This was the year that changed 29"ers from "niche" status to mainstream bike status. No longer can it be said that there are "not enough choices", or that 29"ers will never be _______ (fill in the blank here) and that 26"ers will "aways" be better for ________ (whatever you filled in the blank previously with)
What exactly happened that caused 29"ers to be transformed to "legitimate" status? Read on...
Fox , Manitou, RST, DT Swiss,and Spinner forks: Previous to this year there were only three "real" choices in 29"er forks. Rock Shox Reba, White Brothers models, and Maverick forks converted to 29"er use. (And Maverick could almost be left out since, like Cannondales Lefty, it really isn't a 29"er specific fork) Now with the stalwart brands Fox and Manitou aboard, 29"ers have "legit" choices in the eyes of the non-29"er freak mountain biker. I added RST and Spinner because, like 26"ers, this will open the doors for OE spec on bikes that will be priced below $1000.00 and will be responsible for turning on more folks than ever before to big wheelers. The forks were not available early enough to get on '08 spec, but look for '09 29"ers to be spec'ed with these two brands in the sub $1000.00 category.
Tubeless Wheel Technology: While still in it's infancy, UST tires (tubeless ready UST) and Bontragers long anticipated TLR System wheels and tires have brought to 29"ers what thousands of garage tinkerers have been trying to do for several years now. To have a tubeless 29"er tire and wheel system that is reliable, safe, and easy to work with. Sure, you have Stan's, but arguably the only tire that really works and was designed for Stan's is their Crow model. That aside, the tubeless barrier needed to be breached before 29"er wheels/tires were ever going to be looked at seriously by some mountain bikers. Look for more UST certified Tubeless Ready tires to be coming to market over this winter time. Also, Bontrager will be expanding upon their excellent TLR System as well.
Sub $1000.00 29"ers: This price has been a barrier to entry for mountain bikers seeking to find out what this big wheeled stuff was all about. While their were a few bikes that broke under a grand with 29"er wheels, there really wasn't anything available that had gears and was significantly under a grand. That changed in 2007 and that category is set to expand even more for '08 and beyond.
Sub Categories of Mountain Bikes in 29"er size: While these bikes are just on the fringes now, their mere existence indicates that these categories of 29"ers are very well poised to become more of a reality in '08 and beyond. All Mountain, Free Ride, and even Down Hill 29"ers already are pounding the trails and are making 29"ers more than just an XC category bike.
G2 Geometry: This might be the single biggest development in 29"ers since Marzocchi decided to make suspension forks for Fisher back in 2002. Now the dreaded complaint that 29"ers steer too slowly, handle like barges, and won't do tight single track, ( all complaints that really were dubious before G2 anyway) can finally be put to rest. G2 makes 29"ers handle so much more like 26"ers that the leap from 26"er to 29"er will be much easier to make for new 29"er freaks coming on board. Look for this geometry to be copied by other 29"er producers in the future.
650B Bikes: The fact that 650B mountain bikes hit the scene in 2007 legitimized 29"ers. How? By making 650B the niche size that 29"ers were before it, 29"ers were finally seen as having "grown up". In fact, it might be that the 29"er markets maturation will become 650B's undoing. It is quite likely that despite the super human efforts and zealot-like evangelism of Kurt Pacenti, 650B will forever be an anecdote to cycling. However that turns out, there is no doubt that the passing of the niche mantle has helped 29"ers be seen as mainstream.