Check out this article posted on Dirt Rag's web page. It's a great take on the "96er" bike by Michael Browne, who is the editor of that magazine. Michael brings up some of the points that I have some contention with, but mainly seems to be pointing to the fact that this sort of set up might be beneficial to riders of smaller stature.
One of the conundrums of the 29"er is that once you go under the 5'5" height, the compromises in design of a full on 29"er become more of a problem. One of the bigger problems is getting a fair amount of standover clearance. What this Dirt Rag piece seems to indicate to me is that by going with a smaller rear wheel, you can regain a bit of that clearance. This seems to me to be about the best idea yet to possibly justify having a 50/50 bike, as Mr. Castellano refers to them as in the interview.
I would like to see some further discussion in reference to how the rear wheel size might be a benefit to a smaller rider. Is that smaller wheel a benefit in providing a better fitting frame? From a power out put point of view, does that rear wheel present less of a challenge to a weaker rider? Since the rear wheel is smaller, and the roll over and traction benefits of a 29 inch wheel are missing, is this still a detriment? Should the pursuit of smaller frame sizes in full on 29"ers be continued or given up in favor of 50/50's?
All good questions that need looking into. I am leaning towards sying that the 50/50 type of solution is for shorter folks, but much shorter than Mr. Castellano thinks. I'm quite certain that the benefits of a 29"er can be had with no geometry compromises down into the 5'5" range, so why not ride a 29"er if you are that or bigger? Hmm..............good questions. This is definitely an area of deep discussion, and it won't get sorted out any time soon.
Taking a look at next week: I have an interview in the can with Carl Buchanan, a local endurance racer. He is a recent "convert", and he has a unique perspective on the endurance community, sponsorships, and what cross country racing means to him. Look for the transcript of our conversation soon. I also will reveal a personal surprise, and introduce a new running feature on this blog in conjunction with that. Look for all the surprises this coming week!