My 650b journey (650b to 29 and back to 650b)
In the summer of 2008, after reading Derby's posts, I put a 650b wheel with a 2.3 Neo Moto on the front of my Ibis Mojo. My first ride on this setup was the Whole Enchilada in Moab. I was amazed with how much that one modification improved the bike. Around the same time, I also bought a 29er SS, which I really liked. Following the mentality of bigger must be better, I sold the Mojo the next year and bought a Turner Sultan (DW). At first I missed the Mojo and overtime I adapted to the Turner. My friends told me I was faster on the Turner, although I never noticed any difference. I grew to love the monster truck ability of Turner. Then in late 2011, I sold the SS and bought a Canfield Yelli Screamy. I love that bike. It is so fun and playful. After getting it, I rarely rode the Turner. It just wasn't as much fun.
So in March, I sold the Turner and last week and built up a Carbine 275. The fun is back. It reminds me of my Mojo, only better. It does everything better than the Turner except monster truck up the steep technical climbs (this is one of the few places where the Turner's long chainstays and 29" wheels are a worthwhile advantage). It is an exceptional bike. I'm glad to be back in the 650b fold.
Intense Carbine 275
Giant Anthem Advanced
Canfield Yelli Screamy
KTM 350 XCF-W
Here is my journey:
Rode a 26er hardtail for decades.
About 4 years ago got a 29er hardtail and a 29er short-travel full squish. I loved the climbing traction and the way they rolled through rock gardens. I was pretty sold on 29ers.
Last year I scored a free 2006 Epic Marathon frame and fork, and built it up with parts I had. I had a lot of fun on that 26er and loved its flickability, and on certain trails I preferred it over the 29ers. I was thinking that with a little more travel and a bit slacker geometry (like a Blur TRc) it would be a really fun trail bike.
When Santa Cruz was closing out the first generation TRc frames I bought one and swapped the parts over from the Epic. I was right, this was a fun a capable trail bike. But I got a lot of pedal strikes with the low bottom bracket, and it didn't roll through rock gardens like the 29ers, so I thought it might be improved with 650b wheels. I converted it to 650b and like it a lot. Compared to the 29ers it is more playful, easier to manual, feels more balanced and confident over obstacles and skinnies, and just seems to fit me better (I'm 5'7").
I still choose the 29er FS for racing, because I think it's faster, but for general trail riding the 650b TRc is more fun. I'm sticking with 29" for the hardtail, but I'd like to try a Jamis Dragon 650 or Soma B-side for comparison.
1993: Bridgestone MB-3 (26" rigid)
2001: Santa Cruz Superlight (26" full-suspension)
2009: Pivot Mach 4 (26" full-suspension)
2011: Niner MCR (29" hardtail)
2012: custom-built fillet-brazed steel (650b hardtail)
For me, 650b really is the Goldilocks size. I never had a problem with 26", but when 29'ers surged in popularity I had to try it. Test rode a Niner Air 9 and immediately felt the rollover benefits of the big wheels. Built up the MCR shortly thereafter. Over time, I realized that the bigger wheels and longer wheelbase took away from the fun factor. If I could have tried a Canfield YS or Nimble 9, maybe I'd still have a 29'er, but I ended up parting out my MCR and selling off all of the 29'er-specific components. Built the 650b hardtail at UBI. Between the custom geometry and the wheel size - BANG! - this was the $hit! I still have my Mach 4 for rougher trails - for now. I foresee all my future bikes rolling on 650b wheels.
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