As is fitting for a day like today, I will tell a tale of cycling's "headless horseman". The 29 inch wheeled bike has, for it's short life on this orb, become something of a legend. A legend amongst it's small legion of followers, and a far off tale of wonder and amazement to the rest of the twenty six inch riding, dirt brethren. A tale of a "body of riders" without a head!
The mountainbiking world has always had it's icons. Leaders of renown that could easily be identified and pointed to as groundbreakers. Pioneers and innovators of the sport. Names like Fisher, Ritchey, Tomac, and Overend. Even the bicycles themselves are icons in some cases. The original Stumpjumper, the Breezer, and most famously, the original "clunkers" that bombed the Repack Trail.
Surely several modern bikes could be pointed to as offshoots, or actual innovations of today. Perhaps the ubiquitous 29"er falls into this category. I think not, though. It's seen as the red headed stepchild by the mainstream, and the shining messiah by it's followers. In reality it's a movement without a leader. Not one design element, not one single person, or group leads the charge. It's merely a wheel. An innocent enough object, yet full of wonder. In the 29 inch size, a terror to the established hierarchy. The knaves and peasants take up their scythes and pitchforks, attacking with lighted torches the very notion that a bigger wheel does anything but slow you down. Yet, this growing sector of the cycling world does not go away. It continues to thrive without means of sustenance by any clear leader. No shining race star, no groundbreaking new design, and no support from the entrenched industry leaders, ( aside from Trek's Fisher brand)
And so, if you are out on a lonely fire road tonight. If you are riding your trusty steed, and something appears out of the fog that has gigantic wheels and a rider with a ghoulish smile. Do not fear! It's just that 29 inch wheel rider, rolling over everything in his path. He won't hurt you, but he might just twist your arm a little! (hint-hint!)
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