Multi-Purpose Big Wheeling: A New Trend, Or Old?

In my last rumors post, I made this prediction: “ I will take a stab and say that off road touring/long distance rigs with 29″er wheels will be the next big trend in big wheels. This got a few responses, and has prompted me to take a look at that statement in regards to what has already been with us in regards to 29″ers.

Karate Monkey in utility mode

You can’t mention multi-purpose bigwheeling and not talk about the Karate Monkey. This 29″er, an unquestionable classic big wheeler, has probably been seen in more variations than all other 29″ers put together. In fact, the very first Karate Monkey’s I ever laid eyes on were at Surly’s headquarters. They were proto-types being tested by employees and were set up as commuter bikes. Fenders, racks, and the whole nine yards.

Dual Sport Montare

Then there are the “not quite” 29″ers, the Gary Fisher Dual Sport range of bikes. Touted as “urban” rigs, the Fishers have been seen doing “dual duty” on the road and on the trail. They do fit bigger 29″er tires, so they can do the dirt, albeit in a limited capacity in stock trim.

These sorts of bikes have been with us all along, but I think a newer version that will be coming is going to revolutionize this category. A newer take on the 29″er as a touring/offroadable/utility/commuter rig. Not just a “do-it-all” bike like a Karate Monkey, or a mountain hardtail spec’ed as a hybrid bike, but something more purposeful. A new direction, if you will. I see these rigs as the throw back to the very early days of mountain biking, where exploration, self support, and multi-day adventures were the norm rather than the oddity. Call it “mountain touring” or whatever, I see this as a new/old idea that is going to work with big wheels really well.


No Responses to “Multi-Purpose Big Wheeling: A New Trend, Or Old?”

  1. Cloxxki Says:

    In this light, have MTB’s received larger rims and tires to fit them, or have modern randonneurs and trekking bikes received a fat tire option making them more off-road capable than any MTB ever was?

  2. Steve Says:

    I could write volumes on this, but here’s what it comes down to for me: niners make living without the complexity of suspension very doable on most trails. I have been racking my brains for months trying to figure out how to make an all-purpose rig without breaking the bank (otherwise I’ll just buy several bikes, no shortage on garage space). After reading the reviews here, I bought an SE Stout, perfect for an AP bike. It comes single-speed but ready to run gears. It has horizontal drops so you could do internal. Lastly, v-brakes or disc, the choice is yours. I can ride this bike just about anywhere. Cloxxki, to partially answer your question, the dimensions of a niner are much more similar to that of a MTB, and that’s part of what I like. Long top tubes means no toe overlap, like my road bike has. Also, in proportion, short seat tubes make for better stand-over height. Lastly, with the alt-bar revival, an extra long top tube is livable and actually better suited for a bar with sweep. All of this is coming together just in time to equip more Americans for the ride to work. Marketeers, get to work! Hey Gary, how about a Simple City with the ability to run Big Apple 2.3’s?

  3. Desert9r Says:

    I love my Stout and plan onusing it as my main bike as soon as I get my second wheelset, set up as a 2×9.

    Speaking of touring and such, after reading GTs review of the cascadia fenders, I contacted PB about the longer “crown bracket”(?) (front) and they did say that they are working on a longer bracket, since nearly all forks are corrected now, they just don’t know just when the new version will be out.

  4. Rob Y Says:

    I remember when I read a lot more of the touring section of bike forums, there was a lot of interested and good arguments for touring on 26″ and 650b wheeled bikes. I can’t find those posts now, but there is some good reading there if you search for it.

    I think a lot of touring bikes can run fairly big tires – I’ve fit 700x45c tires in my urbane touring bike. I’ve done a bunch of fire trails with it and 700x35c and 32c tires, lots of fun, if sketchy at times.

    I know the usual signs of a good touring bike are a longer wheel base, lower bottom bracket, a fork/geometry that’s gives a neutral to slow handing, tubes meant to be flexy but not noodly at weight and braze ons all over the place. That’d be cool to see for 700c wheels with lots of clearance. I’m not sure it’ll happen in big way, but I’m sure there will be a niche market for it.

  5. Lee T Says:

    I am the proud owner of 2 Fishers – the Fast City Monona I train on in town, and my first love, my 2008 HiFi Plus 29er.

    It has dawned on me I probably would have liked the Dual Sport better than the Fast City, had I known about it, if only for the reason that it more closely approximates the mountain bike.

    Now, I think I will do a Ferrous 29er, utimately equipped with the G2 Switchblade when it comes out, for my main training bike and alternate mountain ride, with a second wheelset for the around-town training. This will give me a lot of training benefit with the same geometry as the HiFi.

    The Monona gets fenders, rack and commuting duty.

  6. Cloxxki Says:

    Lee, think some more about that one.
    Ferrous + G2 fork will net something more nervous than any bike was ever meant to. Or is Ferrous G2 now?
    Note the steep head tube angle on the Ferrous. Nothing makes that a slow handling tourer. And you do not want a short front centre with zero offset either.
    The Ferrous may be halfway there, but with a regular 38mm ofset fork.

    Fork slow touring style handling G2 bike, one could fit a fork with intermediate offset. Many of those are in circulation.

    When picking bikes, do look very carefully at the axle-crown fork length (after any sag) they supposed in giving their head tube angle.

  7. CJ Says:

    How about the Surly CX??

    Not a true 29er. But I know someone that is running Nanoraptors on his 60cm know him too GT.

    I for one love my CX. It is a great bike. It handles well on pavement and on gravel. So far I have used only 700×38 WTB Interwolf tires on my bike. The interwolfs worked well for me on buff gravel roads. By buff, I mean gravel roads that had not be recently reworked and had all the gravel pushed back into the middle of the road. I could ride well used gravel roads all day long by just following the tracks made by car wheels. And on pavement around town the interwolfs work well. There are a few around my area that run the Panaracer Fire Cross 700×45 tires on their CX’s. I would not run that tire urban, but I bet on light single track and gravel roads it is pretty darn good.

    My point here is that the 29er touring bike is a cool idea, but IMHO consumers already have an option with bikes like the Surly CX. I am currently formulating in my head what my perfect gravel road touring bike will be like in the future. I hope to get a custom bike built a few years down the road, but for now my Surly fits the bill very nicely.

    Peace out

  8. Lee T Says:


    Well, on closer examination, I think you are right – some of the entries on the Fisher site imply all 29ers are G2 – but when you view the specs for the individual bikes, the Ferrous, and, strangely, the Superfly, do not list G2 in the frame spec.

    So, thanks – there my be a carbon fork out there for me now for the Ferrous.

    Now I need to ride one somewhere to verify the geometry will be close enough to my HiFi for a meaningful training experience – with, of course, the nicely different steel ride. The jury is definitely out now.

    Thanks again, and memo to GF – should all your 29ers be G2, or, at least, should there be steel and carbon G2s available?

    Obviously, I’m stiil learning.


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