Big Time XC Racers To Go 29"er?

The day was coming and it finally happened. A 29″er has won a major elite men’s XC race. You can check out the report here. This won’t be the last time this happens either.

The thing about 29″ers and elite XC racers is really all down to one little objection: Wheel weight. You will notice that the majority of elite racers that do use 29″ers, (admittedly, most are Subaru/Gary Fisher riders) use sub 2 inch wide rubber to help keep the rotational weight to a minimum. Of course, the wheels themselves are also very light weight works of art in them selves. Ryan Trebon’s race winning set weighed 1350 grams complete with tubeless tape and valves.

This is just the beginning, as I said, though. There are newer developments on the cusp of being used in racing that will transform the 29″er from the odd ball choice in elite XC to a commonly seen sight underneath the fastest pros. Some of these new developments are radical. Wheel weight will be reduced with lighter weight tires, (already on the way from Schwalbe, Continental, and Bontrager) With the weight reduction will come a choice for wider tires, which should open up the 29″er wheel for use in a wider variety of situations for pro XC riders.

Things like tubular mountain bike tires and wheels will become much more common place, and are being used now. For 29″ers, this will help relieve the rim from some of its weight. Another development that will change both 26″er and 29″er racing is the carbon fiber rim. It’s been coming, and even I have laced up a couple examples in the past. The new versions will be very light, but extremely strong and will overtake the ranks of pro XC racing in a hurry once they become available. Especially when the carbon fiber tubular mountain bike rims I saw become available.

All of these things will affect choices made by the pros. No longer will wheel weight become the deciding factor against using a 29″er in competition. Courses will dictate what gets used and every pro will start to demand that their sponsors have a race level 29″er in the stable for their use. Not right away, mind you. This is an Olympic year, and many riders will be loathe to switch up components or wheel sizes before such an important event. However: that said, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see one of the pros pull a 29″er out and use it come race day at the Olympics. After the Olympics is when I expect we’ll really notice some equipment choice changes.


No Responses to “Big Time XC Racers To Go 29"er?”

  1. mjbrox Says:

    Conrad Stoltz (World Xterra Champ) is slowly making the switch to 29ers. He has a 29” Specialized, but on his recent race schedule he only had room for one bike, so he opted for the 26”

    Now he is 6’4” and other Xterra pros envy his MTB skills so it will be interesting to see if he makes the full switch. When I talked to him the day before my Richmond Xterra race, he was definitely checking out my Niner RIP 9.

    I think as bigger names (Trek, Specialized, ect) start making race ready 29ers you will see them more.

    The past 12 hour races I did where filled with the Gary Fisher Super Fly.

  2. Cloxxki Says:

    No-one knows, but we may have just “escaped” from a 29″ Olympic win in 2004.

    Filip Meirhaeghe, World Champ of Lugano 2003, had already offered his contract to Specialized should they keep refusing him a 29″er. They made him the bike, they made a Fast Trak tire.
    2 weeks before the Olympics, Meirhaeghe was caught with EPO, and kicked out of the sport for 2 years. Weeks after the Olympics, the Fast Trak surfaced for the general public, the first hint of what perhaps almost was.
    The Athens course was quite rocky, at times extremely steep, and the descends allowed good descenders to make up serious time. It so happens, 29″ and Meirhaeghe are all about that.
    He now uses 29″ at times too in his late career. It would have been interesting to find him pre-riding that Olympic Athens course on a 29″er, with all the pro’s around him on kiddy wheels. Using brakes, losing traction, getting hung up on Rocks.

    To me, it’s a bit silly that weight is what’s keeping 29″ out of pro racing. If your sponor makes 500g 26″ tires, and 400g rims, yes, your 29″ wheel will be 90g heavier.
    If you get access to 300g tires and 300g rims in 26″, the same sponsor will offer you a 29″ wheel with 60g extra to account for that. Total 29″ penalty on a bike will still be around 300g, where for shop floor bikes it’s typically been 450g at most.

    I remember the times, late 90’s, when Ritchey Z-Max tires in 1.7″ were all the hype. Oh, and IRC Notos the same for wetter conditions. Norrow, thus light. I tried the the Z’s, and more, and some more still. Kept flatting them, the comfort sucked, they needed a lot of pressure, and I flew out of corners. But they were light, so I used them.
    They felt okay to me only once, during my first tubeless experiment, ca 2001. I stopped using them right after, as wider light tires came out. I now know, the 2.1 Z’s would have caused me fewer DNF’s, and I’d have been lapping faster.

  3. mg Says:

    Congratulations to Ryan Trebon, and honestly, if it wasn’t Ryan, it would have been Jeremy H-K, or somebody else… The time was coming. I don’t need to discuss the minutia. I ride the bikes. They’re faster. I know because when I ride my little wheel bikes with my friends that are on big wheels, all the sudden I feel like they’ve got the momentum advantage. It’s hard to deny. So if you get the weight to be not a factor, you’re dialed. Period. End of story, as far as I’m concerned.

    But then, that’s not a very interesting story, now is it?

    Trebon is Tres Bon, on 26 or 29. After seeing how hard he got taken out in that head-on at CX Nationals last year, it’s awesome to see him back on top. That’s all I’ve gotta’ say. The fact that he’s doin’ it on a 29er is just icing on the cake, baby!


  4. 34x18 Says:

    Interesting comments on the Olympics and Meirhaeghe… It is almost like none of the top pros want to leave the heard. JHK threw down at the 2007 Worlds on 29er, but admitted after the race it might of not been the right call, or it could have been his legs… Many top pros play around with 29ers, training and some even say they help with their riding. I know from Abasalon he had requested special tires and carbon wheels for a 29er for Bejing, afterall Orbea makes a lightweight carbon niner, but it seems unlikely he will break it out with the recent changes in the course (tightening up and making it more technical).

    Like fullsuspension, you will start to see more and more riders giving them a go, in a the next couple of years, someone will break through at a World Cup, and that will change everything.

  5. Dirt McGirt Says:

    All of this is gravy. We all know the big wheels roll better, etc., now the race geeks will have to bow to our superior intellect.

    Bow down.

  6. manchester trev Says:

    liam killeen loved his 29er when he was at GF, maybe if a carbon h/tail or epic was made as a 29er he might ride one at races……………..

  7. adam Says:

    I race a dosniner and i am awesome.I piss exellence.Shake and Bake,Shake and Bake

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