Separating The Sheep From The Goats

As I get more and more involved in the testing and riding of different 29″ers and some of the proprietary parts that go along with it, I am realizing one thing. Some of this stuff is going to go away. Yep! You won’t be seeing some of the bikes and some of the parts that you can lay hands on now in a year. Maybe less.

Alot of this has to do with the sheer economics of things and alot of it has to do with…….well, how can I say this?………Stupid things. Yes, that’s it,…….. stupid things.

First, the economics. There are so many single speed/ do-it-all frames and complete bikes out there for ’07 that I can not believe that all of them will survive to see ’08 or ’09 catalogs. The market for 29″ers, while growing, isn’t really going in that direction. I mean, how many 26 inch wheeled single speed bikes are flying out the doors of shops? See what I mean? There has to be more 29″er single speed complete bikes available from major bike brands than 26″ers. I just can not seem to remember a time when so many single speed bikes were available.

The market won’t support all of these SS 29″ers and it wants geared 29″ers that are mid-priced. And the whole she-bang is quickly going to move in the direction of All Mountain full suspension once the details of designs are worked out for 29″ers. Some bikes, like Niners R.I.P. 9 are already there. The SS 29″er glut will subside, mark my words!

Then there are the stupid things. Stupid like, Hey! Look at our new full suspension 29″er that will blow everybody else out of the water……..wha?……Reba forks hit the down tube?…..uh….wait a minute…..(crap!)…….Nevermind!” Yeah, stupid stuff like that is really happening out there. Tire clearance issues, fork clearance issues, and geometry that hasn’t been well thought out plagues several 29″ers out there. The evolution of the species will weed out these weak examples and they will become endangered species, if not extinct, in short order. Then the engineering side will come into play a little later on. Who did their homework and who didn’t? Well, it’s hard to say, but the scrap pile won’t lie, and it’s gonna get higher before it gets figured out. 29″ers put a lot different stresses on things than 26″ers do, so the best designs that are well executed will survive. (I’m betting that the only things that’ll survive a nuclear holocaust are cockroaches and Karate Monkees, but that’s just me!)

Whatever happens, it’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. However, I just don’t see alot of these “bigwheeled goats” making the cut. That’s my take.


No Responses to “Separating The Sheep From The Goats”

  1. brant Says:

    We’ve just pushed the button on another batch of 26in and 29in SS bikes. Reason? They sell! Our new bikes are based on our SS converter kit on a geared cassette hub, so switching to gears is in the plan, and easy too. And if people want a dedicated SS rear wheel, we can build them one.

    I think the reason there are so many SS bikes around is that a lot of people are (and a lot of our customers) are buying them as 2nd bikes, as as such, an SS is a concept that people are familiar with as a 2nd bike… so a 29er Ss isn’t such a big leap. Usually.

    Other reason – much cheapness! You can put a good quality steel frame out with nice parts at a good price point, and get people on the thing, rather than doubling the price to equip it with XT or something nice.

    I’d rather ride a nice specced SS than a poorly specced geared bike, that’s for sure.

    As for the FS thing – one thing you’re going to see is more people using multilink/VPP/virtual pivot bikes than singlepivot machines, if only to get the rear wheel moving away from the seat tube more than you do with a simple singlepivot.

    However, one thing we’ve not seen yet is anyone really (as far as I can see) optimising the design for 29in wheels, which with it’s 30-40mm higher wheel centre can have an effect on wheel traction thrust generated suspension activation. Or maybe they have and just don’t talk about it.

  2. Guitar Ted Says:

    Brant: Thanks for your comments. I think it’s fair to say that in your market, you are the definition of single speed. Much like Surly is here in North America, your company has an established base of single speed culture, products, and sound engineering to back it all up with. My comments are referring to the companies that I see as “me too”, Johnny come latelys that haven’t previously had either a single speed in their line up, a twenty niner in their line up, or both. Obviously some will be good, some…..not so much.

    And add to that the sheer number of additional product out there and, well…… can do the math.

    I agree totally with your take on the full suspension aspect of 29″ers.

  3. MMcG Says:

    While I agree that a KM might survive a nuclear holocaust, and in respect for the pioneering aspect of the frame and fork combination, in my opinion it is a frame in need of redesign as much as some of the other potential goats out there. Sure the 4130 is bombproof, but a few small refinements could breath new life into the legendary KM.

    A few issues with it include:
    1. the bottom bracket is pretty damned low for a lot of regions of North America and beyond – Surly should raise it a bit.

    2. I ran a Reba SL on mine for a while and with a FSA orbit UF headset, the fork still hit the downtube on my 16″ frame.

    3. A slightly more sloping top tube would allow a guy like me at 5’9″ tall to ride an 18″ frame – which sports the appropriate top tube length. It doesn’t have to wicked sloping, but slightly more slope to their TTs would be a good thing in my opinion.

    Just my two cents on the Karate Monkey.

  4. Guitar Ted Says:

    MMcG: Surly has addressed the “Reba Clearance” with a slightly modified downtube. You can see it on their new blue Monkey.

    BB height is a tough one. Lots of people love it the way it is, and alot do not. Keep in mind that the Karate Monkey is not just an off road machine. Surly designed it as a “do-it-all” frameset, meaning that it’s a mtb, a touring bike, a commuter rig, etc… This also helps explain the higher than is standard top tube for a 29″er.

    If the Surly boys were apt to make a “purpose built” mtb 29″er, I think you’d find a much different design coming from them. As it is, the KM is a 29″er classic. It’s geometry still heads and shoulders above alot of other offerings available today. Not to mention, the KM is probably responsible for setting the standards in that area. More 29″ers are designed around those numbers than about any other 29″er out there.

  5. MMcG Says:


    Good point on the do it all nature of the Karate Monkey. On that note, It would be cool to see a new dedicated Surly 29er – maybe an offshoot of the Instigator (more of an all mountain geared type of 29er from Surly) but lighter than an Instigator, but designed for 29″ wheels and a 100mm suspension fork.

    That’d be cool.

  6. willtsmith Says:


    Of couse some stuff is going away. Isn’t this the way with 26ers as well. Someone brings something out and it will either sell or not. 26er stuff gets dropped all the time. And some of it is actually excellent stuff that didn’t sell well.

    The 29er concept could be analogous to that of SUVs. SUVs have always commanded higher prices. In my opinion, they never really deserved it as most of them are just trucks with rear seats instead of beds, both the seating area and cargo area both being insufficient. Regardless of their shortcomings … they sell.

    I suspect that some poor 29er designs will endure so long as they sell decent. Lets not forget that they are getting more $$$ for their 29ers. In then end, I think all the 29er movement will amount to is another bike in the stable of people who are already bike fans. I also believe we will see the 29er billed as the “DO ANYTHING” bicycle.

    In the end the bike business is just that … a business. I really don’t care how they market 29ers as we will all get better more rim, fork and tire choices. Many of those choices will be junk. But we will also likely get some better stuff at the high end including the elusive Fox Fork.

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