During an on-line forum posting frenzy I came across the idea that perhaps there are too many steel, 29 inch wheeled, hardtail, single speed bikes either available or becoming available soon. I think that I am in agreement with that thought, but not for the reasons that you might think.
First of all, why is there so many of this type of bike? A single speed 26 inch wheeled bike isn't as well supported by the major or second tier manufacturers as a 29 inch wheeled single speed is. What gives? I think there are two major reasons for this phenomena.
The single speed drivetrain and 29 inch wheels are a marriage made in heaven....or so it would seem! Momentum is highly prized by single speeders. 29 inch wheels conserve momentum, not losing it as quickly as 26 inch wheels do. Need I go on?
The next thing that makes the 29 inch wheeled single speed a popular option for manufacturers to try is that it's cheaper to test the waters of the 29"er marketplace with this sort of platform. No drivetrain is simpler. Less parts equals less invested in the project. Have you noticed that most of these 29"ers are sub-$1000 rigs? That's a definite play to you out there to see if you will bite on the 29"er thing. Manufacturers feel that if there really is a market for 29 inch wheels, it'll be easier to snag on that action if the price is low. That and the fact that 29"ers and single speeding is like white on rice. Manufacturers see the numbers of custom 29"ers out there, a large portion of which are single speeds. Now does it make more sense as to why there are so many 29"er steel hardtail single speeds available?
Getting to my point: that there are too many of this type of bike, I say that it's a bad thing in the long run. Some would argue that more choice is better, and they would have my hearty agreement.......for the short term. However; the manufacturers are about to oversaturate the market place with these specialized rigs. This will result in poor sales for alot of these manufacturers that are testing the market. They are also going to be bitten by poor representation on the dealer floors due to a skittish attitude about 29"ers. Also, the ones that do bring them in for sale will probably have a poorly trained staff in the area of the nuances of 29"ers which will result in lackluster sales of these single speed 29"ers. (see early Fisher dealers for an example of the failure of bike shops to understand 29"ers) The end result will be a pull back on the part of the manufacturer from the 29 inch wheeled segment, claiming that there is no market support for the bikes. I give alot of these companies a year or two at best.
The companies that persevere in this segment and go beyond the single speed to geared hardtails and (gasp!) full suspension 29"ers will see better results. ( again: see Fisher for your proto type) In the end, I expect to see less manufacturers on the 29"er bandwagon. The ones that do stay will have better success and offer better choices. Is it a bad thing?
Only time will tell!