Tuesday, September 11, 2007

650B: It's Coming And It's Not Going Away

One of the interesting new developments in mountain biking is this whole 650B tire size that's had new life puffed into it by Kirk Pacenti and his new 650B off road tire. It's started a ground swell of activity amongst rim manufacturers, fork makers, and most notably, small builders looking to jump on the next trend in custom bikes.

This is what's really interesting to me, the small builders take on all of this. Some are going the whole 650B route with mountain bikes using the wheel size front and rear. Some others are mixing the wheel size with 26 inch or 29 inch wheels for hybrid combinations, ( not to mention more dreaded numeric name combinations)

Mr. Pacenti promises that there will be several makes available to see at Interbike this year and perhaps some will even be around to ride at the Outdoor Demo. I'm hoping to be able to throw a leg over one whilst I'm there.

There is even a new brand debuting there named Rawland Cycles. So, this whole segment looks to be something that will be around for awhile at least. There is even talk of long travel bikes using this wheel size, although I haven't heard of any specific models coming anytime soon.

My take on the whole thing is that it's good for bike riders and bad for bike companies in the mainstream. Small, under-the-radar types will benefit, no doubt, but the mainstream bike business will need to weed something out before it accepts another wheel size for off roading for adults. Having another whole category of wheel size will mean another round of edumacation for shop owners/employees that are still trying to wrap their minds around 29 inch stuff. Heck, introduce a wheel size that looks nominally different out on a shop floor from the "standard" 26 inch wheel and your asking for a lot of crossed wires. Not to mention trying to get your average retail customer to "get it". They can't even grasp why Shimano thinks we need 10 speed cassettes.

No, this 650B thing isn't going away, but it's not built for prime time either. It's going to remain a "bike geek" wheel size just as it always has been for the past 60 years or so. If it does reach epic proportions someday, then my take is that it will signal the demise of the current 26 inch wheel size as an adult bike wheel size. In effect, 650B would become the "new 26 inch" wheel. It's the only way mainstream business and the average public would ever embrace the format. In fact, it'd be an easier sell if it was called "the new 26 inch" wheel size, in terms of marketing. You know, "This "26 inch" wheel is bigger, better, and rolls over stuff with greater ease!"

Then, if that's what you want, I've got a wheel size you should take a look at over here. (wink wink)

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