What Your Future 29"er Will Look Like

Recently several new technologies have sprouted and together they are changing the 29″er landscape in a big, big hurry. In fact, these new technologies are making such inroads that racers are now showing up to the start lines on 29″ers on the national scene and doing what was unthinkable just a year or so ago: Winning.

What is going on here and how will it affect the average trail rider in the future? Let’s take a look at some of these things that I believe the best 29″ers on the planet will have as standard items moving forward.


Tapered Steer Tubes and Through Axle Forks: It is already happening, but I am certain that these two design features will totally take over the serious trail rider segment for wagon wheelers within the next two years. Yes- quick release forks will soon become a thing of the past, and tapered steer tubes will become commonplace, especially on 29″ers. Why? Why mess with years of tradition for this perceived benefit? Is it really that big of a deal that quick releases and standard 1 1/8th steer tube forks have to go the way of the dinosaur?


I have ridden several of these bikes and with the combination of the tapered steer tube and through axle fork, 29″er handling is transformed to surgical precision. No longer will vague, flexy handling be accepted once riders start feeling the benefits of these two features that will become indispensable. In fact, I will go so far as to say that what we are riding now will be seen as laughable in perspective to how future 29″ers will handle with tapered steer tube technology and through axle forks. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the rear end of your bike either. Quick releases will be rare in the back end as well. The way through axles tighten up the handling of any 29″er is amazing, and at the very least, systems like DT Swiss’ ratcheting skewers will dethrone traditional quick releases in short order on 29″ers.

edge08 001

Wheel Technology: The difference in wheels for 29″ers today versus three years ago is already astounding, but here’s the kicker: Carbon fiber hoops will become the must have rim for 29″ers. These rims are super pricey, but I fully expect that marketing competition, and new manufacturing techniques will send prices downwards to the point that these hoops will become the single biggest performance enhancing upgrade that any 29″er freak will desire and be able to attain within reason. Carbon fiber sounds scary at first, but these new hoops will prove out to be longer lasting and lower maintenance than aluminum rims are today. Not to mention that they will lower rotational mass and increase lateral rigidity to the point that anything less will become undesirable in the realm of 29″ers. Perhaps only the wider, burlier trail/AM/Free ride type hoops will be aluminum in the future, but XC/trail riders will be gravitating towards the carbon fiber hoops in big numbers in the future. The ride and performance benefits are just too good to be ignored.

bonty29-3-09 005

Tubeless Tire and Rim Technology: The tires and rims on your future 29″er will all be tubeless ready out of the box. Already I am aware of several rim/complete wheel manufacturers that are going to introduce tubeless ready wheels in their 2010 line ups. I fully expect that tire manufacturers for 29″ers will also gravitate more and more to tubeless ready tires exclusively. The demand for tubeless tires, rims, and the knowledge to do the tubeless conversions by riders is getting the attention of manufacturers and this will become a standard feature on your future 29″er. It won’t be long and the thought of anyone introducing a rim that requires a tube or a tire that requires a tube will be thought to be an odd thing for a wagon wheeler.

Drive Train Changes: The future 29″er rider can also expect to see some dramatic changes in the drive train of their 29 inch wheeled bicycle. Gone will be the days when you had to worry about gear ratios that matched 26 inch wheeled bikes. The Shimano 12-36T cassette is already trickling out, SRAM’s new XX system will have a 10 speed option with a 36T low gear, and others are following suit. Several two chain ring or Hammerschmidt type front set ups will appear with new gear combinations which will eliminate the need for a triple ring crank. New front derailluer designs are already making 29″er clearances better which will allow for shorter chain stay bikes to be developed. Hub designs are changing to allow for the higher torque loads of 29″er set ups and all of this will supplant the current 29″er set ups within a short time. All things which will increase performance and level the playing field for 29 inch wheeled bikes soon.

These are the main technological differences that have vaulted top level race rigs into the limelight as respectable, viable choices for certain courses by pro level athletes. Expect this sort of technology to become standard equipment on finer big wheelers everywhere in short order!

No Responses to “What Your Future 29"er Will Look Like”

  1. Rob from Ottawa Says:

    I totally disagree with taper steer tubes and carbon wheels and all that. Maybe this article should read “What will your future fancy 29er look like?” I think for a lot of people, these things are still going to be over budget. No need to give people a complex thinking they’ll need all of this new stuff to enjoy mtbing!

    My future 29er will have a normal 1 1/8″ (or 1 1/2″) head tube, aluminum rims, tubes, and a normal 12 to 32t cassette. However I do look forward to something other than QRs. Currently, my bolt on hubs are great.

  2. Willie Says:

    GT-I am afraid you might be right! 2 years ago, I got my bike with v-brakes, now I have a hard time finding non-disc only rims. To many business people use the Microsoft update model.
    Next thing you know there will be a new seatpost standard that is not compatable with Brooks saddles!
    Keep-up the good work GT!

    PS I am going to hold out for the sew-up tires…….

  3. Wish I Were Riding Says:

    I would love carbon rims, but how long will I have to wait to be able to really afford them.

    My question is whether or not crabon rims can be run tubeless. Will the various tubeless solutions do damage to the carbon?

  4. Lee T Says:

    @ Rob – It’s just progress – and the best testament to the worth of 29er bikes, on the trail and in the marketplace. I am not throwing away either of my Superflys because they lack tapered head tubes – but my next bike will have one.

    The rest of the advances will come as I can afford them, and the parts they replace are shot or just don’t make sense anymore.

    If we didn’t push the envelope, I’d still have the ’65 Panther I delivered papers on – or, worse, I wouldn’t be riding. And we wouldn’t have 29ers.

    Thanks GT – always great to hear when the future is arriving!!

  5. Jason Kayzar Says:

    I agree w/the comments (try finding parts for ANY 10+ year old MTB stuff…).
    Like it or not, technology “rolls” on.

    There will still be tons of one-off 29ers forever and tons of cool independent manufacturers, I think the article was just addressing where the industry is headed as far as mass production. For example, try finding a cro-mo frameset from any of the leading mass producers today – no go, even cheap bikes are all aluminum now.

  6. Art Says:

    I’m a big believer in thru axle forks for everyone but the weight weenies. I am curious to try a tapered steerer. I’d pay an extra $100 for a 100 gram lighter carbon version of a Stans Flow rim, ie similar width and strength.

  7. t0m Says:


    I would consider a $180 Stans carbon rim also. Unfortunately that’s not even a third of the price of current carbon rim offerings. I think the Edge and DT (not 29er) rims are cool and high quality, but they’re supermodel parts right now. Not real world.

    GT is right on that more carbon rims will be entering the market, (Bontrager will have a 1570g carbon, tubeless-ready 29er wheelset out soon), but they won’t be affordable for years. I doubt it’s mainstream until someone has a very reliable rim at $300 at the most.

    Now, for some coolness, check this: http://reviews.mtbr.com/blog/bontrager-xxx-lite-29er-and-26er-carbon-wheels-preview/

    I cant wait to hear the MSRP for the Bonty carbon wheelset. It’s gonna leave a mark.

    The ironic thing to me is that I came to 29ers because I could go fast and have fun with less complexity (and money). I have a steel Inbred 29er with an 80mm fork and the thing flies. I hope the low end 29er market keeps flourishing.


  8. AGuy Says:

    t0m, I also enjoy the simplicity of 29er (I ride SS rigid…), but let’s not forget bikes are essentially machines and thus founded on technology. In that regard, I would highlight ease of maintenance (or better ever, zero maintenance) and not place any emphasis on how complex or difficult it is for the manufacturer to construct the part. Carbon rims included…

    On that note, I predict carbon rims will be high-end main stream in three years and prices would be around 4 times more than aluminum ($250-$300 per rim?) . You can draw that lesson from other components. Take handlebars for example. Alum will cost you around $30, carbon $140.

    I wonder about Q15 etc. Clearly it is a boon for AM/DH and maybe even Endu application. But for XC I’m not certain. Will TA forks make any difference to the ride quality (other than adding weight of course) when using 80mm/rigid on semi-challenging terrain? Your opinion is sought.

    TG, keep up the good work!

  9. t0m Says:

    Just to clarify, I don’t hate technology or carbon, I just question whether a good carbon rim will be sold for $300 or less, any time soon. I also understand there will always be high-end race parts that are priced way beyond the mainstream.

    My 26er is an AM 130mm fully, and from that I can say- going to a thru axle is completely worth it. Maybe not on an 80mm fork, but 29er forks are long, and the longer the fork the more important the added rigidity is. When I went to a Nixon 20mm axle fork, it amazed me how much better the bike felt in any situation. The 1/2 pound of weight added was hardly noticeable.

  10. Davidcopperfield Says:

    Gt&others what is your take on hollow rear maxles under 110 grams? like 40-60?

  11. Jeff Says:

    Its an interesting concept, but I still prefer my steel SS. More planned obsolescence, and most people have not extracted half of what their bike is capable of now. If people cant ride their current bike, these advances cant help them either. Its not technology, its marketing.

  12. Guitar Ted Says:

    @Davidcopperfield: The thru-axle concept is basically about increasing the interface between the axle and drop out. It is essentially one way to “skin the cat”, as it were. The DT Swiss system is good as well, and so are simply bolting on the wheels with axle nuts. All of these things increase the rigidity of the axle/drop out interface. I’m for what works best and is field serviceable/user friendly. Right now my money is on the ratcheting skewers and thru-axles, but time will tell. One thing is for certain- the QR- as we know it- is going away.

    @Jeff: Sorry, but I disagree. It is more than marketing. It is certainly some of that, but in my experience, and that of others I know who have ridden the tapered steer tube rigs and used through axles, the technology makes a huge performance difference.

    We wouldn’t dream of not having suspension available to folks, or disc brakes, or tubeless tires, or heck…..index shifting, would we? πŸ˜‰ This is just an evolutionary move to something better. Some folks will cry foul no matter what, but I don’t think there will ever be a lack of bicycles and components for these folks.

    In the end, you can choose to accept the move to something better, or stay put where you are at, but the most important thing is that you keep pedaling. πŸ™‚

  13. Jeff Says:

    I hope you understand, my intent was not to be negative… I enjoy my simple bike.. I should let others enjoy theirs.. pedal on.

  14. Art Says:


    I just saw that the Edge rims are $800 each, wow! They have been getting press recently but I never paid any attention to the price.

    Now I have more than a few bikes and they range from nice to pretty darn nice but none are wearing or ever going to wear a wheelset that will cost me $2,000. The upcoming carbon Mavercick Duc 36 will also fit this catergory.

    I’ll wait until the rims come down in price, are proven and I can get them lightly used for a price I can live with. If the Bonty’s come out this fall I ‘may’ own a set in 2-3 years.

    I think if I was a one bike, set up just so, totally blinged with color matched stuff, kinda guy I would want those Edge rims badly.

  15. t0m Says:


    That’s what I mean. I’ve seen the Edge rims for “as low as” $720 each. I try very hard to align my MTB needs and wants into some kind of reality- unless I was an elite level racer I can’t possibly justify even a $300 rim. Not to say carbon isn’t promising, but c’mon.

    YMMV, and no offense to those who can justify it to themselves. I wouldn’t kick a pair of Edge rims outta my garage if they just happened in.


  16. Rob from Ottawa Says:

    Agh, I don’t like the “if we didn’t keep moving forward, we’d never have suspension, discs, etc” argument. I think change is sometimes good, but not always. I’m not a big fan of the new stuff geared towards racers. (Like 10/11 speed drivetrains, tapered tubes (just make a 1.5″ tube already, it can’t ), carbon rims.) I feel a lot of this stuff (except for tapered tubes) while gaining some performance, doesn’t justify their great expense for day to day “fun” trail riding and I think it’s a shame that they’ll probably become the norm over more dependable and cheaper parts.

    I would love to see a good quality setup involving dishless 135mm 5 speed rear wheels (with 8 speed cogs), a dishless 130mm front suspension fork/wheel and 1.5″ steer tubes. I think that would make for a really reliable and useful bike. (Pipe dream, I know.)

  17. Guitar Ted Says:

    @ Rob from Ottawa: Just a couple of observations on your post.

    First of all, a straight 1.5 inch head tube would make all of my stems obsolete. I bet most of everybodies stems would be the same way. Tapered steer tubes are the best of both worlds. You get the stiffness where you need it, and the stem compatibility we all have already bought into already. It won’t cost us any more in the long run, and it makes the lateral and torsional stability of a 29″er frame much, much better. What’s not to like?

    Rims: Edge Composite rims are dang expensive. But let me ask you this- How many wheel sets do you suppose you will go through in ten years? Fifteen? Edge claims their rims will go at least ten years, if not more. I’m not going to pretend they are cheap, but “day to day dependable”? Yes, I will claim that for them. Now imagine the price getting cut in half due to competition and economy of scale. Looks like an even better deal. I sure hope it happens, and I think it will.

    Now drive train parts, that is a whole nuther story! πŸ™‚

  18. Rob from Ottawa Says:

    Ah, actually, I want a 1.5″ head tube with either a straight 1 1/8″ steer tube or a tapered steer tube you’d never see, and the appropriate reducer cups. I want the 1.5″ head tube for frame strength, lower front end, beefier headset, etc.

    That’s a fair claim with carbon rims. I don’t buy it right now, you’re right, if they came down in price maybe that would be another story. Also, honestly, I just don’t like carbon. πŸ˜›

  19. AGuy Says:


    I have one gripe with the Edge rims: They are not tubeless ready. You should know better than me, but they don’t seem to lend themselves easily to a conversion.

    Regarding your argument of using them for 10 years. Unlikely:
    1) Most people would rather not lock themselves to a technology for that long of a spell. Technology changes rapidly. We shell see better, more advance rims in the future that will make us want to switch. Now, switching from a $400 rim? Not easy to swallow, but doable. From a $850 rim, that can get stuck in one’s throat.
    2) MTBing is about equipment abuse. We all do it and do it pretty well. Strong and durable as these rims maybe, many of us will find a way to take them out of commission.

    Jut my point of view…

  20. IvanMTB Says:

    Well, well…
    I’d love to see 12/36 nine speed casette but one suitable for alloy freehub body.
    Current Shitmano is going to make pasta party off my Hope hub and I’m not interested/wealthy enough to invest absolutelly crazy monay in XX casette…

  21. DrDon Says:

    I bought the Edge rims spur of the moment as a reward for working long hours. They blow conventional wheels and I9s out of the water. The difference in stiffness is nothing short of amazing. The light Stans wheel sets can not be compared to the Edges because of the difference in stiffness. I now have Spec and Geax tires mounted tubeless. Not the lightest but hopefully durable enough for my weight of 235. Every time I ride my backup bike with a standard wheel set I wish I could justify spending another 2+grand on a second wheel set. Carbon clincher rims for my road bike. Nah, my current aluminum wheels are stiff and there is no weight difference. My 29er wheel set? – the difference is HUGE!!!!!

  22. Youngballs Says:

    Visits to both NoTubes and Edge Composites reveals the following info:
    Stan’s Arch 29er rim:
    24.4mm wide

    Stan’s Flow 29er rim:
    28mm wide

    Edge Composites 29er rim:
    24mm wide

    Maybe it’s just me, but I can not even begin to see Edge Composite’s rims as a viable option for any rider except for the extreme wealthy or a sponsored pro. Yes I know that the reduced rotational mass is probably awesome feeling. This is clearly one of the best places to shave weight on your bike. Look at the numbers though. You’d only save 180g over a similarly built set of wheels using Stan’s Arch 29 rims. You’d save 580g over a set of wheels using Stan’s Flows. Yes I know that’s a significant amount of weight, but come on. Those rims are approximately 10times the cost of the Stan’s rims. That means that the weight savings over the Stan’s Arch 29 wheelset comes at a cost of $4 per gram saved(assuming $800 per Edge rim and $80 per Stan’s rim). Those rims need to come down dramatically in price before 95%+ of all riders should consider those. Again, maybe it’s me, but I’d go out and buy 2 more Misfit DiSSent Fe frames long before a set of those carbon rims.

  23. DrDon Says:

    I wouldn’t consider myself wealthy. A spend thrift, yes. I also agree with them being a option with pros. But you forgot one category that I definately fall into – the fat butts. I’m a Clyde and the light Stans wheel sets are not a option. I have a very nice 36 hole Flow/straight 14g/440 wheel set that is not as stiff and doesn’t come close to my Edge wheel set in weight. The Edge wheel set has Aerolite spokes and and 240s hubs. Are they needed? Do they change the Karma that is mountain biking? Heck no, but they are friggen nice. BTW – I’m in my forties and I can see the clock ticking.

  24. Guitar Ted Says:

    I find it interesting how the Edge wheels and their cost raises the hackles of several folks but they do not hesitate to “bling” out other parts on their bikes for no other reason than it looks cool and they can afford it. I am not idicting anyone in particular, but I think we have all fallen into that mold at one time or another in our mtb-ing years.

    The thing is, as DrDon alludes to, that to get the strength, rigidity, and high performance that a 150lber gets riding Stan’s 355’s a big fella has to go about it another way. Carbon fiber rims, and the Edge rims in particular are waaaay stiffer than any Stan’s rim in the weight category and the Edge rims will far outlast anything NoTubes puts out there. If you are bigger and/or a powerful rider, you will see benefit going to the Edge rims.

    Can’t afford it/won’t afford it? Fine. But to say they are “not worth it” is being a bit incongruous and unfair. πŸ˜‰

  25. Ted Says:

    GT – any news on Edge throwing a TLR rim on the market? I’m good to spend the money on them, but doing ghetto tubeless with that kind of coin seems penny-wise, pound-foolish. Thoughts?

  26. Guitar Ted Says:

    Ted: I asked the Edge guys this spring about that, (the tubeless issue) and they said that they were considering it, but that a Stan’s strip would work just fine.

    I know Stan’s strips work, but in the cases of some rim manufacturers, it is the “excuse” rather than the solution to running a particular rim tubeless. What I mean is, it becomes an easy way out. I feel that if a rim manufacturer cares about adding value to their product, they will show why a Stan’s strip is best for running their rim tubeless, and not just make that remark to deflect criticism. Either that, or say they do not recommend it, (Salsa) or that they have their own specific system, (Bontrager). I respect that much more than the “just use a Stan’s strip” answer that I get from some places.

    I am like you. If I am throwing down that kind of coin, I want a rim manufacturer to say “We recommend _____ for tubeless conversions because in our testing it works”. That or tell me you have your own proven system. To my mind, that is the major negative to the Edge rims, not the cost. The value needs to be there, and it is in every way with the exception of this single important issue. That said, the stiffness at the weight that you can have with these rims is phenomenal. I will put up with tubes for that.

  27. Wish I Were Riding Says:

    Can I just ask if the narrower rim is worth considering over the 30mm wide one? Or when talking about Edge rims should we be only thinking about the wide ones? Just curious.

  28. AGuy Says:

    I would like to second ‘Wish I Were Riding’ TG. Could you share your opinion whether you would consider the Edge XC (24mm) at all for a tubeless system, or go strictly with the AM (30mm)?

    On that note, for a rigid bike, would you consider a wheelset that is 28mm at the front (for 2.3+ tires) and 24mm at the rear (for 2.1/2.2 tires)?

  29. Guitar Ted Says:

    @ Wish I Were Riding, @ AGuy-

    I was really hoping at the beginning of the test priod that I would get the 30mm wide rims myself. The XC rims are great for the lighter weight, but when you are talking rims as light as the 30mm wide Edge Rim is, I would take the extra width over the XC rims hands down.

    I am not thinking in a “racer/weight weenie” way though. That said, the 30mm wide rim will make tires work better due to the better sidewall support and that allows lower pressures to be used if you desire. That also plays into the tubeless card well. I really don’t mind the XC rim, and it could be run tubeless, but if I can have a wide rim that is super stiff laterally and have light weight?

    Well, that sounds like a deal to me. πŸ˜‰

    As for mixing rim widths, I suppose there is no harm in doing that if you are not sacrificing lateral stiffness in the rear to do it, but the weight savings would be minimal. I think that there isn’t a clear advantage to doing that. YMMV

  30. AGuy Says:

    Thanks the prompt and clear reply.

    Now, envisage a i9 wheelset built with Edge’s AM rims.
    Can anything be stiffer or lighter? My calculation shows 1720g. That’s a very light XC racing set…Make it tubeless and every climb feels a plateau (OK, now I’m pushing it…)

  31. Ted Says:

    @GT RE: Edge tubeless – Yup. Tell me a tire won’t blow off boys; that’s all I ask for my 2400 clams. And sad as it is to say, in litigation happy USA, the statement “just throw a Stans strip on it” is tacit endorsement, thus opening up a whole can of worms. Either make it official with some nice testing to back it up, or say “we don’t recommend it”. They are asking for trouble this way, which is a shame since they make fantastic products.

    I wonder if Katie is running hers tubeless? She han’t been racing the EDGE wheels of late in the dirt, but Stan’s rims. Curious about that.

  32. AGuy Says:

    What about market forces?

    It seems Stan’s is sales are brisk and healthy (most new model 29er I know, have them on). Shouldn’t other manufacturers take a hint and join the wagon?

  33. DrDon Says:

    Edge did send my mechanic a document stating how to set up the rims tubeless. It involved building up the spoke bed with electrical tape. What worked better for me, however it was more time consuming and costly, was using a 24in cut down tube as a rim strip. Excess tube material was cut off after the tire, non-tubeless, was inflated. I now have Spec 2bliss and Geax TNT mounted over the previously used tube strip with sealant. Alas, at my weight I had to ultimately resort to heavy duty rubber. It would be very nice if the rims were tubeless from the beginning, but I’m sort of set and leave type of guy.

  34. AGuy Says:

    DrDon, I once ghettoed a tubeless system like the one you describe. It was on my Bontrager wheels. It worked fine, but a problem came about when I needed to put fresh tires on the rims; the made-up strips were in no shape to accept them. I was forced to rebuild this contraption.

    Personally, I’d go i9 wheels with Stan’s rims The weight is pretty similar, the stiffness of the aluminum spoke might be comparable to carbon rims, and the price is way, way better. Of course, you are ‘locked’ with i9 hubs, but I don’t think that’s too bad of a thing.

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