April
22

What do you think about the 29er trend?

Somebody asked me the other day what I thought of the fact that the 29er fad has become a definite trend.

29-26

I told him that I was not sure since I had never ridden one but based on the stated pluses and minuses from riding one I don’t know if I’d be stoked on it. I ride some fast, twisty trails and anything that will make my bike handle slower isn’t something I am in line to sign up for.

But that makes me curious – how many of you ride 29ers and even if you don’t, what is your take on them? Chime in and let me know…

-James Wilson-

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  1. AJ says:

    I’ve been on a 29er for just over a year now. It works for me, but I’m 6’3″ and weight 205pds. When Gary Fisher first started pushing the 29er 5+ years ago, it seemed crazy to me and I was not the least bit interested. After seeing a race photo of myself, I noticed how huge I looked on my normal 26″ wheel bike and that got me started researching 29ers.
    The first ride was very strange in good and bad ways. Bigger, heavier wheels take more strength to get up to speed, but once up to speed they roll over rooty, rocky sections that I would normally have to ride around. More traction thru turns and up sketchy climbs. All things I’m sure you’ve probably heard before. I love my 29ers, but different geometries mean it took me 3 frames to fall in love with the feel of a 29er on the tight singletrack that I ride here on the east coast. Another benefit for me is the ability to use a rigid seat post on a hardtail, which previously required a suspension post on the 26″ wheeled bike.

    Reply • April 22 at 1:21 pm
  2. shuman says:

    Niners go fast. I ride a rigid 29er when I want to shred trail. Faster than any bike I have owned when u want to shred singletrack (especially the non tech/ non rocky stuff) But I too am 6’4″ and 195 pounds.

    Reply • April 23 at 5:25 am
  3. dblspeed says:

    I’ve been riding singlespeed 29ers exclusively for the past 3 years.
    There is still a lot of misconception around 29ers, mostly if not all theoretical stuff. I think you should try one and see for yourself, if you like it it’s one more option, no penalty the other way.

    Reply • April 23 at 7:13 am
  4. matt says:

    Benefits and shortcomings are the same regardless of rider size. The larger wheel diameter make them less ideal for certain riding, like DH. But 29ers are not slower on twisty tight single track – they just take different techniques to handle as well. Imo, it’s more like riding a motorcycle. Although it’s more rotational weight that might decrease accelleration, the larger wheel size carries momentum better so an average speed would likely not be effected. All that said, they larger wheel size does seem to lend itself better to certain regions. The NE for sure. SE and West, mmm probably not so much. Although the 29er “Trend” has been around for years… how about we talk about the 650b trend ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply • April 23 at 7:35 am
  5. Marty Desmarteau says:

    Been racing on my Gary Fisher Paragon for the last 4 months and love it. Took a little while to figure out proper climbing technique but screams on the flats and downhills. Performs as advertised.

    Marty

    Reply • April 23 at 7:54 am
  6. JK says:

    I sometimes ride a hardtail singelspeed 29er around the trails of GJ and I love it. The 29 wheels just roll over things that would bump 26″ wheels around. It’s a cool feeling. I’m convinced I could never mash up Pet-e-Kes on a 26″ bike as fast as I do on the 29″ (but this also may have something to do with the never-sit-down singlespeed). I am smaller than other posters (5’10”) and don’t have any problems with it. That said, the wheelbase is long and it’s not the best for me in tight corners.

    Reply • April 23 at 8:48 am
  7. LL says:

    I too have been riding a single speed 29’r exclusively now for a year and love everything about it. Prior to the single speed I had a geared 29’r which was my first introduction to big tires. I also own a full suspension 26″ bike but that now hangs permanently in my garage. I feel the 29’r wheel is perfect for single speeds as it allows you to climb much more easily over technical terrain than it’s smaller counterpart, and when you are cranking hard on your pedals, the less resistance you have the better in order to keep up your momentum. I’ve also gotten pretty good at cornering on tight switchbacks, which has been one of the knocks on 29’rs due to the longer wheel base, but I don’t have any trouble keeping up with my buddies on their FS 26″ bikes. I’d be interested to hear from those who have the “69’r” setup, with the 26 in back and the 29 out front. From what I’ve heard this offers the benefits of both bikes, although they look quite odd. James, I’m surprised you haven’t at least tried a 29’r. You should try to demo one. Last year on our local Fat Tire Festival (out near the Kern River in California), Specialized was in attendance offering demo rides on their bikes. About half of the guys in our 20 man group took up the offer, me being one of them (I rode their FS Stumpjumper 29’r which was like a dream), and guys who only ride 26″ bikes also opted to try a 29’r for the first time, and they all couldn’t stop raving about it. Definitely give it a go man.

    Reply • April 23 at 9:23 am
    • bikejames says:

      Just for the record I am not anti-29er and would actually love to try one out. I just have not gone out of my way to do so and to date the chance has not fallen into my lap.

      It certainly seems that those that have tried like it, especially for certain terrains and situations. I am beginning to think that I should go out of my way a bit to check one out!

      James

      Reply • April 23 at 9:28 am
  8. Julie says:

    I have been riding my 29er since I built it up in October and I love it. I am relatively tall for a female rider (5’9″) and ride an 18″ bike with YBB rear suspension. The combination of YBB and 29″ tires is perfect! I get the benefit of a bit of suspension with the feel of a hardtail. I notice a slight bit of lag on steep uphills but that has just forced me to become a stronger rider. My 29er is just as agile as my 26er and I actually feel like I have better maneuverability and stability. It rips on the downhill single track and dances over all the roots and rock.

    I do adventure racing and the 29 works great for that since the majority of the trails we cover in races are fire roads. That said, I still spend more time on tech single track than I do fire road when I’m not racing and the 29er never disappoints.

    My friend who is about 5’7″ has been riding a 29er for about as long as I’ve known him. He just sold it…said it was too much effort for his size. But, and you’ll like this LL, he is about to take delivery of a custom 69er. After he’s ridden it a bit I’ll have him post a review for you all. I wonder if the 29er is just more suitable for larger, or at least taller, riders.

    Reply • April 23 at 10:01 am
  9. Rob says:

    Never tried one – I can’t see it being better on technical terrain. Also the lack of Maxxis Minion DHF and Highroller, and 6″ forks limit it’s selection.

    Basically the tires are the biggest problem for me, I’ve tried tonnes of tires over the years and found there is a reason that near every Pro DH rider runs Maxxis.

    Reply • April 23 at 4:00 pm
  10. robert legg says:

    I have tried a variety of 29″ mtb’s and am still not ready to make the leap. I ride w/ some dedicated 29er’s and can see an advantage in certain aspects of our local trail we ride together. All things being equal, as in fitness and riding capabilities, the biggest advantage I have experienced has been in technical rooty sections with many small depressions between that seem to slow my 26″ wheel down as compared to a 29″ wheel my buddies ride. This is where the 29er pulls away and I have to increase my effort to maintain pace. Climbs are where I pick up ground over them for sure.

    Reply • April 24 at 7:17 am
  11. allan says:

    I ride a 29er hardtail and love it. I ride a lot of tight, twisty singletrack also and haven’t had any problems with handling. I’m 5’8 and 150 pds. I also love the face that you can just point and shoot on downhills. The increases stability and rollover factor make a huge difference.

    Reply • April 25 at 4:09 am
  12. Cyril says:

    I built my hardtail into a fully rigid 6/9r, and I absolutely love it. These days I find myself riding it more often than my full suspension rig. In hindsight I wish I’d brought it to Sea Otter last month for the cross country course.

    First of all, this setup is super fast and grippy and perfect for the nontechnical stuff, the extra rollover is almost always enough to make up for the lack of suspension.

    But also, I’ve been riding it on increasingly technical stuff and found it is making me a better rider — improving my choice of line, my smoothness, my handling skills… all that stuff you can sometimes rely on your suspension to get you through. Although I know you were asking about wheel size not rigid vs. suspension.

    I do sometimes prefer the quicker handling of the 26 for tight twisty singletrack, but anywhere with traction issues, I love that 29 up front.

    I would love to try a fully suspended 6/9. I can’t really imagine a downside if you could get the geometry just right…

    Reply • April 27 at 5:19 pm
  13. jaydub says:

    I have only been riding about 4 years and the last 3 seriously. I don’t race but get in 3-5 rides a week in the Boise foothills. I’m 5’9″ and a borderline clydesdale and 50 something. I started on a single speed 29er just last year for something different to get into bike shape and haven’t looked back. I strictly do cross country. I gradually worked into riding my 26″ geared/FS through the summer but converted my 29er to 9 speed. I ended up liking the 29 rolling power so much I rode it most of the year. There is something to being higher on top of your rig, kinda like an SUV of bikes I guess. Also, I am not only stronger (from SS) but much faster going up the “gultch” than I ever was. I can hang better with the rest of my group now!

    Since I have been dreaming of the SS all winter, I converted the 29er back to SS and haven’t stopped riding it! I bought another 29er SS but will convert that to 27 speed this week to broaden the quiver. I think its, 29er all the way this year. Next year a FS 29er, perhaps? could be.

    keep them doggies roll’n

    Reply • April 30 at 8:08 am
  14. Steve N says:

    I switched exclusively to a 29er 3 years ago and love it. The bike is not super bling but I’ve got it sorted nicely now and wouldn’t go back to 26ers now. The difference between my 29er and previous bike, an FS 26er, on my first ride was quite noticeable. I am 176cm and 96kg (about 215lbs I think) so getting up into clyde territory.

    For me the things I noticed were increased stability, esp. in tight singletrack, greater traction, greater momentum, better ability in technical climbs. On longer fire road climbs I think it’s only marginally better than a 26er but I’ve never been a great climber so I think the rider (me) may be the limiting factor ;-).

    Frame design/geometry/fork offset have settled down for 29ers now so I think previous conceptions about 29ers being heavier/slower etc. are now misguided.

    My thought to anyone thinking about a 29er is to give it a test ride and compare it. You may just like it.

    Reply • April 30 at 9:45 pm
  15. glossi says:

    I work at a bike shop here in Fort Collins, CO, and my experience with 29ers has been limited. We certainly don’t sell a whole hell of a lot of them, but then again, the people that come in looking for them buy them. Riders that have trekked a lot can tell the difference. I guess you have to be ready for the size jump and have to ride a couple to make sure your comfortable. for sure, don’t buy one cause you think it’s the “cool” thing to do…
    -J-

    Reply • May 8 at 9:33 pm
  16. Story Mt Bike says:

    I am a 29er all the way. As a lot of people do I started on a hardtail 26er then went to a FS 26er and then tried a 29er hardtail and WOW I fell in love. I own three to date a geared Karate Monkey, Felt Nine Pro, and a Haro Mary SS. I live on the Womble trail and the bigger wheels really eat the twists, turns, and climbs up. On the Ouachita trail it handles the rock gardens like my 26er never even thought of. My downhill speeds have improved dramiticaly. I am not sure if it the confidence I feel thinking the bigger wheels will roll over stuff or if it the technology at work. If you havent already you should really try one.

    Reply • May 9 at 10:25 pm
  17. Flatlandr says:

    Not a ton to add; I live in MI and ride a variety of trails here: sinuous fast singletrack to tight swithcy grunt trail (local 3x/week ride). Absolute difference between the two, however. The tight, grunt, low-flow I ride three-five x/week is not 9er country. Glide, brake, corner, back up to speed will make you wish for a 6er.

    But I’ve found the truly tight stuff is rare. Following a trip out to bikejames’ home court, I concluded that my 29r (Ellsworth Evolve) was a considerably better choice than my buddy’s ID. Still there is variability. I wasn’t hurling myself into space photo-op style, but would rank my preference for the 29er in the following order (most to least):

    Monarch Crest -> Amasa Back -> Prime to Kessel -> Barr Trail -> Horsethief (didn’t try to ride the entry drop) -> Moore Fun -> Slickrock

    Reply • December 10 at 2:00 pm
  18. Darryl Cram says:

    as a 5ft 6in rider looking for a change to my 2004 RM ETSX-50 I am not sure I’m suited to the 29er way. I’ve read the tests comparing the power used to ride a 26″ duallie compared to a HT and a 29er HT. The 29er comes out a tad in front! But as a small guy I’d need light wheels to get a 29er moving. It makes for lots of net time and bike mag reading. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Much to my wife’s lament.

    Reply • December 30 at 5:18 pm
  19. Big Chris says:

    I am 6’4″. I tried a 29 and will stick with it. But I must be clear here because I like the advantages for my riding style now. I am not a thrashing DH FreeRider any more. I like XC tiding, SS etc. climbing and I like a hardtail bike. A 29er also fit me better in that I was in the bike not on top of it etc. Yes it rolls better etc. But lets be clear that they roll better straight than they do turning. I am not sure how much faster it really is altogether however. I choose to ride a 29er exclusivity because I do not thrash the shuttle runs anymore and it fits my criteria. I am an old XC guy now.

    It is faster on the flats for me and light cornering there is more tire on the dirt so I can have a HT. It seems faster going straight or straight ish. But it is not faster on technical descents.

    This is what I think bikejames is referring too. he isnt saying they arent fast. He is saying they are a different beast when it comes to bike handling skill when bike handling is what makes you fast not just the bike rolling itself.

    However once into a speedy transitional situation with sharp turns and fast cornering back and forth that requires mad weight transfer and unweighted and air I prefer a 26. 29 just doesnt work for me like a 26. I am no techie but I have to think that the wheel mass and rotational mass wanted to keep the bike straighter longer. I noticed braking into a turn at speed the bike wants to straighten up more than a 26 and that is a problem for me in those conditions. In addition it is not as quick up to speed once momentum is lost in a tough trun and the transition goes up hill. Give me a course that is straighter and less pedaling out of ruts like the old Kamikaze downhill at mammoth then I am all about a FS 29. But those are rare. I understand the benefit the 29 will have rolling over stuff at this level but in my opinion bike handling skills outweigh the size of the wheel in these conditions and for me, at that level, a 26 allows for better bike handling.

    I am not hating here. I stated that I choose to ride 29 exclusive now because my dh dirt huck days are done and I am in a training mode and I just roll now. I just wanted to be clear that I noticed the difference at both ends of the spectrum and don’t buy the all or nothing mentality that is out there in the industry.

    I am also one of the few in the industry it seems that calls a 29er a mountain bike. I wish more people would.

    Final verdict. 29ers are mountain bikes. They are a different size and shape and fit different people and different courses and a tremendous option for all in the industry. More options the better IMHO If were racing and hucking again and someone asked me which I prefer I’d say it depends. The choice would be course specific. Like the shaped skis in Skiing. I would choose what ever fit the course and conditions. Bottom line is choice.

    All you 9er heads claiming they are the end all be all are not doing the bike business any good.

    I don’t see 29ers hitting the dirt jump or slope side circuit any time soon. But I am riding mine every day because it fits my course now.

    Reply • January 4 at 11:24 am
  20. El Dusto says:

    You know, I’m not entirely convinced that 29ers are all they are cracked up to be. For a certain demographic, they’re great, just not for me. I realize I’m tossing myself into the shark tank by posting this in the midst of so many 29er fan posts, but I thought I’d give an opposing opinion for reference/entertainment/whatever.

    1) 29ers definitely do have a higher CG (center of gravity). This is my main gripe with them, as it seems to affect my riding the most. This is quite noticeable when cornering quickly, as the bikes tend to feel a little more sluggish than their 26″ cousins. I know that I could get used to it, but it would definitely adversely affect my agility on the bike, no doubt about it. This alone is enough to keep me off them, as I really like to whip my bikes around corners. I love the agile feeling that a lower CG offers.

    2) An increased moment of inertia on the larger, heavier wheelset does tend to expend a bit more energy to get them rolling fast. Not a huge difference, but it is there to the picky xc rider, I guess. This might be a larger downside if the rider does ultra-long distance rides, but that’s pretty subjective.

    3) One of the biggest selling points of the 29er is the claim that it will roll over chop and bumps with ease, since the wheels are a larger-radius arc. I do notice a difference. BUT! I just cannot, no matter how hard I want to, get myself to say that they do much more than a 26″ wheel. Talking to a 29er fan will get the invariable ‘it rolls so smooth and efficient!’ speech. It is often so emphatic that it makes me wonder if they feel like riding a 26″ is like a square wheel or something. My experience on one has been more to the tune of ‘it rolls a tiny bit smoother.’ How much smoother? Pretty hard to tell without common, empirical evidence. I take a somewhat mathematical approach to the issue. Doing some calculations with the actual curvature of the wheels shows that there isn’t a massive difference in the power robbed by force vectors applied to a tire by the average square-edge, rock, bump, etc. There are certain areas of the tire that, when hit by an edge/bump, would definitely provide less rolling resistance than the older 26, but this isn’t true across the board. Certain areas of the tire, if confronted by an obstacle, would provide near identical results to a 26. So it does help, but in my opinion not overwhelmingly so. A 1.5″ increase in effective radius (11.5%) just doesn’t provide enough of a difference in the arc near the contact patch to merit the huge praise it gets, in my opinion. If it were a 36er or something, then THAT would be a big be a big difference. That would provide the kind of benefit that I seem to hear touted by 29er proponents.

    It also depends a lot on the trail on which the person rides. Huge, doghouse-sized rock gardens will be nasty for either wheel size. Here in Utah, there are TONS of 29ers all over the Shoreline and Pipeline trails, but they tend to stay away from the nastier things like Brighton/Lake Mary. Shoreline and Pipeline seem a perfect fit for 29ers: Relatively little steep elevation gain/descent, wide and well-packed, and full of smaller chatter bumps, edges and rocks. I personally believe, as well, that they’re very popular on those trails because of the abundance of Salt Lake wanker show-off types that ride it daily to display their latest and greatest. ‘Look how hard core XC and awesome I am, everyone!’ seems to be the order of the day on those trails. Not saying that all 29ers are like that at all. I’ve just seen many people that fit that mold that do end up getting on the 29er train… or cyclocross ๐Ÿ˜‰

    So that’s my overly-long opinion on 29ers. They’re fine in their place, but I personally don’t like the high CG location and I don’t think the extra effort in spinning the wheels is worth the small increase in rolling efficiency. Others still swear by it and that’s fine. If it works for you, go for it.

    OK, everyone. Now open fire on the 26er guy.

    Reply • February 5 at 2:38 pm
  21. electric says:

    I think 29r is just another style of riding and certainly has become less of a fad but definitely over-hyped.

    I’m sticking to my 26″ wheels – they suit the riding i do. I don’t seen any reason to change, i regularly ruin wheels as it is.

    I’m sure BMX guys are going to stick with their 20″ wheels, and not move to 26″ wheels either – unless they’re changing their riding style too.

    Part of the reason 29r bikes surprise people is because they have this illusion they’re riding trails at a skill/technical level which requires a nimble 140mm trail bike. So they hear about 29r then hop on and all of the sudden they’re going faster on their local trail since that local trail didn’t really require such a 26 bike! Not saying people don’t know what they’re talking about, but sometimes we are mistaken since we have this fishbowl-like experience of what the limits are. Whatever fits i suppose… I also don’t buy into i’m 6 foot x so i need a 29r… plenty of tall guys ride small bmx bikes and 26″ bikes. I think the really tall guys are just soothed by the aesthetic aspect of the bicycle not making them look tall.

    Reply • February 18 at 4:37 pm
  22. Walt says:

    I rode one and it is true what they say: sit between the wheels instead od above the wheels. it’s a lot harder to skid one out or crash, but they definitely have slower accelaration. The 27.5 wheel offers the best advantages of both the 26″ and the 29″. Too bad companies are really making forks yet for them.

    Reply • February 24 at 10:07 pm
  23. Ned says:

    I’ve ridden 26, 29, an 96ers and I’ll stick to my 26 with full suspension and fat tires. I’ve only been on one company’s 29 and 96ers but none of them impressed me, this includes hardtail, soft-tail and fully versions. The fully was kind of fun on fast open trail because of the longer wheelbase made it near DH bike stable but once it gets really twisty they don’t have that quick snap going from one turn to the next. The 96er thing is fun to play on but I wouldn’t want to own one, choosing tires is enough of a hassle when you’ve only got one size to deal with. I’m curious to try a 29 DH rig but like most things I’m guessing there’s courses that they’ll do better on than others.

    Reply • April 28 at 10:45 pm
  24. SoviGuy says:

    I had the option to buy a 29er and passed. It was not as responsive (I rode 4 different 29ers, from Cannondale, Giant, two models each) As any bike, it comes down to preference. They seemed sluggish and the change in handling was more than evident. But as a few posts above say, the rider chooses the bike, not the other way around. 29ers aren’t better for everyone, but they are very much better for some people.
    Bikes are beautiful, no matter how big they are.

    Reply • October 9 at 2:56 pm
  25. Jamey says:

    I bought a Bianchi Project Series bike back in ’91–a Project 5. They were billed as “700c Mountain Bikes.” It was heavy, slow, and flexy. The frame geometry was terrible–I ride a 15″ – 17″ frame size, and the thing handled badly. It was beautifully equipped, though: Suntour’s last XC Elite groupe, with a Sakae Ninja stainless inner-chainring (memmer them?), and a proto Ritchey cockpit, with an Avocet 1 saddle. The claims made then were the same as they are now: better approach angle over obstacles, higher ground clearance, more stable, yada-yada. But the wheels weighed a TON, and the frame weighed more, the result of longer fork tines and back stays. I’m surprised people again will drink the kool-aid with 29ers. A 26 is just way more agile in climbs than a 29er–stiffer, lighter (dollar for dollar), and smaller wheels accelerate faster (climbing is, after all, accelerating against gravity). Facts is facts. YMMV. But I’ll stick with a ’26er when I’m riding off-road.

    Reply • April 6 at 6:27 pm
  26. Warnerja27 says:

    I rode 26er FS for years. My last 2 bikes were 29er hardtails. I loved those also. But to put it simple. I’ve noticed 29ers are good for long distance and keeping your wheels on the ground. They def do roll over logs and roots and rocks easier. But for a fun playful quick, fast reacting mtb I’d say 26 is where it’s at. Although I’m faster over all and can go a further distance on my 29ers. I can jump and play around much easier on my 26er FS. So I’ll be selling my 29er and solely riding my 26 when it comes to off road. Until I get older that is, and jumping/taking drops become something I’m no longer interested in, then I’ll go back to 29ers.

    Reply • May 1 at 6:03 am
  27. dgt says:

    seems like most of the 29ers around here want to climb up the fun downhill and descend a fire road. so much for bombing the downhill when there’s another newbie on a 29er around every corner. why do we have to yield to the climber anyway?. that seems like antiquated bullshit. like going skiing and having to constantly stop for snowshoers.

    Reply • November 8 at 5:07 pm

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