There are few things that piss me off more than interweb trolls. I mean who wants to spend their day commenting on websites with the sole purpose of pissing people off. That’s just negativity and it doesn’t help anyone. There is no quicker way for me to lose hope in humanity than to spend a little time reading the comment sections of bicycle related websites.
The only thing worse than a troll is a troll who has no clue what they are talking about. They just spew opinion and prevent any kind of intelligent debate on the topic. The most obvious example of trolling right now is over wheel size. I cannot believe how many people are hating on 29er wheels right now. I thought that debate was settle about a decade ago, apparently I was wrong. Apparently a wheel that is barely bigger than a 26er is the perfect size and all of us who have been digging our “wagon wheels” are stupid.
In attempt to present you with some valid points on the wheel size debate, follow me over to Bikerumor for a minute.
For starters, this isn’t a new fucking wheel size. Notice the 1977 number, that’s a year and that was the year that Tom Ritchey played with a French wheel size, 650b. All you trolls please note, seeing that you tend to get things wrong, I didn’t say Ritchey invented the size, he just played with it in 1977. Follow the link for where the size actually originates. And yes I realize that the 29er wheel size isn’t new either. Do you think I’m some kind of an amateur here?
Second, it isn’t an actual “tweener” size. In fact, measure from the ground up on a 26 and the ground up on a 650b, you’ll find they are almost identical with about an inch, you read that right, an inch of difference. Is that worth a “whole new standard” in the cycling industry? I don’t think so, but marketing dictates that it will be.
The next statistic I want to point out is that 51% of those surveyed had never ridden a 650b bike. I have no idea how they defined “ridden”, but I’m guessing cruising around in a parking lot counted because there aren’t enough 650b bikes out there yet for 49% of people to have spent a significant amount of time on them. I have “ridden” 650b bikes. I spent two days testing the new Giants in Park City.
First bike I took out was the Trance SX pictured above. I pedaled a whole bunch of miles on that bike that day. Thing climbed like a champ, similar to my Enduro. Also similar to my Enduro, when I turned around and came back down hill, it handled the rough well but felt twitchy compared to my 29ers. At first I thought it was the the fact that the brake levers were out of reach but even that didn’t account for the fact that turns felt sketchy at speed. The next day I rode an XTC and an Anthem and then a Trance 29er. Even on the rough, tight sections of the lift riding, the Trance was way more fun and confidence inspiring than the Trance SX 27.5 which I viewed as a great replacement for my 26er
The point, there was nothing magical or special about 650b wheels. Sure they rolled, but so do every other size. And remember, I’m not a wheel size hater. I own 29ers and 26ers and ride both pretty consistently and will probably own a 650b at some point.
Next, let’s get into that little infographic about who’s leading the charge when it comes to 650b. Not surprisingly, Santa Cruz and Giant are right there pushing the limits of tire size. I say not surprisingly because both of their suspensions designs have links that sit in front of the chain stays. Any time you add links to the chain stay, you are going to lengthen it. The big argument for 650b is that the bikes will handle more nimbly because the bike will be more compact, especially for longer travel bikes.
Well, let’s take a look at that.
Here’s the geometry chart from that Trance SX that I tested. Note this is the longest travel bike Giant makes in their 27.5 lineup.
The two numbers I would like to draw your attention to are wheel base and chain stay. Wheel base greatly influences whether a bike feels nimble or feels like your driving a semi truck. Chain stays are vital to this number. Shorter chain stays make it easier to manual, aka lift the front wheel over obstacles. The Trance SX has a wheel base of 45.8″ in a size medium and a chain stay of 17.3″. Converting those numbers to metric for easy comparison, the wheel base comes in at 1163mm and the chain stays at 439.4mm. Respectable, but let’s take a look at the 29er Enduro.
Again, let’s clarify that in the geometry world 650b is supposed to allow for shorter chain stays and in turn shorter wheel base because the wheels are smaller, obviously, making longer travel bikes with bigger wheels a possibility. The Enduro 29er’s chain stays are 430mm and the wheel base for a medium is 1159. Let’s compare that to the Trance SX. The 650b bike has longer chain stays. Yup, you get a smaller wheel and an extra 9mm of chain stay. Wheel base? The Enduro wins again being 4mm shorter than the Trance SX. And it has a half inch more travel. Hmm, put that in your little infographic and publish it.
So if you can get a 29er with more travel, shorter chain stays and a shorter wheel base, what’s the point again of 650b?
Let me be clear once more, I’m not hating on 27.5 I think it’s a great replacement for 26″ wheels. Bigger is better, we learned that about a decade ago with 29ers. I don’t think it makes any sense for shorter travel bikes or hard tails. Much in the same vain that I don’t think a 29er downhill bike is logical. What I can’t stand is all the stupid fucking comments around tire size. Fact is, there is no reason for a third tire size. It doesn’t offer enough of an advantage over the two other sizes to justify the amount of hype it is getting.
So let’s talk about that hype.
When I go to Interbike, I hang out in the basement with the bike nerds and listen to numbers and business tactics. It’s just who I’ve become. One of the seminars I went to this year was the Leisure Trends’ “State of the Industry” session. They detailed past trends and forecast where the industry would see growth. In the past 5 years 29ers are the only category that has seen growth and that is starting to level off. The only category where growth is forecast is 650b. Why? Because it’s new and people will want to have one in their quiver.
The only place where growth was forecast, except for fat bikes, was 650b. So essentially the only reason for a third wheel size is to sell you another bike. I can’t argue with that, but I know there are a lot of trolls out there that will.
P. L. and R.
Now go ride your fucking bike regardless of what size tire it has.
Editor’s note: I didn’t include the Santa Cruz Bronson in the Geometry wars because I didn’t feel it would matter. But here’s the numbers, the Bronson has a 9mm longer chain stay than the Enduro, but cuts 20mm off the overall length of the bike (wheel base).