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.