Note: In Part I I introduce the premise that Mountain Bike Magazine is going to tell us "The Truth" about 29 inch wheels, which ends up being a treatise circa 2005 about the characteristics of 29"ers and then descends into a discussion of 26 inch versus 29 inch wheels. I give some examples today and my commentary....
Okay, so let's see what this mag is calling "The Truth" about 29"ers, shall we? First off, it all starts out well enough with the obvious roll over benefit of larger wheels. They introduce a scientist and he tells us there is something to it, but it is hard to measure. Then they get around to correcting a misunderstanding some have about the contact patch of a 29"er wheel. It isn't larger, it is longer. Yep! I've been saying that all along. But here's where the scientist goes off the rails and Mountain Bike sort of contradicts themselves in regards to his statement.
The science guy says that even though there is an advantage to the longer contact patch, it "is so small it's unlikely to be noticeable." Then Mountain Bike says that they "know" that 29"er tires have more grip and traction on climbs, provide more grip in corners, and that they perform better in mud and sand.
So they "noticed" the "unlikely to be noticeable". Wow.
Then they explain 29"ers stability, but first they take a stab at the oft repeated, "you can't turn that long board in tight trails" saw. Funny thing about that. If you compare the wheel bases of 26 inch trail bikes and 29"er trail bikes the differences are often less than an inch and sometimes 29"ers have (gasp!) shorter wheel bases! Let's just say I've never had any problem going around the same tight turns on my 29"ers that I did on my old 26"ers. That's my experience. I've heard similar from other 29"er guys. Your mileage may vary.
At any rate, they tell us that a longer wheel base and heavier wheels make the 29"er feel more stable. Really? What about my sub 1500 gram wheel set? You could hardly say that was heavy, yet it is more stable feeling than my old lightweight 26"er wheels that weighed the same. Hmm.... I think they missed it slightly. True, gyroscopic effect is at work, but the geometry of a 29 inch wheeled bike has a lot to do with this, and they do not even mention that.
Then they hit the old "more weight, less stiffness" argument. Yes, at one time this was true, but it is quickly becoming a thing of the past. I can point to any 29"er specific component and show you several examples of stiffer components that relegate this argument as being archaic. Also, the weight thing, that isn't much of a concern anymore either. I mean, we have guys riding geared 29"er hard tails in the low 20's for weight, and single speeders riding 29"ers that rival most road bikes in weight. The thing is, if you followed this logic, roadies would be riding 26 inch wheeled road bikes. They don't, and for good reasons besides the fact that the 700c wheels are a mandated size these days. (That wasn't always the case)
Then we see the old "handle bars are too high" argument. Funny, but I see tons of 26 inch trail bikes with riser bars, and handle bar heights that are above the saddle height. This is pretty common these days with 26"ers. So why pick on 29"ers? And added to this, I have plenty of spacers under my stems on several of my bikes, and not one has the handle bars higher than the saddle. Go figure. I must be an oddball, or a circus freak at 6'1" and a 34" inseam. I mean, if they are right, then I must be all wrong!
Then they talk about trail as if the new crop of suspension forks, (forks that have been out for two seasons already) were never developed. Weird!
Okay, there is more, but this is getting to be pretty obvious. If this is "The Truth" I don't want any part of it.
See ya'all in fantasy land as I ride off on my fairy tale 29"er that doesn't really exist. You know, the one that carves tight turns, accelerates like a rocket, is stiff where it should be, and has great positioning and handling characteristics. Yeah........that bicycle.
C'mon! You're kidding me, right Mountain Bike Magazine? This stuff can't be for real.