A Bold Statement: 26"ers To Fade Away

Recently it came to my attention that Chris Sugai of Niner Bikes had made a rather shocking proclamation. He stated on an online video clip that in three years the 29″er wheel size would outsell 26″ers and that “..in ten years 26 inch wheels will not exist in the mountain bike world.”

Now that’s a bold statement.

However; it bears looking at. Think about where 29″ers were just four years ago when I bought my first 29″er, a Karate Monkey. That frame and fork was the first widely available frame and fork for 29″er seekers outside of Fisher dealers. It was (and still is) reasonably priced and it was pretty dialed handling wise. Other than Fisher and Surly, you were dealing with custom bikes and a high price to try out a new thing. The mainstream bike companies weren’t interested in 29″ers. A niche market, no money in it, and just a fad is what they said at the time. Surly was thought of as being rather bold, and Fisher, well even their own dealers didn’t rightly understand 29″ers. A lot of Fisher dealers didn’t even bring the bikes in.

There were no forks outside of the ubiquitous Marzocchi, a handfull of so so tires, no real purpose built rims, and most folks building 29″ers were still scratching their heads concerning geometry and fit issues that arose with using the bigger wheels.

Was this 29″er thing ever going to get off the ground?

Obviously, we all know now that it not only got off the ground, but is flying even higher, thank you very much. The thought of 29″ers flying so high that they eclipse the heights reached by 26″ers is maybe similar to the thoughts about 29″ers that the industry had just four short years ago. It’s crazy talk, not possible, or isn’t it?

From the responses we recieved from the recent posts about the 29″er market, it would seem that many are believing that a much wider audience for 29″ers exists and will be tapped into. One of those untapped markets is the entry level mountain bike rider.

My belief is that entry level mountain bikers looking for their first “real” mountain bike, or their first bike at all for off roading, will be the deciding group when it comes to whether or not 26″ers survive as a mountain biking alternative. If bigger wheels for mountain biking are percieved as a safer, more enjoyable experience than 26″ers are for around the same amount of money, then I think the jig is up for 26″ers. At least for hardtails.

My inclination is that the 26″er will always have a foothold in the long travel, down hill arena where wheel strength and size limitations will keep 29″ers at bay. However, I also believe big wheeled bikes will give them a run for their money. 29″er big hit bikes are here and more are coming, so it will be interesting to see where that goes in the future.

While I’m not willing to go as far as Chris Sugai is on the future of 29″ers, I think that a larger number of 29″ers will be sold than 26″ers someday. That day may be coming sooner than we think!


No Responses to “A Bold Statement: 26"ers To Fade Away”

  1. Big Dave Says:

    I don’t think any of that is crazy talk or too bold whatsoever. With 650b coming into the fold, the demise of the 26″ wheel has begun. However….and this is something to think about….,with today’s ease and ability to manufacture smaller runs of decent products, varying wheel sizes may be as important as frame sizes.

    A 6’5″, I know the benefit of the wagon wheel. It fits me. The longer wheelbase doesn’t phase me. I’m a big guy with a big bike. I like it. I’ve been hounding my sponsor for a couple of years now to make a longer travel 29er. Without having to use a wider bb to allow the front deraileur to clear a fat tire, running a 650b tire in the rear may be more practical.

    I also find it tough to put the 4’10” 90 lb. female on a 29er. They would have to spend an enormous amount of money to get a quality set of wheels to make the bike light enough to be fun. The 26″ may still be their best bet.

    Also, surfers and skiers have quivers of varying equipment for varying terrain and wave types. I don’t see why mountain bikers can’t have the same.

  2. choke Says:

    As long as there are department stores, there will be 26″ mountain bikes.

  3. Desert9r Says:

    I know a lot of ppl, Incl., ppl 6ft.+ that prefer 26″ I once had some one say “they don’t race Craftman trucks on a street course do they?”

    and every racer I know Trains on a 29″ but still races 26″

    I think Chris said that because he works for Niner, just like every shop owner says, His/her stuff is the best.

    The public has to deside for themselves, what they like better.

    Besides 29ers are just now/still “breaking out”, people are buying them because they are cool, soon we are probably going to see a recession, because the people that bought them because it was Cool are going to sell them off.

    In reference to “B” bikes- until a major company(s) produce knobby “b” tires, 26 & 29 will have 99% of the market.

  4. Dirt McGirt Says:

    Choke’s right. Ma and pa Trailer park will be looking for 26″ tires just like they are in the shop looking for 18″ and 22″ tires today.

  5. nalax Says:

    Sugai is Wrong!

    The market is going 69 and thus the split will be 50/50 with + or – 3% margin of error for whether you need more spares for front or back. Since rear tires tend to wear faster, the market will sway back to 26.

    Chris does not work for Niner. He’s a co-owner.

    Is Panaracer a major company? They make the Pacenti Neo-Moto.

  6. Desert9r Says:

    Panaracer is 1 major company making the Only knobby B tire. How many companys make 26″ a/o 29″ tires?

  7. Guitar Ted Says:

    Dirt, choke: The reasoning used to support future 26″er sales through the “mart” stores is flawed. Think about why they are there in the first place. It was because of the mtb boom in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Before that, the department stores were filled with road bikes and 26X1 1/8th juvenile road bikes from the 70’s bike boom.

    The thing is, “mart” stores chase trends and fads for sales. They believe that the more popular bikes now have 26 inch knobby tires. However, things do change. Anybody notice any road bikes in their local big box department stores lately? See what I mean? 😉

    If the entry level mtb sales at LBS and online start to trend over towards 29ers, (and I believe that they will), then “mart” stores will follow suit. Oh wait! They already are! Witness Tony Hawk 29″ers and Schwinn is also rumored to be bringing a “mart” 29″er soon.

    So, the “stalwart” sales of 26″ers in big box department stores isn’t a guaranteed thing. History shows us this, and current merchandising activities in these retail outlets show us the market is in flux. It’s entirely possible that 26 inch mtb’s will be a thing of the past at your local “mart” store in ten years.

  8. Dirt McGirt Says:

    Well, to hell with box stores of all kinds, anyway. That includes Performance and REI. Push em all of the short pier in a hurry!!!

    And besides, who can claim that ANYTHING will “take over”? No one can.

    Except Miss Cleo…..

  9. David Pals Says:

    I have it on pretty good authority the Iranians have crates of 26ers buried in the desert.

  10. spudpatch Says:

    I love my 29er, I like my 69er, but if I were to ever race again I would be back on 26″ wheels without hesitation. Bikes are tools, using them as such buyers will buy the bike that works best – or rather which one they are told works best…

  11. Cloxxki Says:

    We are approaching 50 seperate true 29″ tires since the first one in 1999.

  12. Cloxxki Says:

    We are approaching 50 separate true 29″ tires since the first one in 1999.

  13. Joe Says:

    26r’s should be placed on the endangered species list and get special treatment for their increasingly rare sightings

  14. Joe Says:

    Coke Cola just shot out of my nose when I read David Pals reply, touche, what a great sense of humor, oh man, LOL

  15. Matty Says:

    Last time i checked, 26ers still dominate the mountain bike world. I live in an area where downhilling and freeriding are money, and last time i checked i havent seen a downhiller on a 29er quite yet. 29ers are killer for cross country, but for the gravity defyin folk, im pretty sure the 26er or 24er are gonna stay around for a while

  16. Joe Says:

    denial sucks, been there

  17. Vic Says:

    Bike people are great at bringing the funny:
    The 26er is dead because 15% (or some other percentage that is way south of 50) of us have switched to a different wheel size and a guy who makes 29ers says so.
    69ers are stupid because they won’t be 29er enough and will handle like 26ers.
    69ers will rule the world because they are the best of both worlds.
    650 is going to take off because a manufacturer built a demo and there is a tire for it.
    650 will replace 29ers and 26ers because they ride just like 69ers without carrying two tubes
    Friction shifting rules
    Index shifting rules
    I will never replace my over the bar shifters with those stupid triggers
    Suspension is stupid
    Wait no, suspension rules
    Oh, wait I was wrong, suspension is after all stupid
    Gears are stupid too
    Carbon is stupid
    Steel is real
    Ti is real
    No ti is stupid
    Ti is only stupid if is not mixed with carbon and 650b wheels with a spoke count higher than 20 and lower than thirty six and not radial laced unless it has V brakes which were stupid until they became cool on bikes with no more or less than 4″ of travel depending on whether or not the wheel diameter on the front is effected by the tubeless tire and does not feature an integrated headset.
    My cousin saw a 658 and it was way better than the 650
    26ers rule
    29ers are a fad
    your mom rides a 26er
    only if she lives in a trailer park
    Bikes are cool wheel sizes are cool.
    I like mine bigger and I am really glad enough of you people agree so we can have product choices at reasonable prices. (By the way, thanks)
    Outside of that, what wheel size other people choose is not my problem
    It’s not yours either
    Go ride your bikes

  18. Bidwell Says:

    mtbr will have to make a new forum section – “Vintage 26” for all of the faithful soon to be a minority. But you said it best- We will ride what we can ride.

  19. BearSquirrel Says:

    I doubt it. The pre-29er market included 24″ Mountain Bikes to fit kids and extra small riders. 29ers won’t fix this problem. I still see the 24″ mountain bikes for kids.

    What I believe will happen is that you will see 29ers taking over the XC market for most “adult” sizes. Lessons learned will allow frame designers to sneak 26″ wheels into places that they were using 24″ wheels before.

    Other Disciplies:
    Dirt Jumping/Freestyle – These will be 26″ forever. Optimally a smaller wheel would be stronger but no one will want to got there. These guys play on smooth berms so a larger wheel really doesn’t buy them anything. A lot of these guys are already riding their BMX bikes in this realm. I don’t think you’ll see these guys on larger wheels.

    All Mountain – I think this is an area where both sizes will continue to co-exist. If 650B would make any real inroads, I think this is the place.

    Downhill – If an MTB company commits to retooling for the required parts (double crown 29er forks, larger head tubes, super strong rims and wider rear hub spacing) I think 29ers could very rapidly take over. I think this exactly what Niner has in mind with their WFO. True strength is VERY important for downhill riders. But the longer contact patch and superior rollover characteristics would be a major advantage. The naturally higher gear ratio also favors downhill.


    Just accomplishing a 29er takeover in the XC market will be challenging. Manufacturers are selling 29ers as high end hardtails. They’re not speccing them with the cheap junk that will get them down to the $300-$400 pricepoints where the bulk of sales likely are. Until they do, 29ers will be the toys for advanced cyclists and those who are willing to invest $600+ on their first mountain bike.

  20. George Krpan Says:

    I think it’s good business practice for bike makers to continue on with 26ers.

    Eventually the word will get out that 29ers are better and there will be a stampede for 29ers.
    The bike makers will then be glad to sell you a 29er even though you have a perfectly good 26er.

    It’s like the auto makers. You buy a gas guzzler and then the price of gas suddenly goes to $3. They will then be glad to sell you a hybrid even though the gas guzzler is far from worn out.

    Auto makers sell more cars this way.

    Also, the bike makers sell more bike shit because of 26ers.
    People buy new forks, tires, brakes, components because they’re trying to make their sows ear into a silk purse.
    They have no idea that there’s something inherently wrong with their bikes.
    29er riders are actually satisfied with their bikes. I know I am. A 6000SUX fork is not going revolutionize my ride.

  21. LC Says:


    I can now smoke guys on puny 26ers since I have a bike that can haul my a** Singlespeed Rigid 29ers is the Max…. All those years riding something that never worked correct for me. I’m not selling any of the boatload of 26ers I have collected over the years hoping the “NEW BIKE” would be the one….I’m getting out the Saws all and cutting them into little pieces to go to the scrapper…it will be fun!

    Long live the Open class 500cc 2 stroke motorcycles…real machines for real men!…now go set the Valves on your 4 junk!


  22. Professed Says:

    Another fun post with a range of hillarious and entertaining comments!

    The fact that most here write with conviction, a degree of intelect and lots of wit and humor makes it one of the best MTB Forums around

    Bust what I need is HELP.
    How can I fit my 5’2″ or so wife on a 29 with those sky high head tubes?
    She likes to climb, with gears, so a handlebar above the saddle height just does not make sense.
    As Bear Squirrel says – Smaller wheel sizes will remain to cater for smaller people – we are not all on chicken growth hormones or of tall ancestry.
    Please prove me wrong and I will be totally converted and remove all remaining evidence of 26″ product from my shed….

  23. Desert9r Says:

    Look at Willits or the new Rocky Moutain.

    I’d be walking anyway, I don’t have enoug muscle to pedal a 35 lb-er Up stair steps. Besides some people get perma-grin from that kinda stuff I get perma-grin from unicycling my rigid!

  24. GF Says:

    Hey, I’m with Chris Sugai and everyone else that has agreed with him. I’m over 6″ and the 29er is perfect, however, my wife won’t ride it because it’s too big and heavy. She actually rides a 24″ bike.
    The main point is that in the future, serious mountain biking, will be dominated by 29ers, and there will also be a market for low cost 29ers for tall people. 26″ bikes will still be around however, for people who can’t ride 29ers.
    Bottom line, the 29er will be the king of mountain biking.

  25. Cloxxki Says:

    Professed : the key for short riders and tall head tubes : no-rise handlebars. Or flip them over. Tons of options out there, swept ones even.

  26. Professed Says:

    desert9r & Cloxxki – thanks for the tips.

    She loves the ‘dales, so has been riding with flipped stems due to the tall headshock for years.

    I would like to see a little frame in the flesh to get a feel for it but am concerned that a ‘too high’ bottom bracket to ensure an appropriate seatube – headtube proportional length, might spell and end to the handling advantages one gets. A concern that is likely to be dispelled over time I am sure.

    Also keep in mind that mind chain length control/management and longer chainstays are diametrically opposed :-

    Not all want to ride hardtails so rear suspension machines will become more common – but a longer travel machine whose chainstays are are so long that you need a scrotum bag to gather the loose chain in when on the smaller cogs, might not be successful so get over that problem and there might be a good chance of 29er world mtb domination !

    Nevertheless – in a country that is quicker than Europe – but (obviously) slower than the US; on the uptake (ie: Oz) – the acceptance is increasing and the interest soaring, especially when masters class ageing farts (aka myself) are floating up the finish lists at the races on their rigidly supported single speeds with big wheels !

    A seat on the throne for 29ers could be a real possibility !

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