‘ ‘The Wheel size Dilemma ”
What is the right wheel size for me ?
This is the biggest change in Mountain Biking recently.
For years it’s just be 26 ” and 24” , then the 29 ” was introduced which really is 700c the same diameter rim that has and is still most popular with road race style bikes and hybrids.
The 700c rims have been made a bit wider and are now called 29’s . The missing ingredient was a large off road style of tire to put on these big rims to create the 29er rage that is here to stay.
In doing so riders came to realize that a bigger diameter wheel gives more tread on the ground thus more traction to climb and corner .
A larger diameter wheel also makes bumps feel smaller and in the case of going from 26 to 29 its very noticeable.
For instance if you were to hit a 8” curb head on with a 26 then do the same with a 29 it feels like there is a 12” plank of wood in front of the curb giving you a ramp effect.
The rolling power of a 29 ” wheel is very noticeable and is a joy when going straight on any bumpy trail, I have and will continue to say they saved the sales of hard tail bikes.
Arizona is so rocky I have to say hands down if you are going to purchase a hard tail mtn bike buy a 29er . It kind of gives you the effect of having a inch and a half of suspension travel, mind you it doesn’t do much for vibration though compared to a full suspension bike.
Yes the wheels look BIG ! If you ride a smaller frame they can look a bit out of proportion compared to a 26 ”.
With pro ‘s there can be a few con’s , in the case of the 29ers yes there are a few . Due to the larger wheel the rear end of the bike has to be longer aka the chain stay length.
The length of the chain stays is more sensitive than the length of the front triangle of a bicycle as to how it effects the handling and nimbleness of the bike.
Short chainstays creates a nimble quick handling bike a longer chain stay slows this handling down so you will put more effort into tight turns and have to turn the handle bars a bit farther to turn sharply.
The larger 29” wheel also makes it a bit more challenging to get lift off small jumps as the big wheel eats the lip effect like it’s a small bump so you will have to pull up with more force to get the bike off the ground.
I always say to jump a larger wheel you need a bigger jump same goes with a bike that has allot of suspension travel .
The bike industry is trying to make the 29ers handle as good as they can, with neat tricks like curving the seatpost tubes of the frame forward in order to be able to bring the rear wheel farther forward
This helps for sure however, in most but not all cases the seat tube of the bike ends up much more laid back causing the distance between the seat and handlebars to increase as you put the seat up this can make the size window smaller when sizing someone on a bike and it also increases the leverage of lifting the front of the bike up when your sitting on the saddle and reduces weight on the front tire.
This effect is much more noticeable when on a 26” wheel bike than a 29”.
The new 2 spd front dérailleurs have a shorter cage and do not need to shift to a small 3rd ring at the crankset this extra clearance also helps to allow the 29” wheel to come farther forward on frames with curved seat tubes improving nimble handling .
As for the strength of 29” wheels I am impressed ,they hold up much better than I anticipated .
Since there is more tire weight with 29s I suggest running light tubes and tires or tubeless tires to keep the centrifugal resistance down.
Running Thorn resistance tubes in a 29er is very heavy and slows down your roll and ability to propel the bike .
So here we go again with another new wheel size the 27.5 or aka the 650b . This is also a existing rim diameter from the road bikes called a 650c commonly used on time trial bikes ( sprint road bikes ) . It’s a bit smaller than the 700c / 29” but larger than 26” so it sites right in the middle of 26” and 29 ”.
Again the rims are a bit wider and off road tires were created to give us the 27.5 /650b out of the existing 650c size . Why you ask ? In a attempt to give the big wheel feel with out sacrificing the handling of a 26”.
The 27.5 is a happy medium so to speak , you do notice the big wheel roll but retain close to the handling of a 26” as a matter of fact many 26” wheel bikes can convert to 27.5 wheels with out them rubbing the frame or forks .
The 650b will give you more nimbleness, more lift for small jumps and retains very closely the geometry of the 26” wheel bikes.
Decisions decisions we all say in the bike world these day’s yes it can be challenging to decide and confusing to boot . It kind of reminds me of trying to choose what length ski’s to buy, short hot dog fun freestyle ski’s or long high speed ski’s ?
Being that ski’s weren’t too expensive I bought both.
Bikes on the other hand can get a bit pricey so most of us have one and have to make the wheel choice that we feel will best suit our needs or wants .
This year there are quite a few hard tail models and soft tail models to choose from with the 650b wheel size even though there new on the market .
As for 29ers and 26ers there of course are many to choose from fitting most people budgets .
I hope you have found this information to be helpful in choosing your wheel size and I wish you well in your choice made .
All my best to you . Marc Hanses