Sky Procycling)
3 David Millar (Garmin Sharp)
4 Peter Kennaugh (Sky Procycling)
5 Luke Rowe (Sky Procycling)