Awhile back there was this really cool thread on mtbr.com in regards to the history of the modern 29"er. Let me be the first to say this: It really doesn't make a hill of beans difference to me who actually made the first one. I'm just dang glad they did, because mountain biking is a whole lot more fun since the advent of 29"ers in my life. That said, it's fun and interesting to look at the lineage, say "wow", and then go for a ride with a better appreciation for what's rolling you down the trail.
It's fun and interesting in a perfect world, but we all know we don't live there. So the ensuing childish bickering and sniping which occurred on that thread resulted in one individual "taking his ball and going home" and leaving everyone else scratching their heads and shuffling on home. Nothin' ta see here anymore folks!
Enter Dirt Rag issue #130. In it there is an article called "The Big Wheel Mountain Bike Story". (Look for it soon in your mailbox or on news stands) The story is written by Don Cook, who runs the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Crested Butte, Colorado. It just so happens that Crested Butte figures heavily in the evolution of the early mountainbike and in 29"ers as well. Long story made short: Mr. Cook lays claim to designing and having made the first 29"er, or "Big Wheel bike", as he calls them.
So what? Well, this whole tale printed in the latest issue of Dirt Rag is a whole different tune than what has been portrayed in the digi-realm of mtbr.com before. Most have layed the honor of "first" on Wes Williams of Willits Bikes, also in Crested Butte at the time. Wes had been making "28"ers", using Conti Goliath tires, and other fat 700c rubber for years prior to '99 when Cook claims that he rolled out the "first" 29"er, produced at Moots by Kent Eriksen on May 10th, 1999.
The thing is, as I see it, is "what is a 29"er". You see, Don and Wes supposedly got "The Tire" as a proto to fool with at approximately the same time. Wes took the path of modification. He just massaged existing 28"ers to accept the new fatty. (The Nanoraptor, in case you didn't know. It's commonly referred to as "The Tire", since it was the first 2 inch plus 700c off road tire ever made.)
Don took the path of ground up design, and worked with Moots to produce a YBB (A Moots model, which meant "why be brazed" in referance to it's soft tail design) 700c based off road bike that was designed around the new Nano prototype tire.
Everyone in Crested Butte knows that the modified 28"ers were the first to roll the Nanoraptors, but the first purpose built bike for those tires could arguably be said to be that Moots.
Who's right and who's wrong? Probably doesn't really matter, but it makes for some fine discussion.