Just when you thought the debate over mountain bike wheel size was settled, there’s more to consider. Or is there?
Last week some of the Bicycle Sport crew had the opportunity to test ride some of Trek’s new Fuel EX whips over at DuPont State Forest. One of the many things that made the trip worth our time, was the chance to get some extra miles on the 27.5” wheels. Or 650b, if you’re so inclined.
For starters, the 27.5” wheels look and feel proportional to the bike. Sure, they’re obviously a bit bigger than the old 26” wheels, but the difference isn’t as dramatic as the wagon wheels of a 29’er. There’s plenty of stand over for even the most short-legged folks, but that’s generally no longer an issue even in the 29’er department, what with modern geometries in that format able to accommodate most any height. Once in the woods, the bike felt playful and comfortable, and our body position was pretty neutral over the top – a noticeable upgrade from the old standard 26” wheeled mountain bike. The wheel size also spins-up to speed faster than a 29’er, and the steering feels crisp without being twitchy.
But there’s still no denying the benefits of the 29’er. The big wheels roll over over bumps, rocks, roots and other stuff that would quickly wear you down with smaller hoops. It’s no wonder the enduro-types choose these wheels for all day (or night) riding and beyond. The confidence of the smoother ride – even in a hard tail 29’er – keeps the rider in a more relaxed position, which further cuts the fatigue factor and allows you to flow with the bike and the trail. Sure, 29” wheels take more effort to spin-up, but once you’re there, you’re more likely to stay rolling. The bigger wheels aren’t as spry or nimble in the super-tight stuff, but the confidence they afford for faster downhills and keeping that cross-country momentum more than make up for it.
All things considered, we’re still big fans of the bigger wheels. For trails around here, there’s nothing a 29’er can’t roll up, over, or down. The forgiving ride means even the most occasional mountain biker can take on the trails with more confidence and comfort, and the racer to the all-day adventure seeker can’t find a trail that can’t be tackled on a 29” wheels. And with the most aftermarket wheel and tire options on the market, the 29’er can be tuned to meet the demands of the most experienced mountain bikers out there. Still got questions? Got you covered. Pop into Bicycle Sport and we’ll make sure you’re on the bike best suited for the way you ride!