Another Reason A 29"er Makes You Faster?

Where I work my day job at a local bike shop, my boss/owner gets a really interesting publication called Bicycle Quarterly. It is a bit “pointy headed” but it covers some very interesting issues and has a candor that is refreshing to see in a publication when it comes to the cycling scene today. (For example, the latest issue has an article covering the recently held North American Handmade Bicycle Show and gives some rather flat criticism of some builders ideas instead of the usual fawning coverage you see in the mainstream media)

Well, anyway……there is an article in the latest edition entitled “Comfort: A Key Factor Toward Speed: Vibration energy is absorbed in the rider’s body, slowing the bike”.
I took a few moments to skim the article and to my surprise it would seem that what they are saying would indicate to me that a 29″er should make you faster by virtue of it’s vibration damping characteristics. It seems that a rider having to deal with absorbing energy transmitted through the wheels and frame of a bicycle is slowed and as we know, is made less comfortable as well. A 29″er, by virtue of it’s increased angle of attack to trail obstacles, seems to fit the bill here as a way for a mountain bike rider to gain an edge in absorbing less energy from trail obstacles and therefore being made able to go faster for a longer period of time.

So, it would seem that the old adage, “smoother is better” has a root in the truth and that a 29″er has one more reason to be considered as a viable choice for your next racing machine.


No Responses to “Another Reason A 29"er Makes You Faster?”

  1. Arleigh Says:

    The 650b mailing list I am subscribed to went crazy lately about that. Must of been spurred by the Quarterly. Though I get it I haven’t had the down time to sit and read it yet.

  2. Clint Says:

    I heard training more also helps you get faster. But now that the science is out on my “vibrating” I lost another excuse when I loose. Guys will know I am full of it when I tell them, “I was on your wheel up that hill but then the vibration of the bike made me fall back.” Thanks for screwing that one for me Bicycle Quarterly.

  3. Desert9r Says:

    Vibration dampening, just another reason why steel, also. just this week I started commuting on my XXIX, because I got tired of the harsh ride of my Jake.

  4. Mike Says:

    I’d have to agree. The smoother you and your bike are, the more comfortable you are, and the faster you have the potential to go. Look at all the tricks that are in effect for Paris-Roubaix to make the bikes more stable and comfortable (fatter tires, non-aero rims, double thick bar tape, longer chainstay frames…). Lennard Zinn has written some good articles on the benefits of fatter tires and modest pressure on road bikes, with regards to the suspension characteristics they provide by keeping the tire on the ground.

    It seems every issue of BQ has some gem of information that is useful across the broader cycling spectrum.

  5. Cloxxki Says:

    I honestly feel that I’m faster on fatter tires, also on pavement.

    In the flemmish classic bike races, riders go from 23 to 25mm tires, at slightly lower pressure. And that already is worth it on the cobblestones. I think they need to take it to 30 to 35mm. It’s not like they are going so fast that the air drag would be a factor. Cobble stones are the deciders there, so why try and ignore them?

    With suspension on a bike, the damping is what can slow the rider down, the spring action gives something back in most cases. Lifting a wheel over a root is faster than letting the suspension do it for you.

  6. George Krpan Says:

    The lighter a bike is the less mass there is to absorb vibration. Therefore, the riders body has to do it, slowing them down.
    Makes perfect sense to me.
    I think we all know this instinctively if not consciously. It is not expressed verbally but rather by the selection of heavier steel frames and heavier, bigger 29″ wheels in spite of the ready availability of lighter alternatives.
    It feels better, we go faster, use less energy, have more fun, are less fatigued after a ride, etc.

  7. Monk3y Mike Says:

    Amen. While I may have “felt” faster on a light race bike because it was so light, I never felt the confidence and solidity to rail at warp speed with no fear. My Karate Monkey was the first 29er I had. I felt indestructible on that thing and promptly cleared out all my high-end 26ers.

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