29ers. Real world v 26??

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  • 29ers. Real world v 26??
  • benz
    Member

    Folks,

    A good friend still proudly rides his 2012 26″ wheeled Cannondale RZ 120mm travel FS bike, but is curious about how things have moved on. His concern is that bikes appear to gained weight and hence may not be so enjoyable.

    Most of our group have binned 26ers and now ride 29ers in various guises – hardtail 120mm to FS 160mm.

    Having tried the 26″ again, the 29er just felt quicker, easier and more capable.

    I know that many things impact, but are folks happy to probably have a slight weight penalty for what feels like more capability?

    mildred
    Member

    There doesn’t have to be any weight penalty as far as I can see – all depends on the type of riding & bike chosen. Around the 30lb Mark has always been my target weight for a trail bike, though I’ve had lighter & heavier and the weight never really effected my enjoyment.

    I certainly think bikes are more capable these days for a given travel etc. For example, my current Whyte S150s is about 34lb whereas my old 26” Norco A-Line was around 50lb. The Whyte is just more capable in any situation, even downhill.

    Premier Icon nedrapier
    Subscriber

    There doesn’t have to be any weight penalty as far as I can see

    eh?

    identical bikes, bar wheelsize: the 29er will have more rubber, more rim, more fork, more spoke, more frame, more sealant, more rim tape! More weight – there absolutely has to be!

    non-identical bikes, sure, you’ve got options.

    Personally I think that MTB weight, or lack thereof is oversold. I think it’s a bit of a leftover from the early days when everything was fundamentally the same and weight was a useful differentiator for the marketing since there wasn’t much in the way of tech and materials and geometry and wheel size to use at the time.

    Sure, it’s a factor, but how much of a priority it needs to be depends on what kind of rider your mate is/thinks he is.

    I chose my bikes/kit based on the ride characteristics I prefer. For me, that’s 29er with chunky rubber. I acknowledge and accept that bigger wheels and bigger, chunkier tyres will weigh more. However, I’m neither lightweight or a racing snake, so packing a kilo or two extra, in the scheme of things, is less important to me than suspension performance and durability.

    Since everyone is different, I expect there are hundreds of different iterations of my thought process with differing priorities.

    Your mate should do some demo rides.

    Premier Icon tomhoward
    Subscriber

    He needs to demo a couple of new bikes, they will be night and day better than what he has. Some of this will be due to bigger wheels. Unless he is riding up cliffs, he will barely notice the minimal extra weight.

    Premier Icon Yak
    Subscriber

    Yes, more capability far outweighs gains in weight, even in lighter xc uses. Lend him your bike (or get a demo if there isn’t a fit) for a ride and see what he thinks.

    Premier Icon oldnpastit
    Subscriber

    29ers are just way faster.

    Enter a local XC race and count up the number of 26″ bikes vs 29″ bikes.

    BruceWee
    Member

    Older 26″ bikes have to be ridden, ie, you have to throw your weight about, read the trail, pick the bike up and put it on a different line, etc.

    You still have to do that on modern bikes but to a lesser extent. Some might even say it makes previously enjoyable trails boring.

    If your friend feels like his current bike is a good match for the trails he is riding I would stick with what he has. If he feels like he would rather have the trails smoothed out, have a more stable platform, and a generally easier ride then he should look for a more modern bike.

    hols2
    Member

    My 29er is about 15 or 20 seconds faster than my 26er. But my 27.5er is about 20 seconds faster again. But it depends on a lot of things, so I’m not really sure.

    Premier Icon Yak
    Subscriber

    ^ True, but I also reckon trails have progressed too in line with bikes. (trail-pixie-woodland stuff anyway).

    kerley
    Member

    If the only question is over what is most enjoyable then they would need to test a few. The weight may not make is less enjoyable but other factors might.
    I don’t ride where I need a very capable bike and I didn’t like 29 inch wheels. They felt very big on first ride and didn’t really get much better. Yes they are faster but I am riding for fun.
    (My preferences may be skewed by riding a LOT of BMX from age 10 – 18 and still riding one occasionally until I was 45!)

    whitestone
    Member

    I’ve a Cotic Solaris (MK1) and my wife has a Cotic Soul, specs are pretty much identical – same make and model of wheels and tyres, brakes, drivetrain, etc. The only real difference is that her Soul is 2x whereas my Solaris is 1x. She also has a women’s specific saddle but that’s about the limit of the differences. So we’re pretty much comparing like with like.

    My Solaris is 12.5kg, her Soul is 12kg.

    As above, changes in geometry, etc. will be far more apparent than a weight gain of 500g.

    philjunior
    Member

    I found I was descending as fast on a 140mm 29er HT as I was on a 180/150mm FS 26er (with the exception that I got punctures more on rocky stuff on the HT).

    There was about 10 years between the age of them (2006 vs 2016 IIRC).

    I’ve got a FS 29er as well now.

    (Don’t find either any less fun to ride, both are faster along and up than the old 26er by a large margin!)

    tomparkin
    Member

    Wot @Scienceofficer said.

    I don’t personally find weight per-se makes much difference. I notice the weight difference between my 15kg 26er FS bike and my 11kg 27.5 HT when I have to lift them over a fence. Otherwise, not so much. The difference the weight makes is totally overshadowed by the much more significant differences in geometry and suspension.

    Premier Icon cookeaa
    Subscriber

    His concern is that bikes appear to gained weight and hence may not be so enjoyable.

    Weight isn’t really the be-all end-all though is it… +/- a kg or two can be worth it for the right level of comfort or handling characteristics, which can save you as much physical effort/fatigue as having a really, really light bike…
    If light weight was the only thing worth worrying about, everyone would be riding rigid, carbon, SS 24″ cruisers today…

    I chopped in a 26er HT for a 29er HT a couple of years ago, and last year chopped the HT in for a Bouncy 29er, each swap was incrementally “better” (IMO).
    I found I was getting into more trouble (going into rough stuff a bit quicker) on the 29er HT, and felt I needed a bit more suspension to even up the odds again (having previously sworn off buying another FS bike)…

    To me 29″ wheels seem to carry speed and roll that little bit easier. The weight difference is negligible in real life.

    The one thing I do notice is under braking, there’s that little bit more inertia in the wheels so the trade off for carrying speed better, is a little more effort/distance/control (or better brakes) needed to scrub it, but that’s marginal.

    Of course you don’t say what sort of riding you and your buddys are doing, general purpose arsing about, DH, covering big distances, XC racing? For most disciplines I’d say 29ers now suit as well as if not better than a 26er or 27.5er, they’ve come on a bit in recent years…

    Blackflag
    Member

    My go to FS trail bike used to be a Yeti 575 26r which weighed around 28 – 29 lbs. I’m currently on a SC Hightower 29r which weighs around 28 – 29 lbs. Both similar travel (both had Fox 36s on).

    Worlds apart in terms of enjoyment, the SC is far better to ride than the Yeti. As other has said, things have moved on, its not just the weight that makes a good, fun, bike.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Anecdote:

    I used to have a bling Kona Heihei from 2007, it had 80mm travel both ends, super light wheels and it was 21.5lbs. An absolute rocket, but I didn’t ride it much – just races originally. In about 2015 I got a rigid 29er that was about 26lbs so significantly heavier. As part of a general training loop I started using a rocky local climb to test myself, about 5 mins worth. Loose sandstone rocks mostly, not super steep but fairly hard going. One dry day I thought I’d bring the Kona out, thinking because it was so light I’d smash my times on this super light XC bike. I knocked a few seconds off some of the other climbs but on this rocky one I couldn’t even complete it – it took three goes to get up the first section. Every time I hit a rock the bike practically stopped. So a 29er rigid steel ‘adventure’ type bike outperformed a super light XC race whippet.

    I then swapped the Heihei for a Trek Superfly FS in 29. It is 27lbs or so, which is a load heavier. However it flies up the climb faster still. Not only that, it has a dropper and 720mm bars so it smashes everything downhill too. And because of the evolution of geometry, it is far quicker and more capable on anything twisty.

    There’s a fast section of slight downhill trail with a chicane between two big trees. On the Heihei I used to scare myself because I carried so much speed on the fast bit I overcooked the chicane, I thought the bike was fast. On the Trek however I can go just as fast but I can actually make the chicane. There’s another 5 minute descent I do regularly, on the Trek, which is a pure XC bike, I’m 12th out of 450. That would not have been remotely possible on my Kona.

    Bigger wheels required geometry changes that have evolved into something far better than old 26ers. To me now they feel absolutely awful. I borrowed one off a mate recently, I could barely keep the front wheel on track, felt like it was underneath my chest. Modern bikes, which are mostly 29ers, have improved massively in terms of handling, IMO.

    butcher
    Member

    Interested in this one. Still riding 26 and quite happy with my bike. But I am starting to feel left behind, and I do wonder what the difference really equates to in terms of speed over mixed terrain.

    Am I needlessly punishing myself in group rides and events, or are we talking about something that’s only going to give you any notable advantage on a competitive level?

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    I reckon a 26er with all of the other developments in geometry and shape that have happened recently would perform better than you think. But still, I’m a 29er fan, I never feel like “that was obviously way better over that one root” but it adds up over a ride or a long run. In a social ride that’s not such a big deal since you tend not to really ride til your legs drop off or do massive long descents, but sometimes… Like, top-to-bottom Prospacker at innerleithen, on my 26er I was basically just hanging on by the end, on a fairly equivalent 29er I was less tired and so could ride better. Uplift at the forest of dean was the same, it just kind of turns down the beaten-upness of the rider.

    Same at the Mega- there’s really only a couple of moments where a big 29er would shine over a 26, and in fact on the snow it’s worse, but with 10 minute long sections of lumpy alpine trails every 1% or whatever reduction in impact and effort adds up to a hell of a lot.

    That said, I still love my ancient 26er Orange dh bike. It’s not as “good” as my 29er but it’s more than competent and brings with it a lot of entertaining differences.

    mildred
    Member

    eh?

    identical bikes, bar wheelsize: the 29er will have more rubber, more rim, more fork, more spoke, more frame, more sealant, more rim tape! More weight – there absolutely has to be!

    non-identical bikes, sure, you’ve got options.

    He never said his mate wanted an identical bike, did he?

    You missed out the second part of that sentence you took my quote from:

    all depends on the type of riding & bike chosen.

    My point is that things have moved on a whole lot in the last decade and even lighter weight xc bikes are more capable than many older 26” trail bikes.

    Premier Icon DezB
    Subscriber

    I was fortunate enough to have both my current 29er and my old 26″ 575 on a ride a few months back. It was at Rogate DH park, so quite tech. Swapped bikes, my son didn’t want to ride the 29er so I just did a descent on the Yeti. It was quite scary how twitchy (can’t think of another word to describe it), the Yeti felt. I’d ridden the thing for over 10 years, but it just felt completely alien and almost out of control compared to the 29er. It did feel fast, but I think that was mostly just a feeling, due to the twitchiness (you can tell I don’t write bike reviews) and keeping it under control.
    I did take it for a more XC/Trail Centre type ride around QE Park, where it felt better, but I discovered the forks were shagged on that ride (topping out) so it wasn’t a good measure. Did feel better then as the downhill sections weren’t as severe as Rogate.
    I’d never go back 🙂

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    Slight weight penalty for much better rollover & momentum, yep.

    Your pal may absolutely love a light, short-travel 29er.

    There is something in the argument about them making easy trails duller, but just don’t let him go full LL&S if your local riding is all easy.

    Premier Icon kcal
    Subscriber

    I use my remaining 26″ MTB less and less (not so much it’s single speed, more that it’s only front disk, rear is still rim). Upgraded a couple/three years ago to a rigid 27.5+ bike and have to say it’s made me feel much more comfortable – on steep (for me) stuff, and for longer rides.

    I now also have a 29r HT, and did 10 Under the Ben on it last year after a 5 year hiatus. Compared to previous bike, M2 race HT from late 90s, it was such an improvement. No idea if it was faster, but I was able to negotiate stuff that made me wobble 5 years ago, it would be after a tricky section I’d think, oh, past the awkward stage before I’d realised it was there.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    I do wonder what the difference really equates to in terms of speed over mixed terrain.

    It’s not the speed – sometimes it will be a bit quicker, sometimes it’s not. It’s just that the modern bikes handle so much better in so many ways.

    When I started MTBing we used to throw ourselves down fire-roads as fast as possible, and leaning the bike over in a corner was all about trying to keep the front wheel from washing out. That was the entire challenge and was ultimately inevitable. If you threw the bike into a corner you’d lose the front . Both my 29ers are perfectly balanced, so you can lean over until both wheels drift beautifully. I’ve no idea if it’s quicker, but it’s just so much fun to actually do. This is probably down to a number of things but wheel size is part of the package.

    Having said that, I still have one 26er, my 2007 Patriot, and that too is similarly
    balanced. But it’s rubbish up hills, and was a bit of an anomaly when it was released – at least in the build I have.

    As for making trails easier – that makes no sense to me. Unless you think the risk of being dumped on your face or going over the bars is a positive thrill? Worth noting though that it takes a bit of time to learn how to adjust your riding.

    RichPenny
    Member

    Making the trails easier for me depends on where/what you ride. If a 29er makes it quicker but a bit more dull, I think I’d have more descending time and excitement. But that’s my local terrain, and a reason why I went to 29 and back to 27.5 on the main bike. If I’m living elsewhere where it’s a struggle on my ability just to get down a trail then it’s different.

    Surely the answer is to keep the 26er and get a new 29er 😉

    Premier Icon hardtailonly
    Subscriber

    I’ve a 26er. Two actually. The FS is about 8 years old (I’ve only had it 2 years, and it was my first FS bike). Haven’t really got on with it, it’s slack-ish but a bit short and a bit too high. Capable enough, but only ever really used in eg The Lakes.

    The other is a SS Inbred with a 130mm fork. Great fun, actually, for local stuff, it’s quite a zingy lively frame and being light, does feel quite responsive and perky.

    I’ve not had a 29er* so can’t comment. Had a 27.5 HT with modern-ish geometry (slack, but not that L&L) which I loved. Sold to part fund a Ti gravel bike, but wish I hadn’t (sold it, that is, don’t regret the gravel bike, which I also love) … So I’ve decided in the last day or so to build up another 27.5 HT, run it SS. Would have gone the whole way to 29er, but got the 27.5 frame for a bargain, and as it has to be a cheap build, and figure 27.5, whilst not necessarily dead, is in terminal decline and I can pick up parts for cheap.

    *Did run my 26er Inbred for a while as a 69er rigid, and the front 29 wheel did roll over stuff noticeably better than the 26 wheel.

    shedbrewed
    Member

    I happily own an RZ120XLR in the 26” flavour it came in. I’ve no desire to change it but I swapped with a friend to ride his very nice Specialized epic carbon 29er. The 29er was quicker climbing, felt more composed and was a nice place to be.
    If I was racing xc then I’d definitely be looking for a 29er.
    For now, for the titting about that I do I’ll stick to my 26”.

    concrete24
    Member

    ….. just don’t let him go full LL&S if your local riding is all easy.

    This is the bit I struggle with! As a 26 Soul rider with no easy way of testing loads of bikes I’m not sure what’s ‘full lls’ what’s ‘a bit lls’ and what’s just XC, (well I have an idea – but slightly bewildered)! I thought the Solaris I had in mind was a good compromise for my general sort of Surrey Hills, Cwmcarn and Swinley riding – but I now wonder if even that is too lls? I don’t have a lot of (any) free time to test so eventually I’ll probably just take a punt on something.

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    I thought the Solaris I had in mind was a good compromise for my general sort of Surrey Hills, Cwmcarn and Swinley riding

    Yep, it would be IME. Maybe stick to a 120mm fork though.

    There’s a medium SolarisMAX frame in the classifieds actually. It’s mine and I used to take it when I went back down south. It was spot on.

    Premier Icon hardtailonly
    Subscriber

    There’s a medium SolarisMAX frame in the classifieds actually. It’s mine and I used to take it when I went back down south. It was spot on.

    Well, if we’re doing stealth ads … I’ve got a wanted one in the classifieds for anyone wanting to pass on 27.5 stuff (forks & wheels particularly) for cheap! Reckon if I’m going to move from old-skool, and can’t afford the latest 29er LLS stuff, the new old-skool 650b will give enough of the modern at a good value-price …

    concrete24
    Member

    @chapaking

    Yep, it would be IME. Maybe stick to a 120mm fork though.

    Thanks for the feedback – confirms what I was taking from the discussion on the Solaris thread. Nice try on the stealth ad – medium’s too small for me though and I’ll probably start with a nice new frame and second hand everything else if I go for it.

    I still really like the Soul so I’m happy to take my time and prevaricate for as long as it takes, (well until my eldest starts stripping it for parts anyway)!

    tetrode
    Member

    Unpopular opinion – if someone claims 29ers make trails dull, then the trail was dull to begin with. I’ve ridden 26s and 29s on a fair number of different trails and the bigger wheels just make them all more fun (to me). Keeps the speed going, you don’t have to worry about getting thrown about or held up on rock gardens as much, you can focus on everything more because you’re not as concerned with the wheels getting held up on something.

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