Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

The Future Of 29″ers: 2009 Report Card

June 8, 2009

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on Twenty Nine Inches and is reproduced here for your viewing pleasure….


Back in January we were all dreaming of warmer weather and raging some single track. We were also dreaming about what equipment we might be doing that on. Here is the post where I made some prognostications and gave some thoughts on just where all this 29″er stuff might be headed. Now that we are six months into 2009, let’s see how I have done so far…..

This Bontarger rear 29-3 tire is already available

This Bontarger rear 29-3 tire is already available

 Racing Tires and Wheels: I have pretty much hit the nail on the head here, I think, just judging from what I see here being tested. New tires and wheels have certainly made a splash already in 2009. I think we will see the meatier treads following now, but the reason for that will be coming up yet, so keep reading!

Carbon “Fork” Print: The carbon forks are slow in coming, but they are coming. Bontrager’s new Switchblade, which now will finally be available in G2 Geometry (51mm offset) and “regular” offset (46mm) is hitting the warehouse later this month, I am told. The Niner carbon fork should be hitting trails any day now, and Soul Cycles fork is still in development, but should see the light of day soon as well.

Will there be more? Probably. However; this segment will not see the development that suspension forks have already and are going to soon. The tapered steer tube is already a staple of many 2010 bike designs, and the 15QR through axle looks to be the “QR killer” I spoke about back in January. Look for the existence of longer travel forks to start leaking out here this summer.

On Gearing: The Deore level 11-36T cassette has already been announced in 9 speed. Now with the development and introduction of SRAM XX, look for more options in 10 speed wide ratio gearing to be introduced by Shimano in the fall. New XTR will show up as a 2 X 10 group with a wide ranging cassette to compete with SRAM for mtb dominance. I suspect that even an XT option will surface as well. This would explain the lower level 9 speed casette we saw introduced earlier and why it isn’t a higher level cassette. 2 X 10 and to a lesser extent, 2 X 9 set ups will be the hot ticket going into 2010. On the opposite end of the spectrum, look for something in a 9 speed triple with 20/30/42 chainwheels to surface as well.

A Word About Carbon: We’ll see more carbon fiber rigs and we have already seen a fair number debut already. Who will drop in the 29″er bandwagon with the black magic? My bet is that Trek, who is strongly rumoured to be entering in 2010 with 29″ers, will be offering it’s highest end hard tail with big wheels and carbon construction based upon the Madone road bike. There will be a carbon/aluminum composite from Giant, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least two to three more carbon frames show up with big wheels from several manufacturers, including Santa Cruz.

A Word About Titanium: Don’t forget about this grey wonder metal. I am reasonably sure that something is going to surface made from the metal with 29″er hoops on it. I have seen at least two titanium bikes come as far as rideable prototypes only to get axed in the end, but I’ve a feeling there will be something coming out that a lot of folks will find surprising.

A Word About Full Suspension: We haven’t seen the last of the new FS designs for 2010 yet. The aforementioned Santa Cruz will debut something this fall, Fisher Bikes, which has showed its hand with the Superfly 100 isn’t quite done yet, and if Trek is bowing with 29″ers, don’t be surprised if they show up with a big wheeled FS rig. But that’s not all folks, I know of at least two more FS 29″ers waiting in the wings, and more are coming. Long and short travel. Stay tuned…………

This Sounds Familiar….

May 17, 2009

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:


“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.”


 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.”

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.