October 25, 2013
When you are taking a look at the 26″ vs. 650B vs. 29er mountain bike, there are several questions you need to ask yourself as you make your decision. As with all things, there is no right answer that fits all people. How you ride your bike and how you want it to react is the most important factor when making this decision…not what your friend bought and says is the best. One of the first things we evaluate when we assist you in buying a new bike is What type of Riding do you do?? With the help of this and some other information we can advise you which is best suited to you or your riding style.
For 2014 many brands have decided to go with the 650b wheelset for their Enduro/All mountain ranges. We believe that this is the best in between ground for handling of a 26" and the rolling ability of a 29er.
So how to decide?
While the argument that a 29er “adds an inch” of travel is almost true in theory, there is a big difference in 140mm forks and 160mm forks in mountain biking. The thicker stanchions and construction make a huge difference for riders looking to get into the more technical side of riding. If you are in the market for a 140mm or 160mm travel mountain bike, a 120″ travel 29er is not going to give you that same stiffness and confidence from a bike build and component standpoint. Also, as you move up in travel the bike feels bigger and when you add in the larger wheel diameter, that gets multiplied and can hold you back in slow tech and DH situations.
However, if you are looking at lighter 130mm to 140mm travel 26″ mountain bikes, the 120mm travel 29er might be a great option. It will roll over technical rocks and roots on most single track easier and you will still be able to keep the overall bike weight under 30 pounds in most cases.
The 650B platform is bringing thicker stanchion, longer travel forks to the bigger wheel market. It is almost as if 650B wheels were made specifically for “enduro” style riding.
In the short travel and hardtail mountain bike market, the 29er mountain bike has almost completely taken over. .
As mentioned before, 29er mountain bikes do take more to maneuver through tight single track. If all of your riding is filled with tight turns in trees, you will want to try out a 29er on your own local trails before making a decision. On the other side of the spectrum, if your trails are more open and rocky, the 29er wheel size can really excel and bring more speed as you can hit sections faster.
Do a lot of racing and forest road riding? A 29er is almost a no brainer in those situations. If you don’t believe me…just try to keep up with a 29er rider on a Forest roads!. This adds up with the shorter travel and hard tail mountain bike market. Even 650B bikes will be no contest for a short travel 29er in these situations. If you are looking for a bike that will do a lot of things well and you ride a wide variety of trails (assuming you can only own one bike), the 650B platform might be a great “do it all” option.
As you take a look at all of these specs, you have to look inward at your body type and riding style to see which wheel size will be the best option for you. There is no right option for everyone and the 29er wheel size is not going to take over the mountain biking industry like a lot of the Kool-Aid drinkers are trying to say. The larger wheel diameter does have some serious advantages in certain situations, but it also does not work for others.
The best thing to do is test ride all three and see which on suits you best! Most brands have decided to go with 29ers or 650B with very little still opting to offer a 26" wheels unless its Jump or Long travel or DH. Why? Imagine trying to offer the three options in all models, in all sizes, in all colours? Unfortunately something has to go. We not saying 26" is wrong I personally ride a Yeti SB-66 (26" wheel) One of the best bikes I have ever ridden and probably always will be! But isn't it great that the industry are willing to development their bikes! Wouldn't it be boring if everything stayed the same!
At the end of the day, you are the one making the investment in your mountain bike and you will be the one riding it…not everyone else that is trying to inject their opinion in your buying decision. There are a lot of riders that are going to scream that one platform is better than the other. The reality is that all riders are different and that is why we have so many options. Take an honest look at how you use your bike and what body type you are. This is the only way you will get the right wheel size for you while trying to ignore the fanbois.