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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Oct 2012

    Making the Switch


    I started mountain biking early this year and am looking to buy my first commited mtb. My first ride was on an old rigid diamondback 26" and my subsequent rides were on the rigid Gravity SS 29er that was a gift from a great friend of mine. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the difference between the capabilities of the 26 vs 29 wheels, but I am 5'3" and am finding the 29er less than ideal on the narrow rough stuff, especially since I'm not the most talented or experienced rider. It's great when the trail widens but I just can't get it to turn tight enough even if I drift.

    Having ridden a 26" before I don't think I want to return to it considering how rocky most of the trails around here (phoenix) are. I would like to get a 27.5.

    My question is: due to my height would a 650b actually be a better choice than a 26"? Really the biggest issue I have of the 29er is the maneuverability. Is there a noticeable difference in the maneuverability of the 650b?

    Side note: I'm leaning towards hardtail. I'm young enough that I'm not worry about the extra effort required to use my legs as a suspension and prefer the pedaling efficiency it offers.

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation: madsedan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Absolutely, you would have to either get really lucky or spend a good bit of money to get a 29er frame that will NOT have you felling like you are on a huge bike, just my opinion.

    I think a 650b/27.5 would be great for you in a small/medium framed bike. Its not really "between" 26 and 29, its really more like 26 on steroids.
    Hardrock 29er, Niner EMD9, Cannondale F29, Camber Expert, 650b Nickel all gone.
    2014 Giant Anthem 27.5 here.

  3. #3
    Moderator Moderator
    Reputation: Walt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    If you're new to this, and your pal will let you keep riding their bike indefinitely, keep riding it and do a bunch of demoing - you're in a big metro area with good weather, there will be demo vans rolling through constantly.

    You have a LOT of decisions (ie hardtail vs FS, geometry, fit, etc) to make that are much more important than wheel size and a lot of them are subjective so you can't ask random strangers on the internet and get a useful answer most of the time. The only thing that is going to help you make a good decision is saddle time on different bikes.

    And of course because I'm not a complete jerk I will actually answer the original question too - if I were you I'd be looking at 26" or 650b wheels. If you're an oddly-shaped 5'3" and have certain preferences regarding ride qualities, there could be a few 29ers out there too but IMO it's unlikely you'd prefer them. That said, if there's a 29" bike at a demo that will fit you, try it too. Everyone is different and nobody but you knows what your perfect bike is.


  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    May 2011
    I'm short as well and did the switch to 650b and love the difference especially for us shorter riders.

  5. #5
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Thank you for all the replies. I understand that there is more to it than just wheel size but its better to have a general idea of what i want than to just shop blindly. However, it is nice to know that a 650b provides enough of a size difference that I would have more options than a 26" (not that there's anything wrong with that).

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