A Pivotal Year: Previous to 2005, it wasn't a "done deal" that 29"ers were going to become anything other than a side show curiosity. However; several events took place in 2005 that went on to solidify the wheel size in the marketplace, and definitely hastened the wheel's acceptance in the industry and outside of it by the riders.
|2005 Dos Niner|
The "Dos Niner" came out from under wraps at the 2004 Interbike show and instantly became Salsa Cycles best selling frame in 2005.
2005 also saw the re-introduction of complete hard tail bikes for Gary Fisher, but the real show stopper was his purple single speed called "The Rig". The bike originally retailed for under a grand, and later prices went up to $1100.00, but it didn't matter. If you didn't get in on the pre-order, or down to the shop before spring, you missed the boat. Fisher was on the upswing, and had the Rock Shox Reba 29 exclusive for a year, and it was flying out the doors of shops. Salsa kept refining the frame, and added more hard tails to the line up with the El Mariachi and Mamasita coming a couple of years later.
|2005 Gary Fisher Rig|
Specialized Bikes, who said they would "never make a 29"er", in so many words, had an elite XC racer that was tabbed as a possible winner of the 2004 Olympic MTB race in Athens, Greece. Apparently, the course was a former grass track with some gravel sections, and was mostly dusty dirt. The athlete in question was thinking a 29"er hard tail was going to rule the roost, and Specialized may have been helping by getting some tires made to put on a 29"er for this racer. Unfortunately, the racer was tabbed for a doping offense shortly before the Olympics, so the project was mothballed.
In fact, Specialized raffled off 20 sets of 29 inch sized Fast Trak" tires for the first 20 guys on mtbr.com that responded. This set off a lot of speculation, but it is safe to say that Specialized was already tinkering with 29"ers by this time. By 2006, the Fast Trak was a defacto product in Specialized's catalog, but still, no bicycle. That wouldn't happen until 2008, but obviously, the behind the scenes preparations for the 2004 Olympics and the Fast Trak raffle of 2005 were important marks in the march towards full acceptance of 29"ers.
More tires were also hitting the shelves from WTB, (ExiWolf), Kenda, (Karma), and a few others.
Effects: The sales of 29"ers were starting to grab the attention of bigger companies, (Specialized is a great example), but more importantly, the wheel size was getting a lot of grassroots support, which manifested itself in sales of custom rigs to fit 29 inch wheels and spawned more than a few new custom builders in the process. This in turn was affecting product engineers and marketing managers who were watching this intently.
In fact, several mid-level companies were busy making plans already in 2005 to get on board with 29 inch wheeled bikes. In the next two years, the market for a prospective buyer of a 29 inch wheeled bike suddenly became a much bigger collection of choices with much easier to find outlets. This began a snow ball effect of even more companies offering 29"ers, and by 2007, it was starting to get harder to name everyone that was making production 29"ers.
Thanks for reading this two-part series. I will be adding this to the 29"er History Page for future reference.