650b: Is There Life After the Buzz?

Originally posted by Guitar Ted over at TwentyNineInches.com  This post caused much discussion and commenting.  Please view the originally post and add your two cents.

Recently I have come across some questions regarding my thoughts on where this 650B mountain bike “thing” is going. I have reserved posting on anything related to this wheel size since Interbike (with the exception of the Fox warning) since I was waiting to see what might develop myself.

Carver titanium bike with 650B wheels

While there was a considerable “buzz” surounding the 650B mountain bike before Interbike, the idea has waned considerably since then. There are devotees, certainly, but the promised build up of manufacturers and vendors supporting the idea of 650B for off roading has been, shall we say…..a bit disappointing. To be sure, the products promised may be in the pipeline, but having actual hardware available is going to be critically important in the coming months if the 650B mountain bike idea is going to really take a foot hold.

A proposed design for a 650B Origin 8 bike

My feeling is that without a widely distributed name brand front suspension fork at a reasonable price, without a varied assortment of high performance off road tires, and without at least three mid-level manufacturers supporting the platform, 650B is doomed to be what it is. A niche product mostly turned out by custom, hand made bicycle companies in small numbers. Support for the idea is one thing, having the tools and availability to them is quite another.

A Rawland 650B bike on display at Interbike 2007

These are the main ingredients to the success of 650B in terms of making any sort of a dint in terms of mountain bike sales at a retail level or in mountain bike culture. These are things I don’t see happening…….yet. Will they? I think the time is critical for 650B now and the North American Handmade Bicycle Show may give us a clue as to whether or not 650B has any life left in it as a commercially available mountain bike. It was at the 2007 version of NAHMBS that the whole 650B “craze” took root. I think it will be here, in 2008, that we will see if the idea still has legs, or if it is going to be a footnote in the annals of off roading.

Whatever happens, Twenty Nine Inches will be watching. Stay tuned for any further developements.

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