This gives me a vantage point of reading the actual marketing and the reason behind the marketing. Or in other words, I read what industry insiders are thinking and how that translates into beta for the public.
I also like Math.
A while back, we discussed the wheel size dilemma. I felt at the time that I had done it justice and the I would have no need to return to the subject. Unfortunately, we are all about to be subject to a shit storm of 650B bikes. Why? Are they better? Well, let’s see.
Let’s consider, for a moment the equation Y=-X2. For the lack of the ability to do superscript on this website that is Y equals negative X squared. When graphed, this equation renders a negative parabola. The great thing about the negative parabola is that it reaches a maximum and then descends. This happens at zero.
It was the Greeks who surmised that something that grows and then degenerates has to pass through a point of perfection. For example, humans grow and then they die. This means that at some point humans must be perfect for they passed through a point of maximus. This could be boiled down to a millisecond when we stopped growing and began to age.
The parabola also is a great visual marker of a dichotomy with diminishing returns. Meaning, for our discussion, that a smaller wheel spins up faster, is strong and lighter is in direct opposition to the idea that a bigger wheel has better traction and a smoother ride quality. At some point, these opposing ideas must pass through the maximus meaning that there is a perfect wheel size.
It has always bothered me that no one has ever done any empirical research to find that perfect balance. To find that zero where, if you go smaller traction is lost, but if you go bigger it inversely effects wind up. It would seem, that an industry so hell bent on selling the next greatest iteration of technology, might have a little empirical data to back it up.
Unfortunately, no one has that data. And my guess is that no one ever will.
I learned from BRAIN that the 29″ wheel size represents the only area of growth for the cycling industry in the past few years. I also learned that forecasts show that this size has pretty much leveled off and will stay flat, much like every other bike category.
Specialized has stated that 26″ wheels are dead. And by dead I assume they mean that there will be no more growth in this wheel size. It is flat and therefore, not profitable.
And here comes 650B. Please refer to the above link of my past comments for reference of what this alphanumeric combination means.
The 29″ wheel was a thing of beauty for the cycling industry. It was a way to make people who already owned a bike think they needed a new one. Do already have a Stumpjumper? Well, now you need a 29er version. Have a hardtail? Well, if it isn’t 29er you’re an idiot and you better get to your local shop.
By the way, I must say I own both 26″ and 29″ bikes.
So now the industry is about to pop with an explosion of 650B bikes. Do they have any empirical data showing that this new “old” size is perfect? Have they measured wind up in comparison to traction and found a size that is the perfect dichotomy of both? As far as I know, they have not. Instead, they co-opted the next size emerging in hopes that riders will once again feel the need to by another bike simply because a new wheel size is available.
Do I think that 650B bikes have a place? Absolutely. But I am a hater of marketing. I don’t believe that any of us “need” 650B bikes. And I don’t feel that they offer any significant improvement over what is currently available. To me they are a jack-of-all trades size. Much in the same way that I am not attracted to the FSR Stumpjumper, the 650B is a tweener that doesn’t do anything awesome but does most things in a mediocre fashion.
Maybe it will prove to be that perfect size that puts both traction and wind up at zero. Or it may be just the next marketing scheme of an industry selling the most efficient vehicle known to man and that happens to be running out of reasons why you need a new one.