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I was wrong! 29er’s just aren’t as much fun!

I was wrong! Mountain bike 29er’s just aren’t as much fun! (for me)

Well it is prime riding season here in Arizona and it has been a bit frustrating for me as two very expensive freehub bodies on two nearly new wheels have blown up, leaving my new 29r unrideable. One wheelset had less than 14 hours of ride time, the other had 80 hours, tops. Which leads me to my headline, I was wrong! I used to hate being wrong but now I know it can often be a big part of the learning process. In this case it was an expensive lesson but one I hope you will appreciate and I might even save you some money.

29er’s are lame! Whoa, before you get all upset hear me out. As you may recall I was super excited to get my slack head angle 29er and knew I would never return to 26” wheels except for maybe on my downhill and pumptrack bikes. My thinking was, I have ridden a few 29rs and they are super fast, a little awkward to corner but that will go away once I get used to the the bike. Well, it hasn’t gone away! As I have mentioned before you are “on” a 26” mtb but “IN” a 29er. While you do get used to this feeling, that doesn’t make it a good feeling. When my freehubs self destructed I was forced to ride my clapped out 8 year old Enduro. It has seen so much abuse I can’t even sell it with a clear conscious. The front brake barely slows me down, the derailleur hanger is bent just enough to make it ghost shift when in the easiest two cogs,the gravity dropper needs a new cable, the frame and bb creak, it feels really sluggish (I think the front hub is shot, making it feel like you are going up hill all the time), the fork is leaking and it just looks trashed. Despite all that, it was still more fun to ride than my super sweet CARBON 29r. I was able to just throw that little wheeled bike around, put it exactly where I wanted to at will, even when I made a mistake and entered a corner too late because I wasn’t looking through the corner. I looked up, said “crap” as I realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be but just threw the bike into the corner with massive lean angle and wham, I railed that tight corner. A little mistake like that would’ve been costly on my 29’r as I would have gone wide out into the desert. Everything but really chunky sections of trail (where the 29er is still mind blowingly fast) felt more fun on the 26” wheeled bike. I could wiggle the bike more on technical climbs, lean it more into the corners and throw it around and Drive my bike. The 29er is much more riding a bike, like it is in control instead of you!

What does this mean to you? Well it depends on what your main goales are when riding. My main goal is to have fun, which for me means challenging myself to climb and descend steeper, trickier terrain and exit corners as fast as possible. I also enjoy exploring, getting exercise and being out in nature, but they are sub goals. So my 29er will be for sale next week and I am going to look for a sweet 27.5” as I think it will be the best of both worlds for ME. If you have similar main goals you will want to ride 26” or 27.5” wheels. 29er’s are still awesome for people who just want to enjoy their time out in nature or for riders whose main go is going fast. 29er’s are still the ultimate xc and endurance racing machines, the ultimate machine for a lot of enduro races and even for a few more pedally downhill races.

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49 replies
  1. Wacek says:

    So Gene, maybe you are a control freak? I had the same feeling after riding 29 Stumpy Evo S-works that had nearly identical setup to my Blur TRc. Stumpy has a mind of its own, it let me to do whatever I wished and saved me from some trouble. It surprised me few times but only positively. Like if it was a horse that looked back at me and winked (it’s alright) after I was sure I did something that will send me over the bars. But I loved that!

    275? – please let us know how did it go once you ride one for longer time! I am waiting for “Wheel size is overrated” article :D

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Wacek,

      When it comes to riding and my business I am definitely a control freak. Wow, since 90% of my life is riding and my business I guess I am a control freak pretty much all the time!
      This kind of was my wheel size is overrated article. I feel so many people have lost touch with the MOST Important aspect of riding, FUN! That should be the reason one rides a bike! What good is winning races if you aren’t having fun? Even if you are winning World Championships it is not like you are doing open heart surgery or saving lives in the emergency room, you are simply riding a bike!

      You are right about a 29er probably saving you (and me!) from going over the bars when you did something wrong as the longer wheelbase and bigger wheels can save you sometimes. What I don’t like about that is I feel like I got lucky and I never want to feel like I got lucky as that does not instill confidence in myself, as a matter of fact it tends to make me fearful. My goal is to drive my bike and see how far I can push the envelope of control.

      Create an in balance and in control ride,

      Gene

      Reply
  2. Eric says:

    I’m not fully understanding how the self destruction of a freehub is due to the 29′er? Did it get destroyed because you are riding a 29′er like you ride your 26′ers, ie hard and and challenging? Would the destruction of these freehubs be due to the fact that maybe they were more rated for a XC style of riding vs bombing down the canyon style? OR were the freehubs some sort of super bomb proof type that despite that still blew up, because they just haven’t worked out the kinks yet to be truely bomb proof on a 29′er, cause 29′ers put more stress on them?

    Or did the blow out of the freehubs just an excuse for you to unload a 29′er that you just really didn’t like, despite giving it a try?

    Not trying to be sarcastic, just trying to understand a bit better here. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Eric,

      Sorry, I must have not made it clear, the 29er had nothing to do with the freehubs breaking. The free hubs being broken forced me to ride my heavy, clapped out old bike which happened to have 26″ wheels. On the first day riding the old clapped out 26″ wheeled bike I realized that it was much more fun than my much newer, much more high-tech, much lighter and much more expensive 29er. The second day on the 26″ wheeled bike cemented those thoughts.

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  3. Freewheel says:

    Hi Gene,
    In all the discussion about 26 / 27.5 / 29 I can’t help wondering about whether this should scale with the rider, like frames do. For a short person a 29er will be very different (and probably not good) than for a tall person.
    It almost has to be, otherwise smaller will always be better and we would all be riding a 10″.
    Cheers!

    Reply
  4. David Krahulik says:

    Quick question Lee…how tall are you and do you have a long torso for your height? I am a bit under 6’3 and have a long torso/shorter legs. I prefer the feel of my Gary Fisher 29er over all of the 26ers I have ridden/owned. to me 26ers have always felt like fun toys and 29ers feel like fun bikes.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi David,

      Who is Lee?

      I have a 35″ inseam and I am exactly 6’3″ and my name is Gene, I founded BetterRide.

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  5. Joe says:

    Love my 650B! I think I like my 201 Jamis 650B1 better than my new Scott Genius 740, which is kind of depressing, when you think about it. Replace the back shock on the Jamis with a Fox RP23, and it really came alive. The wheel size has always been great, none of that wagon wheel feeling.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Thanks Joe. I’ve ridden two 650s and liked them but didn’t ride them long enough to really form an opinion. I’m looking forward to spending more time on them.

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  6. Scott says:

    Gene – this article is well timed. I’m thrashing about, trying to decide which is right for me. Overall I am faster on a 29′r… that’s something I just learned. However since I am not an awesome rider, I really suck in the tight switchbacks on a 29r, and there are lots of those around here. I’m about to upgrade, and Im looking at the Giant Anthem 27.5 in the spring. Some friends and I are driving 4 hours to a demo to have a shot at riding it this weekend. I think the 27.5 is going to be the ticket for me. I’ll be really interested to hear your take on it.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Scott,

      First, for a lot less than the cost of a new bike we can teach how to rip those switchbacks in control and in balance 100% of the time. We teach people how to become awesome riders for a living! The Anthem 27.5 looks like a great bike, Giants tend to have short “reach” measurements though so you might look into to testing both one in your size and one a size bigger (with the correct length stem of 35mm-60mm). See if the longer bike feels a little more stable and like you have a bigger sweet spot (where all your weight is on the pedals when descending). Many of my friends who own Giants run a size larger (i.e. they usually ride a small but ride a Giant medium, or usually medium but ride a Giant large).

      Let us know what you learn during the testing!

      Create a great new ride,

      Gene

      Reply
  7. Markk says:

    So Gene….how does this rant fit in the your “Mountain Biking, More About the Equipment than the Ride?” rant?
    I find your blogs quite opinionated, negative and irrelevant. They show how outdated and irrelevant you are. Try writing something constructive and enlightening…. maybe you will keep some readers interested in what you have to say, or just hand this blog over to your grandson.

    Checking out.

    Reply
  8. Wacek says:

    The thing I mean with wheel size being overrated is that it’s diameter is just one of the important from the wheel department. We can talk of rim weight, rim width, tyre casing rigidity, thread pattern, tyre volume, tyre tread pattern, tyre pressure. There are so many things when we consider wheels alone. Then geometry is snother can of worms. Indistry promises 275 to be the ultimate remedy. I don’t think so, 26″ bikes were around for so long yet even by 2013 not all bikes, even from big companies have a dialed geometry. Fox did a step backwards with their suspension, even sponsored World champs complain “publicaly”. It’s about the whole package as someone wise told me :) I had a 29″ Niner EMD9 – it was horrible, absolutely horrible. Then s lot of wheel size hecklers saying 29″ bikes allow you to run away with bad technique – how about riding machine dug trails on full on DH rig? or tiding XC on bike with 6″ Of travel so their bims are plantedto their saddles for longer tome?

    But it is very interesting to hear from a person as tall as you. that 29″ did not make your day :)

    All the best!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      For sure Wacek! Great comment as there are a ton of things that affect how a bike rides. In addition to the excellent points you made the “trail” of a fork greatly affects the handling of a bike and that alone could be the problem with my 29er, change the trail on the front fork and it might ride great. Personally I think the ideal size for ME is 26″ with tires tall enough that they have the same outside diameter as 27.5 wheel/tires combo (although those tires would likely be pretty heavy). This whole post was written for readers who had heard me sing the praises of 29er’s and let them know MY opinion has changed on them. I truly thought that once I got used to the 29er it would feel fine being that I am 6’3″ but after 6 months of riding mine and test riding quite a few others it just isn’t as nimble and fun as a 26″, however in most forms of racing including many downhill races I still think it is the most effective weapon out there.

      I should of said, “the 29ers I have ridden in their current state of evolution are not as fun for me as 26′ers but, with tweaks to geometry and fork design they might be really fun in the future.

      Thanks the civilized discussion!

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  9. Jeff says:

    I have bombed downhill on my 29er and my hubs are fine with hundreds of hours.

    I did add a dropper post recently have have been riding the free ride area and having a blast. 26ers are just too small for me. I bet 27.5′s are fun too, but I have so much fun riding all conditions on my Trek Gary Fisher Hi Fi I’m not motivated to make a change.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Jeff,

      The only reason I mentioned my freehubs is that because of their braking I had to ride my 26er. I did not mean to imply that 29er’s somehow wore out hubs quicker!

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  10. CQ says:

    Ride a pump track on a 26″. Then ride a few laps on a 24″ and then a 20″. Then tell me if you are still remotely interested in 29ers or 650b.

    The bigger the wheels, the more boring life is.

    Reply
  11. John O Donnell says:

    Gene
    I agree with you. I had an s works 26 and really enjoyed. Last year I bought an epic s works 29er and really loved it. Over time I just became unsettled with it and thought it lacked passion. I recently bought a solo (5010) and really love it because it’s brought the fun back. I have recently read other articles expressing the same view.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Wow John, I like how you phrased that, “… thought it lacked passion.” When I first rode a 29er for 3 months in 2005 I thought, wow, once they get the geometry dialed these things are going to make 26ers obsolete! Then I test rode the EVO 29er and I and an extremely fast 21 year old pro downhill racer were blown away at how fast the bikes were and how much easier certain sections of trail were on it. We both thought 29ers were finally going to take over the sport. I rode it on some super techy rides this summer when all my riding companions were on 26ers and they were blown away that I could ride those tough trails. What I didn’t tell them was there were a few times when I felt really awkward and scared. I made every move but never felt as comfortable as I did on my old 26″ enduro and after six months it still doesn’t feel good on about 20% of the trail. When the blown freehub bodies forced me to ride the old Enduro for two rides it really hit home how much more fun the Enduro was despite rolling slower and requiring a little more effort to ride.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

      Create a passion fueled ride,

      Gene

      Reply
  12. Gannon says:

    I think the whole gamut of wheel sizes have different merits. The wheelsize argument reminds me of when I raced motorcycles. There was no doubt the 1000cc bikes were the fastest, and no doubt 600cc handled the best. 750cc tended to be a good blend of the two. Nobody in the racing world argued that one was “better” than the other. In fact most people raced all three classes. I love riding my SC Tallboy LTc, once you set it on a line (hopefully as Gene said a good one) it is solid and planted. It can also mow down anything. I also love riding my Pivot Mach 6. It is playful, jumps better, and can pump more easily. I just don’t think one is “Better” than the other. They are different and have strengths and weaknesses. I guess if you want a single bike quiver you have to choose what you like best. I tend to see how I feel that day, what trail I want to ride, and how long and just go have fun on the bike that is right for the moment. The whole argument validates the line from the NSMB.com video on how to be a mountain biker: “Pick a wheel size, then be a dick about it…” http://www.nsmb.com/how-to-be-a-mountain-biker/

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Great post Gannon! All I said were 29er’s are less fun than 26er’s for me and was surprized as I thought they would be more fun. I never stated one size was better, well actually I did say 29er’s were better for a lot of things! Your motorcycle comparison is a great analogy as I bought both a 450 motocross bike and a 1100 Hyper-Motard and neither is as much fun as their lighter versions (for me at least). That video is hysterical!

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  13. Glenn Sinisgalli says:

    As a long time MTB rider, I have to wonder if the geo vs. wheel size is the real debate. I used to have a C-dale Rush, rode it for 6 years, and after a ton of online research, went all in with a Canfield Yelli Screamy. I’m not sure if it is the wheel size and/or geo, but I will never ride a an XC bike again. I have a 120mm front fork, and I do not miss the 4 in’s of rear travel 95% of the time. I ride in NE MA, granite, roots and tight trails abound. I’m 5’6″. so not the perfect 29′r rider. If I could find more demo rides I’d try more bikes! Canfield rocks!

    Reply
  14. Don says:

    Ha! My wife and I sold our hardtail 29ers a couple weeks ago after we rode some rental FS 26ers for a weekend while the shop was building up what was going to be my new 29er. After 2 years on 29ers, the FUN is back and we are excited about riding again!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Great to hear Don! I love to hear that, “….. the FUN is back and we are excited about riding again!” That is what it is all about no matter the wheel size!

      Keep on creating fun rides,

      Gene

      Reply
    • Gene says:

      It is truly amazing the visceral reactions to my simple post explaining that for ME 29er’s are not as much fun as 26″ bikes. It was simple article explaining that MY feelings about the FUN I have on a 29er had changed and I wanted to share that as I had previously stated that they were the wave of the future.

      Readers got upset that it was just my opinion and not fact. Well, everything in a blog is the blogger’s opinion first off and second off I stated that this was my opinion quite a few times. So it is a fact, 29er’s are not as much fun for ME as 26″ bikes. I even mentioned how good 29er’s are at two important aspects of riding and still think they are the fastest xc race bikes and on certain courses the fastest enduro and downhill bikes.

      I love hearing different and opposing views to mine, if we all agreed on everything life would be pretty boring. So feel free to tell me I am off base or flat out wrong but make sure you have fully read what I said first.

      Thank you,

      Gene

      Reply
  15. DP says:

    I am a small person – barely 5′ -so when all the bikes are going to 29ers – it leaves me without any hope to replace my bike. I don’t want a small frame of a 29er bike – I am way too small for that and I don’t want to ride a womans bike with no travel. It is so sad.
    DP

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi DP, You are spot on with your thinking. 29ers just don’t fit people your height! Yes, they make extra small 29ers but the handle bars are so high that the rider can’t get into proper body position making climbs, wheelies and corners very hard! At your height a 26″ bike will always be the most nimble and confidence inspiring bike. I am hoping the manufacturers continue to make 26″ wheeled bikes in all sizes but especially in small and extra small.

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  16. Dennis says:

    By Dennis 10/30/2013 – 11:21 am

    I don’t get the part about destructed hubs so I’ll take a pass on that.

    I agree with the original post in general. A 9r gets is done for me and it makes a good XC race setup. But I had to learn to ride it first as Gene wrote. My rigid carbon ss9r is unforgiving. A 26″ bikes I have are way more fun. There are things I simply don’t do on the ss9r that I’ll jump at with a smile on either the 26″ ss h/t or FS. If I want to learn a new skill or reinforce learned skills then I grab one of the little bikes. When I get down to business in a XC race or I want to do alot of flat/street miles, then I grab the 9r. They all have their sweet spots and weaknesses. A bike that works for me doesn’t mean it’ll work for you and that’s cool.

    BTW Gene, can you remove my accidental cross-post to the IMBA blog about the 9r topic? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for your input, I have removed your accidental cross post from the IMBA post.

      Again the hubs blowing up forced me to ride my 26er, that is the only reason the hubs were mentioned!

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  17. ed jack says:

    never rode one. however when you corner with bike tilt that puts force on the hub via leverage of a flexing wheel. leverage would be greater on a 29 er. the reason I don’t care to try one is I seriously cant see keeping the wheels true. so yeah I could see a 29er ripping the hubs more on a large pro rider.

    Reply
  18. Charles Hufman says:

    Yo Gene: so you’ve become disillusioned with a 29r. It could be that you had a bike that did not fit your body size. let me explain: first ! before you get all bent out of “shape” by taking advice from someone who just might not understand MTBing?! chill !! I’ve been MTBing avidly for 5yrs now in the Fruita Grand Junction area and many other trails in Colorado too numerous to name. my first bike was a trek 26r, 19″ frame. far as i was concerned, nothing could top it……….my turn to be wrong. since I am a 6′ 4″ guy according to my mechanic i was on the wrong bike. my attitude was “oh BS”. than my bike needed some repair so they put me on a 22″ 29r diamondback. I went from hanging on…. to in control of the trail. some time past. I needed repair of my 29r. well I still had the 26r. so i went to ride a brand new trail just put in on the rim of the black canyon……within 30 mins i wanted to chuck the bike off of the trail and struggled through the rest of the ride. it became obvious to me that bike fit is paramount. but wait: there’s more! the other day i rode a 21″ 26r same thing……lack of control. the bike needs to fit the body size of the person riding. best thing happened to me has been a 29r. its quite possible that a correct size frame on a 26r would work well but outright dissing a 29r as just a recreational ride? really Gene? My other back ground is 4X4 wheeling and larger tires and rims have proven in that arena to be superior for rock climbing. I believe that that the same rings true for 29r wheel size and i have proven it to myself while riding………..thats my story! keep it real.

    Reply
  19. ed jack says:

    do you see it coach Gene? a tilted bike is a pry bar lever unpon the hub. 29er is a 14 1/2 pry bar . 26 er is a 13 inch pry bar.

    Reply
  20. Steve H says:

    Hey Gene, great article! I relate to this well. I also live and ride in Arizona. A few weeks ago I got my old bike down from where it hangs in the garage like a friendly scar. I took it for a ride and fell in love with it all over again. It is a 2002 Klein Adept Pro 26 FS. Its got 6000+ miles on it, The rear triangle has been broken and welded back together, the full XTR build has lost the smallest chain ring completely due to chain suck, the middle chain ring required that I hold the thumb shifter in during hard climbs when in the easiest gear, the Marzzochi Bomber fork leaks a small amount of fluid and air, the Panaracer Fire and WTB Raptor tires are worn and not even set up tubeless, the V-brake pads felt grindy and the list goes on… But you know what…I had a blast riding it. I put about 5 good rides on it and finally decided to take it to my LBS to see if they could have any better luck than I did correcting the chain suck”. Jury is still out on that, I pick it up tomorrow.
    My point is, I have 2 other bikes which are newer and “better” but that doesn’t mean they are funner!
    I ride for all the reasons you mentioned, but I ride mostly because I feel like I am 10 years old again without a care in the world.
    Thanks Gene for the read!
    Long live the OLD BIKES!!!

    Reply
  21. Jeffrey O'Hara says:

    Mark Wrote:

    ‘Read your blog after seeing a post on FB where you refuted the A.S.S. opinion piece on rigid bikes for beginners (i agree with him, and my tech skills came from all those years of intentionally picking bad lines on rigid bikes so I could get better) ‘

    I have said this for a long time too (well before I went back to to full rigid) and passionately believe it. Not just because I ride rigid now. But that does not drive as much “Latest and greatest” buzz and new sales. And a lot of good things do come from that, like Disc brakes, index shifting, 29ers, fat bikes and who knows maybe 650Bs.

    Years ago, I actually took a friend to a rock garden on my old rigid bike, and taught him how to float over the rocks. I had to get his but off the saddle, so I removed it and he got floating shortly after that. He was new to MTBing then. Now he owns Cycle Craft in NJ and likes all kinds of bikes as well.

    Reply
  22. Jeff says:

    Me thinks you were on the wrong 29er. The Stumpjumper has a long chainstay and a fairly long wheelbase, pair that with big wagon wheels and you now have a school bus you are riding down the trail.

    The line of new 29ers out Devinci Atlas, Kona Process 111 and Lens Lunchbox with short wheelbases and short sub 17” chainstays handle almost as quick as 26” bikes, and are a blast for trail riding.

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Great comment Jeff! I have tried the Lenz Sport Downhill 29er but none of Devin’s “all-mountain” 29r’s. Will have to test them out and see if they change my opinion.

      Thanks for posting!

      Gene

      Reply
  23. Jeffrey schindler says:

    I bought my first mountain bike last year that didn’t come from Walmart. 2004 kona king kikapu. Coming from the A class in moto I soon found that a xc bike isn’t enough for how aggressive I ride. Unfortunately living in Nebraska literally 98% of riding is very flat and thus about every person you see here is on a 29er hard tail. No this year I’m going to full mountain biking due to injuries in MX and am facing the biggest life decision ever. Ik I want a good trail bike and the final 2 I’m looking at are the transition bandit 29 or 27.5. While I do plan on doing the occasional xc race for fun that’s all riding is for me. I want it to be fun. I know I’ll be faster on the 29er but if it isn’t fun I just wasted 4grand. Any way do you have any input on this? Thanks gene!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Jeffrey,

      Great question. With your moto background I think on twisty, flowy, technically challenging and/or jumpy “fun” trails you will have more fun on the 27.5. The 29r will probably cover ground a bit faster and be a better xc racing weapon (although I believe the Olympic XC race was won on a 27.5?). I have heard great things about both of those bikes but have no first hand experience. If you read the last comment by Jeff, he made a good point about shorter chainstay 29r’s being more playful so if the Bandit 29 has short chainstays it might be a blast. I still feel that any 29r will have that “in the bike” feeling (unless you are 6’8″) where as a 27.5 will have more of an “on the bike” feeling. I hate giving advice without riding both bikes and watching you ride but my gut says go with the Bandit 27.5.

      I hope this helps!

      Create a fun new ride,

      Gene

      Reply
  24. Rick says:

    Gene, I am thinking about attending a class this year. Will I be looked as an over paying yuppie, if I show up with a 29er? Every time I go to another bike shop, they show me all of the 29ers. I find it hard to find bikes to demo, as I always seem to be in AZ on weekends when no one has demo’s available. Appreciate your thoughts and guidance on this.

    Also, I am currently riding a hardtail, and have decided it just beats me up too much on the AZ trails, so I am wanting to make the change to full suspension, so this topic is very timely for me. Tjanks!

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Hi Rick,

      No, you won’t look like an over paying yuppie if you show up on a 29r! I still think for many riders they are the best wheel size bikes to ride. That post was simply my opinion that 29r’s aren’t as much fun, for ME! 29r’s are a lot more fun for many riders though so base your bike wheel size choice on what you love to do and what feels best for you! As for as ease of travel on the rough AZ trails a 29r will be smoother, faster and more efficient to ride, three very important comments to riding well and having fun. The only drawback I have found with 29r’s is that don’t seem as playful and “flickable” as a 26 or 27.5. As someone stated above it might be the chainstay length on my EVO and I believe he is at least 50% right if not 100% as I rode an Enduro 29r (with one inch shorter chainstays) the other day and it was quite a bit more nimble than my EVO.

      This post was really all about me, as I had previously stated that 29r’s were the wave of the future for tall riders! After 6-7 months of riding a 29r my opinion changed when I rode my old, beat up 26″ bike. Although it was slower almost everywhere and felt like it took more energy to ride it was more fun as I could through it around! It was simply more playful than my 29r.

      As for demoing a 29r in AZ call around and find a shop that has demo bikes to rent or contact the companies whose bikes you are interested in and see if they are bringing their demo fleet to your town.

      Glad to hear you are planning on doing one of our skills progression camps, it will be the best investment you will ever make in your riding!

      Create a great new ride,

      Gene

      Reply
  25. wadeaholiday says:

    Great article Gene,

    As a lifelong mountain biker, who likes to have the cool toys, and rides hard for a 45 year old (with class podiums over the years in places like Downieville and Northstar). I have ridden 29ers for the past 2 seasons, my last one being GREAT! The ibis Ripley w/ carbon wheels, xx1, fox 34, totally dialed,
    BUT,
    I have felt less balanced the last couple years. I thought it could be age, and I heard you loose some balance as you get older, or maybe I wasn’t riding as much, or a variety of other reasons.
    THEN,
    with winter coming, I decided to buy a lower maintenance, simpler bike to beat up over the mud season, and get some fun wheel size testing in, with all this 650b chatter….
    SO,
    I bought a santa cruz Heckler, 650B, as I have had 4 superlights, and multiple Cannondale single pivots over the years, and understand them well.
    I dialed it, so Bar height, pedals, seat, were all in the exact same place, same exact tires, and pressure, same grips, so all points of contact where identical.

    For a month, I did my normal rides, back to back, timed, and tuning in to feelings.
    And, guess what, I didn’t feel out of balance anymore! Not on the smaller wheel. But, I still did on the Ripley.

    I was a bit slower on the smaller, I figure a minute to 2 on a 1.5hr normal ride, most of it on the climbs, descents were similar, so I also believe 29ers can still be faster,
    but I felt better on the smaller wheel. And riding for me is all about sensation, recreation and enjoyment!

    So, I sold the Ripley.

    I’m not smart enough to understand why the axles being higher, when all the contact points are identical, makes such a difference for me, but it does.

    I agree w/ the short chainstay thing, and the Ripley is the best handle ing 29er out there, quick, playful, flickable,
    BUT,
    your axles are still 1.5in farther of the ground, so the pivot point is higher. Straight line balance is different, and cornering balance, when you tip that larger wheel is distinctively different. It’s like trying to ride a race course in skiing on wider ski.

    anyway, I appreciate your background, and a regular riding partner of mine, who you know, mentioned your article after I told him my sensations (karlrogne), and he agrees as well.

    Thanks again for your insight, and for putting it out there.

    Cheers,
    Wade

    I’m not smart enough to figure out why

    Reply
    • Gene says:

      Wow, Wade that is really interesting and makes sense. I thought it was the overall height on my bike but then realized my downhill bike was just as tall as my 29er. I honestly had not given a lot of thought to the axle height when leaning the bike in corners. I like your fat ski analogy! It is interesting as I come from a snowboard racing background and wide snowboards are definitely slower and harder to turn. You may have just figured out why my 29er feels a little off balance and not as much fun as my 26″ bikes!

      Cheers,

      Gene

      Reply
  26. Gene says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for sharing your opinion nicely! One thing I have learned from this blog article in particular is to share the “back story”. This article was aimed at readers who had heard me extol the virtues of 29r’s and how 26r’s are soon going to be a thing of the past as they are inferior. Well, after 7 months of riding a great 29r I realized it does pretty much everything better than a 26r yet, it isn’t as much fun, for ME. Basically, I was being humble and eating my words. If you reread the article I still like 29r’s and feel for many people they are the best wheel size on the market and if I was going to race cross country or endurance races I would definitely ride a 29r. For me on the technical trails I love (that few if anyone could ride on a rigid singlespeed) the 29r felt cumbersome.

    Thanks again for your input,

    Gene

    Reply

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