29er’s no longer going to be made – The Web Monkey Speaks: Please Don’t Kill The 29er


i love my Lynskey 29er – it is the most versatile and fastest hard tail I have owned ….

this from DIRT

I’ll just cut to the chase here: If you are a product manager in the bike industry, I’m begging you, don’t kill off the 29ers in your line-up.

I understand that 26 is dead. I know that you could make the greatest mountain bike in the world and not sell a single one of them if they were equipped with “old” 26er wheels because 650b/”27.5” is now Jesus Chris’s Official wheelset of choice. I get that. I’m not really happy about it, but I’m a realist and I understand that the battle for the hearts of the masses has been won. 650b has effectively kicked sand in the face of 26 and strolled off with his girlfriend.

Fine.

But let’s not also kill off 29ers. Not yet. Please.

UNLIKELY CHAMPION
I’d never have predicted that I’d one day defend the 29-inch wheel size. For years, I was not a fan. Or, to be more accurate, I hated the things. I’d ridden 29ers since 1999 and had never been impressed by their sluggardly handling. Most of them simultaneously annoyed and bored the hell out of me—riding one was the cycling equivalent of being trapped in a supermarket and being forced to listen to James Taylor butcher Marvin Gaye’s How Sweet It is for an eternity.

Wagon wheelers rolled over rocks with greater ease, sure, but for many years, they seemed to suck the soul out of riding. and while there are plenty of other reasons to ride a bike, I’ve never really given a damn about anything other than fun. Riding for fitness? If I wanted to be healthy I’d just stop eating bacon and drinking beer.

So 29ers and I were not a match made in heaven. But about five years ago the bike industry got serious about the wheel size and a much larger group of engineers and designers began fiddling with the larger wheels; in doing so, they wound up creating legitimately fun 29ers—bikes that not only monster-trucked over obstructions, but which also possessed some of the liveliness of the 26-inch wheel. The Santa Cruz Tallboy is the model that immediately comes to mind as the first 29er that rocked my world, but there have since been plenty of others and that’s because the market matured.

It takes years of product development for any technology to come into its own. Those first suspension forks sucked by today’s standards. Early disc brakes were nothing shy of scary. But after enough years of trial and error, you wind up with products that truly deliver on their potential. Cue the image of monkeys cranking out copies of Romeo and Juliet—it’s just a matter of numbers and time.

And that’s right where we stand with 29ers. This segment of the mountain biking universe is just growing out of its overweight, acne-riddled, 8-sided-dice-rolling ugly adolescence and is coming into its own. Frame geometry is largely dialed now. Single-ring drivetrains are enabling manufacturers to shorten chainstays and accommodate big tires. You may not have liked the 29ers of the past. I understand why—I didn’t either—but have you ridden the Yeti SB95 or the Santa Cruz Tallboy or the Specialized Enduro 29er? These are just a few of the big-wheel bikes that blow conventional wisdom about 29ers right out of the water.

In short, we are on the verge of bringing 29ers into their own and, yet, I’ve heard product managers asking themselves whether they should cut 29ers out of their lines altogether and simply replace them with 650b.

Seriously? Now? We’re going to toss the 29er onto the funeral pyre right when its come into its own?

There are a few companies (Giant comes to mind) who have struggled to make their suspension designs really mesh with the largest wheels. I understand why those companies are embracing 650b, but those companies are vastly outnumbered by the ones who are considering shelving 29 because it’s suddenly no longer hip.

This bums me out to no end. I understand the logic. This is business after all. Those companies keep the lights on by selling bikes—not unicorns, rainbows or beer-soaked high fives. If no one wants to buy your 29ers, you’d be a fool to keep cranking out the big wheelers while ignoring 650b. And, yes, I like a lot of the new 650b bikes. Giant Trance Advanced SX? Brilliant. Kona Process? Fantastic. GT Force? Damned good.

So, fine, make some 650b bikes. They’re, to paraphrase Mugatu, so hot right now. But when it comes to 29ers, take a stand. Be bold. You don’t have to stock one in every model and size, but let’s not give up on the breed altogether. Twenty-niners aren’t for everybody and every style of trail, but in some applications, they have no equal. And, dammit, after all these years, we’ve finally gotten a good crop of the damn things. It’d be a shame to see them packed off to the glue factory simply because something slightly cooler just happened to show up.

Interesting article about 650b, 26 and 29ers by Chipps at Singletrack


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.

 

 

Does Size Wheelie Matter?


Wheel size – as he says ‘does it wheelie matter ‘ I am a 29er convert but other views are available …

TimFromWales

20130423-202501.jpg

There are many a subject that us mountain bikers like to debate, but nothing is a hotter topic right now than the great wheel size debate.

Well you can all sit back and relax cos Chips, legendary editor of Singletrack Magazine and bike guru has spoken up and settled the argument for us, so we needn’t give it another thought!

Or has he?

http://singletrackworld.com/blogs/2013/04/a-time-of-change/

Well did you read that? It seems conclusive that the main manufacturers are dropping the current 26″ standard in favour of 650b (27.5″ in English). Apart from a few isolated models it seems that 29″ and 650b will make up next years crop of bikes, with the 650b being the wheel size for the DH and all mountain brigade and the XC wheel of choice will likely continue to be 29″ and on a hard tail.

I have a 26″ full sus and a 29er hard…

View original post 256 more words

26 vs 29er – a racer test


Might be a bit flawed (comments below but this from the mtbr site …)

I know this story is going to open a Pandora’s Box, but in the name of mountain bike journalism I’m going to do it anyway because people need to hear the truth, not a bunch of marketing hype – which bike turned faster lap times at this year’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, a 26er or a 29er? I brought both this year to the high desert outside Tucson, Arizona to find out which bike could better handle the 16-mile lap with roughly 1,000 feet of climbing per lap. The bikes of choice were the 26-inch Ibis Tranny and a 29-inch hardtail from Bailey Bikes, a custom builder based in San Diego.

I was racing for the defending champion four-man singlespeed team, Single Minded, and set both bikes up with the exact same gear ratio of 55 gear inches (38:18 on the 26” and 34:18 on the 29”). Both bikes also had the exact same tires (Maxxis Crossmark), the same carbon Niner fork (the length of the carbon fork on the Tranny was the exact same length as a 100mm Fox 26” fork) and both weighed in at a scant 17.5 pounds. So for all intents and purposes, the only difference was wheel size.

By looking at the Old Pueblo course profile, it seems the 29er would have a distinct advantage. The opening section called “The Bitches” is an undulating fire road that favors momentum and the big wheels of a 29er, as do numerous section of slightly downhill singletrack that really can get the big wagon wheels rolling and a final, somewhat rocky descent that is much smoother to ride on a rigid 29er.

However, the 26er I was riding is no ordinary 26er, it’s the Ibis Tranny; far and away the most impressive hard tail mountain bike I’ve ever ridden in my life. It should be known that I’ve been racing on the Ibis for three years, so there is definitely a predisposition to the Tranny, but I had already ridden the Bailey enough times to get comfortable and confident on it, as the Bailey rides exceptionally well. In fact, it’s perhaps the most comfortable 29er I’ve ever ridden.

The plan was to swap laps with each bike and let the lap times tell the story. Each lap ended up being just over an hour, so if the difference in lap times was under a minute, I would consider it negligible, but if the difference in lap times was a minute or more, it was telling me something.

Celebrating its 14th running with nearly 2,000 total participants and an equal number of spectators and supporters, the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo has become the premier 24 Hour race in the United States and the perfect venue with which to conduct my 26er vs. 29er test. I elected to start the race by running the quarter-mile LeMans start, trying not to get trampled by nearly 600 crazed, lycra-clad lunatics in the process. Because of my history with the Ibis Tranny, I elected to ride it first.

 

Lap #1 – Ibis Tranny – 1:05.39

This lap was a modified lap, because it included a two minute run and we went down an opening fire road that bypassed the first section of trail that everyone would ride from lap two onward. But the difference in time between this modified lap and the standard lap was negligible. The start was as insane as I expected. I had a good run and was 10th man on the bike but quickly got spun out in the mad dash of geared riders. In the very first corner turning onto The Bitches, some guy with more fitness than skill ran out of talent in front of me. I had nowhere to go but right into his bike. Fortunately, bike and body were unscathed, but unfortunately my front tire had burped about 10 psi, leaving me with barely 20 psi in my front tire for the entire first lap. Not a good start! I quickly got back on the Tranny and settled into a solid pace. There was a wicked headwind on the backside of the course for a good 20 minutes, which meant finding a wheel was crucial. Because of my partially deflated front tire, I had to back off a bit on the downhill sections, a place where I typically make up lost ground. Definitely would have been in the 1:04s with a fully-inflated front tire.

Lap #2 – Bailey 29er – 1:07.20

The first lap on the Bailey went very well. No issues at all. The bike was extremely comfortable, and compared to the darty, zippy, somewhat unstable riding nature of the Tranny, the Bailey was smooth and composed over all rocky and technical sections. It was clearly an easier bike to ride with control. But there was a variable emerging I hadn’t factored in before the start of the race – lapped traffic. By the time I was on my second lap it was nearly 5PM and we were passing A LOT of people. I stopped counting how many people I passed at 50.

Passing on the Old Pueblo course is a dangerous proposition due to the sea of cactus covering every square inch of the race course. If you clip a corner by even six inches, you’re getting a face full of cholla. Although there were numerous sections of fire road, most of the course was single track no wider than two feet. The 20 mph headwinds on the backside of the course made passing even more difficult at times.

The big wheels of the Bailey were noticeably harder to accelerate when passing, and when you had to do it more than 50 times in a lap, the exerted effort started to add up. The big wheels also tended to understeer in corners, forcing me to use much more body English to get the Bailey through turns quickly and smoothly.

Lap #3 – Ibis Tranny – 1:08.42

It should be noted that this was the first nighttime lap, so times are naturally a little bit slower. On this lap I had eaten a sandwich a little too close to my lap time, resulting in some stomach issues. My legs felt good, but I felt as if I was riding slower than I should have. Headwinds had died down, but there was still a ton of traffic to pass. I noticed immediately once getting into the singletrack that the Tranny was far easier to accelerate and shoot past people with.

Set up as a rigid bike, the Tranny felt like a tight and dialed cruiser BMX bike on the downhills; a little twitchy, but undeniably fast with razor-sharp precision through the turns, rewarding a rider willing to push it into corners with fast exit speeds. When I came in and looked at my lap time, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was going to be slower than the time showed.

Lap #4 – Bailey 29er – 1:10.03

Although I was on my fourth lap, thanks to all the GU Energy and endurance racing wisdom my teammate Yuri Hauswald was hooking me up with, my legs felt amazing. Having eaten hours before this lap, I had no stomach issues and was ready to uncork a faster lap than lap #3. I went out of the gate charging at 1:30AM and found a race course more empty than it had been all day long. I was setting my sights on a 1:07 lap. The Bailey rolled effortlessly through The Bitches and along the flat fire road sections. The winds had completely died to nothing more than a gentle breeze and most of the slower riders had gone to bed. Things were looking good.

Although I ripped the downhills on the Bailey, I had to be very careful, as its low bottom bracket had me clipping a few rocks when trying to gently pedal through corners. I also found myself dragging a bit on the power pole climb, getting out of the saddle numerous times to try and keep the big wheels of the Bailey rolling fast. I crested the power poles climb and careened downhill to the transition zone all smiles…until I saw my lap time at a 1:10. I guess I was just getting more tired and didn’t realize it. I hadn’t yet made my decision on which bike I thought was faster, but the last lap for me was the clincher.

Lap #5 – Ibis Tranny – 1:07:04

It should be noted that this was the ‘sunrise’ lap. I started in the dark at 6AM and by about halfway through the lap I turned off my lights. But regardless, the half-lap of light was not the reason why I was three minutes faster. Additionally, this lap saw more traffic and passing than lap #4. I also did not feel as good mentally or physically at the start of this lap as I did on Lap #4, where I went out of the gates charged up and ready to uncork one.

Lap #5 started with less mental motivation. I was slower through The Bitches, but once I got on the single track and descended past the whiskey tree, things started to click. The Tranny was talking to me. It just felt right. When I got to my split point two-thirds through the lap and saw I was two minutes ahead of my last lap split, I charged as hard as I could up the power line single track and bombed the downhill back to the transition zone. I couldn’t believe I had just turned a three-minute faster lap. I don’t think my teammates believed it either.

Lap Summary

Lap #1 – Ibis Tranny – 1:05.39
Lap #2 – Bailey 29er – 1:07.20
Lap #3 – Ibis Tranny – 1:08.42
Lap #4 – Bailey 29er – 1:10.03
Lap #5 – Ibis Tranny – 1:07:04

Conclusion

Let me start by saying both bikes are exceptional machines. They’re both insanely light, they both handle extremely well and they’re both super comfortable and easy to get accustomed to. You can call me biased, you can say my analysis is flawed, but at least for me, the Ibis Tranny was clearly the faster bike on the 24 Hours course. What it really came down to was the exerted effort of having to pass dozens of people per lap. The Bailey clearly required more energy to do this, and because both bikes were set up with the exact same gearing, there was no masking the acceleration deficiencies of a 29er. You can hide these deficiencies with gears and derailleurs, but when you got only one gear, immediate acceleration will always bend in favor of the 26er.

Does a 29er roll in a straight downhill line faster? Sure. Of course it does. But how many mountain bike races do you do where the downhill is perfectly straight? Although the Tranny doesn’t roll as fast as the Bailey, the Tranny accelerates so fast that within three pedal strokes you’re completely back up to the speed of a 29er.

People have told me I’m faster on the Tranny because I’m used to it, and that if I just ride a 29er for a month or two and get accustomed to it, I’ll go faster. What logic is that? If the 29er was truly a better bike, I should have seen immediate improvements in lap times, not gradual improvement over the course of a month or two. I’m not saying that the 29er is a bunch of marketing hype. The sub-1000 gram Bailey 29er is an incredible machine, and at a $1500 retail price (You can buy it for $1250 on their website), it’s among the best performance values on the market today with the best OEM warranty in the industry (features a two-year, no-fault 100% repair or replacement).

But what I am saying is that a well designed bike is fast regardless of what size wheels it has. I understand why people like 29ers; they’re comfortable, they’re smooth, they’re easier to ride fast, especially over rocky terrain. But if you’re looking for an all-out speed machine that absolutely shreds downhills and accelerates like an arrow from a crossbow uphill, I’ve yet to find a bike that’s better than the Ibis Tranny. The 26er is not dead, it just smells funny.

NOW SOME COMMENTS I LIKED

March 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Great write up. I just did a little statistical analysis where I compared the three Ibis 26″ times to the two Bailey 29″ times. Statistically there is no difference between the two bikes. You would need many more runs to actually tell if they were different with times this close. The best thing you can say at this point is they are not different, at least with that data. This in itself is interesting…you are saying that the 29 does not give a clear advantage. Warning: the test has very low statistical ‘power’ with this sample size, and no ‘pairing’ of laps was done.

I would say energy used on previous laps, and amount of rest between laps as well as day and night time laps had more to do with time differences than wheel size.

Take lap 4 and 5 for instance. Lap 4 started at 1:30am in the dark verses 6:00am on the 5th lap. Everyone is slower in the dark, and given your lap time, you would have finished your lap at 2:40am, giving yourself 3:20 of rest and refuel before you started your next lap.

These difference alone can skew your results.

Poorly run studies are not helping anyone make the right choice.

Ride what makes you happy regardless of wheel size.

Interesting read. The only two things I would point out is that the improvement you experienced with the 26 is not quite as clear as the conclusion states. The second lap was faster than the third. And the second point is that one problem with a “scientific study” in any case that involves humans is the the human involvement. The human variable is one of the most difficult to account for in any scientific study. We tend to screw everything up. Also, were temperatures, wind conditions, light, other riders, tire, pressure, energy use, etc all identical in every lap? The variables that can get involved can boggle the mind. This is one big reason why environmentally controlled rooms and robotics are used so much in data collection. However, I don’t think it’s wrong at all to say that for you the 26 worked better for you in this case. Emotional conclusions can have a big effect on performance in humans (Placebo’s sometimes work for a reason). Ride whatever you feel most awesome with and you will probably perform the best. Hard to really go wrong with either bike choice you had handy that weekend.

 

 

Is 650b one winning step closer to being adopted …


The recent UCI XC world Cup stage win has really opened the debate about 650b wheels again …. So why would you care about 650B mountain bikes? Well, there has been a lot of debate about wheel size in the mountain bike industry. The basic premise of the wheel size debate is that we came to our current standard of the 26″ wheel somewhat arbitrarily. The standard of the 26″ wheel size was established long before mountain bikes came around. So nobody can say that 26″ wheels are and always will be the perfect size for mountain bikes.

If this all sounds familiar, it should. This is the same argument the 29″ wheel crowd has been using for years.

So you might wonder why we don’t actually know what wheel size we should be using. Well, in most cases it comes down to cost. It is very expensive to make new tooling for different size tires and wheels, so you can’t just try anything out whenever you want.

Then there is the establishment issue. Nearly all of the advancements in mountain bike geometry and technology have been based on 26″ wheels. If you just change the wheel size, nothing says that all of the old established standards with 26″ wheels will still work. As with most engineering problems, there are both positives and negatives to almost every option. So, new design optimization may need to take place for each wheel size.

So why 650B? The people behind the 650B movement claim that with 650B tires you get all of the same advantages of the 29″ movement (lower rolling resistance, better traction, smoother ride, etc.) with less of the disadvantages (geometry limitations, toe clearance issues, higher center of gravity, suspension travel limitations).

Much of this may be true, but as I always say, you should get out on a bike and see for yourself if it works for you.

One cool thing about these 650B wheels is that some fork manufacturers are now giving them the OK to run in their standard 26″ forks. This will take the 650B movement a long ways down the road to longer travel without other sacrifices.

I find the idea of looking into different wheel sizes appealing, but I think it may be a long time, if ever, before we as an industry can say what wheel size is best for any type of riding and any type of rider.

If we take the arguments of both the 650B and 29″ movements to extremes, we will end up with custom sized wheels, tires, and frames for each and every rider.

I think in the end here, the bike industry will learn some lessons from all of this and we may end up with some better options for different sized riders and different types of riding, but don’t expect wheels to go through a rapid evolution. There is way too much invested in the 26″ wheel for it to go away anytime soon.

wheels vs rock

From his interview – this answer sums up my belief in this topic …

Are there courses that the 29er is good for still?

It depends on your riding style and how tall you are. I would say the most XC riders they are between 170-180 cm, and at that height the 29er is not the best size.  You are more between the wheels and not on the wheels. For all those riders 650B is the best choice. Also for acceleration you feel it is lighter you don’t have a heavy fork, everything is lighter so in my eyes for XC it is the perfect size 650B. 29er makes sense for tall racers, or if they are not riding that aggressive. I talked to a lot of other riders that are not riding Scott and they said that they want to have from their bike makers the 650B. Im sure in 2 years in the world cup, there will be more 650B bikes than 26″ and 29er.

via BikeMagic

Lat month at the start of the UCI World Cup, held in South Africa, with Swiss rider Nino Schurter opening up his account with a stunning victory. While Nino was sipping champagne after the race, the internet was alive with the news that he had ridden to victory on a mountain bike with 650b wheels.

2012 is threatening to mark the biggest upheaval in the development of the mountain bike since, and the debate is all about wheel size. From the beginning, despite a few brief flirtations, the mountain biking industry settled on 26in wheels, and in the couple of decades since we’ve been blissfully enjoying 26in mountain bikes. In recent years the subject of the best wheel size for mountain biking has risen to the top of the agenda.

Why are we even on 26in wheels in the first place? The reason the Repack riders used 26in wheels back in the 70s and not the more common 700c road wheels around was down to one simple thing: tyre choice. There simply weren’t suitable tyres for off-roading in the larger size. Cruiser bicycle manufacturer Schwinn however produced bikes using 26in wheels, which came shod with fatter tyres, much more suitable for blasting down the tracks those long haired guys were racing. In those early years mountain biking moved swiftly, and there was very little discussion about wheel size. 26in was simply adopted as it proved to work reasonably well. 30 years later and that debate is now raging.

In the years since the first mass produced mountain bikes, there’s been some who have held firm that 26in isn’t the best for mountain biking. 650B is claimed in some quarters to be the best size for mountain biking. It has long since been the solve resolve of French cycle tourists, but if we go back to 1951 we discover that a young group of cyclists, the Velo Cross Club Parisien (VCCP) could claim to have invented mountain biking. Only they never realised it.

They adapted their 650b touring bikes for off-road use  – there’s even YouTube footage of those early cyclists in action. Suspension forks were borrowed from mopeds and improved brakes and gearing were the main changes that allowed these pioneering cyclists to embrace the essence of mountain biking that we take for granted today. If this movement had gathered a little more momentum who knows how the sport might have developed. It could have been very different. Maybe we would all be riding around on 650b mountain bikes already?

Instead the industry continued with26in. Then, along came the rise of the 29in wheel size, in recent years we’ve seen an explosion of 29er bikes. 2012 really does seem to be the year of the 29er.  Gary Fisher pushed the concept of 29in wheels, larger at 622mm diameter than the 559mm of 26in wheels and 584mm of 650b.

The first manufacturer to attempt to bring a 29er to market was Bianchi in 1989, when it brought out a bike with 700c wheels and components like flat bars, thumb shifters and a triple chainset that we would recognise today as standard equipment. It didn’t catch on. By 1995 it was quietly dropped from the Italian company’s range. Gary Fisher, an early adopter and pivotal to the rise of 29ers, brought out his first big wheels bike in 2002.

Now, with the support of most US brands, 29ers are going global. European brands have been forced to follow suit, with 29ers featuring in the catalogues of most medium to large size companies. They’re creeping into more bike shops and more bike sheds and garages across the country, and more people are considering a possible purchase.

So 29ers are the future? Perhaps not, as a 650b mountain bike (a Scott Scale) has just gone and won the first round of the UCI World Cup. This sent shock waves through social media networks like Twitter over the weekend as thousands visibly recoiled in disbelief. Is the future now 650b?

Does 650b offer the best of both world?  That’s the question on many people’s lips. The handling could feasibly feel more akin to a 26in (as it’s only marginally better) but with some of the highlighted benefits of 29ers; increased rolling speed, momentum, smoother and more stable ride over rough terrain, more traction. Another advantage of the 650b wheel is the more vertically challenged people will be better able to get a good fit – we’ve seen some drastic solutions taken by sponsored riders forced to ride 29ers to get the handlebars low enough to replicate a fit they happily achieved on their previous 26in bikes. And we know how racers like to slam their handlebars and get as low as possible.

That’s largely a reason  Nino is said to have chosen a 650b from a choice of three wheel sizes. And of course there’s the weight advantage, there’s no getting away from the fact smaller wheels are lighter.

What does it mean for mountain biking though? Is there space for three wheel sizes, is the industry really wanting to offer the huge range of bikes that the three sizes would clearly need?

And do the public have the appetite for three wheel sizes? Is the industry gambling with people’s patience and money? Or is this leading us to have a debate about the size of our wheels that we’ve never properly had in our young sport.

What do you think?

PS

If you liked the video at the top here is the longer version – he seems to make absolon pay every time in the technical rock garden … greater skills …. bigger wheels …. who knows