Video: The Ultimate Wheel Size Test

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Words Traharn Chidley
Photos Dan Wyre Photography

Time in the biking world has most certainly moved on; it’s not like the ’90s where one bike did all (whether it was up to it or not). My Dad has got some epic home videos of a cross country race taking part in the early ’90s in the local woods of Eastridge, It is pure carnage. These bikes are what I’d class as a road bike: fully rigid, skinny tyres, narrow bars, stuck up seat; and they’re basically attacking burly downhill tracks, it’s gnarly! I panic if I’m out riding and I can’t get my seat down, there just wasn’t that luxury back in the day, yet no one complained because they didn’t know any better.

Soho Bikes London

Is now an ideal time to be introduced to the sport? As a competitor it definitely seems to be a great time to thrive within the sport, it is rapidly growing with more and more bike brands revealing themselves, upping the game, bringing out new elements no one had thought of, or really mastering the genius idea of the dropper seat post (game changer).

But as a new rider, can all these options be overwhelming, too complex, off-putting? I guess it can depend on who sources the information, who encourages you, who you ride with. I try to avoid riding with bike snobs (there’s just no need). Yes it’s fantastic to have the next best model or gadget, but mountain biking is not cheap and we can’t all afford these fancy luxuries. It wasn’t till last year when I was provided with I bike, from Bird Cycleworks, for the race season that I finally experienced the dropper seat post, and yes, of course, it blew my mind and changed the game. Yet I managed just fine before, I had no idea what I was missing out on when I had my trusty allen key to lower my seat. The only thing I noticed, was getting left behind whilst everyone else lowered their seats with a push of a button.

With so many bike sizes and options out there we need riders, good riders, epic riders to test out these options, to give the rest of us a better understanding of what we need for what type of riding we do.

Soho Bikes Dan Wyre

This is what Soho Bikes TV did a few weeks ago… I was dying to reveal more and that time has come.

The day consisted of:

  • “50 shades of Black” – 1 burly track at Bike Park Wales
  • 19 elite riders
  • 4 different types of bikes:
  • Classic Downhill Bike
  • 27.5 Trail Bike
  • 27.5+ Trail Bike
  • 29er

Each rider tested at least 2 of these bikes against the clock, using Chris Roberts Action Sports Timing system; to finally see if a trail bike can shred just as hard as a downhill bike.

Soho Bikes Dan Wyre

Some of the top riders testing wheel sizes were:

Steve Peat, Tracy Moseley, Rob Warner, Rowan Sorrell, Shucksmith brothers, Chris Porter, Will Soffe, Tahnee Seagrave, Katy Curd

Soho Bikes Dan Wyre Steve Peat

It’s no surprise that Steve Peat had the fastest time of the day on his Santa Cruz V10, with a time of 2.57.24, but what was surprising is that he was full 15 seconds slower on his 27.5 Bronson trail bike with a 3.12.31.

Most of the riders who compete at World Cup Downhill races were 6-15 seconds faster on their DH bike compared to their 27.5.

However, to mix things up a bit; Rowan Sorrell did a 03.05.19 on his DH bike and a 03.03.61 on his 27.5 Orange Five trail bike; nearly 2 seconds up on the Five!

Soho Bikes Dan Wyre Photography

To mix things up even more, Will Soffe, who works at Bike Park Wales and helped build the track knowing it like the back of his hand, (he even walked the track the night before just to be sure he knew exactly where he was going) put in a time of 03.07.60 on is Trek Session DH bike, but did a 03.07.88 on his Trek Slash 27.5 Trail bike, just 00.00.22 difference!

Will Soffe also put in a timed run on a Trek 29er with a time of 03.08.09 only one second slower, however, during the interview we discovered that this was the first time Will had ever ridden a 29er.

Surprisingly a lot of people who rode a 29er felt faster, and if they weren’t it’s because it was their first time behind the wheels.

Soho Bikes Dan Wyre Photography
Josh Lewis was fastest on his Santa Cruz V10 with a time of 03.17.65 and a much slower time on his Bronson 27.5 trail bike with a 03.29.54, however, he was only 2 seconds slower than his DH run on his Santa Cruz 29er with a 03.19.83

Tracy Moseley did a 03.24.79 on her Trek Remedy 29er and a 03.27.47 on her Trek Remedy 27.5.

Tracy Moseley Soho Bikes Dan Wyre Photography

Sam Shucksmith was also quicker on his 29er compared to his 27.5. With a time of 03.22.62 on his Whyte T-130 and a faster time of 03.18.72 on his Whyte T-129.

Soho Bikes Dan Wyre Photography

Toby Pantling managed to test all trail sizes 27.5/27+/29er and he actually came up top on a 27+ with a time of 03.38.81. The 27.5 did a 03.44.65 and the 29er did a 03.42.02.

So to conclude this testing, people who tried the 27+ felt it would be faster, but the tyres aren’t reliable enough yet, most people who rode one punctured. So there’s work to be done there, but might be on to something. Other than that the times were so different it really depended on each rider and what they’re used to.

Soho Bikes Dan Wyre Photography

After hearing the results I’d love to try a 29er for Enduro racing, they seem faster, stable yet still nimble.

Tracy Moseley is set with her Trek Remedy 29er, and Steve Peat is set with his Santa Cruz V10, Phil Shucksmith put in a faster time on his 27.5 but believes the 27+ is faster; if it doesn’t puncture.

So there we have it, helpful?.. Maybe not. I believe it is; each rider has their own style and preference, you may be racing DH, XC, Enduro or just racing against Strava. Get out to your local store and try out some demo bikes to see which feels most comfortable, fastest, or simply the most fun.

Soho Bikes Dan Wyre Photography

And now, here’s the video evidence of the day.

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