Please bear with me…. FS travel differences between 26" & 29"

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  • Please bear with me…. FS travel differences between 26" & 29"
  • Premier Icon weeksy

    ignoring the pedants, I’ve got a MEtaAM29 and the 130 feels more like 150mm…. but the geometry plays a factor.

    My Spearfish was 80mm rear.. but didn’t feel it…

    Premier Icon sheeps

    A significant birthday is approaching, and I’m in the market for a new FS bike. Currently, I ride a Santa Cruz Superlight (a very old one!!)with 100mm of rear travel, which does me fine for general XC duties, 24hr races and bikepacking.

    Having taken an extended trial of a mates 29er (HT), I think that this is the way to go.

    I can’t stretch to a new Superlight, and was considering the Canyon Nerve AL amongst others – which is billed as 110mm rear travel.

    Question is, does 100mm of rear travel on a 26er bear direct comparison to a 100mm travel on a 29er – or is there some measure of increase or decrease in the amount of travel suitable for XC duties on the bigger wheeled machine?

    (I am aware that 100mm = 100mm before the pedants pitch in)

    Premier Icon ahwiles

    In my humble opinion, etc.

    There has been a trend towards more travel as years go by, I think this has been driven by demand, rather than necessity.

    In other words; we like the idea of more travel, so we’ve asked for / bought bikes with more travel, whether we’ve needed it or not.

    we’ve needed a lot of technology to make long-travel bikes work – they’re crap and un-pedally without clever shocks and pivot placement.

    29ers, and 650ers, have forced/allowed designers to use all that technology on different platforms, and at the same time, half-ignore the accepted wisdom regarding travel and application (100mm = xc / 120 = trail / 150mm = all mountain, etc.).

    It turns out that modern bikes are brilliant, not because they’ve got more travel, but because they’ve got better designs. A 120mm 29er might feel almost as capable as a 150mm 26er, not because of the wheel size doing magic things, but because they’re designed to do the same thing.

    in other words, we’ll accept the idea of a 140mm ‘All Mountain’ 29er, but we wouldn’t accept a 140mm AM 26er – we’d expect that would have to be 160mm surely?

    (numbers more or less plucked out of the air, but i hope you get the idea)

    and yes, i do suggest that 26ers could be designed with less travel than we’d expect for their application, and mostly, we wouldn’t notice as big a difference as you might think – design is much more important than just the amount of wheel travel.

    so, a 100mm 29er might actually feel similar to a 100mm 26er, or not. mostly it’ll depend on how they’re designed to feel, rather than anything intrinsically linked to the wheel size.

    Premier Icon mboy

    As a general* rule I find that I’m happier with less travel on a 29er than I would be a 26″ wheeled bike. My current 29er HT with a 120mm fork on feels a lot quicker and more capable than my old 26″ HT with the same travel, in fact my recent 29er HT with 100mm fork felt faster and more capable to me than my old 26″ HT did. I’m trying to compare like with like here, bikes designed not as XC race machines but all round XC trail bikes, each with Rockshox Reba/Revelation forks on.

    The theory is that bigger wheels don’t fall into gaps in quite the way that smaller ones do, and as they have a lower angle of attack on an object, they roll over the objects more easily. In practice, I just find 29ers faster, and I am happy with no more than 120mm travel just about anywhere I ride in the UK.

    * = There are exceptions, and this is purely my personal opinion, others may vary.


    Less travel on a 29 will still give you a harsher ride through very technical terrain when compared to a longer travel 26 inch ride.

    It will go part of the way to reducing that difference though, the effect being more pronounced where grip is more reliant on the contact patch as opposed to the suspension (less technical trails).

    I’d rather have a 120/130mm 29er as opposed to a 160mm full susser for trail riding, I’d rather have the 160mm 26er out in the alps. Although the long travel Enduro 29 kind of throws a spanner into the works, so then it comes down to rider preference (do you prefer a nimble bike or one that can monster truck through rock sections).

    The roll over thing seems to be a bit of guff to me, I’ve never felt like a 29er hangs up on rocks at the back less than a 26 inch bike. I did notice that I felt a lot more in the bike, stable and less prone to feeling thrown over the front on one, this probably had something to do with the BB height being considerably lower than the axles and also the increased rotating mass dampening unwanted movement.

    Premier Icon vondally

    For me moved from a Yeti asr 7 with fox 160 forks with nearly seven inch rear to a Turner Sultan 29 120 front/125 rear and also have a Rocky Mountain element 29 120 fr 95 mm rear and I would say the Turner and the Rocky are more capable than the yeti…for what it is worth, strava shows I am quicker downhill than ever before…just an aging trail rider wheels on the ground person

    For me a 29er for confidence and stability and yes 100mm feels more on 29er BUT choose the suspension design carefully…..had a Rocky Element before with a rockshok air shock on the rear this one has a fox is far far better. Turner is a good all day design and capable at being pedalled all over. Disliked a couple of other 29ers I tried. Both bikes marketed as xc..ish

    secondly get good wheels makes a huge difference.

    thirdly this nimble thing to be honest as a middle of the road rider I have not noticed any difference on the downs apart from being quicker,turns as fast and so on, struggled on the turner with some tight climbs 100mm on a 29er is pretty blinking good especially with a longer fork 120.


    I think awhiles is onto something.

    The purpose of suspension is grip (comfort/hits is a whole other debate, but i’m not accepting that the primary purpose of suspension is grip, comfort is a factor though), longer travel can allow more grip cos it has more sag. Suspension gives you grip by maintaining tyre contact with the ground.

    Throw in a larger wheel, in this case 29″, you have loads more grip, you are less reliant on suspensions to maintain tyre contact with the ground, hence can have less travel and have similar grip or more grip levels.

    It makes perfect sense for a 29er to have less travel, i do definitely agree with the 20-30mm figure thats commonly put about of how much less travel you can have.

    Plus 29ers tend to have a bigger wheelbase and lower bb, larger trail too slowing down the steering, hence more stable and confidence inspiring, they climb better too due to the longer wheelbase. The geometry also feels more capable, i equate the handling of a xc 29er to your typical 140ish trail bike in terms of handling.

    The big wheels also add comfort due to rolling over stuff more easily.

    But at the end of the day, you body is the driving force behind how much grip you have and what the bike does, simply adding more travel to compensate simply makes climbing and flatter trails flatter and harder work and kills the fun on the way down.

    PS i love my 29er HT, my 130 26 full sus and my DH bike, but the 29er is semi fun on everything, trail bike is fun everywhere, DH bike is only on proper DH tracks.



    not that it helps much but I have a nerve al 29er and its great. test ride everything you can then decide.


    Suspension isn’t just for grip, it’s for stability through rock sections. Also, under a lot of circumstances wheel size doesn’t make up for negative travel or sag when it comes to grip. Under some circumstances it can do (eg smooth trails).

    For me a 29er for confidence and stability

    How can a 29er be more stable but just as nimble as a 26 inch bike? By definition stability is the antithesis of manoeuvrability.

    No 29er that I’ve ridden has had the same playfulness as a 26 inch bike. Full stop. Yes some steep short chainstay 29ers may be more nimble than a raked out 160mm travel bike with downhill length chainstays but on the whole they will never be as nimble.

    I’m currently ummm and arring over blowing a small fortune on an Enduro 29 but not because I think the bike and wheel size will do everything just as well as a 26 inch steed. I’m buying it to fill a particular role, I want a 150-160 plow bike that I can pedal uphill for Alpine riding and the 29er seems to fill that role quite well. The bigger wheels will go part of the way to giving me the same performance as a 180mm bike – not all the way but the bike brings with it some of it’s own benefits to make up for that loss.


    The big wheels also add comfort due to rolling over stuff more easily.

    I’m sorry but I’m willing to bet most of the comfort comes from the suspension – which acts to smooth out the impact forces into slow waves as opposed to short sharp waves.

    I can’t see the minute difference that the diameter has on the wheels approach angle having the same effect.

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