Could 32-Inch-Wheeled Electric Bikes Be a Coming Trend?
With all the changes in wheel sizes lately, we have to wonder what changes might be in store in the next 10 years. It’s possible that we might see yet another change in wheel size. MBA tested a 36-inch-wheeled Black Sheep mountain bike a few years ago and we loved it. In our review, we called it “a masterpiece.”
I first rode one of Black Sheep’s 36-inch wheeled bikes somewhere around 10 years ago. I thought it was really impressive and fun, but I couldn’t talk anybody else on our editorial staff to try it that year, as they were busy checking out everything else at that year’s Interbike show. I thought the bigger-wheeled bike felt really good. It made the ground feel much smoother with its incredible ability to roll over rocks and rough terrain.
Of course, there is a lot to be said for smaller wheels, too, especially when it comes to “flick-ability” and things like quick turns and jumps. To my knowledge, all the riders in the last Red Bull Rampage were still using 26- or 27.5-inch wheels. As I recall, Cam Zink told me that not one of the riders in the 2019 Rampage rode with 29-inch wheels on their bikes. That doesn’t mean they’re afraid of trying new things, though. As I recall, Cam Zink had been riding a custom bike with a 27.5-inch front wheel and a 26-inch rear wheel. That was hardly a standard setup, and he wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t think it would help his performance.
Right now, there seems to be a growing interest in bikes with 32-inch wheels. Famed bike mechanic and author Lennard Zinn recently contacted James Bleakley at Black Sheep Bikes and had James make a custom titanium frame for a 32-inch-wheeled e-bike that Zinn was designing for pro basketball player Jusuf Nurkic of the Portland Trailblazers.
Bleakley made the frame to Zinn’s specifications, and Zinn put the rest of the bike together and delivered it to Nurkic. We heard from Bleakley that the 7-foot-tall Nurkic loves the bike, as did Zinn, who told Bleakley, after trying it himself, “It was awesome! It is incredibly stable; I felt almost invincible on it.”
MBA contacted pro basketball commentator and mountain biker Reggie Miller to let him know about the bike so that he can ask Nurkic about it and possibly try it himself someday. If Reggie and some other pro basketball players like it, we could easily imagine them ordering similar bikes so they could get back to riding bicycles again, which might be something some of them would like to do with their kids.
Could bigger-wheeled electric bikes start to catch on in the coming years? We can’t say, but we wouldn’t bet against it. Intense is already offering their Tazer e-bike with what they call a “staggered” wheel setup: a 29-inch front wheel and a 27.5-inch rear wheel. Maybe they’ll come up with an e-bike with a 32-inch front wheel and a 29-inch rear wheel next. It may sound strange right now, but who would have guessed 11 years ago, when 26-inch bikes still ruled the market, that the hottest trends of 2021 would be electric bikes and bikes with the so-called “mullet” setups of 29-inch front wheels and 27.5-inch back wheels.
There is always something new happening. The trick in the bike business is to guess what the next big trend is going to be and stay ahead of the curve so you don’t get stuck with a bunch of last year’s bikes that nobody wants anymore. You can’t count on things to stay the same. As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said 2500 years ago,
“The only constant in life is change.”