Interbike '07: A 650B Opinion

The Interbike ’07 show is history. The booths are packed up and being shipped away across the continents. In terms of big wheeled bikes, we didn’t see much of anything earth shattering, but we did see the introduction of modern day 650B or “B” wheeled bikes. What was the overall feeling at the show about these bikes? How will they affect the future of big wheeled mountain bikes in the future? These are a couple of the questions I was putting forth at the show to vendors and attendees alike.

Let’s put one thing to rest right away, the “B” wheels are not going to be “the next big thing”, at least according to the industry folks I asked. That title would seemingly belong to the burgeoning urban/commuter segment. In fact, I heard from one industry person at a mid level company who said that “Anybody who says 650B is the next big thing isn’t going to be listened to. We’re not interested in that.” He went on to say that anybody that claims any wheel size is “the best” has closed their mind and is taking that preferred wheelsize on faith, making it a “religion” for them. I would agree that a discussion is necessary and that fanaticism is only going to divide and confound any progress forward with the bicycle as a whole.

The overall feeling I got was mostly guarded and somewhat mixed. Some places were enthusiastic for what could be done, but most were still trying to process where the wheelsize might fit in to the overall fabric of mountain biking. It’s still not really understood what benefits of the format will translate to consumer interest and ultimately dollars spent.

One of the recurring themes was small sized mountain bikes that could benefit from “big wheel” attributes. It’s well accepted amongst most manufacturers and industry folks that 29″ers are difficult (or at least not a good idea) for folks that are “shorter”. (That height definition is still debatable) The “B” wheels are seen as a way to market to these smaller folk a “big wheeled” bicycle that still works and fits as a 26″er would. This more than anything seemed to be the area that a lot of folks seemed to make sense of the “B” wheeled choice. A few folks; however, found the choice as an unnecessry confusion to potential consumers. Consumers that already are in the midst of processing 29″er wheels and what they might mean for their own mountain biking.

Of course, regardless of what some sitting along the sidelines might think, others have already taken the playing feild. Origin 8, Soma, Carver, and Rawland are all offering the “B” wheel choice for ’08. How their success or failures play out on the feild of marketing will be watched keenly by the folks on either sideline. Then it might be clear as to where the “B” wheels might fit into the future of off roading.

As of now, I think it’s in the court of the consumer. I can see where these “B” wheels make sense, but I do not think it will be anything but a niche market in the off road bicycle world. I also do not think “B” wheels will have anywhere near the impact that 29″ers have had. It’s an inbetween wheel size with inbetween benefits. I don’t see it as offering anything that fantastic as a wheel size. That said, I rode a few bicycles with that wheel size at Interbike that were impressive as mountain bikes as a whole. Perhaps not just because they had “B” wheels either, but impressive none the less.

Will it be for you? Well, “B” wheels do solve some problems in certain areas and circumstances. Certainly they have their place. Time and consumer dollars spent will help dictate the future of this wheel size to a great degree. I for one will be interested to see the outcome. Until then…………….let’s ride!

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No Responses to “Interbike '07: A 650B Opinion”

  1. trev Says:

    “He went on to say that anybody that claims any wheel size is “the bestâ€? has closed their mind and is taking that preferred wheelsize on faith, making it a “religionâ€? for them”……….

    surely he is talking about cloxxi………….

  2. Cloxxki Says:

    Learn to spell a name, will you?

    I promote large wheels for XC, where did I ever promote one as the best? Think of what you are trying to say, and whether it bears any meaning that doesn’t make yourself look dumber than the subject, before you say it.
    Go for a ride, don’t think you’re funny because you’ve got a greater mouth. Chill bro, or get a religion of your own.

  3. anon-y-mouse Says:

    clockskey – Methinks you’re the one who needs to chill. Offset this, 29″ that. Measurements for shorties. Incessant blithering on about a wheelsize. You sir, have the eyeroller posts all over here, and mtbeer. Instead of ‘championing’ the bigwheel, simply go ride one, give us all detailed ride reports from Euroland, let us SEE that you’re riding, and not just spewing. PLEASE.

  4. Cloxxki Says:

    You don’t HAVE to read it, or like it. you also need not address me when I’m not even involved.

    Did this fad grow so much that the less socially correct of riders are now also on the bandwagen?

  5. MMcG Says:

    Guitar Ted – do you know if Davis Carver had his 650b/29er hardtail out in Vegas as well as his Killer B?

    That type of combo appeals to me moreso than his Carver 96ers and I was wondering if that was out there and if you were able to get some ride time on it.

    Best,

    Mark

  6. Guitar Ted Says:

    MMcG: Nope! It wasn’t out there, but they said they are going to do it. The Titanium bikes are sweet! Custom and all for a grand. Pretty goodf deal!

  7. vegen Says:

    I understand the wheel size becoming a religion thing. But for some of us there are modifiers… for example, I chose a 29er because I can use 700c road tires on it for when I do charity rides or other bicycle “events”… I don’t race and I don’t seriously road ride, but I recognized the advantage of 700c wheels for pavement long ago when I tried to do a road ride on 26” slicks. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either.

    I don’t like to hear things from bike companies like “we’re not interested in that” because ot me that means what they are interested in is selling someone a bike that fits what they think someone would use it for instead of giving us (consumers) a choice and a say in the decision of what works best for us.

    I find the 650B size intriguing, but I’m in the process of selling off all my bikes except 1 (see first paragraph) so I doubt I will be buying one anytime soon.

    I could see 650B being a nice size for commuters, especially shorter ones…

  8. trev Says:

    “clockskey – Methinks you’re the one who needs to chill. Offset this, 29″ that. Measurements for shorties. Incessant blithering on about a wheelsize. You sir, have the eyeroller posts all over here, and mtbeer. Instead of ‘championing’ the bigwheel, simply go ride one, give us all detailed ride reports from Euroland, let us SEE that you’re riding, and not just spewing. PLEASE.” …………………..hear, hear.

    “Go for a ride, don’t think you’re funny because you’ve got a greater mouth. Chill bro, or get a religion of your own.”…………or maybe you should get a sense of humour.

  9. nalax Says:

    Carver has the killer b on their web site already…

    GT, can’t you say something negative about this so that i won’t be tempted?
    How about saying that they should make it in steel and sell it for 500 bucks or so.

    Just say that 650b can’t climb or something. But NOOOO, you have to say pretty good deal.

    At the moment, the 650b offerings are kind of on the fringe. The Soma is SS(great paint job), the Rawland appears to be for drop bars(beautiful fork), Origin-8(?) and the Carver is Ti (tempting). Vassago has their Rapscallion FS on the way and Haro will have something. It will be interesting to see what the FS designers come up with. 650b doesn’t need to become mainstream as long as it works.

    And there continues to be new 29 stuff on the way, frames, tires, FS, forks, etc.

    It’s a great time to be riding and building bikes and I’m gone.

  10. Dirt McGirt Says:

    Wow, I hope the commenting on twentysevenandahalfinches.com will be a lil more chill..

    When’s that gonna be up? I mean, that’s all the F we’ve been seeing for the last WEEEEEKS.

    Criminy!

  11. Guitar Ted Says:

    nalax: Something negative? Well, the “B” wheels are not near as good as 29″ers, how’s that?

    Dirt McGirt: I’ll tell ya, the “B” wheels are here, and they are news, so we’re covering it. Actually we’re considering calling the site something different to include any wheel size larger than 26 inches. 650B, 29 inch, 32 inch (?), and 36 inch wheels are all newsworthy here.

    We’re not changing anytime soon, but it’s something that’s on the table. 🙂

  12. Jacob's Blog Says:

    […] about the cranks, so it will be interesting to hear what is said about them come release date. 650B’s– Haro and a few other companies are stepping in less traveled waters next year as they launch the […]

  13. Fritz Says:

    29″ers are difficult (or at least not a good idea) for folks that are “shorterâ€?. Well, yeah — a shorter person on a 29er looks like a midget. It’s not flattering.

  14. Dirt McGirt Says:

    GT- I really don’t mind that you”re covering the B movement, but it’s most of what you have been posting about for the better part of a month.

    All I’m saying is that the B’s don’t need to be sitting in the front seat with Ma and Pa, they need to sit quietly in the back seat and only speak when spoken to…..

  15. Guitar Ted Says:

    Dirt McGirt: 🙂 Gotcha!

  16. The Monkey Says:

    Actually, I’m holding out for 675B, not enough of a difference for me to jump. (extreme sarcasm)
    I think that it should be called 650BS

  17. fisty Says:

    Cloxxki is appears very biased towards 29ers and understandably so. Anything smaller would be like riding a child’s bike to most of us. He has done much to help many of us understand what to expect and what not to expect from the 29er experience. His posts, in large part, got me to the 29er world and my experience there only lends him gratitude. The 29er does have disadvantages over its 26 inch sibling but Cloxxki might never never feel those disadvantages in his own experience since a 26″ is way to small for him to ride efficiently. Just MHO.

  18. fisty Says:

    Cloxxki appears very biased towards 29ers and understandably so. Anything smaller would be like riding a child’s bike to most of us. He has done much to help many of us understand what to expect and what not to expect from the 29er experience. His posts, in large part, got me to the 29er world and my experience there only lends him gratitude. The 29er does have disadvantages over its 26 inch sibling but Cloxxki might never never feel those disadvantages in his own experience since a 26″ is way to small for him to ride efficiently. Just MHO.

  19. Cloxxki Says:

    Hey Fisty,
    I happen to have the record for naming most 29″ disadvantages. The way I weigh (dis)advantages though, specifically for XC riding, larger just works out best taking all into account. It’s ancient science, all the horse and carriages had huge wheels.

  20. moondoggy Says:

    650B wheels IMO make a lot of sense- as a replacement for 26 inch wheels. They are a compromise on the benefits of 29 inch wheels, a compromise that doesn’t make sense for those who’ve found 29 inch nirvana 😉 (including me). It seems to be a step backwards from 29er’s but a great step forward for those who can’t fit a 29 inch bike well. Bring ’em on. The Rawlands are sweet looking bikes.

  21. Guitar Ted Says:

    moondoggy: I like your take. I’m coming to believe the exact same thing myself. If 650B is to become anything more than a niche of a niche, than it will have to become the replacement for 26″ers.

  22. moondoggy Says:

    Yeah, although they make alot of sense as a replacement for 26 inch wheels, I suspect many of the invested 26’er manufacturers may be dragging their feet on this one. Too much money to be made from the status quo. 29 inch wheels provided a dramatic visual contrast and riding experience over 26 inch wheels. While the 650s are an incremental (although substantial) improvement over 26 inch wheels, their marketing hook may not be substantail enough. I guess we’ll see.

    If I couldn’t fit on a 29’er, it would be a no-brainer for me- 650B’s.

  23. Wombat Says:

    It would be so much easier to make comparisons and judgements if all these tire/wheel sizes were to use a common measurement system. For example, “29 inch” sounds so huge, but if the rim is actually the same dia. as a 700c, than it’s a bit smaller than the old 27 inch rims that so many lower-end roadbikes used to use. A “26 inch” ATB rim is actually 559mm which is 22 Inches, while a 650 rim is 25.5 inches. One “26 inch” rim is 3.5 inches smaller than another “26 inch” rim. “20 inch” rims can be either 406 or 441mm. Why can’t they all just use the actual diameter of the rim across the bead area, in millimeters, as a standard measurement? Why didn’t all these tire makers ask me before labelling their tires? LOL!

  24. Guitar Ted Says:

    Wombat: Let’s take a look back in history. In the days of the penny farthing bicycle, you determined your “gear inch” by how far you traveled with one revolution of that giant front wheel. This was intimately tied to diameter of the rim and tread obviously. (pneumatic tires were yet to be invented in those early days.) So, if you had a 100″ of travel with one revolution of the wheel, that’s how big your wheel was in circumference.

    Jumping ahead a bit, when geared “safety bikes” appeared, the practice of describing wheel size still included the rim and tire combination. Instead of having to use circumference as a measurement to describe travel gained with one revolution of the wheel, you had to use diameter. (The gearing of the bike coming in to play here, where as before it was direct drive) So, no matter what the diameter/circumference of the rim was, the determining factor to get the “gain” figure was the wheels overall diameter, which by necessity included the tire.

    This practice persisted even after the introduction of deraillures on bicycles, even though “gain ratios” became less important, and even forgotten by the general public.

    This is why we have several different 26 inch standards to this day, 650B being one of them, which used to be called 26 1 3/8ths, by the way. (that was with the road/touring tires for that rim diameter.)

    Obviously, ISO Bead Diameter markings are less confusing and more accurately describe which tires go with which rims. Tradition is strong though, and it’s yet to be seen if ISO measurements will ever be adopted by the general public entirely.

  25. Wombat Says:

    Ted,
    I just happened to come across this site today while researching just what a “29er” is. Back in the day when I was mountain biking, there was no such thing (no suspension or disc brakes, either!). I was at REI shopping for tires for my homebuilt recumbent, and got into a discussion with an employee about tire/rim sizes, and he brought up the new 29ers. I know why the older rims were usually given a nominal measurement that included the tire diameter, but it seems strange that a recently developed tire would use that sort of sizing. Most likely it was used as a sales tool to make it sound as big as possible for the “bigger is always better” crowd. I mean, it could have just been called a “700c-xx (width in mm.)” or something like that since that’s what is apparently is. Personally, I like 25.5″ rims, since that’s the scale length of most of my guitars 🙂
    Barry

  26. Anonymous Says:

    frankly, I think you have no idea what you are talking about here Guitar Ted!

  27. Guitar Ted Says:

    Anonymous: Gotta love it when you “anonymous” people go to such lengths to hide your tracks. 😉

    Anyway, I think I do. 🙂

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