Monday Morning Debrief 14

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Thoughts from last week’s bike rides.

Let’s just start with a disclaimer here; performance enhancing drugs in sport are bad m’kay? But ol’Lance was right about one thing. It’s not about the bike.

Not sure if 29er, 650b, or 26er

Or rather it’s not about the wheel size. Of the bike it’s not about. Clear?

There’s been a lot of industry buzz about wheel size of late, the trade shows are awash with it and that in turn has translated into forum static and white noise about the same. Endless conversations abound. Is the 26″ wheel dead? Will 29ers now prove to be an evolutionary dead end? Is 650b the one true way? Which way is the future? Which is fastest? Which rolls best? Which will be ‘better’ for downhill/enduro/cross country/twisty singletrack. Blah, blah, blah.

Although I got to try a lot of 29ers that came through the office I was a late adopter. Not through some neo luddite resistance to change but rather because the early offerings failed to ignite even the slightest spark of excitement when I rode them. They seemed to be for other people, and other peoples riding. Great if you wanted to cover distance on some neutral handling bike of blandness, not so good if you wanted something more involving that sucked up technical singletrack and spat it out. But things change , designs move on and along came a better designed set of big wheeled bikes that felt good to ride so I bought in. Enter the Highball.

Got wood?

And just as 29er design and geometry are sorted, the arguments are fading and we’re all coming to terms with the choice of two wheel sizes along comes another standard to start it off all over again. Does the industry not realise that mountain bikers are resistant to change? ;o)

I like the thought of 650b, I like the fact there are people out there willing to experiment with something new in case it leads to progression rather than holding on to 26″ “because that’s what it’s always been”. Change can be good, you may even prefer it,it may change your riding for the better but with no one forcing you to buy into any new standard what’s the gripe?

A 650b bike may be in my future, if there’s a bike that grabs my interest. If not I’ll stick with what I’m riding now. But I’ll be keeping an open mind to any developments because I’m sure one day I’ll try something that gives that little kick of excitement again.

It's all about the ride.

The moral of this story I guess is ride what you like, what suits you and your riding style, what fires you up to hit the trails. That’s what matters. A well designed bike is just that, a well designed bike, regardless of wheel size.

It’s not about the bike, it’s about the ride.

I’ll be packing 650b inner tubes though, they should cover every eventuality on group rides…

Comments (5)

  1. My only concern at the moment is future proofing. I have never had the money or the real interest to buy a new bike every year. When I buy a bike I want it to last and to be serviceable. Obviously 90% of the bikes are interchangeable (accurate %age not calculated) irrespective of wheel size. My concern is rims/tyres/tubes.

    I had one of the first batch of Inbred 29ers (for all of three weeks, it seems thieving scumbags were/are early adopters of anything new). At the time there was a small but reasonable choice of tyres. The problem then was tubes. Now obviously I could have gone tubeless (if I’d had the bike long enough) but I just aren’t interested in it looks too much hassle but that’s my opinion.

    My concern now is – how long will it be possible to get Tyres/Tubes and Rims in 26/650b/29? What is supply for 650b like at them moment? If it starts to take off and the 29er looses popularity will supplies dry up?

    Personally if I was in the market for a new MTB I’d be happily considering 650b as well as 29er. For my riding I really think that 26er is less applicable though I wouldn’t balk at going that way if I tested one and it seemed to do what I want.

    I suppose I am just paranoid. I have no problem with progress I just wonder how often it is done in an effort to find a better mousetrap or whether it is a marketing thing to try to sell the latest?

  2. All the manufacturers of tyres I’ve spoken to have said that they’re keen to keep making all sizes. After all, it’s the making of the moulds for new sizes that’s the expensive bit. And there’ll always be a large legacy of 26in (and 29in) wheels. 29er wheels are appearing on disc ‘cross bikes and 700C rims aren’t going anywhere. The UK too is always a bit different, keeping 26in steel hardtails alive when most of the world has forgotten them… And, seeing as you can still get new bits for your ’60s Volkswagen Beetle, I think you’ll be OK.

  3. “The moral of this story I guess is ride what you like, what suits you and your riding style.”

    This is just it – the problem I see is that unfortunately it will soon be a case of “you’ll ride what the marketing department tells you to ride”. My take with different wheel sizes is that the industry has run out of ideas, so it’s a case of change something for chages sake, so it means a whole new raft of frames, components, etc., just to keep themselves alive. What’s wrong with 26″ wheels anyway? We’ve been using them for 30 years or more with no issues, why change now all of a sudden? The Specializeds, Treks and Cannondales of this world lead the charge, and sadly the small guys get swept up in it whether they like it or not – it’s a case of kill or be killed. Yes, the 26″ wheel is probably safe for now, but I can set it getting more and more marginalised for no good reason other than what the men in suits at head office tell us.

  4. It’s a case of ‘if it makes you smile then do it’.
    Standard 26″ has always made me smile and maybe if i had the means to try a different size then maybe that would change.
    I tried a friends 29er once and i just thought it felt wrong- but i’d like to try a 650….

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