Monday, April 22, 2013

Musings Prompted By The Recent Sea Otter

Sea Otter- You know.......that yearly gig near Monterey California where all the cyclists hang out? It's a kind of mash-up of racing, trade show, and tribal stomping all wrapped up in the rolling hills of Central California's Coastal Region. Some folks call it "Bay Weasel", which makes me laugh. Anyway...I used to go there and cover it for Twenty Nine Inches, but this lil' gig got in the way, and now my friend in SoCal gets the honors. However; I get to read all the stuff and see all the images Grannygear gathers there, plus talk to him on the phone, where he shares some insider stuff with me too. It's almost as good as being there.....almost! 

27.5"ers are "all the rage".
 First thing that you might notice is that this "enduro" thing is really the "next big thing" in mountain biking, at least competitively, and the Industry has decided that riders need a new weapon to achieve eternal glory in this "new endeavor". That weapon is a long travel, (150-170mm), 27.5" wheeled bike. Yes, your old 26"ers that are in this wheel travel category are now inferior.  It is time to step up to the (slightly) bigger wheel dubbed 27.5"er.

You may try to draw some comparisons to 29"ers here, but ya know what? These new 27.5"ers are not anything like where 29"ers came from. 29"ers were summarily despised by a big slice of the bicycle industry at the outset, and some companies waited for years, (literally), before coming out with 29"ers. Some said they were "circus bikes" and some said that they would "never build a 29"er", but they did, (in both of my examples), and now have those bikes as a big part of their line.

This is not the case with 27.5 wheels.  Companies are pushing this wheel size with no compunctions and no reservations as to its effectiveness, (or lack thereof), so it is not at all like it was with 29"ers, which were driven by demand from riders, and the 27.5"ers are a "top down" marketing gamble. No matter if they are better than the previous 26 inch wheels, which they very well may be. But one has to ask- if the wheel size is good for long travel bikes, why has it taken six years for these companies to figure this out.....all of a sudden? Cause 27.5" wheels for mtb has been around a few years or more. I just find that odd, but again.......the bikes are probably really good, it's just not anything like how 29"ers came about. And I think it is odd that all of a sudden 26 inch wheeled long travel bikes are being dropped like a hot potato.

The new Yeti ARC: Clown bike indeed!
The other observation I was impressed by is a reaction I read to Yeti's introduction of their newest 29"er hard tail bike, the ARC. Those three letters are historically important in MTB racing history. The "ARC" model has a racing pedigree and a standing in Yeti's line that isn't taken lightly. Yes- Yeti's owner wasn't enamored of the big wheel, but I really do not think that is a big deal. Not like some folks apparently do.

Some folks are still bent that Yeti called 29"ers "clown bikes" and think that no one should trust a company that has ever denigrated the idea of big wheels. You Specialized. The company that said it would "never build a 29"er" and put a guy on a FS 29"er that only won the World MTB Championship. Ya know.......kind of a big deal there. But they didn't like 29"ers at first. Here's what I have to say about that:

That just tells me these companies have character to say, “Hey- That is a good idea. We were wrong about them.” And then they get behind big wheels and put in the R&D, creativity, and let’s not forget, money- to build a great product.

I respect that, actually. It says something good to me. Some folks may not see it that way, but I think that Specialized and Yeti saw 29″ers for what they are- a good idea in terms of mtb, and a way to……(yes- I’m saying this)….to make some bucks, cause- ya know- they are in business to make money, not break even, or lose it. Which to the former point means that 29″ers resonate with the riders. Otherwise there would be no marketing, or market, for that matter.

 Well, anyway, that's what I was impressed by over the weekend watching from afar. Now, you'll excuse me while I get back to prepping for this gravel grinder I put on......

1 comment:

Dutch Skater said...

Please get quotes from these brands on why they are pushing 27.5 so hard after bashing and incorperating/making profits on 29?