This weekend marked the running of the 24Hrs of Moab and got me to thinking about endurance racing a bit again. My thoughts always run to what sort of bike to use for such stuff. I suppose that's only natural for endurance folks and bike geeks in particular. I'll tell you one thing, I can't imagine why you wouldn't do an endurance event on a 29"er unless you are really short in stature.
Just thinking about how 29"er wheels roll over stuff easier is a big plus. Coupled with it's momentum saving traits, one could learn to use those benefits to gain more comfort with less effort expended over a long ride. That's huge for endurance racers. The other traits of 29 inch wheels help here too. Better traction on climbs, better traction in corners, and best of all; stability on downhills and in slower handling. Things an endurance racer that is tired and worn out would appreciate.
Of course, it's not just about the wheel size. You've got to have a bike designed correctly for the wheels and for the job at hand. Today you can find a 29"er that will carve up switch backs with the best 26"ers. You can get a light weight rig, if that's your cup of tea. You can get a full suspension rig that is more than capable. You can get anything 29"er that a 26"er can have these days. So really, there isn't any equipment or handling negatives anymore with the 29"er wheel format.
Some folks still like to bring up the wheel acceleration issue. That's getting to be a pretty thin argument against 29"er wheels. As I've always stated, I'd rather use momentum to my advantage than have to rely on a quick accelerating wheel. In one case you can coast more, pedal less, in the other case it's the opposite. 29"ers also let you use more speed in corners due to the traction and stability benefits. All of this means I can be faster, safer, and less fatigued on a 29"er if I know how to use those benefits. Tight course? Probably a wash if you have to accellerate a 26 or a 29 inch wheel out of really tight corners. The difference is not much anymore in weight and gearing can accomodate. Momentum loss from a 26"er wheel compared to a 29"er? It's noticeable on every uphill and downhill. The difference isn't limited to tight courses there. Advantage 29"er wheels.
Endurance racing and 29"er wheels? I say they go together like white on rice. I can't see any reasons not to use 29"er wheels in an endurance race setting. Especially ultra long events, but certainly not limited to that. I predict that in a few years the 29"er will dominate the endurance scene.
What do you think?