Does Size Wheelie Matter?


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?

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 tail ( and here are my thoughts:

1. The 26″ bike is light and bouncy. It’s my first full sus and I haven’t ridden many others but it does the job for me.
2. The 29er is quick. It’s great for long distances, climbing and descending. Turning is a bigger deal and really technical trail obstacles specifically climbs are hard work. This maybe more due to it being a hard tail but I find it harder to hop over stuff. It’s harder to bounce a hard tail over roots and rocks.
3. So, I can totally understand the desire for a size in between.

29ers have become a more common site over the last year or so and it’s no doubt that rider feedback have driven the manufacturers to a similar conclusion to mine, the best of both worlds, a compromise – call it what you like.

I haven’t ridden a full sus 29er, I am sure I would like it but I can’t help but feel that the wheel size would be too big for my favoured type of riding – tight twisty technical descents – and for my mown physical size. What I can say for a fact is that I was considering a new full sus bike this year from my LBS, but I was looking for an ex demo and the only demo bikes they have are 29ers… Now I’m thinking that next year will be the year of the 650b for me…

Question is where and when can I test one?

7 thoughts on “Does Size Wheelie Matter?

  1. I see we are in the same dilema, without wads of cash to throw around buying up a heap of bikes its hard to know which way to invest. I get a new bike every 4-5 years so I want to know its going to what I am after. 26in was the only real option for me last time now I have 26, 27.5 and 29 to chose from! 27.5 seems a safe middle bet for me if the range of bikes and makers increases. Good luck with your decision I will watch and see what happens.

  2. The eternal topic =) I have not tried 27.5 but it feel like difference would be minimal against 26?
    29 is a another story.I totally agree that is the way to go on xc.

  3. I just switched from full rigid 26″ to hardtail 29er and love the big wheels. While it isn’t as responsive on tight courses (esp uphill like you say), it’s awesome for the kind of riding I do in adventure racing 🙂

  4. I’m a real 29er fan. I recognize there’s nothing wrong with a 26″ bike, but for me, being a big guy, the 29er just feels better for me than a 26. It’s a bit…more confidence inspiring. The only 26″ (ok, it’s 650) bike I own is my road bike. See how backwards I am? Not even a 700c. I can’t buy tires for it off the shelf at my LBS. But I digress.

    A friend of mine recently had the mechanic who built my Pacenti 29er wheels for my SS build him a set of 27.5’s for his Cannondale FS bike. Originally a 26″ bike, the lefty fork has more than enough room for the larger wheel, and although the rear is a little tight, you have to look carefully to figure out it isn’t stock. His comments? The only think he didn’t like about the bike before was the BB height, but he hasn’t had a single pedal strike since switching over. And, I can attest to the fact that he’s faster on that bike than he used to be.

    My thoughts on the wheel size debate? Find what you like, and ride it. If you can’t find something you like, find whatever you can, and ride it until you get over it. 🙂

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