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  1. #1
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    Future of 26" vs 27.5" Wheels for Trail Bikes

    For mid-travel bikes 4.5-6" of travel, is everything moving to 27.5"? I thought I read something to the effect that orders of 26" tires from dealers have been dead in the water while sales of 27.5" tire have been on fire. That sounded somewhat unlikely given the low number of 27.5" wheels that must be currently in use, but it got me to start thinking about the future of 26" vs 27.5" wheels. I'm thinking about waiting to see how everything shakes out with 27.5" and what new bikes come out in that wheel size.

    I've tried several 29" bikes last year and disliked all of them as they felt so clumsy other than when going in a straight line. I tried a 27.5" SC Bronson and could definitely feel that the 27.5" rolled better than a 26" wheel without losing much in agility.

  2. #2
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    my guess is 650b will take over in the trail/ am catagory but 26'' bikes of any variety will never go away.

  3. #3
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    Aslong as there is a diverse rider base we will have options. As the number of riders decreas so will options. Leaving us with what ever the most cost effective one to produce is...



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  4. #4
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    About 2 weeks ago I visited a few shops here in SLC, UT. Seemed like all but the freeride/DH oriented one had pretty much given up on 26" tires (not bikes, but tires). 2/3 to 3/4 of their stock was 29er.

    So much for supporting the LBS if I have to go online to buy tires. And I'm not buying a new $3000+ bike because I can't find a $50 tire.

  5. #5
    Elitest thrill junkie
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    Doubt there's much of a future for 26" wheels, except for a few niche markets like dual slalom/dirt jump, maybe downhill bikes for at least a few years, and unicycles...lol. I wouldn't be surprised if the major manufacturers drop their 26" lines for the most part in the next 2 years. Maybe you'll see a few city-cruiser types in that size, but otherwise I'll predict wal-mart will be where you'll find 26" mountain bikes (until they too change). It's just too costly to have 3 different wheel sizes and 27.5 solves the problem for some of the riders that 29 couldn't. The two sizes will be 29 and 27.5. And there is plenty of stock, molds, machine equipment and everything else in support of 26 so that it will be around for quite a few years to come. Supplies will possibly get low well into the future (many years), but I predict it will always be available due to those niche markets where it will still exist, just that it will be in shorter supply with less options and possibly higher price. By the time this is the case, no one will care likely (5-10 years).
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  6. #6
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    A 650b frame is just a 26er with good mud clearance*, I can see lot's of 'under wheeled' bikes popping up in the near future.

    * I rode a Bronson with 650 then 26 wheels this weekend, honestly couldn't tell the difference.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Doubt there's much of a future for 26" wheels, except for a few niche markets like dual slalom/dirt jump, maybe downhill bikes for at least a few years, and unicycles...lol. I wouldn't be surprised if the major manufacturers drop their 26" lines for the most part in the next 2 years. Maybe you'll see a few city-cruiser types in that size, but otherwise I'll predict wal-mart will be where you'll find 26" mountain bikes (until they too change). It's just too costly to have 3 different wheel sizes and 27.5 solves the problem for some of the riders that 29 couldn't. The two sizes will be 29 and 27.5. And there is plenty of stock, molds, machine equipment and everything else in support of 26 so that it will be around for quite a few years to come. Supplies will possibly get low well into the future (many years), but I predict it will always be available due to those niche markets where it will still exist, just that it will be in shorter supply with less options and possibly higher price. By the time this is the case, no one will care likely (5-10 years).
    What exactly is the problem you speak of? As far as I see it, 29ers didn't solve any problems. 29ers took advantage of momentum with the cost of agility, which works perfectly for some, and not for others. It could also be body dimensions, as I see a lot of taller guys riding 29ers, where they felt too big on 26" before. And I don't care what reviews you read, manualling and hopping any 29er will always be more awkward than the same geo bike with 26" wheels. If a wheel size takes care of a riding problem, I think the problem lies with skill, rather than the design of the bike.. I finally rode a Bronson and I cannot dis the bike in any way, but I did not feel "faster" or "better" or anything more than my SB66, but then again I haven't ridden anything that compares to the SB66. The only thing I felt was the new, different bike feel. I will ride 26" until I no longer can, which sadly, seems to be coming sooner than I had ever thought...

    The bike industry has to make money. If they didn't come out with new standards every year like tapered headtubes, new iscg tab sizes, forcing people to 15mm TA rather than 20mm, etc. that are "proven to make you 16% faster and 14% lighter" than we wouldn't have the technology that actually does make the bikes better. Just my 2 cents...

  8. #8
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    I was riding when they first tried to push 29's in the 90's .... they were lame then & they are lame now! 27.5 is pure marketing hype nothing more. There will always be good 26 tires & wheels available ... think about it you can still get quality 24" wheels & tires & they have been out of the main stream for years.

  9. #9
    Elitest thrill junkie
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    Quote Originally Posted by tangaroo View Post
    What exactly is the problem you speak of? As far as I see it, 29ers didn't solve any problems. 29ers took advantage of momentum with the cost of agility, which works perfectly for some, and not for others. It could also be body dimensions, as I see a lot of taller guys riding 29ers, where they felt too big on 26" before. And I don't care what reviews you read, manualling and hopping any 29er will always be more awkward than the same geo bike with 26" wheels. If a wheel size takes care of a riding problem, I think the problem lies with skill, rather than the design of the bike.. I finally rode a Bronson and I cannot dis the bike in any way, but I did not feel "faster" or "better" or anything more than my SB66, but then again I haven't ridden anything that compares to the SB66. The only thing I felt was the new, different bike feel. I will ride 26" until I no longer can, which sadly, seems to be coming sooner than I had ever thought...

    The bike industry has to make money. If they didn't come out with new standards every year like tapered headtubes, new iscg tab sizes, forcing people to 15mm TA rather than 20mm, etc. that are "proven to make you 16% faster and 14% lighter" than we wouldn't have the technology that actually does make the bikes better. Just my 2 cents...
    And then came carbon rims and other advancements that made the bigger wheels easier to accelerate, while still rolling better over things. Yes, major manufacturers may stop selling mainstream 26" bikes soon. No, you will not have any problem getting parts and wheels for years to come. Is 26 the best just because you are used to it? Because it's what most of us started on? Was it ever "designed" for off-road? Who knows, but 29" is here to stay. It's not going anywhere and has become solidly entrenched in the XC market. If you notice, 26 bikes were already getting fairly rare in the hardtail market, with most going to 29. Now the other choice will be 27.5, and it will be more consistent with the rest of the line-up.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  10. #10
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    I personally felt 27.5 was the worst of both worlds when I demo'd. Heavier and sluggish compared to 26" but didn't roll noticeably better. I've heard this sentiment echoed by a lot of non-marketing people.

    Of course, many people will let the marketers tell them what to ride.
    I live with fear and danger every day. And on the weekends she lets me go mountain biking.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    I personally felt 27.5 was the worst of both worlds when I demo'd. Heavier and sluggish compared to 26" but didn't roll noticeably better. I've heard this sentiment echoed by a lot of non-marketing people.

    Of course, many people will let the marketers tell them what to ride.
    To each thier own. More options more better

  12. #12
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    The 29er didn't solve any problems for ME anyhow (I think 29ers, along with 650b solves some problems for the market - via creating a new fad, next best, or new black).

    I have fun on my 29er, but not sure it allows me to do anything I can't on my 26. Makes pumping small transitions on a trail a bit of challenge, but I can do it. Rolling over steeps is a little different, popping into a manual and maintaining it is a bit harder - but I can manage, tight tech moves are more of a challenge because there's just more bike to negotiate. Because mine is a overbuilt XC model, I stay away from bigger drops and jumps, but I'm comfortable enough to hit most of them. I prefer my 29er for more XC oriented rides because its a lighter build than my 26, but if I had the same thing set up as a 26er - I'd probably get rid of the big wheels. Going to 29 reminded me of when I first tried to ride a mountain bike after spending 15 years riding bmx/street on a 20 inch bike.

    (Maybe I shouldn't describe it as "more difficult" but just different, as I can do most everything on the 29er than I can on the smaller bike. For a while, I figured it might make me a better rider, but it really only made me good at riding the same terrain on two different wheel sizes).

    Suppose at some point I'll try the 650b thing out of curiosity - but not tilll they sort through a few geometry fads first. For now, I'm not finding deficiencies with my 26 setups - so I don't see the need to switch to 650...

    BUT adding another ride to the stable is almost always a great idea...
    Last edited by jhazard; 07-08-2013 at 08:19 AM. Reason: Landsharks
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by tangaroo View Post
    If a wheel size takes care of a riding problem, I think the problem lies with skill, rather than the design of the bike..
    What he said...
    The overwhelming majority of riders in my area (SE PA) are on 29ers. Those that had skills on 26" wheels, still have those skills on the 29er.

  14. #14
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    That's it, I'm throwing out my brand new bike with 26" wheels in the garbage as soon as I get home. Why didn't somebody tell me!!

    Actually, I did like the 650B wheels. I just didn't like the bikes they were on as much. Of course, now Ibis has come out with a 650B varient for the Mojo. . .go figure.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by reformed roadie View Post
    What he said...
    The overwhelming majority of riders in my area (SE PA) are on 29ers. Those that had skills on 26" wheels, still have those skills on the 29er.
    Agree with this 100%. I am usually the only one in a group riding a 26" bike. Pretty crazy. What is scarier is that if you go to the LBS, there are almost no MTBs anymore. Talking to the shops I have been told that MTBers are too cheap, buy everything on the internet and want it installed for pennies. Only low end kids stuff. The whole industry is changing.
    On MTBR, the reputation is infamous.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vespasianus View Post
    Agree with this 100%. I am usually the only one in a group riding a 26" bike. Pretty crazy. What is scarier is that if you go to the LBS, there are almost no MTBs anymore. Talking to the shops I have been told that MTBers are too cheap, buy everything on the internet and want it installed for pennies. Only low end kids stuff. The whole industry is changing.
    LOL...my LBS is primarily mountain and a mix of 26" and 29". They are probably the premier bike ship in Atlanta.
    I live with fear and danger every day. And on the weekends she lets me go mountain biking.

  17. #17
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    I'm waiting for the 650b/26 tweener bikes to come into fashion. 27.5 up front and 26 in the back. Seriously if you think about it there's really no need except for aesthetics to have the same size wheels on both the front and rear. 26er in the rear would shorted the chainstay while 27.5 up front would gobble up any bumps. It would be the ideal combination.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemonaid View Post
    I'm waiting for the 650b/26 tweener bikes to come into fashion. 27.5 up front and 26 in the back. Seriously if you think about it there's really no need except for aesthetics to have the same size wheels on both the front and rear. 26er in the rear would shorted the chainstay while 27.5 up front would gobble up any bumps. It would be the ideal combination.
    Won't happen. Doesn't have the appealing name of the 69er.

    Future of 26" vs 27.5" Wheels for Trail Bikes-slorence764_2071_600.jpg

    The Tween6er sounds awful.

    Took a demo on a Bronson this season. It was a fun bike, but I don't think that was strictly because of the wheels. They're only a portion of the equation. I hope that 26" trail bikes stay around forever, but I think the tweeners will start winning out. Cyclists really enjoy buying stuff.

  19. #19
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    I don't have a clue how sales on 27.5 are going but I have a feeling many people are not ready for an in-between size that doesn't offer substantial advantages over 26 inches. Given people are slow to change their habits and 29ers have needed a while to take off, I'm surprised most manufacturers dropped their 26inch bikes. My guess is that their sales will go down in the short term, but I'd like to see some real numbers.

    Peopel in my area are not even on par with regards to 29er availability. The shops carry little to no 29er tires, it's a shame.
    Check out my SportTracks plugins for some training aid software.

  20. #20
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    I just recently started riding again after a few years away from biking & was surprised that most of the local shops in my area have totally drank the 29'er cool-aid & are actively against 26'ers ... IMHO this is stupid & also means I hardly buy anything local.

    It was pretty funny Listening to the ridiculous sales pitch for the 29'ers 99% of which was total BS .... I do think 29"s have their place ... just not anywhere I ride there are a lot of gullible people out there that buy anything the shops or mags tell them to buy. If Specialized came out with a bike with A 20" on the rear & a 29" on the front, paid a pro to win on it & the mags to say how great it was .... a stunning amount of people would line up to buy it .... scary.

    I have a 2013 Transition Covert 26 BTW can't imagine it being any better with different wheels.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    LOL...my LBS is primarily mountain and a mix of 26" and 29". They are probably the premier bike ship in Atlanta.
    Well, that is pretty cool. There are still a few shops around here that are MTB specific but they are becoming rarer and rarer. Around here (SE PA), the shops seem to support the road/tri market manly. More old guys with money doing triathlons than hitting the trails.
    On MTBR, the reputation is infamous.

  22. #22
    Purveyor of Trail Tales!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemonaid View Post
    I'm waiting for the 650b/26 tweener bikes to come into fashion. 27.5 up front and 26 in the back. Seriously if you think about it there's really no need except for aesthetics to have the same size wheels on both the front and rear. 26er in the rear would shorted the chainstay while 27.5 up front would gobble up any bumps. It would be the ideal combination.
    Hi Mr. Lemonaid,

    That is what I said when I added a 650b wheel to my bike a little over 2 years ago. Here is what I wrote about it then:

    Stop Talking…Close the Forum…Keep the Secret!
    Originally Posted by michaelsnead

    Hey Folks,

    Here is my shopping list:

    ZTR Flow 650b - 32 Hole Black - NEW $93.00
    Stan's 35mm Valve Stem With Rim $4.00
    Pacenti Neo-Moto 650b x 2.3 Tire $49.27
    DT Swiss 240s Front 20mm Thru Axle $188.48
    Magura Storm SL Rotor $29.95
    Shipping $18.00
    Spokes $32.00
    Wheel Build $40.00
    $454.70

    Well I finally got this wheel built and rode it the last three days. Those rides included playing on my home grown bike park, a tour of the local XC loop and a classic AM ride featuring a long climb followed by a fast DH run back to the car.

    Based on the benefits I enjoyed on those rides I’m only kidding a little bit about the title of the thread. I’d really like to keep this secret weapon from the hands of my buddies. I want them to think I’ve suddenly acquired some skills instead of having found a technological breakthrough.

    Back in 2005 I said this about the Gravity Dropper adjustable seat post in a review I posted on this site. At that time, to my knowledge, they were the only current manufacturer of a product like this:

    “It is not often that you can say that you were there and participated when a sport experiences a revolutionary jump due to a change in the equipment design or material. It is always a moment when after it happens you wonder why it didn’t happen before the moment it did. If you skied when shaped skis came out or kayaked when planning hulls were introduced you know exactly what I mean. I believe that, with this product, mountain biking is about to go through a similar experience to both of those sports. Shaped skis and planning hulls dominate their respective sports and I believe that it won’t be long before GravityDropper has that same position in the world of mountain biking. The benefits that the product brings to the rider are such that it warrants that level of acceptance. To poorly paraphrase Warren Miller you want to buy one of these now because if you wait you’ll only be a year older when you do.”

    Now, there are 8-10 companies competing with Gravity Dropper and adjustable seat posts are one of the hottest products in the mountain bike world.

    After what I just experienced I’m seeing the introduction of a 650B front wheel to a traditional 26 inch mountain bike to be another revolutionary jump similar to the ones I described above!

    Therefore I propose we keep this secret between us….except for a few friends!

    Because the older I get the more advantages I need!!

    My sincere thanks to all of you who supplied the information and support I needed to play in this sandbox!!!

    Take care, have fun, be safe!!!!


    Here are some pictures of my ride:
    Future of 26" vs 27.5" Wheels for Trail Bikes-michaels-bike-002.jpg

    Future of 26" vs 27.5" Wheels for Trail Bikes-michaels-bike-003.jpg

    Have fun however you get dirty,


    Michael
    If you can't keep the rubber side down......at least smile for the camera!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by PissedOffCil View Post
    I don't have a clue how sales on 27.5 are going but I have a feeling many people are not ready for an in-between size that doesn't offer substantial advantages over 26 inches. Given people are slow to change their habits and 29ers have needed a while to take off, I'm surprised most manufacturers dropped their 26inch bikes. My guess is that their sales will go down in the short term, but I'd like to see some real numbers.

    Peopel in my area are not even on par with regards to 29er availability. The shops carry little to no 29er tires, it's a shame.
    I'd argue that the in-between size DOES offer substantial advantages. The downsides are minimal for most people, with benefits that appeal to most people. It makes sense from a marketing standpoint to eliminate the 26" wheel for cross-country and trail applications, since the advantages of bigger wheels lend themselves perfectly to trail applications. Dirt jumpers and freeriders generally don't benefit from larger wheels, so there will always be a demand for 26" wheels. Downhill is interesting, but they will see the benefits to larger wheels in the near future, I believe.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    I personally felt 27.5 was the worst of both worlds when I demo'd. Heavier and sluggish compared to 26" but didn't roll noticeably better. I've heard this sentiment echoed by a lot of non-marketing people.

    Of course, many people will let the marketers tell them what to ride.
    I personally feel that 27.5" wheels are perfect for most trail and all-mountain applications. Roll better than a 26" wheel, but retain more agility and playfulness than a 29er. Worst of both worlds? What is your riding style and terrain? Do you log in miles of rolling terrain with a bunch of twisty turns and switchbacks randomly thrown in? You must be riding at the extremes of trail riding... I ride a bit of everything, and 27.5 is a perfect compromise for my trail riding. I don't choose my wheelsize based on marketing, but I won't limit my choices on the opinions of others, either.

  25. #25
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    Different horses for different courses. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. Anyone who disagrees has not ridden each wheel size enough over different trails. The size of the rider also matters.

    Where will the industry go...

    I'd guess the industry will give the middle of the road, trail bike category, over to the 275. 29" will take over most of th xc realm. That leaves a smaller share for the 26".

    Personally, I really like a 275 out back. On rugged, natural, non-buffed trails 26" wheels do lack roll-over and I find they "spin-down" too quickly in the chunk. I know that sounds cliche but it is true. 29" wheels take a lot less energy to keep rolling through chunky trails but are bit flexy and bulky for AM riding . The limiting factor in an experienced rider's arsenal is usually not skil, but rather energy. Anything that helps buffer that very weak link has a lot of merit. A 275 out back and a 29 up front works well for me, at my size, on my trails. Never tried a 275 on both ends but am eager to do so.

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