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  1. #1
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    What if 650b had come first? (before 29ers, that is)

    while in my local Giant dealers LBS recently... they were preaching the Truth of 650B to me (I do find it remarkable that Giant, who got a VERY late start in the 29er market, is now so heavily marketing 650b), when this occurred to me:

    What if 650B had come first? I mean, I look back 10 years or so and all of the discussion around the rise of 29" wheels. Personally, I am sold on 29ers. I've been MTBing since 1989 (GT Karakoram, with the orange speckled paint...), and when I first rode a 29er I recall saying "so this is what a bike is supposed to feel like". But, I am 6'4", so ~22" frames on 26er wheels always felt disproportionate to me. I just lived with it, because what alternative was there?

    Anyway, we all know too well the back and forth over the advantages and trade-offs of 29 vs 26 wheels. I have no interest in rehashing that, but now 650b is being touted as the best of both worlds. But what if 650b had come first? How would the arguments have played out?

    I don't think 650b would have presented enough of an advantage over 26ers to have really caught on the way 29ers did. It's just too small of a delta between 26 and 27.5, IMO. So, I concluded that 650b's might not have been viable in the marketplace had not 29ers come first. They just would not have been that attractive without the "in between" niche that 29ers created.

    So I am sticking with my 29ers, but I am a tall guy, and I ride mostly XC. But, if I were to become interested in a long travel all-mountain or enduro style bike, 650b would be the way I would go.
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  2. #2
    AZ
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    What if 650b had taken root as the first MTB wheel?

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    jrm
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    When 650a or b was conceived by the french it was for randonneuring which can involve riding offroad.

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    Haha, when I read the title, I thought you were asking what if 650B preceeded 26, but you're asking about preceeding 29.

    I agree with you that from a marketing perspective, it would have been tough to launch 650B after 26 but before 29ers. Too small of a difference to justify. Wait: isn't that what people said about 650B in reality? Somehow, it worked, but I think it would've been tougher without 29ers in the equation.

    I do think 650B before 26 is an interesting what if. If 650B was the first wheel size for MTB, would there be as much demand for another wheel size at all? Maybe 29 eventually? Probably not smaller (26). Would it have shaken out the same eventually? Hmmmm.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirty $anchez View Post
    What if 650b had taken root as the first MTB wheel?
    Same question I had, you just asked it much more succinctly

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    AZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrm View Post
    When 650a or b was conceived by the french it was for randonneuring which can involve riding offroad.


    Yes. The lack of availability of 650b tires at a very inopportune moment in history ensured that 26" was the choice.

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    I edited to the title to make it clear what I was asking to those just browsing the thread titles.

    If the old pre-war newsboy bikes had come with 650b instead of 26" cruiser wheels, that would have been the norm. In which case, I don't think going to a 700c/29" wheel would have been that attractive. But maybe.
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    AZ
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    I think the progression to 29" would have happened just because of the availability of an already existing wheel size (700c), although it would have likely remained a small niche in the scheme of things. That's kinda what I was pointing too when referencing 650b as the first, it probably would have caused 26" to be still born and relegated 29" to rarity status ala 32"or 36". Who knows? It may yet happen but I would think that there is too much vested in 29" to give it up.

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    Re: What if 650b had come first? (before 29ers, that is)

    I'm holding out for 28.25er's, the best of both worlds between 27.5 and 29

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    If the 27.5 came first then your LBS would now be trying to push the latest and greatest 29ers?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirty $anchez View Post
    Yes. The lack of availability of 650b tires at a very inopportune moment in history ensured that 26" was the choice.
    If I'm mistaken, I read it was the import tariffs on the larger tire. The 26 was considered a child's bike tire so it was cheaper to import. The 'fathers' of Mountain Biking wanted 650B, it was just cheaper to go 26er.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 8iking VIIking View Post
    I'm holding out for 28.25er's, the best of both worlds between 27.5 and 29
    What if people weren't such jack asses about wheel size. Funny how it's ok for travel, cranks, rotors, bars, stem, seats etc... all come in various sizes, mention wheels and people just get stupid.
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    Pretty sure I'd be married to a supermodel and my dog wouldn't have run away if 650b came first.

    Daaaaammmmnnnn Yoouuuuuuu 29ers!!!! *overhead shot - waves fist in the air*
    www.msmtb.org - Mississippi Mountain Biking

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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    What if people weren't such jack asses about wheel size. Funny how it's ok for travel, cranks, rotors, bars, stem, seats etc... all come in various sizes, mention wheels and people just get stupid.
    Probably because those other components are recognized to be a matter of fit or preference, whereas a particular wheel size is usually presented as "the best".
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    If 650B (or indeed 650A) had come first there would've been neither 26 or 29.

    If after 26 they would've chosen 600-605mm instead of 622mm of the 29er nobody would've heard of 650B and it would've been just that (call it a 28) and 26 (although I would've preferred 650C as the size for smaller frames and DH). 29 just took it too far to be a suitable size for the bulk of the MTB market.
    Last edited by CS645; 11-24-2013 at 04:43 PM.

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    29er's definitely paved the way for 650b, if for no reason other than the pressure it put on manufacturers to not miss the next big market craze.
    I think 650b would have done the same thing for 29" if 650b had gained traction in the market first....opening people's eyes to the benefits of larger wheels, and piquing interest in what could be done with 700c.
    The urge to tinker, improve, profit, win, etc is strong... regardless of the order of introduction, somebody would be riding it on dirt...****... I saw a guy on a unicycle the other day...shredd'n gnar...little tiny ass wheel

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    I've poised that question in the past, I believe that 29ers would have never happened or if they did, they would be more of a niche, maybe a wheel size/ bike for taller people.
    27.5 in measurement only,is of course, closer to 26 then 29, but that difference is huge on the trail, yes a 29er feels way different than a 26er and 27.5 doesn't feel that much different. I personally believe that 27.5 is that perfect balance of wheel sizes for most bikes in most situations and I know it will be the most common size real soon. Love it or hate, but don't hate it until you ride them, 27.5 will dominate and bike companies will be "off the back" if they resist the movement( Niner comes to mind....don't really see them making a 27.5 with Niner as their name)

  18. #18
    Axe
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    Quote Originally Posted by So Cal RX View Post
    I agree with you that from a marketing perspective, it would have been tough to launch 650B after 26 but before 29ers. Too small of a difference to justify.
    One of bigger problems with 29ers is fitting long travel into it for about half the population. Was less of an issue 10 years ago.

    If 650b or 650a was the original standard, quite possibly 29 does not happen.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    What if people weren't such jack asses about wheel size. Funny how it's ok for travel, cranks, rotors, bars, stem, seats etc... all come in various sizes, mention wheels and people just get stupid.
    I agree, but the problem is the industry does not. In 2 years there will be no more 26". They will be considered obsolete, and that is disappointing. 29er is not for me, but there is a definitive merit to those wheels for XC oriented riding. 650b is cool, but not better than 26" - I can throw 26" around much easier than 650b and I feel more comfortable on it, but it does maintain momentum just a hair more through the thick.

    In 5 years time, there will be a new breed of something come out that the industry tries to market as ground breaking making everything preceeding it obsolete, and people will bite hard. There will also be a back story to it to justify the price tag. When people make the "I'm waiting for 23428058 wheel size to come out" they get hate, but they are actually right. There is something better lurking around every corner in the industry. Marketing is a powerful drug, and it only takes a few addicts to get the spread the word before people everywhere have a preconceived notion.

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    So what your saying is that pretty much all new technology is more marketing hype, rather than innovation? Carbon fiber, thru-axles, tapered Steelers, 10-11 speed drivetrains, platform suspension, etc, all marketing hype? I think your wrong.
    I come from the bike industry, if something is a proven improvement over an existing technology, then forge ahead with it.
    You may be stuck onto 26ers, and that's fine, no one is going to force you to give them up, you may have a harder time in the far away future getting quality parts for them, but I think your safe for now. Maybe you need to re-examine 27.5's, you said it yourself that 29ers have merit for xc riding, well 27.5 has merit for all types of riding, xc and DH included.
    What I see, and I'm sure I'm right, the people who are 27.5 haters are the one who never rode one outside of a parking lot, it was the same for 29ers when they came out also.
    I've been riding/ racing mountain bikes since 1982, saw lots of technology come and go, ridden/ raced about all disciplines of cycling, rode 26" for years, switched part time to 29ers( hated them), tried 27.5, 5 years ago...ain't going back, yes, they are that good in my opinion. But the most important thing is, ride what fits you best, be it 26" 27.5" or 29", nothing else should matter.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hurricane Jeff View Post
    So what your saying is that pretty much all new technology is more marketing hype, rather than innovation? Carbon fiber, thru-axles, tapered Steelers, 10-11 speed drivetrains, platform suspension, etc, all marketing hype? I think your wrong.
    I come from the bike industry, if something is a proven improvement over an existing technology, then forge ahead with it.
    You may be stuck onto 26ers, and that's fine, no one is going to force you to give them up, you may have a harder time in the far away future getting quality parts for them, but I think your safe for now. Maybe you need to re-examine 27.5's, you said it yourself that 29ers have merit for xc riding, well 27.5 has merit for all types of riding, xc and DH included.
    What I see, and I'm sure I'm right, the people who are 27.5 haters are the one who never rode one outside of a parking lot, it was the same for 29ers when they came out also.
    I've been riding/ racing mountain bikes since 1982, saw lots of technology come and go, ridden/ raced about all disciplines of cycling, rode 26" for years, switched part time to 29ers( hated them), tried 27.5, 5 years ago...ain't going back, yes, they are that good in my opinion. But the most important thing is, ride what fits you best, be it 26" 27.5" or 29", nothing else should matter.
    I never once said anything about thinking everything is just hype. I love my dropper post, I love my mission control damper in my lyrik, I think my rear end is stiffer with a thru axle, I love my clutch 1x10 drivetrain. But the cycling industry, like any industry, has to make money, and to make money they must sell their products through marketing. I have ridden a 27.5 in a DH setting, and I have no real complaints other than I could feel the increase in size through additional rollover in the rough, and a slight awkwardness when maneuvering it through lines and switchbacks. But it isn't "better" than any other wheel size, it has its improvements over both but its not god's gift to the mountain bike like companies are trying to sell it. Giant, which I did not like before and surely will never buy a bike from them in my life, said that 27.5 will phase out 29ers and 26" alike. They seemed pretty confident in that statement too. I'm sure they have been selling alot of 27.5 bikes lately, but I can guarantee they lost a decent portion of customers because of that statement.

    The rest industry is shoving wheel sizes down the throats and dropping 26" because they know that the marketing they deploy for 27.5 is going to kill their 26" sales, and they simply cannot afford to produce these bikes without a decent demand. Thus, the death of 26" wheels - not because they are obsolete, but because people have made them so.

    I completely agree that you should ride whatever fits your style and whatever puts the biggest grin on your face.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by tangaroo View Post
    Giant, which I did not like before and surely will never buy a bike from them in my life, said that 27.5 will phase out 29ers and 26" alike.
    Yep, they are pushing this mantra pretty hard.

    I don't have a problem with Giant, but clearly Giant has trained up it's dealers with similar talking points. Giant was late to market with 29er's in its product line-up, and missed out on a lot of sales. So, they learned from their mistake, and are simultaneously getting in early on the 650b market, and trying to change the game to make everyone feel that 650b is a more desirable product than either alternative.
    Mind your own religion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    If I'm mistaken, I read it was the import tariffs on the larger tire. The 26 was considered a child's bike tire so it was cheaper to import. The 'fathers' of Mountain Biking wanted 650B, it was just cheaper to go 26er.
    Um, no. Where in the world did you hear that? Please don't tell me some salesman in an LBS told you that nonsense while he was trying to sell you a 650b.

    Go watch the movie "Klunkerz" (2006). You should be able to find it online.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PoisonDartFrog View Post
    Yep, they are pushing this mantra pretty hard.

    I don't have a problem with Giant, but clearly Giant has trained up it's dealers with similar talking points. Giant was late to market with 29er's in its product line-up, and missed out on a lot of sales. So, they learned from their mistake, and are simultaneously getting in early on the 650b market, and trying to change the game to make everyone feel that 650b is a more desirable product than either alternative.
    Funny you should mention Giant dealer. I drug my 26 bike down to the local shop to test fit a 27.5 . The sales guy went on and on about how the 27.5 hype was true and it was the best wheel size. He mentioned he had bought a KHS 27.5 early and also converted a hard tail and kept repeating how great the 27.5 was and I need to demo one. So I asked him, which bike are you on now as you are selling Giants? He replied, Oh, I sold mine, honestly , I am a 29 guy.......snicker snicker I got a laugh out of that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PoisonDartFrog View Post
    Um, no. Where in the world did you hear that? Please don't tell me some salesman in an LBS told you that nonsense while he was trying to sell you a 650b.

    Go watch the movie "Klunkerz" (2006). You should be able to find it online.
    As I said I read it, I can't find the link, but for your education here's are some points that show they wanted 650B from the begining:
    The 650b (R)evolution, Part 2: The 650b Godfather, (R)evolution, and 650b Sales | Singletracks Mountain Bike Blog
    "...the silver bike pictured above is one of the first mountain bikes ever built from the ground up… and it sports 650b wheels! 650b tires were the ones available with the most aggressive tread patterns at the time, so Ritchey built this bike around the 650b wheel size. He wanted to continue making 650b bikes but, according to legend, the Soviet Union bought up all of the 650b tires and wheels, so none were available. As a result, mountain bike builders had to resort to using 26″ wheels and tires that were available for cruiser bikes. No word on why the Soviet Union bought up all the tires and wheels to begin with, and it’s unclear how much of this is fact and how much is urban legend,..."


    650B Wheels | Bicycling Australia
    While people have been riding bikes of all shapes and wheel sizes on the dirt for eons, the current MTB industry grew with a very strong influence from the USA. Back in the 70s Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly and Tom Ritchey adapted 26-inch balloon tyre cruisers or ‘klunkers’ for their off-road adventures. Eventually they commercialised their hobby and the mountain bike evolved around 26-inch wheels. They clearly work too, as we’ve managed to do pretty well on them over the past 30 plus years. That said, there was no science behind their choice; it just happened that big fat balloon tyres were the most appropriate and accessible option for them at the time. - "



    In the early 1980s, the size of the wheels for the emerging mountain bikes was undecided. So when English off-road cycling pioneer Geoff Apps contacted Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly with news that he had built a prototype off-road bicycle that used large diameter 700Cx47 Nokia, (now known as Nokian) Hakkapeliitta snow tires from Finland, they were intrigued. In a letter to the December 2006 issue of Bike Biz magazine, Gary Fisher, speaking about the growing popularity of 29ers, gives his perspective: "We got some tires from Geoff Apps really early on and we [Fisher and Kelly] said ‘Holy Toledo!'" But the poor supply situation of the larger diameter tires meant the fledgling MTB industry stuck with the smaller wheel size.


    So where doesn any of that contradict what I said? Just because the movie doesn't go into the details, doesn't make what I said false.
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