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  1. #1
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    29er vs. 26er... head-to-head comparison

    The question of "which should I buy: a 29er hardtail or a 26" full suspension has been asked and answered on this forum a million times. The answers usually point out that it's like comparing apples and oranges, which may be true, but the question still remains. This weekend I decided to put my 26" full suspension bike and my 29er hardtail to a head-to-head comparison. I'm training for a 24 solo, so I've been putting in lots of time on the bike lately. I figured this comparison would be a nice way to entertain my brain while riding endlessly...

    My background is in research (I'm a professor who does research) and I realize this comparison is less than scientific, but I figured I would share my results anyway. It's not like I'm going to publish this is a scientific, peer-reviewed journal...

    Subject:
    Me -- I'm a 40 year old male who has been riding mountain bikes since 1994 (while in grad school). I didn't really start riding seriously until about 6 years ago. I mostly do adventure races and let's face it... adventure racers train for many sports and don't necessarily excel at any. So, I'm an average mountain biker. I live in San Antonio, TX where the trails are rocky (loose and packed-in) and dry/dusty during the summer drought. We don't have lots of super-long climbs or decents... the ups and downs around here are pretty quick.

    Apparatus:
    26" Full Suspension: 2009 Titus X (aluminum with lots of carbon bits) with a Fox Fork (100mm travel), Crossmax SL wheelset with IRC Serac XC UST tires, SRAM XX (2 X 10) drivetrain, derailleurs, and brakes. 24 pounds. Probably cost about $4000.

    29" Hardtail: 2009 Soma Juice (steel frame) with a Rockshox Reba (80mm travel), Stan's Arch wheelset with a Maxxis Ignitor front tire and Maxxis Crossmark rear tire, XT (3 X 9) drivetrain, derailleurs, and Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes. 27 pounds. Probably cost about $2000.

    Methods:
    I went to Flat Rock Ranch in Comfort, TX and rode the lower loop (actually, the 6-hour race course that was used for the "Texas Chainring Massacre" a few weeks ago). I rode 4 laps. First lap on the 26, second and third laps on the 29, and the last lap on the 26. This order was done to help counterbalance for fatigue effects (i.e., I was certain to be more fatigued by the last lap and didn't want that to influence my judgment of the bike's performance).

    There are 4 places on this loop that have historically given me problems. I recently mastered 2 of these places and can now ride them 100% of the time on my 26 (we'll call these Problem Areas #1 and #2). There are 2 other places that I have never been able to ride on my 26 (we'll call these Problem Areas #3 and #4). There is a series of downhill switchbacks that are covered with loose rocks and I never feel overly comfortable on my 26 while navigating these obstacles (we'll call this Problem Area #5). I've never ridden this loop on my 29. It was 68 degrees when I started at 9 AM and 90 degrees when I finished the day around 2 PM.

    Results:
    I completed the first lap (26" bike) in 1:03 with an average heart rate of 148. I was able to ride Problem Areas #1 and #2 without any issues. I wasn't able to ride PA#3 and #4. PA#5 still felt shaky and I continue to put down my inside foot for stabilization while navigating the switchbacks.

    I completed the second lap (29er) in 1:08 with an average heart rate of 155. I cleared PA#1 and #2, didn't clear PA#3 and #4, and PA#5 didn't feel any more or less comfortable. However, I did feel somewhat more comfortable on other turns in the trail -- there are a couple of turns with loose rocks/dirt that feel a little "slippery" on my 26, but felt "stickier" on the 29.

    I completed lap 3 (29er) in 1:10 with an average heart rate of 161. I didn't clear PA#1, I cleared PA#2, didn't clear PA#3 and #4 and PA#5 was the same.

    I completed lap 4 (26) in 1:01 with an average heart rate of 154. I cleared PA#1 and #2, didn't clear PA#3 (closest I've ever come to clearing it, though) and #4, and PA#5 was the same.

    Conclusions:
    My lap times were faster on the 26. My average heart rate was lower on the 26. I would have expected this finding for the 1st lap of the day (I was rested and the weather was cooler). However, I did not expect this for my last lap of the day (I was tired and it was hot). The 29er was slower and I had to work harder.

    There are a few claims about 29ers out there and I will provide my opinions based on my experience...

    Claim #1: The bigger wheels on the 29er make bumps/rocks/etc feel smoother -- I gotta say, I don't agree with this. The suspension soaked up a lot of the rocks, roots, and ruts that I was very aware of on the hardtail. I don't think the big wheels can make up for what suspension can bring to the table.

    Claim #2: Big wheels can roll over anything -- Going into this ride, I really hoped I would be able to clear PA#3 and #4, which I had been unable to clear on my 26. However, I couldn't. I've seen other guys ride these areas (on 26ers and 29ers). I'm just not good enough to ride these areas (yet). My opinion is that if you don't have the technique/strength/finesse/whatever to ride a section, bigger wheels aren't going to compensate for that.

    Claim #3: Big wheels have a larger "contact patch" and can handle turns better -- As mentioned above, there were some spots on the trail that I was able to corner with much more confidence on the 29er. I'm not sure if this is due to the larger contact patch or if my tire selection on the 29er is better-suited for this terrain. It sure did feel good to take those turns like I was on rails, though. The downhill switchbacks (i.e., PA#5) didn't feel any differently on the 29er, though. Again, maybe I need to work on technique rather than try to rely on equipment to fix my riding problem.

    Claim #4: A steel frame is like having 3" of travel -- OK, I've seen this claim a few times on various message boards. This claim is what swayed me to buy a steel frame hardtail in the first place. I gotta say, in my opinion, it's 100% B.S. While a steel frame may take the edge off a bit (compared to an aluminum hardtail), it is nothing like having full suspension! If you are debating whether to purchase a steel hardtail because it's cheaper than a full suspension bike and you believe that steel will be just as comfortable/forgiving as full suspension, you will be disappointed.

    Claim #5: 29ers are cumbersome in tight, twisty singletrack -- While Flat Rock Ranch doesn't have a lot of tight, twisty singletrack, I have ridden my 29er at a park near my house (OP Schnabel) where there is a lot of twisty stuff. I have not noticed that it is significantly more difficult to navigate tight, twisty singletrack on th 29er.

    Overall, I realize this study wasn't exactly scientific given that the bikes compared didn't have the exact same equipment. But that was kind of the point... people ask the "should I buy an apple or an orange" question all the time. I have both and have to say that I prefer the apple (26" full suspension). I turned faster lap times with less effort. My fastest lap of the day was the last lap I rode and it was the hottest part of the day. I will continue to ride my 29er, though. It's a great training vehicle. When I switch back to the 26" bike, I feel like it weighs nothing and rides like I'm on air. If you are buying your first bike or you aren't an overly strong rider (like me), or are buying a bike for comfort and fun, I'd recommend a 26" full suspension bike. If you are already a strong rider or are buying a bike for fitness reasons, I'd recommend the 29er.

  2. #2
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    Interesting results especially since you don't have steep climbs in your area. Steep climbs seem to be the area that 26 can out perform 29 and more rolling terrain seems to be the area that 29 out performs 26.

    I wonder how much of the differnce was in the weight difference between the bikes? Usually you would expect a 29 HT to be as light or even a bit lighter than a 26 4" bike.

    Recently here in SLC, UT there was a road bike hill climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon (10 mi & 3500') and for those super humans there was an added MTB climb from the top of the canyon to the top of Snowbird ski resort (4 mi & 3000'). It seems due to the steepness of the MTB section most everyone competed on a 26er HT in the 18 - 20 lb weight range. I don't know how much of this was just having the lightest bike or was it more of a gearing issue?
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  3. #3
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    Great report! Confirms it's still apples and oranges and more about rider skill and conditioning than anything. I would surmise the higher HR on the 29 was due primarily to the two factors of greater bike weight and having to work your legs more as the rear suspension.
    Sometimes, you need to go fast enough that the trail is a blur to find clarity. -- Wild Bill

  4. #4
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    Thanks for posting.

    However, for every experience like yours there is one like this:

    Now Willow on a 29er...

    A completely opposite result on the same type of equipment. It has long been established that a full suspension bike will do better than a hardtail in more technical conditions. I have read more than one trial using similar equipment, except for rear suspension, for a single manufacturer and the same components. A full suspension always seems to be better/faster except on the most groomed tracks.

    A few comments:

    Claim #1 & 2. No-one said that a 29" wheel soaks up more bumps than suspension but it does seem to soak up more than the same configuration 26" bike. A 26" wheel will still fall into a 27" hole.

    Claim #3. 29" wheels do not have a larger contact patch. They have a longer and narrower patch. The area is identical at the same tire pressure. The longer patch does tend to bite more.

    Claim #4. I fully agree with you. Based only on frame material there is no reason one frame should be better than another. There will be more give and compliance in the tires, seatpost and saddle than the frame. Here is an article from the late and highly respected Sheldon Brown on the subject of frame material.

    Claim #5. Agree with you on that one also. There may be some 29" bikes with long wheel bases and long chain stays that are not maneuverable. My Banshee Paradox is as good as any 26" bike I've ridden. Not all 29s are born equal.

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  5. #5
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    So would a 29er FS give you the best of both worlds?

  6. #6
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    Attention Moderators:
    This post has "DATA" and must therefore be removed from the 29er forums. I'm starting to feel a bit whoozy?!

  7. #7
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    Apples, Oranges & Avocados...

    Quote Originally Posted by gearjunkie88
    I've never ridden this loop on my 29.
    Ride the loop on your 29er regularly until you have a good rhythm, pace, cadence, idea of shifting, momentum, etc. This could effect your outcome. Next time around do lap 1 with the 29er and see if you clear the PAs. Lap 2 & 3 on the 26, lap 4 on 29er...report back, I'm interested & curious.

    I appreciate your write up, review & the time you spent investigating. Thanks.

  8. #8
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    Hardtails stink.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by OverTheHill
    So would a 29er FS give you the best of both worlds?
    What two worlds are you refering to? The 26 v 29 world? The fs v ht world? The buff st v technical st world?

    I think the answer to your question is yes and no. On any given day, on any given trail or course with any given rider, on any given 26 or 29 whether ht or fs,results will vary.

    I think th OP's intent was to discover for himself the truth about the 26 fs v 29 ht debate and used this particular course and methodology to do so, not to come to any conclusion as to whether it would be better or more effective to throw 29 fs into the mix. We often see here and other places the claims about how a 29 ht is as effective as a 26 fs on most trails for most riders. Depending on the various data produced and studied, his results and conclusions partly supported and dispelled these.
    Sometimes, you need to go fast enough that the trail is a blur to find clarity. -- Wild Bill

  10. #10
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    I agree with a lot of what the original poster says. I ride both a rigid 26er and rigid 29er, both 1x9. 26er is around 21lb. 29er is around 24lb. I ride both frequently offroad and commuting.

    I have very little issues with anything "twisty". It takes a tad bit more work on the 29er, but nothing terrible at all. I climb far better on my 26er... not even a comparison really. However, I descend much better on my 29er. I feel like the bigger wheels take the edge off everything. It's nothing like having FS. It's like having big wheels and fat tires.

    The biggest thing I personally gain from the 29er is stability. Don't know how or why, but I am twice as stable on a 29er. Makes commuting nicer and bikebacking more comfy.

    Otherwise, 100% honest... I have not seen all of these benefits people speak of. I have never seen any peer reviewed research showing a true advantage one way or the other.

    I've own 29ers for the past 5 years because:
    1. Stability is just off the charts for me for some reason.
    2. 29er hardtails are the future for anyone over 5'-6". No sense bucking the trend.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malibu412
    What two worlds are you refering to? The 26 v 29 world? The fs v ht world? The buff st v technical st world?

    I think the answer to your question is yes and no. On any given day, on any given trail or course with any given rider, on any given 26 or 29 whether ht or fs,results will vary.

    I think th OP's intent was to discover for himself the truth about the 26 fs v 29 ht debate and used this particular course and methodology to do so, not to come to any conclusion as to whether it would be better or more effective to throw 29 fs into the mix. We often see here and other places the claims about how a 29 ht is as effective as a 26 fs on most trails for most riders. Depending on the various data produced and studied, his results and conclusions partly supported and dispelled these.
    I was genuinely interested to know whether or not the OP (or anyone else) would be able to extrapolate the advantages of FS over HT combined with the perceived advantages of 29" wheels over 26", might give you a better ride than either. That seems to be the way that many manufacturers and racers are going so is there any point in buying a 26" FS or 29" HT if a 29" FS is better?

  12. #12
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    OP: Interesting comparison. I think it would be neat if you could repeat the test with wheelsets built to be comparable in rotating mass. I'd almost bet money that the biggest weight difference was in tire/rims, second in the frame, and at Flat Rock the wheel weight would definitely be a factor.

    I've actually ridden at FRR "quite a bit" - a few Guts n Glory events, lots of weekend trips from Austin, etc. and have ridden 26er FS, HT, and rigid (alum) but never actually spun around it on a 29er for some reason. FRR is a place where the climbing bike will be at an advantage more-so than pretty much anything else, IMO.

    There are also rarely any "technical climbing" zone (last I was there) other than the last couple hundred feet going up Pipeline hill (and a couple spots on the other loop).

    So I am really not surprised you turned better times for yourself on your lighter bike.

    But.

    After having been riding a (nice) rigid 29er for the last 15 months as my main XC/AM bike (steel with carbon fork), even with phat tires (Nevegal 2.2" before and now Advantage 2.4", all tubeless) I'm definitely in the camp that steel-29er-tubless <nowhere equal to> any suspension.

  13. #13
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    I agree with this report 100% and have found similar results on the trails after 4 years of riding both 29ers and 26ers concurrently. Simply put a 26er is faster and less effort, yet at mile 30+, I can still be riding with plenty of juice and feel burned out on the 26er. The 29er seems to be just way more comfortable, more upright, and better body position for distance riding. I am not convinced of any of the touted benefits of the bigger wheels, but am a firm believer in comfort equaling better performance especially during endurance events. I've since hung my 26er on the wall and focused more on my riding and less on the split times and HR.
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  14. #14
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    29er for me

    Interesting subject and a good report from a real world example.

    I own a 26er FS and a 29er HT both similarly specced but the FS is approx. 600g lighter. I've also been fitted to both by a pro setup guy.

    Most of my riding is around 3-5 hours on loose over hardpack on jeep, forest and singletrack with nice long climbs and a couple of tricky steep technical descents and ascents. All are regular routes that I ride 3-5 times a week.

    My findings are that I definitely prefer the 29er. Not necessarily because it is faster but I just feel way more confident riding it. Interestingly my average heart rate is approx. 10% lower riding the 29er over the same course and time.

    This one's a bit like tire choice....very subjective...but good to hear real world experiences.

  15. #15
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    Very interesting results. I too am a "research whore" and find that there is much out there that gives way to either side. Personally I will find out in a month or so here how things truly are. I am a complete newbie to mtn biking and have been borrowing my brothers FS Rocky Mountain Element 5.0 for that time and riding occasionally. I am 6ft tall, 190lbs and looking at 29ers since this seems to be the "way of the future." Once I get my new bike I will ride the same areas that I have been riding to see what the true preference for me falls. The bikes will not be evenly matched (because I cant afford $2500+ for a equal 29er fs) so it will be a true apples to oranges comparison. Conversely, I will be able to compare with my buddies that have standard hardtails that are in the same price range, only from different companies!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bear
    OP: Interesting comparison. I think it would be neat if you could repeat the test with wheelsets built to be comparable in rotating mass. I'd almost bet money that the biggest weight difference was in tire/rims, second in the frame...
    I am also curious about the wheelset and tires used on both your 26" and your 29" bikes.

    The OP's results may be skewed somewhat unless tires and wheels are comparable in weight and rolling resistance.

    Still, a very informative post by the OP.

  17. #17
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    Nice, test it's not perfect and although the tires may vary which will effect the result a lot both bikes have the tires you like to run I presume so thats kind of a mute point as tires are limited on 29ers, comparing the best you can find on both is a better real world test.

    Part of this might be gearing related issues bigger wheel and all, how much time do you spend on the big ring at the back or worst still Granny Front / Big rear where you might benefit from a 10% lower gear on the 29er ?? if not much / at all then also not a factor really.

    Claim #4 Correct, Steel frames generally have low seat tubes and 27.2mm posts the post is where the comfort comes from, my steel frame doesn't move at ALL, bunny hoping down kerbs with a 20stone mate on it watching real close, NOTHING.

    I ride a 26er or 69er and swap between the 2 regular as I'm undecided after many years of 69er loving, best tire I can find on both not same tire ( 29" Ardent 2.4, 26" RQ 2.4 ), I can run the 26" much softer without the tire rolling around and becoming vague, I've always had to run 29" quite hard, annoyingly so

    I theorize the lesser angle from the rim doesn't hold the tire on as well, requiring higher pressure to counter this.

  18. #18
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    Man. I had my heart set on buying a 29er Now I am confused again.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by OverTheHill
    ...is there any point in buying a 26" FS or 29" HT if a 29" FS is better?
    I understand. My 29 FS rocks! I feel rolling benefits on ascents, flats and I'm much more stable and fast on descents. But perhaps this is partially due to the fact that my 29 has more travel and is more plush than my 26 FS (has a brain rear shock for the more buff treads).Maybe better geo as well. For my "serious" riding, I won't go back to 26, even on a similar grade of bike as the 29.
    Sometimes, you need to go fast enough that the trail is a blur to find clarity. -- Wild Bill

  20. #20
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    I wouldn't let this thread steer you away from a 29er. Give one a ride and draw your own conclusions.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by joepa150
    Man. I had my heart set on buying a 29er Now I am confused again.
    You don't have one yet?
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  22. #22
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    1lbs is worth 30 seconds on sustained climbs of about 20-30 minutes. analytic cycling can help you do the math.

    that would be 1.5 minutes per lap...so this means......

  23. #23
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    I found the opposite on my 29er HT. I cleaned stuff I had to dab with the 26er. On a 13 mile loop near here, I am considerably faster on the 29er (~10 mins on average). This loop has good climbs, a bit of tech stuff and mostly fast rolling trail. Perhaps the HT vs FS (though with a Brain) is the biggest difference, I don't know... I just know I'm faster on the 29er on the same trails.

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    1) howdy from a neighbor that also lives near, and rides at, OP Schnabel AND enjoys Flat Rock.

    2) cool back to back test. thanks for sharing.

    3) seems like the person that will benefit from your results will be you and that's what really matters most, right?

  25. #25
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    I have a 9 mile loop that I ride/race on that is pretty fast/flowing but also somewhat twisty. It has one mediocre climb with a really long false flat at the top and another climb that is pretty long and has 3 short sections halfway up where it is both steeper and loose. I've gone out and rode fast laps on a 26" HT, 26" FS (Pivot Mach 4), rigid 1x9 29er, rigid SS 29er w/both 32x18 & 32x20T gearing and a 29er HT 3x9.

    Doesn't seem to matter what bike I choose, my average speed is ALWAYS within 2-3/10ths of a mile per hr of one another. However, I do feel less fatigued when riding the SS 29er with 32x20T gearing.

  26. #26
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    Hardtails don't...

    Quote Originally Posted by snowdrifter
    Hardtails stink.
    "stink". They just don't do most of the work like fs. fs bikes take a lot of the challenge out of mountain biking. Where's the fun in riding a couch on wheels . To each his own, but I really don't get the point in riding technical trails if you want the bike to do most of, if not all the work.
    Admittedly, some places demand fs but many places overrun with fs bikes are totally doable on a ht.
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  27. #27
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    My question is what percentage of races are won by riders on 26er verses 29er? Anybody done the stats? Knowing that would go a long way toward settling the issue. Is there a rcing governing body that keeps track of how many racers are riding 29ers, how many are riding 26ers and who's winning what?
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  28. #28
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    Are 29ers better than 26ers?

    No - they're just bikes, they aren't good, bad or indifferent.

    For SOME people, 26ers work perfectly and suit their riding style, skillset and the conditions they choose to ride in. Great - stick to the 26ers.

    For other people, 29ers work better in some areas and suit them a bit better - awesome, ride the wagon wheels.

    There is no "better" or "worse" across the board, but often one or the other will suit any given person slightly better than the alternative. Trying to quantify personal preference is cute, but probably not particularly useful IMO.

  29. #29
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    To the OP,

    Can you please post your weight and tire pressure used?
    Without even knowing them I think it has something to do with your results/experience.

    Thanks,
    -F

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by jollybeggar
    My question is what percentage of races are won by riders on 26er verses 29er? Anybody done the stats? Knowing that would go a long way toward settling the issue. Is there a rcing governing body that keeps track of how many racers are riding 29ers, how many are riding 26ers and who's winning what?
    I'm not sure if races won on 29ers says a whole lot. It's really good for marketing. Just doesn't provide any insight into the better / worse arguement.

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    Wow -- I didn't realize this would start this big of a discussion. But it's good to get ideas out there. The main purpose of my "experiment" was to compare my experiences on my 2 bikes on trails that I ride. When I was shopping for a 29er, I read tons of posts from guys who say their lives were transformed when they got a 29er and will never go back to little wheels. All of these posts were "personal preference" stories that didn't contain much info about rider characteristics (e.g., I've been a hardcore racer for the past 5 years, I ride on super-sweet SoCal trails, etc). It was hard for me to decide if a 29er would be a good fit for me on my trails. That was my goal here: "If you are like me and ride trails like the ones I do, then you might consider..." I don't mean for this to generalize to all riders, all 29ers, and all trails.

    Two women I work with recently decided to get into mtn biking. They went to a few local bike shops. Some LBSs said "buy a 29er because they roll over everything, they're fast and stable, etc..." Other LBSs said "don't buy a 29er because they're too hard to navigate through twisty singletrack, they're heavy, etc..." (Recommendations were probably based on what each shop had in stock and which bikes had the best profit margins.) When the 2 women asked for my opinion, I couldn't give them any empirical data to support a recommendation. In the end, my recommendation was: "Borrow my 29er and my wife's 26er and go ride them on our local trails and decide which you like better." I wasn't about to let novices take my Titus for a test ride :-)

    As for some of the other questions in this thread:
    1. I'm 5'7" and weigh 150 lbs.

    2. The 26" wheelset is Crossmax SL with IRC Serac XC UST tires (front and rear) running Stan's goo. I run 27-30 lbs pressure. The 29" wheelset is Stan's Arch with Maxxis Ignitor (front) and Crossmark (rear). Both tires are running tubeless with Stan's goo. I run about 30-35 lbs pressure.

    3. Are 29ers better than 26ers (or vice versa)? The answer is it depends on some blend of (a) the equipment you can afford, (b) your strength/skill level/experience, and (c) the trails you ride.

    I completely agree with Monolith's statement, "There is no "better" or "worse" across the board, but often one or the other will suit any given person slightly better than the alternative." There are lots of threads and posts that say this. I was trying to go one step further and provide more data so would-be new bike purchasers could make a more informed buying decision. I disagree with Monolith's statement, "Trying to quantify personal preference is cute, but probably not particularly useful IMO." As with most things in life, there are individual differences which affect our experiences. There's a lot of value in research that tries to tease apart these individual difference variables so individuals can make informed decisions.

    So... the 2 women I work with who bought bikes??? One bought a 26" hardtail (Rockhopper) and the other bought a 29er (can't remember off the top of my head which one). Neither woman rides either bike particularly well...

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by gearjunkie88
    The 29" wheelset is Stan's Arch with Maxxis Ignitor (front) and Crossmark (rear). Both tires are running tubeless with Stan's goo. I run about 30-35 lbs pressure.
    Wow, that's surprising to me - lot of PSI.

    When I first setup my 29er with those tires (same F/R setup) I was rolling DT TK7.1 rims with Stan's strips I never ran them over 30 psi, more likely 23/27 F/R, and i'm on the 200# side of the scale.

    Any particular reason for the psi - just preference?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gearjunkie88
    2. The 26" wheelset is Crossmax SL with IRC Serac XC UST tires (front and rear) running Stan's goo. I run 27-30 lbs pressure. The 29" wheelset is Stan's Arch with Maxxis Ignitor (front) and Crossmark (rear). Both tires are running tubeless with Stan's goo. I run about 30-35 lbs pressure.
    The high pressure really affects ride quality - no wonder you didn't feel like the 29er didn't ate up any bumps. With your low weight you would be getting bounced all over! Cut your pressure down to 25 lbs and you will experience a completely different ride.
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    How is a FS vs HT in any way a head to head comparison?

    In my experience, HT vs FS makes WAY more difference in ride than 26 vs 29.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

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    RE: Tire Pressure -- I think I initially was running 35 lbs because that's what the tire said was the minimum pressure. I lowered it to 30 lbs and was considering going lower, but was afraid I'd burp the tire or it was fall off the rim while cornering.

    RE: Why is this a head-to-head comparison -- It's not... it's apples and oranges. But, I've seen the question "should i buy a 26" FS or 29 HT" asked a million times. For some reason, many folks believe that bigger tires on a HT will make the bike just as smooth as a 26" FS.

  36. #36
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    I run Ignitors and Crossmarks in the low 20's.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gearjunkie88
    RE: Tire Pressure -- I think I initially was running 35 lbs because that's what the tire said was the minimum pressure. I lowered it to 30 lbs and was considering going lower, but was afraid I'd burp the tire or it was fall off the rim while cornering.
    It may not be the best guidance in the world, but I don't "listen" much to minimum tire pressures. Just like I don't pay much attention to shock manual PSI recce's. I ball-park it and go from there.

    My ball-park for initial tire psi is to put all my weight on the top of the tire (not on the h-bar or saddle, on the tire) with the tire on a flat surface and I shoot for the tire defecting enough to put MOST of the tread on the ground under this kind of loading. Then I go by feel from there, too low == too squirrely or they don't hold on the rim well. Hard cornering on pave, or hardpack, or off-camber drops are where the real test of tire/rim combo comes out.

    Sadly, failure-testing is the only what to *know* what the lower limit is, but I'm like you in that I don't like to have it burp or roll off.

    You should try other (lower) pressures, just to see how it changes your ride. Start with the back tire as that one blowing off or burping is a lot safer than the front. ;^)

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    You started wrongly. This is a 'peer related journal'. Just a different set of peers..., and type of journal.

    I loved your comparison. It mimics my experiences and feelings in many ways. After a few months exclusively riding a 69er SS HT - jumping back on my 26er FS felt weird. I was shocked by the feeling I was going to fall over the front wheel. But after a few minutes adjustment I realized just how smooth the ride is - and fast.

    The other day I fixated at an neighbors new MX dirt bike. So much travel, such small rims and fat tires. Like my 69er a 'big' front v. back.

    On 29ers I feel safe and relaxed. But nothing beats travel for smashing a line on a trail. Nothing beats weight and physical condition on a climb.

    I have just ordered a new 29 HT. I plan on keeping my 26 FS. And that is my current conclusion. HT = 29. FS = 26. But like you I am not tall - just an average height. I bet my feelings would be different if I was taller.

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    Quote Originally Posted by A1an
    I wouldn't let this thread steer you away from a 29er. Give one a ride and draw your own conclusions.

    Agreed. Consider BB clearance and all around better fit for tall guys like me (6'3") who for year painfully smashed and destroyed many shifters with my knees.

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    Some how this post got ignored but...

    Quote Originally Posted by brook_63@yahoo.com
    1lbs is worth 30 seconds on sustained climbs of about 20-30 minutes. analytic cycling can help you do the math.

    that would be 1.5 minutes per lap...so this means......
    Mirrors my thoughts when I first read the OP. I did not know the x amount of lbs =x amount of time formula, but wondered how the 3 lb weight difference didn't invalidate any real comparison. That's huge, and cannot be ignore imho.
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    interesting....but you cant take this as a guide, or 'rule'.....this is a riders experience, and a good one.

    BUT, everyone should have there own experience - decide based on there own technical, fitness, course, and FUN factor - which bike works for them.

    This is why a lot of manufactures have demo days, test bikes etc etc....take a 29er out and have some fun. Then decide!

    To the OP....GO TRY A 29ER FS!

    cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by twenty6black View Post
    To the OP....GO TRY A 29ER FS!
    Done. Bought one about 2 months ago and LOVE it! It's a perfect fit for me, the trails I ride, my riding "style", my fitness level (making sure to include as many qualifiers as possible). My 26er has been hanging on the wall ever since.

    Everyone in the world should own a 29er FS. Those who don't are unenlightened. (That's a generalized rule that is said with tongue planted firmly in cheek.)

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    DUDE - you sound so over the top HAPPY - its like you have had a re-birth into the sport of mtn biking!!!! PERFECT.

    I cant you how this makes me (and others too I am sure) smile....I just went 29er, 2X10, big BUCKS, sold my 26er before the season even started, committed big time to this so called fad....and I am having a crazy amount of fun. Every ride I get faster, every ride I love my bike more.

    I race, trail ride, 24hrs, all kinds of riding....AND, 29ers will take over....its just a matter of time.

    cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by gearjunkie88 View Post
    Done. Bought one about 2 months ago and LOVE it! It's a perfect fit for me, the trails I ride, my riding "style", my fitness level (making sure to include as many qualifiers as possible). My 26er has been hanging on the wall ever since.

    Everyone in the world should own a 29er FS. Those who don't are unenlightened. (That's a generalized rule that is said with tongue planted firmly in cheek.)
    So, which 29er FS did you get?

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    Titus Rockstar. The most amazing thing about this was that I didn't have to compromise on rotational weight. On my 26er, I have Crossmax SL wheels with Maxxis UST tires and Stan's sealant. On the 29er, I have Stan's Crest wheels with the same Maxxis tires (not UST version) and Stan's sealant. The 29er wheelset is lighter than the 26".

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    just curious, what tire pressures were you running? Should be able to play around with the pressure on 29 inch wheel to give it a tad more plush feel.

    Also, what tires were you running? I was using a Little albert in the back, good tire, light...but its really small. I have to run a higher pressure to keep it from hitting the rim on a drop. Higher pressure means harder tire, harder tire means rougher ride. I went to a bigger tire and dropped the PSI 2-3lbs and the difference was pretty big....roots that would normally shoot me up out of my saddle were much easier to roll over.

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    Gearjunkie88, thank you for posting your findings. I have been renting and test riding FS and HT 29ers for the last few years and have also been struggling with the notion that a HT 29er will provide as much virtual suspension a FS 26er with 100mm of travel. The notion is solely predicated on the fact that a 29er tire is approximately 10% taller in diameter than a standard 26er tire (and or the circumference of a 29er tire is approximately 10% greater than the circumference of a 26er tire). The marketing scheme is particularly intriguing to me because the cost of purchasing and maintaining a FS bike is at least three times the cost of owning a HT rig.

    Having said that, all of the XL 29erís I have ridden so far, fit my 6í-2Ē 200 pound body better than all of the XL 26ers I have owned. The main reason I like the fit of the 29er better is because the HT is higher, which puts my torso in a more upright riding position.

    The second attribute I like about the 29er is the balanced (or stable) ride characteristic that only a larger heavier frame and wheel set can yield. The rider is positioned more equally between the front and rear wheels on a 29er than a 26er because of the longer chain stays (i.e. the riderís center of gravity is more center between the wheels on a 29er than a 26er). The 29er has a longer wheel base, which aids to straight line stability and slightly decreases bump or impact frequencies. The rider also sits deeper in the frame as well--meaning the wheel axles are approximately 1 ĹĒ higher than the BB on a 29er than a comparable 26er. This attribute is particularly beneficial to taller riders who sit very high above the 26er wheel axles because of their long legs and back over the rear wheel due to the length and angle of the ST. The other item, that contributes to the 29erís stability is the larger heaver wheels that help keep the bike stable (staying upright) a little bit longer than a 26er because they generate a little more angular momentum (i.e. the gyroscopic effect).

    Most of the 29er ride characteristics listed above are a byproduct of a frame being designed around taller wheels. A 26er frame can also be designed with heavier tubing, longer chain stays, a longer wheels base, a taller HT with more steering tube stack and a lower BB with tall and heavy 26Ē tires to yield many of the 29er ride characteristics.

    From my prospective, the 29er geometry is better proportioned for taller riders than shorter riders. Shorter riders are better suited for lighter smaller 26er bike frames.
    Last edited by bwalton; 06-08-2011 at 02:31 PM.

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    I have a simple real world experience with the 29 vs 26 debate. I have ridden the same 14 mile singletrack loop near my house since the early 90s. I know every turn and bump and I know exactly how long it takes me to do a loop given the conditions. 2 years ago I got into the singlespeed game with a 26" redline monocog flight. I rode it on the trail for a year and sold it to buy a slightly newer redline monocog flight 29er. It's the exact same bike except built around 29" wheels. I can say without a doubt on this particular trail. the 29 is faster and smoother than the 26. I have never once thought that the 29er felt slugish or anything like that. the bottom line is that my lap times decreased with 29" wheels.

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    The other attributes I did not mention, which help explain the slightly smoother ride quality of the 29er HT vs. the 26er HT are as follows: 1) A 29 x 2.1 tire has roughly 11%+ more air volume than an equivalent 26 x 2.1 tire. The extra air volume in the 29er tire(s) is by far the biggest variable that smoothes out the 29er HT ride. Case and point, 26 x 2.2 tires absorb the bumps better than 26 x 2.0 tires when inflated to the same pressure because they have more air volume. 2) The 29er tireís contact patch is also a little more elongated and helps the tire grip the road surface better when traveling in a straight line. Tire design-knob placement is critical for maximizing the 29erís elongated contact patch.
    Last edited by bwalton; 06-10-2011 at 09:44 AM.

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    Thanks to the OP for taking the time to record and share this information. Its interesting and informative to say the least.

    It would be nice if this test were done with tire models and pressures that are as close to equivalent as possible. Both tire model (lug shape, pattern, tire material and construction, weight, etc...) and pressure can make a big difference in handling and rolling resistance.

    Also, as has already been noted, running the same test with the same bikes and rider on a different trail, or same bikes and a different rider on the same trail could yield opposite results. This is a good test to keep in mind though.

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