This Sounds Familiar….

Editor’s Note: While I am not opposed to 650B wheels for bicycles at all, I have in the past questioned whether or not the wheel size is relevant to the modern mountain biker’s needs. The claims behind “why” folks should ride the “B” wheels were not making any sense to my mind, and I have said and written as much. Of course, this has not endeared me to a certain fanatical number of 650B riders, but all the same, I still hold to my opinions. Now it seems that there may be some other industry folks with thoughts along the same lines.

Again, I am not against 650B wheels on bicycles and neither are the folks quoted in the following paragraphs. Bicycles are good, no matter the wheel size. It’s just a question of whether or not an effort should be made within the industry to promote it. Well, you can read the following and make up your own mind….

In a recent story on Bike Radar about Santa Cruz’s 29″er FS project, (which I also reported on for Twenty Nine Inches) there was some nice hints dropped about the future rig. However; as exciting as that might be, the really juicy bit was about something else entirely.

While comtemplating the story on the Santa Cruz 29″er, I’ll admit that the thought had crossed my mind about the 650B wheel size. It seemed a bit odd that since all these Nomads are out there getting converted over to the B wheels that Santa Cruz wouldn’t hop on board with something along those lines. Well, there is the lack of a mainstream fork choice, which isn’t good for marketing, and then there is very limited tire availability, but still. I wondered to myself, “Why?”

Well, I have my reasons why it wouldn’t be, but that is just me, or so I thought. Take a look at what the article says here from Bike Radar on the Santa Cruz 29″er:

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“BikeRadar asked Roskopp (owner of Santa Cruz) about his thoughts on the burgeoning 650B movement, and like many, shook his head as he wondered out loud about why the industry ‘needs another wheel standard to monkey with.’

This was corraborated with What Mountain Bike’s technical editor and multi-wheel-size-loving Steve Worland.


“There’s a long term test feature on 26″ vs 650B vs 29er waiting in the wings,” Worland said.

“The main part of my conclusion was ‘from a purely personal point of view, I’ll happily admit that I would like to have been convinced that a classy 650B build is the best of both worlds. But I wasn’t. There just didn’t seem to be enough real world advantages over 26-inch wheels’.

“The Pacenti tamed the bumps very slightly better than a 26er, but quite noticably better when I slotted in a 29-inch wheel up front,” he added. “And when I slotted a 26-inch wheel with a 2.55-inch tyre in the back it felt better than with a 650B wheel with a 2-inch tyre. A big tyred 26er would be a far cheaper and more choice-happy solution too.


“At the end of the test, and after a lot of conversation, we were left thinking that a 650B bike is a great choice for riders who are too short to fully benefit from a full blown 29er… in other words sub 5ft 11in riders who like the idea of the rolling advantages of a 29er but find them a bit gawky to ride, or look at.”

This, coming from a guy who’s tested nearly 3,000 bikes in his time.”

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 And this sounds eerily familiar to me. Seems like I’ve written much the same before. From a July 14th, 2008 post on Guitar Ted Productions I wrote the following:

“650B: Here we have a real conundrum of a wheel size. Dubbed as something “halfway” between 26 and 29 inch wheels, the reality of 650B is that it is far more like a 26 inch wheeled bike than most devotees of the size would have you believe. I have ridden a few of these rigs and my take is that they are quite nice bikes, but they sure are not anything like a 29″er. Not even close. Are they better than a 26″er? Incrementally at best. At worst, you can’t tell the difference, and on a long travel bike, (the very thing that proponents say 650B will shine at), you just can not tell at all that they are anything bigger than a 26 inch wheel. 650B spins up fast and loses momentum just as quickly. It’s tire contact patch is incrementally bigger than a 26″ers and at that, a big 26 inch tire will equal that contact patch easily. In fact, a big 26 inch tire has the same outer diameter as a 650B NeoMoto, (currently the only game in town for “real” off roading in multi-condition terrain in 650B size) For my money, it makes more sense to stick with 26″ers for choice of equipment, compatibility of fork/frames, and performance.”
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So it would seem that maybe there is a wider agreement on this than I once thought. The B wheels probably won’t go away, but they are also not going to be anywhere near as influential on mountain biking as a whole as 29 inch wheels are.

Santa Cruz, and many others seem to agree.

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