There has been a lot of discussion and the rumors have been flying for at least a couple of years now about Specialized coming into the 29"er market. (Well......with more than just tires, anyway!) It seems as though that someone is feeding that frenzied line of thinking over at Morgan Hill by whispering sweet nothings into certain peoples ears and having them spread it across "net-space" in it's hyper-speed viral fashion. I guess it's their idea of keeping a toe hold in the marketplace.
Meanwhile, the other "big" companies, Trek and Giant, are not saying a thing, but I'm going to lump them in here anyway since they have huge chunks of the marketplace and no 29"ers in their line ups. (Fisher being exempted here as being owned by Trek but having it's dealers independant of Trek, for the most part)
So, here's the deal! These three companies are hold outs for whatever reasons. Alot of folks would laugh, point fingers, deride, and simply dismiss these companies as clowns that do not get it. Maybe they are right, but I say, "C'mon in! The water is fine!" Want to know why? Because these companies have clout with fork manufacturers, tire makers, and wheel manufacturers. Heck, some of these three make their own stuff! If these three start making 29"ers, the tire, fork, and wheel choices are going to explode! Not to mention that these companies just might make a cool 29"er or two!
The danger here for these three companies is that the train is leaving the station........now! By the time that Specialized, as an example, gets a 29"er to market ( if the rumors are to be believed) by '08 or '09(!!!) then the other companies that have invested in the format already will be on their second, third, and maybe even fourth generation of designs. Refinements that can only be obtained through having had product on the market in "real conditions" for extended periods of time.
Here's my suggestions to these three giants from a humble but bold 29"er advocate. First, get Fox forks on your new 29"ers. (Rumor has it that they already are testing the format) Fox is a high demand, well known product that 29"er afficiandos are licking their chops for. Not to mention a name that all mountain bikers respect and know. Get them onboard your 29"er and you have some serious attention! Second, do a high end, lightweight racer boy XC hardtail and a serious all mountain rig. Use carbon fiber liberally in the frame design. Make the XC hardtail a razor sharp, lightweight weapon and the all mountain rig a 5X5 inch travel, burly, reasonably lightweight trail monster. The tires already exist for it, ( or manufacture your own if you are Trek or Specialized) and get ready to sell some bikes! Third, get Mavic to build a UST 29"er wheelset, ( again rumor has it that this is already in the works) Convince Hutchinson, Michelin, and your own tire departments to work with them to bring true UST performance to the 29"er marketplace. You will have 29"er freaks salivating in advance of this. 26"er converts will be easier to persuade.
Do these three suggestions, do them well, and do them in a hurry! Don't be the last one in, or you might be a rotten egg! The invitation is there. We'd all be pleased to see you jump in. Whatta ya waitin' fer?