Riders agree: Bigger is better
It’s the most debated question this side of the big bang theory.
And now this question has crept into the world of mountain biking.
Does size really matter? After all, it’s only a couple of inches.
The question is now a matter of three sizes — 26, 29, and the latest in the evolution of mountain bike wheels, 27½.
For years, virtually all mountain bikes came with 26-inch wheels, then came the big-wheel revolution when the 29-inch wheel was introduced.
Quite simply, the 29-inch wheel changed the industry, and many mountain bikers quickly switched to the bigger wheel.
“I’m never going back to a smaller wheel myself, never,” said Ryan Cranston owner of Ruby Canyon Cycles in Grand Junction.
And he’s not alone. He said the larger wheels have made for a more enjoyable mountain bike ride.
“The overall fun factor is higher,” he said “It rolls over bumps, momentum is better and the overall ride of the bike and experience is more fun.”
As Mitch Moran pulled his month-old 27½-inch bike up to his pickup at the Kokopelli trail head in Loma, the smile on his face and the dirt on his bike told the story of a fun ride.
“Man, that was fun,” he said, adding that he just rode Horse Thief Bench. “Best singletrack in the state.”
His buddy, Tony Martinez, who was visiting from Durango, rides a 29-inch bike.
The two compared notes and both agreed that the bikes are much better than their old 26-inch bikes.
“I can’t believe the difference,” Moran said. “It just feels faster, the roll of this bike is noticeable. The technical stuff didn’t bother me at all, either. Super fun.”
“I love the bigger bike. My back doesn’t hurt like it did with my old bike,” Martinez said. “It doesn’t feel like a bigger bike when I’m on it but it’s faster and just more fun.”
Virtually everyone talks about the roll factor with the bigger wheels and that means more speed and more momentum to get over obstacles.
After the industry introduced the 29-inch bike and the fun factor soared, the simple question that must be asked now is why is there now a 27½-inch wheel?
Greg Luck of Fruita’s Over the Edge Sports says the answer is very simple.
“The 29 is very popular but I think the 27½ is driven by industry,” he said.
The goal is to sell more bikes, Luck said, and a new wheel size adds to the inventory and gives customers another option.
Even though the 27½-inch wheel has been around for years, this is the year that it’s really being stocked more.
Both Luck and Cranston said their inventories are predominately 29-inch bikes with a few 27½-inch wheel sizes and even fewer 26-inch bikes.
Cranston estimates that he has 90 percent 29-inchers and when it comes to the 26-inch, he only stocks them for entry-level kids getting into the sport or for shorter adult riders.
The 27½-inch wheel is also known as the 650B and Cranston said the size is more like 27.2, but who’s counting?
Luck said the difference between 29 and 27½ is so minor that it doesn’t affect the ride, the main thing is that they are both better than the 26.
“The thing to me, it doesn’t matter the size of the wheel, the new bikes are great,” he said.
Luck agreed that the larger wheels make for a much more enjoyable and comfortable ride and customers flocked to the 29-inch bikes when they were introduced.
“There’s just more control and stability on the bigger wheels, and they roll over things so much better,” he said.
He also said their shop stocks mainly lower-quality 26-inch bikes and the larger wheels are for the more serious mountain biker.
Cranston said he will stock more 27½ wheel sizes as the vendors increase their manufacturing schedule. But regardless, the state of the industry, like any industry, is to give customers what they want.
Whether it’s 29 or 27½, mountain bikers have spoken, and bigger is better.