Making A Case For A Long Travel 29"er: Part II

In the first “Making a Case” post, I went through reasons why using a 650B wheel format instead of a 29″er wheel for a long travel full suspension bike was not going to get you any “big wheeled benefits”, nor would it be much different than the 26″ers we have already. Now I am moving on to discuss the other criticisms of the idea of a big wheeled long travel 29″er.

Niner's WFO 9 prototype

One of the criticisms leveled at doing a long travel 29″er is that the geometry is just too complex and weird to get it to work out. Well, lots of amazing things have been pulled off over the course of history because folks said “it couldn’t be done”. The long travel 29″er is one of them.

We’ve covered this Niner prototype before, but this bike is going to bend some minds when Niner finally does unleash it on the public. I like it because it flies in the face of what folks say can not be done with a 29″er.

For instance, it’s got 6.5″ of real world rear wheel travel with 17.6″ chainstays. The head tube (as of the posting) was a 1.5″ diameter steerer, but since then we have already heard that a certain shock company with a three letter animal name is going to offer a tapered steer tube fork. An idea which would work out pretty well for this bike. At any rate, the front end height has been addressed in this design.

Another place that people like to point to is the wheels. Well, this Niner, and also the Lenz Sport Lunchbox, have 150mm OD Maxle rear wheels for a dishless wheel build. That addresses your wheel strength pretty well right there.

Then there are tires. Tires that could take drops, abusive landings, and highly aggressive riding in severe conditions. Well, that is coming too. The tires pictured on the Niner are WTB’s as yet un-named prototype tires. I have seen these and they are very voluminous, wide, and reportedly pretty durable as well. These tires will enhance the already great traction 29″ers are known for in climbing and cornering.

Lenz Sport Lunchbox

So, the question may remain, “Why bother with a 29″er wheel for this sort of application? It’s not easy to put it into words, but I can only say that the inherent characteristics of a 29″er wheel are a discernable difference and do add to the fun factor of riding such a long travel full suspension bike. I have ridden long travel trail bikes with 26 inch wheels in California, 650B wheels in Nevada, and I can say that neither were anywhere near as much fun as the bike I rode in the picture above. If it can be made to work, and it’s fun, (which a 29″er long travel full suspension bike is both of) then why the heck not? Sure, it is going to be harder to do, might not fit everybody, or even be a practical trail bike for some places, but it sure beats the heck out of most anything I have ever ridden in this category. The 29″er had better momentum saving characteristics, better cornering and climbing due to the contact patch differences, and felt far more stable at speed and in the slow stuff.

My take is that you can have whatever long travel bike you want, 26″er, 650B, or 29″er, all would be fun bikes if they are designed correctly. I just happen to think that a 29″er does it better than any of the rest of the ideas out there. If you like something else, than have at it. It’s all bicycles, and it’s all good. But make mine a 29″er. Long travel, if you will!


No Responses to “Making A Case For A Long Travel 29"er: Part II”

  1. jeremy Uk Says:

    The Niner proto looks to have one problem, toe overlap. Perhaps not much of an annoyance whilst using flatties. There’s bound to be a market for this type of bike. Just ’cause it hasn’t got mass appeal doesn’t mean there isn’t a viable market for the concept.

  2. neener-niner Says:


    I’ve been away traveling for a while, it’s good to be home.

    However, I was bummed to return to see the latest here on The arguments make here and in the previous article is almost laughable. And Niner’s article on geometry could not have been more self serving. What did you expect them to say?

    You know I love RIDING my 29ers. Maybe I should stick to being happy with that and stay off the 29er chat groups like this. I hate to think that just because I ride a 29er people would associate me with the myopic idiocy that prevails here.

    Why do these articles always come off as it’s us against the world? Why do you always sound defensive and as if you’re grasping at straws? Why can’t we simply come to the realization that some people love 26′ bikes and some people love 29er bikes, and maybe, just maybe, there will be people who will love something in between? Why is this attitude so pervasive with 29er devotes and rarely comes up on any forums? This kind of rhetoric only makes us sound like small minded kooks, even if everything we say is true. Live and let live right?

    Man, I am glad I got that off my chest, but now I wish I hadn’t left Sri lanka. Maybe I’ll take my bike with me next time and stay longer.

    Selamat tinggal,


  3. neener-niner Says:


    “Why is this attitude so pervasive with 29er devotes and rarely comes up on any OTHER forums?”

  4. Guitar Ted Says:

    neener-niner: Welcome back. (I think)

    Umm………..did you read the last paragraph? πŸ˜‰

    Also, with a title like “Making a Case For A Long Travel 29″er” you would have thought that you could have inferred that it was an apologetic type post.

    But then again, you always were one to take issue with anything I write. πŸ˜‰

  5. MMcG Says:

    Man that Niner is wild looking. I’m assuming it won’t come stock with routing for a gravity dropper right?

    If I were to ride a long travel 29er – I guess one of those would be it. Heck they’d have to be right?

    Most other big companies are using suspension designs that don’t allow for short chainstays like these two bikes right?

  6. Clint Says:

    GT, I for one didn’t find anything offensive or preachy about your post, just different ideas. I don’t ride a 26inch bike with more then 3 inches of travel so i will most likely never even ride a long travel anything. That being said why poopoo an idea with out testing it. If people are willing to pay for it let them pay.

  7. mtroy Says:

    I do not see this as 29er posturing at all. Rather, it is a defense of what others have stated as ‘fact’, such as “big wheels can’t do this or that, etc”.

    I think the reason that 29er riders seem to evangelize more than other categories of riders is typically they have really found something that makes a huge difference in the way that they ride. Not some little obscure widget improvement that only is good for ad copy for the latest 5″ travel 26″ wunderbike, but a real difference that you can feel and taste.

    You may not care for the taste, but it is getting harder to deny it exists as things progress.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    what I don’t like about long travel 29ers
    1. the “bigger IS better” aspect to it.
    2. the Elephantine weight.

    1 thing about 29er in general, I am a trainer auto mechanic and as far as wheels and suspension we not only talked about rotational weight but also Sprung and Un-Spung weight, and I would think in LT 29ers (and in general) spung and un spring weight would be talked about.

  9. Cloxxki Says:

    @Anonymous : FS or HT, the weight penalty is still going to be around a pound over 26″. Show me a heavy 29″er and I’ll show you a heavy 26″er built exactly the same, weighing mere pound less.

  10. Davidcopperfield Says:


    This same aspect of un/sprung mass in noticeable in 26ers when you compare them to 24ers. For a short human being 26er has elephantine weight whereas a for big dude a 29er LT might be just the knock on the nail’s head. Masz and chainstays are all variables as given person physical features- like weight, height and agility.

  11. Oderus Says:

    Elephantine weight? I built both of my 29ers myself and they weigh as much as my 26″ hardtails. If you build it with heavy stuff it will be heavy. Duh! everybike can be lightened. One of my co-workers built a Niner Air 9 up to less than 22 lbs…….with a shock. Weight is not an issue in my opinion. I looked at the Niner bike at interbike and the design is clearly thought out. I think they will sell out of this bike when it is released. I myself look forward to getting a demo to tear up Horsetooth Mountain Park with.

  12. martini Says:

    No matter what postulated here, or on any other forum – there is a market for every freak bike out there. Us calling out 650b’s for being the odd duck,. and not really worth the attention is falling on deaf ears for the 650b proponents. Frankly, its falling on deaf ears on me. I truly think there is room in the market for something like the B’s. 29″er’s are NOT the be all and end all for mountain bikes. They are another option in the marketplace. I’ve had a similar rant to this else where here, and my point remains the same. There are shops that will be knowledgeable, and those that won’t. My shop IS one of those knowledgeable shops. I might not be able to stock any of these items, but I know damned well what they are, and where to get them if a customer asks. I ain’t turning away good money folks!

    This whole which wheel is better argument, while good for subject matter, is really past. We had it with 29 vs 26, and now we’re battling it out with 650b. Why? What does it REALLY matter? Like I stated above – there IS a market for it. A small one. But its growing. Just like 29″ was a few years back. Do I think B’s will have as much market as 29″? No. I don’t think that a community as conservative as mountain biking is willing to foot three equal wheel formats. Sure would be cool though.

    Bikes is bikes folks. Don’t forget that. They’re ALL good. I could care less what someone is riding, so long AS THEY’RE RIDING.

  13. Vandal Says:

    Chicks dig big wheels.

  14. Dirt McGirt Says:

    Jeremy- you should take all that energy that you put into thinking about toe overlap and GO AND CUT THE GRASS ALREADY!!!

  15. emetal Says:

    my niner air nine is 21.5 lbs. without even too much exotic stuff! could use some more tread for spring though…

  16. jb Says:

    29ers aren’t the be all and end all for mountain bikes. As GT said in the last thread, 26ers fit the bill really well for a lot of folks, too. All 29er and 650b proponents who think that they’re going to replace all 26″s are sadly delusional.

    With the 650b rhetoric that’s been spouted by its proponents about replacing 26 and 29, is it any wonder that 29er folks get a little chafed?

    As for long-travel 29ers, the Niner proto looks interesting- I’d love to ride one- but just because you *can* build it doesn’t mean it’ll ride better than its 26er counterparts. Just looking at the bike, it looks very tall yet cramped for a 6″ freeride bike, and I can’t see how it would provide me with a better lift-served freeride/dh experience than my current 8″ travel 26er.

  17. Cormac Says:

    Ted you forgot to mention the Gigabike from Zinn Cycles its got 5″ travel

  18. Guitar Ted Says:

    Cormac: The Zinn bike is a Lenz made bike only bigger. πŸ™‚

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