A week ago, a co-worker of mine hands me an issue of Mountain Bike and asks me if I am interested in a few things in the issue. It turns out it was the July '09 issue and their were a few pages bent over at the corners to help me find the articles he was wanting me to see.....and comment on. Oh! I know that wasn't really the point that was made, but the inference was there. I get it. So, here goes............
First off, this issue is emblazoned in the lower left corner of the cover with this gem: Why 29ers Are All Wrong! (Or Right). Okay, I don't usually go out looking for this sort of thing, so please understand, I don't really mind what the established media says about big wheels, but this title already says to me- "We're straddling the fence on this issue." Interesting. I guess it is an admission that a certain portion of the readership might get offended. That's always good for some feedback and increasing the numbers of units sold. Can't blame them for doing their job, ya know.
Next, I go to the first tabbed article my co-worker was curious about. Good ol' Wes Williams of Willits! Well, if you wanted to upset the apple cart, Wes is your man. He is a smart, experienced, talented guy that has no "mind filter". You know- He just processes stuff in his head in raw form and out it comes. Like it or not. You get about 10 seconds to figure out where Wes is coming from in regards to 29"ers. If you can't figure it out after that, you are either deaf, dead, or too stoned to understand. Let's just say this: If I were a public relations dude for 29"ers in general, Wes would be far from my first choice for the uninitiated to talk to. Don't get me wrong. I like Wes. But he is what he is, and he ain't gonna sugar coat it. So, an interesting salvo to start out your latest issues 29"er coverage with. (By the way, the piece is hilarious, in my opinion. Some real corkers are let off by Wes here.)
So, on to the main article. Under their "Gear" sector in the aptly named "Tecnobabble" area is an article named "The Three Inch Difference- Finally, the truth about 29- inch wheels" Okay, this is promising. "The Truth" about big wheels! This ought ta be good! (Oh! And ironies of ironies, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski is shown in a full page pic on his 29"er. He just won a National Marathon Championship aboard his Superfly 100, beating a course record and his wife, Heather Irminger also won a Championship the same day aboard a Superfly.)
Okay, so anytime a mag lays down the claim that they have "The Truth", you know it is going to be good, right? Well, I couldn't have been more disappointed. The article read as if it had been written circa 2005. Amazing statements showing the lack of current 29"er technology and geometry are made. Scientists are brought in to ferret out "The Truth" and even they couldn't agree on several points.
Oh, and did I mention that the entire piece was a 26"er versus 29"er one? Yeah.........imminent fail.
Before I write Part II and get into the specifics, I am going to lay out my position again, as I have from the beginning, on what the deal with 29"ers and 26"ers is. This hasn't changed in my mind since about March 2003:
29"ers are better at keeping me from having endos, wipe outs, and other crashes when I ride out in the woods. They do smooth out bumps, climb steeps better, and descend in a more stable, controlled manner than my former 26 inch wheeled bikes. This is more fun for me. I suggest you actually ride a 29"er to see for yourself whether you too might benefit from this larger wheel size.
There! That's it in a nutshell. We can have all the science guys babbling all day long, have experts yak the yak, and even racers winning on them, but the real and "true" way to figure it out is to ride one and see. I've always held to this belief. No science guys, magazine writers, or even me, can convince anyone without them actually riding one first. The wheels sell themselves, that is the bottom line.
With that said, I'll return Wednesday with some fodder and comments regarding this article. Stay tuned!