Ask Mountain Bike Action: Wheel Size Questions
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SPACE TO MOVE
Looking to buy a 6-inch travel bike. You guys recommend 26-inch wheels for this travel amount. Is this because longer-travel bikes negate the advantages 29-inch wheels?
-James, who is looking for plush
Mountain Bike Action: The 29er wheels need to have a place to go on a suspension bike. The more travel you add, the more room they need. That means the chainstays and seatstays have to be longer and the seat tube has to be designed to offer more clearance, too. It can be done, but it comes at the expense of the rider position. If you have never ridden a mountain bike before, this may not be an issue. But not many beginners would be looking at 6-inch-travel 29ers. Experienced riders will be required to relearn riding techniques and change their position on the bike. That’s not something many of us want to do.
We will continue to request longer-travel 29ers and keep you updated on their progress. Right now, there are still many more proven 26er options available with the travel you are looking for.
What are your thoughts on taking a 26er bike and replacing the front fork, wheel and tire with a 27.5 setup?
-Gabe, who may have a cool idea
Mountain Bike Action: For the record, we are totally against throwing a 27.5-inch wheel in a 26er fork. Those forks are not tested or designed for the loads and clearance issues of the larger wheel. Riders do it and claim it works fine, but we would never recommend it. That, however, is not what you asked. You are thinking about grafting a 27.5 front end on a 26er.
We never warmed up to the Trek 69er hardtail (29-inch wheel on the front and 26 in the rear) because the bike never delivered a balanced feel. The front wheel, combined with a 3-inch travel fork, rolled over the terrain so differently from the smaller rear wheel that the rider always felt like he was riding two bikes at once. The 27.5/26 makes more sense because there is not as great of a difference between the two wheel diameters. Adding the larger front wheel will slacken your steering a bit. That could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you like the handling of your bike as it sits right now. One thing this certain, this modification will void your frame’s warranty.
Recently got talked into buying a Specialized Epic Comp 29er, upgrading from the same bike with 26-inch wheels. I am wondering if I should go back to a 26er. I liked that bike a lot and felt pretty comfortable on it. With the new 29er, I feel like I am almost starting over.
–Chris, who misses his old flame
Mountain Bike Action: A 29er is more of an advantage to a less-experienced rider. We try to stress that in all our bike reviews and riding technique stories. We have always said an experienced, aggressive rider is going to like 26-inch wheels because they are more fun to pump, carve, wheelie and hop around on. But Chris, don’t try to ride it just like your 26er. Grab the April issue of Mountain Bike Action. You can buy it after downloading our free app by clicking here. We have a feature on how to adapt to a 29er that should help you a lot.
If you really can’t warm up to the 29er, there is a good chance that the shop will work a trade-in for you. These big-wheeled bikes are the rage right now, so they are easy to sell. Plus, your bike is pretty new.