Wheel Size Help.

Hugh Manatee

Veteran
I have had a mountain bike or two (or three or four) since the early days. My first one was a Dawes Wildcat back in 86 or 87 I think.

Without exception they have all had 26" wheels. I even thought that was the definition of a mountain bike. Now all seems to have changed. I have been left behind by the technology. I mean all my current bikes boast suspension. One has a Flexstem, one has a Softride stem and the other a mighty 65mm in the forks. Discs have passed me by too. I'm still getting used to the power of V brakes.

Now though, I need to get my kids new bikes. I don't want to spend a fortune but I want them to last a while without being too big this year. Do I have this right?

26" wheels. Really only used by elderly dinosaurs who are so far removed from the modern age people laugh and point. Oh, and very short people.

650B. 27.5" and the new, new standard. Perhaps worth considering for a 12 year old daughter who is already 5'8"?

29" and the old new standard? Only really of use if you're over 6'2" or so? This was going to be the size for everyone until the 650 turned out to be better for more people.

Or, are the new sizes cunning marketing ploys to get people to part with more cash? I'm six feet tall and 26 has worked for me. I want a little knowledge before I hit the shops.

Thanks.
 

MikeW-71

Veteran
Location
Carlisle
My current MTB is 26" with discs and realistically it will be with me for quite a few years yet.

It depends where you ride, if it's mainly canal towpaths and non-technical trails, a 29" rolls along quicker (they say). They tend not to be as nimble as 26" though. For this reason, downhillers will still love 26". It's not just to suit a riders height, though very small frames with 29" wheels look very unwieldy to say the least.

27.5" is supposedly the best of both. Nimble as 26", but rolls faster. This is the one that will stick IMO and if I was buying an MTB now, it would be 27.5.
 

Pale Rider

Legendary Member
The problem with a 29er for shorter rider could be toe clearance.

I say 'could be' because the geometry of the newer frames has been adjusted to accommodate the bigger wheels.

My new bike - thread to follow shortly - is a medium Cannondale 29er, which has toe clearance and is fine for me at 5'11.

There's plenty of seat post showing, so I reckon it would fit someone a few inches shorter.

The small frame version of my bike - and the small frame versions of many others - only comes with 27.5" because of toe clearance.

As regards which to choose, it does depend on use.

I've only done one 20 mile ride on mine, but there's no doubt the 29er wheels roll a lot better on road and cycle track than the smaller diameters.

Bike Radar tested the three sizes on slightly more demanding trails.

The result was 29er, 26" then 27.5".

In summary, they found the 29er was fastest because of the low rolling resistance and its ability to steam roller over obstacles.

The nimbleness of the 26" got it into second place.

The 27.5" was found to be the worst of all worlds, it didn't roll fast enough to match the 29er, and it was too clumsy to match the 26".

My mate Chris the Bike Mechanic, a keen mountain biker, agrees.

Which is a long-winded way of saying your remark about 27.5" being mostly marketing puff is correct.
 

razer17

Guest
My current bike is a 26", and I'm 6"1. Recently I've rented a 29er a couple of times. When I get a new bike very soon, I won't be getting a 26". Take from that what you will.

Looking at the various shops, it really looks like 26" is losing support fast. Perhaps there will be a resurgence, perhaps not. But if there isn't a resurgence then finding replacement wheels and tyres might become an issue. I imagine that's unlikely though
 

Citius

Guest
I've recently moved from 26 to 29 - didn't consider 27.5. The difference is noticable. I can potentially see that the 29er might be a bit trickier to handle in the really tight, low-speed technical stuff, but that's not really the type of riding I do anyway. For XC or general off road, I don't think 29 can be beaten, personally.
 
At 5 ft 8 I would think she would quite easily suit a 29er. If she has any thought of racing then most people advise to go 29er. ( yes young girls can race, my daughter was a regional youth champ when everyone used 26 inch) I was a marshal at inter regional youth champs and I would say most kids over 5 ft 7 were on a 29er. However if you want a bargain and she is not going to race and just muck about and get taller and may outgrow a bike you get this year, save some cash and go secondhand. People are dumping quite high spec 2nd hand 26 inch hardtail bikes on ebay etc as no one wants them. I unfortunately am such a short arse at 5ft 5 I look faintly ridiculous on a 29er so am considering a 27.5 as I really need a 55cm effective top tube , however a friend of mine who races most nationals thinks I am stupid to try 27.5 and should go for a 29er even if it looks silly . He has tried all 3 and thinks 29er is the only way to go, he is 5ft 7.
 
OP
Hugh Manatee

Hugh Manatee

Veteran
Thanks everyone. Some really good and interesting information. I really need to get something soon. My son is becoming somewhat lazy. I made him come for a ride on Sunday and he did look a little odd on his Hotrock and he is a few inches shorter than his sister. That is the problem with twins. You have to double everything you buy.
 

Corrblimeyguv

Member
Location
Stevenage
I'm 5'10" and have recently purchased a Scaracen Kili 29" bike. For me there are plus and minus points.

I do not agree that you have to be over 6' foot to go 29".

It is much quicker than my old 26" but on my first outing there is a noticeable difference with cornering.

Perseverance is key! Go 29!
 
Bike Radar tested the three sizes on slightly more demanding trails.
Thanks Pale Rider I found the test
http://www.bikeradar.com/mtb/gear/a...e-wheel-size-really-affect-performance-43481/
I was surprised to find one of the testers was 5ft 5 and the wheel size made no difference to his results either ie 29er was fastest. There was a caveat in there on the 26 inch that it was harder work on the upper body on rocky descents and the 27.5 was less hard work. ( though 26 inch faster). Hmm may look at 29ers again.
 

Jody

Veteran
Looking at the various shops, it really looks like 26" is losing support fast.
There is a difference between loosing support and being forced out of the market place by manufacturers. If 26" inch wheeled bikes were still readily available people would still be buying them.
 

Pale Rider

Legendary Member
Thanks Pale Rider I found the test
http://www.bikeradar.com/mtb/gear/a...e-wheel-size-really-affect-performance-43481/
I was surprised to find one of the testers was 5ft 5 and the wheel size made no difference to his results either ie 29er was fastest. There was a caveat in there on the 26 inch that it was harder work on the upper body on rocky descents and the 27.5 was less hard work. ( though 26 inch faster). Hmm may look at 29ers again.
Thank you for posting the link to the test, hopefully my summary was accurate, but if not members can now see it for themselves.

You have more knowledge of mountain biking than me, so in that respect I can't help any more with the wheel decision.

All I would say is I doubt you look in any way ridiculous on a 29er.

You might look ridiculous on a bike that's too big for you, but as you and I both know, that is not the same thing.

As a general point, my mate Chris tells me it's quite common for customers to ask for a bike that is too big for them.

He reckons some of them think a smaller bike is somehow less manly or not as sturdy or won't go so well.

It puts him in an awkward position, but as he says he can only suggest - a few times - the correct size.

If the customer insists on the bigger bike, that's what they get.
 

Pale Rider

Legendary Member
There is a difference between loosing support and being forced out of the market place by manufacturers. If 26" inch wheeled bikes were still readily available people would still be buying them.
That what my mate Chris - who has been selling bikes for 20 years - reckons.

When I was buying mine, he said 27.5 has been foisted on us by the makers for no good reasons other than marketing.

It also drives him nuts because there's yet more tyres and tubes to keep in stock.
 
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