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Old 07-23-2021, 01:57 AM
Andyrondack Andyrondack is offline
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I don't do mountain biking but I have a short wheel base touring bike with 26 inch wheels which I find to be more easily manouvered around obstacles than my 700c wheel bike, so it puzzles me that 26 inch wheel mountain bikes seem to have dissapeared, I imagine that manouverability would be important enough for those who ride rough trails to favour 26 inch wheels, but that is clearly not the case so what am I missing here, why do MTB'ers now favour bigger wheels for rough trails? Did you make the transition?
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Old 07-23-2021, 05:21 AM
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It’s a good question, here are a few thoughts. Tracking over rough terrain is much faster and easier on larger wheels. Modern MTB geometry has solved a lot of the maneuverability question, allowing wheel size to act as another form of suspension. And the sport and industry as a whole has been more focused on making more and more “capable” bikes, which means bikes that can eat up very rough terrain and remain stable, sacrificing some degree of maneuverability.

Smaller wheels are, as you say, lighter and more maneuverable, but it’s only one element of the sport. They get hung up easier in rocky terrain, they don’t cover ground as easily, they are more skittish in very steep terrain, and they transfer more impact to the rider. So for most riders, particularly if we’re riding bikes with modern geo, the trade offs aren’t worth it for smaller wheels. Reduced offset forks, shorter chain stays, steeper seat tubes, longer front ends, and slacker head tube angles have created bikes which ride far better over steep, rough terrain and retain an incredible amount of maneuverability.
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Old 07-23-2021, 05:59 AM
geewhiz geewhiz is offline
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I'm a casual MTBer, not really hardcore, but as a 5'7" guy I'm finding that I like my 27.5 wheels on my current bike a lot better than the 29ers I had on a bike a few years ago. On the 29er I had this feeling of being more "on top" of the bike, whereas with the 27.5 I feel like I sit more down "in" the bike. If that makes any sense. I suppose there could be differences in geometry of the two bikes as well, but my point is that the size of the rider is also a factor in wheel choice. At least in my experience
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Old 07-23-2021, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by geewhiz View Post
I'm a casual MTBer, not really hardcore, but as a 5'7" guy I'm finding that I like my 27.5 wheels on my current bike a lot better than the 29ers I had on a bike a few years ago. On the 29er I had this feeling of being more "on top" of the bike, whereas with the 27.5 I feel like I sit more down "in" the bike. If that makes any sense. I suppose there could be differences in geometry of the two bikes as well, but my point is that the size of the rider is also a factor in wheel choice. At least in my experience
Certainly there is some kind of sweet spot for rider size and wheel size. One of my riding buddies is probably about your height, and he was always rubbing the back wheel on his keester in the mega steeps due to leg length. He kept trying 29s and not liking them for this reason, the 27.5s always worked better. He talked about getting a mullet bike (29 or business in front and 27.5 or party in the rear) to accommodate his desire for ground chewing performance in the steeps, but he finally found the Transition Sentinel, a 29er, with its ultra slack head tube (63.7 I think) and 77 degree seat tube to fix all that, and I rarely see him ride anything else. I haven’t seen him on his Mojo HD5 in well over a year.

The feeling of sitting in versus on the bike is a very common way of describing mountain bike feel, but I suspect this is much more geo than tire size. What year, make, and model were (are) the two bikes, if I might ask? Same for the OP, as I suspect that geo is a big factor in the feeling of maneuverability between your 26 and your 700c bikes, particularly given your “short wheelbase” comment. Geometry is the most important and probably the most overlooked factor in ride feel and performance. It’s common to focus on weight, components, wheels, suspension…they’re easier to understand and evaluate. And they all matter, but combined they don’t matter as much as starting with the right geometry for the job. The geo dictates everything about how the rest of the bike’s components will respond, it’s the heart of everything.

Last edited by Dirk Hofman; 07-23-2021 at 07:10 AM.
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Old 07-23-2021, 07:05 AM
imwjl imwjl is offline
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Originally Posted by Andyrondack View Post
I don't do mountain biking but I have a short wheel base touring bike with 26 inch wheels which I find to be more easily manouvered around obstacles than my 700c wheel bike, so it puzzles me that 26 inch wheel mountain bikes seem to have dissapeared, I imagine that manouverability would be important enough for those who ride rough trails to favour 26 inch wheels, but that is clearly not the case so what am I missing here, why do MTB'ers now favour bigger wheels for rough trails? Did you make the transition?
I made the transition as a former big wheel Luddite, and for my recent crazy purchase and a few tour/gravel/adventure bikes did extensive testing and trials to stick with big vs 650B wheels there.

The geometry @Dirk brings up is key. I was with the big wheel Luddites until a some bike design changes were made.

It's fun or funny to think about now because I was also close to people who drove the big wheel and design changes. Friends and acquaintances are Trek MTB, wheel and tire staff. They test at and are involved in trails I manage.

At a major event for trail builders we were testers and design input people and that was fun. That was the first bikes now called "boost" wheel spacing, new tires, new wheels, and suspension prototypes. My 29r hating disappeared near instantly when the handling was right. Climbing out of a damp stream bed with both and a legendary trail in Marquette, MI called No Dab made the advantages obvious.

My wife who swore she was done with the sport got back at it with enthusiasm because of the big tubeless tires and modern geometry.

26r is still my preference for going nowhere - the dirt jumper and pump track bike we have.

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Originally Posted by geewhiz View Post
I'm a casual MTBer, not really hardcore, but as a 5'7" guy I'm finding that I like my 27.5 wheels on my current bike a lot better than the 29ers I had on a bike a few years ago. On the 29er I had this feeling of being more "on top" of the bike, whereas with the 27.5 I feel like I sit more down "in" the bike. If that makes any sense. I suppose there could be differences in geometry of the two bikes as well, but my point is that the size of the rider is also a factor in wheel choice. At least in my experience
You do need to get used to the higher axle height and in flight a bigger wheel has more gyroscope feel.

Not knowing your bike, it did take a while for most all makers to get to more slack and shorter rear chain stay bikes that make a big difference. Those changes bring a ride in it vs on it feeling to all bikes but still, there's no denying you can sense the higher axle height. Closer to 5 feet is more of a sure argument for smaller wheels, and many just have personal preference liking "B" vs "wagon wheels". One dear friend prefers his 27.5 trail bike towards the heavy duty end for expert trail and hang time and his 29r trail bike for longer distance and easier trail riding for a perfect example of common preferences.

Like guitars, brand loyalty gets really strong in this stuff. I still get involved in events that have the manufacturer demo fleets, know shop owners, and get real world use of lots of bikes. With that I feel most everyone makes pretty good stuff these days.

Something for all wheels: In addition to going tubeless, they've also gone wider via inner rim width, and to a superior and often wider axle design. The rim width gets you comfort, control and tire performance. The through axles that are wider and threaded even if a sort of quick release facilitate better frame and braking performance.

For the recent threads on bike cost, this wheel, tire, frame and braking stuff are one part of it but the basic versions of the stuff are available at decent prices.

The nuts/crazy aspects of this evolution are how my trail bike weighs less than my road bikes once did and can fly 30 feet, or my new all/any road bike can do so much and weigh 4 and 7.4 pounds less respectively than the two bikes it replaces.
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Old 07-23-2021, 07:19 AM
imwjl imwjl is offline
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Originally Posted by Dirk Hofman View Post
Certainly there is some kind of sweet spot for rider size and wheel size. One of my riding buddies is probably about your height, and he was always rubbing the back wheel on his keester in the mega steeps due to leg length. He kept trying 29s and not liking them for this reason, the 27.5s always worked better. He talked about getting a mullet bike (29 or business in front and 27.5 or party in the rear) to accommodate his desire for ground chewing performance in the steeps, but he finally found the Transition Sentinel, with its ultra slack head tube (63.7 I think) and 77 degree seat tube to fix all that, and I rarely see him ride anything else. I haven’t seen him on his Mojo HD5 in well over a year.

The feeling of sitting in versus on the bike is a very common way of describing mountain bike feel, but I suspect this is much more geo than tire size. What year, make, and model we’re the two bikes, if I might ask? Same for the OP, as I suspect that geo is a big factor in the feeling of maneuverability between your 26 and your 700c bikes. It’s the most important and most overlooked factor in ride feel and performance. It’s common to focus on weight, components, wheel, suspension…they all matter, but combined they don’t matter as much as starting with the right geometry for the job. The geo dictates everything about how the rest of the bike’s components will respond, it’s the heart of everything.
Absolutely right on that focus.

For that Transition and Ibis example, many focus on Ibis sophisticated suspension but having had and still having a Transition, they really get the geometry and feel of the bike right.

We have a bike called Kona Honzo that was a leader the modern geometry. We have completely worn out all the parts and redid it. People joke why we love the heavy steel bike with nice wheels and low end parts. Well, it's just got the makes you smile stuff every time you ride it.

In May I supervised some new trail building with Trek's engineering staff. It was hilarious to listen to product/marketing vs engineering squabbling over changes to a popular model - following trends vs stick with what is otherwise a tremendously versatile and reliable bike.

Over and over I repeat delay gratification and try stuff. Try stuff with an open mind and make sure the setup is right when you test stuff.

I only cared about weight again because this year I'm trying stuff and aiming at stuff where it will make a difference. Rides that are nearly all day, mixing terrain, and hanging out with riders who are often 20 - 40 years younger than me. In all that fit and comfort are still most important.
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Old 07-23-2021, 08:15 AM
Neil K Walk Neil K Walk is offline
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Not all mountain bikes are oversized and overpriced BMX bikes. The term MTB has splintered into several subcategories that sometimes overlap with "gravel" and "cyclocross" bikes with drop bars.

29ers are "cross country" bikes and unfortunately the industry has made them the entry level standard which the purists look down on. They're built for speed and distance, not "gnar." Yes, they are less maneuverable but on the flip side they allow you to climb like a mountain goat while those waiting to send it on the downhills are pushing their bikes up the mountain.

What the OP probably wants is a "trail bike" with 27.5" fat tires, full suspension (or at least a front air fork with more than 120mm of travel) and a dropper seat post. They come with 27.5" x 2.4"-2.6" tires and a shock for each tire. They also start at $2K so a certain amount of investment is required just to get your feet wet in "technical" riding. They're also heavier and slower on even terrain compared to XC bikes.

Then there are "enduro" bikes that are sort of an in-between and downhill bikes that are basically motocross bikes without motors (though there are ebike variations out there from what I have seen.) For those you typically need a ski lift ticket to ride them at ski resorts during the summer or know a guy with a pickup truck to throw it in the back of for that ride to the top.

Paint me as a Luddite I suppose. I like my 29er over my old 26er that bucked me in my driveway and put me in a sling. It's actually much more stable and I prefer not to "send it" or spook horses and dogs and odd joggers that smell of bug spray and wear earbuds who frequent the local multiuse trails. I also find that the longer wheel base and reach have virtually eliminated that quadrocep burn and knee pain that plagued me on 30+ mile rides on the old pinto.
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Old 07-23-2021, 08:53 AM
imwjl imwjl is offline
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Not all mountain bikes are oversized and overpriced BMX bikes. The term MTB has splintered into several subcategories that sometimes overlap with "gravel" and "cyclocross" bikes with drop bars.

29ers are "cross country" bikes and unfortunately the industry has made them the entry level standard which the purists look down on. They're built for speed and distance, not "gnar." Yes, they are less maneuverable but on the flip side they allow you to climb like a mountain goat while those waiting to send it on the downhills are pushing their bikes up the mountain.

What the OP probably wants is a "trail bike" with 27.5" fat tires, full suspension (or at least a front air fork with more than 120mm of travel) and a dropper seat post. They come with 27.5" x 2.4"-2.6" tires and a shock for each tire. They also start at $2K so a certain amount of investment is required just to get your feet wet in "technical" riding. They're also heavier and slower on even terrain compared to XC bikes.

Then there are "enduro" bikes that are sort of an in-between and downhill bikes that are basically motocross bikes without motors (though there are ebike variations out there from what I have seen.) For those you typically need a ski lift ticket to ride them at ski resorts during the summer or know a guy with a pickup truck to throw it in the back of for that ride to the top.

Paint me as a Luddite I suppose. I like my 29er over my old 26er that bucked me in my driveway and put me in a sling. It's actually much more stable and I prefer not to "send it" or spook horses and dogs and odd joggers that smell of bug spray and wear earbuds who frequent the local multiuse trails. I also find that the longer wheel base and reach have virtually eliminated that quadrocep burn and knee pain that plagued me on 30+ mile rides on the old pinto.
Hi,

That's not quite up to date. 29rs are now mainstream in downhill and Enduro racing but also most popular across the board unless fit or strong personal preference dominate. The wide rims and way geometry has trickled down are also killing the popularity of plus size. 29 x 2.6 tires can be super high traction where plus was marketed as an advantage and with a fast tread, a racer's weapon. Look at the WTB Riddler tire and updated Bongrager 3 tire to understand the latter.

29 Riddler on my hard tail with the modern wide rims are at once super fast and possess the "got your back" when you're railed and on edge.

My trail bike accommodates the 27.5 plus and big 29rs. I've rented nice 27.5 and swapped with friends. Except for noticing axle height or ease of flicking the bike while in the air, that got me understanding why the 29r with modern geometry is so popular.

New wheels with wide rims 5 mm wider on the hardtail with same tires was interesting because it totally illustrated the advantage.
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Old 07-23-2021, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Neil K Walk View Post
Not all mountain bikes are oversized and overpriced BMX bikes. The term MTB has splintered into several subcategories that sometimes overlap with "gravel" and "cyclocross" bikes with drop bars.

29ers are "cross country" bikes and unfortunately the industry has made them the entry level standard which the purists look down on. They're built for speed and distance, not "gnar." Yes, they are less maneuverable but on the flip side they allow you to climb like a mountain goat while those waiting to send it on the downhills are pushing their bikes up the mountain.

What the OP probably wants is a "trail bike" with 27.5" fat tires, full suspension (or at least a front air fork with more than 120mm of travel) and a dropper seat post. They come with 27.5" x 2.4"-2.6" tires and a shock for each tire. They also start at $2K so a certain amount of investment is required just to get your feet wet in "technical" riding. They're also heavier and slower on even terrain compared to XC bikes.

Then there are "enduro" bikes that are sort of an in-between and downhill bikes that are basically motocross bikes without motors (though there are ebike variations out there from what I have seen.) For those you typically need a ski lift ticket to ride them at ski resorts during the summer or know a guy with a pickup truck to throw it in the back of for that ride to the top.

Paint me as a Luddite I suppose. I like my 29er over my old 26er that bucked me in my driveway and put me in a sling. It's actually much more stable and I prefer not to "send it" or spook horses and dogs and odd joggers that smell of bug spray and wear earbuds who frequent the local multiuse trails. I also find that the longer wheel base and reach have virtually eliminated that quadrocep burn and knee pain that plagued me on 30+ mile rides on the old pinto.
Neil, I feel you’re drawing some pretty hard distinctions here! I’m not sure I agree that XC is the entry level, I feel it’s a bit more of a specialized category which draws racers, those who do big mountain and high altitude rides, and those who favor light weight and climbing prowess over downhill capability. 29ers are indeed the overwhelming choice here, as climbing and long rides are best facilitated by the larger wheels. That said, XC bikes are getting more travel and slacker geo along with everything else, just not as much. I would say XC is made up of bikes in the 100-120 mm rear travel range.

The trail category is to me the entry level, as it covers what most riders want, an all around bike that does everything pretty well. Good climbers, good descenders, easy to handle and remarkably capable. 27.5 and 29 are well represented here, because both work well and folks have preferences, some like smaller and lighter bikes which are easier to whip around, some like the ground covering, climbing, and extra capability in the rough of the 29er. 29ers are more popular at the moment. These are bikes in the 120-150 range, broadly.

Similarly all-mountain and enduro bikes use both wheel sizes, just adding more travel and capability than trail bikes. Therese run in the 140-170 range, broadly. And I can tell you these things climb with incredible efficiency today. I have a 5 year old Evil Following, a 120 / 29 trail bike that was revolutionary the time. It is roundly outclimbed and out descended by my 145 / 29 Santa Cruz Hightower, which weighs more because of bigger shocks front and rear, but climbs better simply because of the new geo. I am so much more forward over the pedals on the new bike, and this makes all the difference. I’m beating climbing times vs the Following with race tires on it by 2-3 mins on a 25 min climb.

I’d love to have a new XC bike and an enduro rig as well, but I can’t justify the spend when the all-mountain Hightower does it all so well. Many riders I know ride bikes across the range, and ride everything from XC to enduro, to lift-served rides, there just aren’t these hard lines except on the fringes. It’s all bikes, and it’s all good!
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Old 07-23-2021, 01:26 PM
Andyrondack Andyrondack is offline
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Thanks some interesting comments there, really makes me want to try out some different bike designs for exploring rough tracks. I do use my 26 inch wheel for that but it's an old bike with rim brakes so I just do that in the dry months now as I got fed up destroying rims every couple years on expensive wheels.
Yes I guess geometry must have much to do with manouverability, the short wheel base bike has a tighter turning circle, it also feels more stable at speed, it has that sit in it not on it feel mentioned above.
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Old 07-23-2021, 01:47 PM
imwjl imwjl is offline
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Originally Posted by Andyrondack View Post
Thanks some interesting comments there, really makes me want to try out some different bike designs for exploring rough tracks. I do use my 26 inch wheel for that but it's an old bike with rim brakes so I just do that in the dry months now as I got fed up destroying rims every couple years on expensive wheels.
Yes I guess geometry must have much to do with manouverability, the short wheel base bike has a tighter turning circle, it also feels more stable at speed, it has that sit in it not on it feel mentioned above.
Hi,

Making sure I understand that.... The short wheelbase and smaller wheels can make picking your way through tight spaces feel easier. The sit in it vs on it regardless of wheel size come from a more slack bike, lower bottom bracket, shorter stem, and to some extent shorter chain stays.

The bike brand Transition @Dirk mentioned was on that bandwagon back early so even my 26r from them had that modern feel.

Something else in all of it is a trend towards wider handlebars, shorter stems and breaking long-standing norms for the amount of rake or offset a fork has. Now it's well settled that a lot of this stuff is in a lot of bike models but there are still extremes and trends to watch out for.

For me the time and the expense for rentals and demos was well worth it. It took some time to be accustomed to the changes to so I made sure test rides or demos really let me get used to the differences. Good shops usually apply some or all of demo/rental fees towards a purchase. Something I did was seek a demo on a few models considered archetypes or highly rated if nothing else to learn why and see if I agreed.

There's a niche of fitting experts too. That can be a good idea but some carry too much bias for how they like to ride.

If it's still touring that interests you, Surly mentioned in these posts makes more traditional geometry while their sister brand Salsa with Vaya and Fargo make high stack more modern versions. Trek has updated the venerable 520 and Kona the Sutra family. If you're not doing loaded touring I'd advise against some of the 36 spoke wheel models.

Even if you don't intend to get into bike packing there's a popular guy on YouTube who has good info for "party pace" riding, and bikepacking.com has good info. The bikes and accessories good for that are fantastic for general comfy and confident feeling riding.

Go have some demo fun! Start wasting lots of bandwidth.

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Old 07-23-2021, 01:54 PM
imwjl imwjl is offline
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@Andyrondack and all on the pleasure and fitness kick... It's a higher price point but my wife loves the modern all/any road touring stuff over a fitness type or road bike. Her Fargo though really an any/all road touring bike works with fast and MTB tires. It's always comfy and has a got your back nature. It carries weight whether that's panniers or pulling out trailer. For all the terrain and comfort and speed it's also a class of bike that feels more fun than a traditional tourer. They're sort of MTBs with drop bars and all you need for racks, fenders, bags and bottles.
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Old 07-23-2021, 05:22 PM
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Dirk Hofman Dirk Hofman is offline
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Originally Posted by Andyrondack View Post
Thanks some interesting comments there, really makes me want to try out some different bike designs for exploring rough tracks. I do use my 26 inch wheel for that but it's an old bike with rim brakes so I just do that in the dry months now as I got fed up destroying rims every couple years on expensive wheels.
Yes I guess geometry must have much to do with manouverability, the short wheel base bike has a tighter turning circle, it also feels more stable at speed, it has that sit in it not on it feel mentioned above.
If you can rent a new bike near where you live, or on a trip where there are some great trails, you'll see if it's worth it to you. Super fun, and demos of high-end bikes run about $100 per day, which would be subtracted from any purchase.

Oh, I see @imwjl has mentioned the same.
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Old 07-24-2021, 06:13 AM
Scott O Scott O is offline
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Get on the downcountry bandwagon now or be forever left behind!
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Old 07-24-2021, 10:10 AM
Neil K Walk Neil K Walk is offline
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If you can rent a new bike near where you live, or on a trip where there are some great trails, you'll see if it's worth it to you. Super fun, and demos of high-end bikes run about $100 per day, which would be subtracted from any purchase.

Oh, I see @imwjl has mentioned the same.
I may just do that. I’ve been sort of intrigued with the Specializes offerings, particularly the Stumpjumper alloy and the “mullet” Status.
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