650b Wheelsize as a Mountain Bike Wheel/Tire Combo - Early History questions
I think I read a bit about some of the early 650b wheels tires being ridden in California back in the day (what era?) but then something happened and the tire stock got snagged by the Russians or some other country and that dried up the pool of tires to go 650b dried up if you will - and the next logical step was the 26" wheel.
Is this a fairly accurate "historical generalization?" Or am I way outta whack here?
Can anyone help fill in the blanks - tell the story a bit more and attach some names, and dates to this 650b MTB story??
What I know...........
Tom Ritchey got into 650B stuff in the early 80's. At that time I believe the only off roadable 650B tire available was the Hakkepilitta, I think was the name, anyway...
Yes, the tires got all gobbled up over there, the supply dried up here, and that was that. At least that was it for "serious" off roading. Raleigh made some Mountain Tour mtb's back around 1984-85 that had a 650B tire, albeit a narrow one. Not really all that knobby either. A Cheng Shin tire, if I'm not mistaken. (I had one for awhile) There may have been some other random attempts to use 650B back then I am not aware of.
Why Ritchey did what he did, I have not read anywhere. It would be interesting to hear where his influences were from, but I've a sneaking suspicion it may be French in nature. As you all must know, the French camping/rando thing was way before the mtb stuff was thought of.
Anyway, there's what I have. Anybody else?
So the Hakkapalitas were 650b tires (and not an early version of a 29er tire) eh G Ted?
Lennard Zinn gave me the full story at the first NAHBS show in San Jose a couple years ago. It's way too long to type out in full here, but someone might be able to get him to write it up for them.
Jeremy, this would make a great story for your Blog. It's actually a pretty interesting story, especially coming from a framebuilder who was working for TR at the time and had built a couple dozen of these early 650b MTB's.
“Those that say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those doing it.”
Not a regular
Part of it had to do with wanting light weight wheels. At the time, the 26" klunker rims were steel and combined with the tires, made for one heavy wheelset. Remember all these guys came from road and were used to lightweight race bikes. At the time, quality light weight aluminum 650b rims were available (Specialized was supposed to have been the importer) as was that Finnish Hakkepelita tire which was a 1 3/4" tire. Yes, the Russian army did buy up the whole lot of tires so while there were rims, there weren't any tires. Coincidentally, at around the same time, aluminum 26x1.5 rims started becoming available so those guys just moved on and didn't look back.
So, while Tom did experiment with 650b, I think that only about 10 Ritchey bikes were made with 650b wheels. Fillet-brazed over on the VRC forum has one. According to TR, the 650b had a "real nice nimble feel."
The only real application for the 650B in Europe were utility bikes and loaded tandems in France. Tires were mostly for touring/randonneuring and urban utility applications. The closest thing to a wide tire was the "demi-balloon." Only a few Raleighs and Schwinns in America came with 650B wheelsets in the 1980s and being an obscure size, it went into decline even in France. Kirk Pacenti rediscovered it for the MTB and as they say, the rest is history.
I saw this link a little while ago when there was a discussion about the first mountain bike timeframe on a local site:
Not exactly what you guys were looking for but I thought it was pretty cool.
It is equipped with a TA Triple crank with Lyotard Pedals and doubled Christophe clips; Mafac Brakes and Levers, Campy Bar-end shifters, Campy NR Rear Gear, Suntour Surpurbe Front Changer, Wheels by Derby King with 650B Super Champion Rims
. The front wheel has a Campy Track hub drilled to 48* and the rear wheel sports 36 spokes of 10 and 11 gauge.
The orogin of 650b and 700c mountain bike tires.
This is where Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, Tom Ritchie and others originally got their 650B x 54mm Finnish Snow tires from. Geoff Apps says that he also sent over 700c x 27mm Nokia Hakkapeliitta tires.
The Zinn column/article referenced in this thread is relevant...
Lennard Zinn replies to 650b question
In a nutshell, 26" tires were more readily available and cheaper to import than 650b tires.