Thursday, December 01, 2011

What A Big Wheel Is Good For

Just the other day a huge debate was started amongst big hit/all mountain/down hill riders on a site called Pinkbike concerning whether or not the 29"er has a place in "big terrain", downhill style riding.

5 inch travel Lenz Mammoth
While I won't delve into all the hyperbole and histrionics you can find in the comments there, I will say that all along I thought that the use of 29"ers for down hill especially was somewhat suspect. All Mountain? Maybe. Maybe not....

But what I think is missing here, and the thing that should be super obvious, is that key components for doing things beyond trail riding on 29"ers is simply just not there.

Oh sure- you've got your ,(now discontinued), WTB Dissent tires, the Sun Ringle' MTX 33 rims and for a long travel, big hit fork you have......a Manitou Dorado? A White Brothers Groove?

Yeah.....go look at what the 26"er guys are using. Marzocchi 888's, Rock Shox Boxers, and Fox 40's. Rims? Tires? Fagedda bouddit! The equipment is so much better I don't know how a reasonable comparison can be made. The arguments being made right now are not really based on an apples to apples comparison.

6 x 6 Lenz Lunchbox
Yet some folks are doing things with little bits of marginal equipment that are eye opening. Lenz Sport being at the epicenter of this phenomenon, but they are certainly not the only folks.

Intense did a 29"er DH bike that showed some promise, and with proper tires, rims, and forks, perhaps the 29 inch, long travel, All Mountain/DH bike might find a place in some folks stables.


Then again, there is another, painfully obvious thing that is holding back big wheels in this arena. That is physics. You can only make chain stays so short before there isn't room for but one chain ring, and limited tire clearances. You can only make a head tube so short, and yet you can not get those bars down lower with a 150mm plus travel fork on these rigs. Front derailleur issues are rampant here.

So, in the end analysis, I think there is a practical limit to what 29"ers can do effectively well. I didn't say that 29"ers could not do down hill, or that they can't be made into a fine All Mountain rig for somebody. What I am saying is that for most folks, there is going to be things big wheels are really good for, (hard tails, single speeds, XC to Trail Bike FS applications), and 26"ers will likely rule everything bigger, badder, and more gravity oriented than that.

Where does that leave 29 inch full suspension bikes? I think right where the meat of the market is. The 120-140mm range should work fine for 29"ers, and of course, 26 inch wheels will also still be made in these ranges. It's hard to predict, but I think it is very safe to say that big 26 inch full suspension bikes are not going away anytime soon.

1 comment:

jpelton said...

69er would work great here and address most of those issues, of course after a real 29er DH fork was produced.
Similar to the specialized 26 front and 24 rear tried years back.