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  1. #1
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    How many are on 29ers?

    photos of varsity field by John Taylor
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    All I think. Big advantage to a large diameter, low pressure, tire on wet sand.

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    Our team is about 50/50...

    At East Garrison we had 3 podium finishers on 29ers, 2 on 26ers.
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    In 2006 a Cross bike, the only one entered, won the Jr. Varsity race at East Garrison. The relatively open and low tech course was a natural for a big wheel. That was the last year Cross bikes were allowed to compete in the Mountain Bike League.

    In 2008 a "national cross champion" entered the League at East Garrison with the usual hype that coaches will have with talent untested against NorCal competition. As I recall he did pretty well but was hardly in the running. In fairness, much-vaunted talent from outside the League learns pretty fast about how competitive NorCal Racing is. Yet the boy was absent his big wheel, and on a course which likes the big wheel to boot. Just ask the CCCX racers.

    NorCal courses are selected to be an appropriate match for extant skills which develop over a season and over a career. In the short view early races are on simpler courses with less climbing and shorter distances. (Note: race distances are reduced across the board for younger riders and girls, i.e., Freshman race 2 laps, Varsity 4.) This sort of accommodation considers the abilities of new racers and all racers in early season form.

    Over the course of the season distances are increased, elevation gain is increased, and it is hotter. Conditioning is high, skills are sharp and everyone has a season of racing behind them. While technical demands are greater, they still are not the steep twisty, rockstrewn, off-camber things we do with our buds. With athletes this young and fields of such huge numbers the risk of injury just goes through the roof.

    That said, a dual suspended bike has never been needed for a NorCal Race; there are absolutely no technical demands for it. The 22 lb (now lower with carbon fiber) hardtail has been the tool of choice. Looking back on the 2 East Garrison examples I opened with, the 29er will do well in NorCal competition. The big wheel is a good match for their courses. Where the ground is firmer and repeated acceleration becomes key, the 26 inch wheel may have an edge.

    I doubt that the courses will change much outside this model. Further, these racers seldom draw from a quiver of bikes to match a course. So, all things being equal, top racers at the Varsity and Jr. Varsity level will ride Carbon Fiber Hard Tail 29ers sooner rather than later.
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    I race varsity in the colorado league and 90% of the people are on 29ers including myself. many of the people in varsity are on cycling teams, and have sponsors too, and to go along with all that the varsity division is super competitive!!
    Last edited by cormy; 11-04-2012 at 07:57 AM.
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    75% of the Minnetonka, MN team is on hardtail 29ers. The others are hardtail 26ers. Our race courses are flat as a pancake and smooth as a baby's bottom.

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    B650 will take over.
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    I usually like your posts Mike but now you're just trolling.
    I'm a mountain bike guide in South West Utah

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    it's a prediction; your prediction may differ.
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    We have 1 of the 8 on a 29er. Other teams have a higher percentage.. So far, almost all the podium spots have been by a rider on a 29er. Our courses may suit the larger wheel as we have plenty of rocks and roots, and short climbs during a lap.

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    In Socal, I felt like I was the only one on a 26er. Still placed decently well though

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    As stated by Mike the NorCal NICA courses are prime for 29er HT's and even with the rise of the B650 I still think 29er HT's will rule the roost. The only course where a FS bike made sense was Stafford Lake but that was only because it wasn't really a groomed course the first year (2012), might be better now. Just riding it on pre ride killed my back. For those that where there this year was it any better, just wondered? After a couple years it'll be another prime 29er HT course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MTB Dad View Post
    As stated by Mike the NorCal NICA courses are prime for 29er HT's and even with the rise of the B650 I still think 29er HT's will rule the roost. The only course where a FS bike made sense was Stafford Lake but that was only because it wasn't really a groomed course the first year (2012), might be better now. Just riding it on pre ride killed my back. For those that where there this year was it any better, just wondered? After a couple years it'll be another prime 29er HT course.
    It wasn't as bad as 2012 some of the kids on my team were saying. But being my first year, it was super dry and bumpy as all hell.. A FS would of been nice for the race.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grahamlynn1 View Post
    It wasn't as bad as 2012 some of the kids on my team were saying. But being my first year, it was super dry and bumpy as all hell.. A FS would of been nice for the race.
    The problem with Stafford is that it isn't normally open to mountain bikes. They literally just opened it for Championships. Thats why it felt like they took a weed whacker, did a half-a** weed whacking job, and called it a trail; thats exactly what they did. I learned this all from a chick at a local bike shop who rides for Navado. That course sucked even on a FS.

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    I ride a 26er and I do fine when I'm not getting flats which was 40% of the races but most guys are riding 29ers and a few guys that have A LOT money ride 650B, I would probably ride a 650B but they are too new for people to be selling them for a good deal used

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    My kid stole my first 29er so to answer your question, yes he'll be racing a 29er.

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    - as a possible new coach for GA, I find this conversation necessary to see what my kids will be up against......most around here will use whatever they already have or what their parents can afford, but the best equipped will definitely have an advantage over heavier / older technology.......CF HT's? - wow, even I can't afford that......
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    @mr_chrome-it all depends on the courses. 29's do so well here because the courses tend to be geared for all levels of riders, ie they are not technical, so 29's are usually the best choice. I would not be hung up on a CF frame as I've seen many do just as well on AL frames.
    Having the bike set up right for the particular rider both fit wise and mechanically is what I focused on. I couldn't afford 5k and up for a bike and I don't think a CF frame would have won my son any races. Plus if your racer is serious you will be replacing stuff continually. Rather then big $$$ on a single bike I think having better components and a 2nd set of race wheels is a better investment. A solid training program and racing as much as possible are the keys to seeing good results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MTB Dad View Post
    .... Plus if your racer is serious you will be replacing stuff continually.....A solid training program and racing as much as possible are the keys to seeing good results.
    Continually replacing stuff is right. It is just a fact. Get something decent but don't fall in love with it because you just need something that works. The top end riders in so cal ride some pretty top end bikes. But you see top end bikes down through the ranks as well.

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    Lots of folks overthink this in terms of ultimate performance. The racer-heads don't like to hear this but his kind of competition is about a quality experience, not podiums. 85% will never get to the podium. So quality, reliability, maintenance support and fit come first.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MTB Dad View Post
    @mr_chrome-it all depends on the courses. 29's do so well here because the courses tend to be geared for all levels of riders, ie they are not technical, so 29's are usually the best choice. I would not be hung up on a CF frame as I've seen many do just as well on AL frames.] Plus if your racer is serious you will be replacing stuff continually. Rather then big $$$ on a single bike I think having better components and a 2nd set of race wheels is a better investment.
    Tell me about replacing stuff continuously, my bike has been in the shop on a weekly to biweekly basis since the season started. But if you spend big $$$$ on a bike you tend to not need stuff like better components or race wheels. I am placing around 11th every race and I'm pushing a 33lb FS 29er so I do agree a solid training program is key instead of having a CF frame and lightweight components. You said it depends on the courses but I bet you there isn't a single HS course that a 29er wouldn't shine on, I haven't run into a single one technical enough to even use any suspension.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sean1214 View Post
    . You said it depends on the courses but I bet you there isn't a single HS course that a 29er wouldn't shine on, I haven't run into a single one technical enough to even use any suspension.
    Heheh. Try riding in the northeast.

    I'm seeing more than half of the total riders on 29ers but not everybody on the podiums is riding them. In any situation the right tool for the job and good technique trump "the gear." Some of these kids don't have the physical stature to handle a machine as large as a 29er properly so it would just hinder their overall performance. Sure maybe they would be able to roll out faster on the smooth sections but when it gets tight and twisty they'd be falling off the back and that wouldn't be any fun for them. Remember, this whole thing is ultimately about having fun and doing something healthy. Some of the people involved in this take it way too seriously...

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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    Heheh. Try riding in the northeast.

    I'm seeing more than half of the total riders on 29ers but not everybody on the podiums is riding them. In any situation the right tool for the job and good technique trump "the gear." Some of these kids don't have the physical stature to handle a machine as large as a 29er properly so it would just hinder their overall performance. Sure maybe they would be able to roll out faster on the smooth sections but when it gets tight and twisty they'd be falling off the back and that wouldn't be any fun for them. Remember, this whole thing is ultimately about having fun and doing something healthy. Some of the people involved in this take it way too seriously...
    It can get pretty knarly in socal, but our league director tries his best to exclude the technical stuff. I race enduro and ride downhill trails on my Trek Superfly FS and haven't had any problems with it. It just takes practice to learn you bikes geometry and its limits and you can ride stuff that most would ride a DH bike on. You should see how many dirty looks I get when I am riding my local downhill park, and I don't ride slow either, I was up there yesterday and blew the seals off my forks. My friend and I have been working on an edit on enduro and it features me on my 29er and him on his 27.5.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    B650 will take over.
    They way you described your courses Id wager everyone will be on 36ers

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    It seems like 29ers are the appropriate tool for most of the trails chosen for these races. *sigh* In a way it's too bad because some of these kids can't fit on a 29er properly, like my 4'10" daughter, so they are undergeared compared to the taller kids. It wasn't very long ago that it really was about the rider not the bike but now physical stature has an impact on the race results. I don't like it and would like to see a "standard" set that levels the playing field again.

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    How many are on 29ers?

    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    It seems like 29ers are the appropriate tool for most of the trails chosen for these races. *sigh* In a way it's too bad because some of these kids can't fit on a 29er properly, like my 4'10" daughter, so they are undergeared compared to the taller kids. It wasn't very long ago that it really was about the rider not the bike but now physical stature has an impact on the race results. I don't like it and would like to see a "standard" set that levels the playing field again.
    I have to disagree. I like the option of three wheel sizes. It adds a different strategy to the races. With each wheel size you give some up in certain areas, and gain some in others. It's all about recognizing that wheel sizes advantage and capitalizing on it. It's unfortunate that your daughter can't ride a 29er, but surely you can find a 650b that will work for her


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    Quote Originally Posted by HSracer View Post
    I have to disagree. I like the option of three wheel sizes. It adds a different strategy to the races. With each wheel size you give some up in certain areas, and gain some in others. It's all about recognizing that wheel sizes advantage and capitalizing on it. It's unfortunate that your daughter can't ride a 29er, but surely you can find a 650b that will work for her


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    Or a 26er. And if she doesn't win, don't blame the bike.

    Wheel size matters to pros where a .00001% advantage might actually make a difference. For kids, it's really a non issue. The right fit is the most important thing.

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    ^^I am a professional bike fitter, her bike fits as well as it possibly can. Unfortunately there is no way around a taller gear other than being a good strong rider and that can only take you just so far.

    I watch the taller girls roll away from her all the time on the smooth stuff, especially when there is a dirt/fire road section. She flat out kicks their butts when it gets techy because she is a very proficient rider and she descends like a girl possessed but it's nearly impossible to make up the amount of time that they gain on the other sections. If these courses were better balanced it would be much more fair. I'm not whining just making an observation.

    If the family finances allow it she will most likely be on a 650B bike next year and hopefully that will solve the "gearing issue" that a larger wheel size creates but the other side of that is are her levers (legs) long enough to turn the taller gear? We'll see.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    ^^I am a professional bike fitter, her bike fits as well as it possibly can. Unfortunately there is no way around a taller gear other than being a good strong rider and that can only take you just so far.

    I watch the taller girls roll away from her all the time on the smooth stuff, especially when there is a dirt/fire road section. She flat out kicks their butts when it gets techy because she is a very proficient rider and she descends like a girl possessed but it's nearly impossible to make up the amount of time that they gain on the other sections. If these courses were better balanced it would be much more fair. I'm not whining just making an observation.

    If the family finances allow it she will most likely be on a 650B bike next year and hopefully that will solve the "gearing issue" that a larger wheel size creates but the other side of that is are her levers (legs) long enough to turn the taller gear? We'll see.
    I think you are overestimating the benefits of bigger wheels. There is no "taller gear" advantage.

    It all comes down to distance traveled per crank rotation. If a 26er and a 29er are both in a gear that allows them to travel the same distance per crank rotation, then they will require the same energy to pedal (assuming they weigh the same and ignoring rolling resistance). In real life, 26ers can require less energy, by being lighter and having lighter wheels. Or 29ers can use less energy, by having lower rolling resistance. It depends on the conditions, but either way, the energy requirements are nearly identical.

    The girls that are pulling away from your daughter are more fit. It's not their wheels.

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    OK so a 29 x 2.3 with 175mm cranks is turning 5.2 in the middle ring and 13 tooth cog while a 26 x 2.35 w/170mm cranks is running 4.7. Assuming the same cadence how can the rider running a half inch shorter gear keep up? Choose whatever tire size and gear you want that's not what's important, that 1/2" per revolution adds up much more quickly than you would think.

    When there was only one wheel size, 26", the riders fitness and skill were more important and what distinguished the truly faster riders. Now the equipment has a larger influence on the outcome than it used to. That's all I'm saying.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    OK so a 29 x 2.3 with 175mm cranks is turning 5.2 in the middle ring and 13 tooth cog while a 26 x 2.35 w/170mm cranks is running 4.7.
    Assuming the same cadence how can the rider running a half inch shorter gear keep up?
    By dropping into a smaller cog.

    You are illustrating the fact that a bigger wheel requires smaller gearing to give the same total result. In your example, the 29er effectively is in a higher gear, so it is going faster, but at the cost of requiring more work to pedal. If you adjust the gearing so that they are both covering the same distance per crank revolution (1 cog bigger for the 29er, or 1 cog smaller for the 26er), then they are equal, and they require the same work to pedal.

    If a 26er rider gets beat by 1 second in a 30 minute race by a 29er, it might be credible to say the wheel could have changed the result, but much more than that, and its not the wheel to blame.

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    I just want to play this out and understand, not argue the merits of wheel size.

    So the smaller wheel size bike needs to be in a larger gear therefore requiring more work to maintain the same speed or higher to stay ahead right? Therefore the smaller rider needs to be at a higher fitness level to turn the taller gear. What if the riders are at the same fitness level?

    In 2 out of 3 of these races there has been a fair distance in each lap of flat or rolling smooth trail where the riders on 29ers are gaining 4-5 feet per minute so that means that my daughter would need to be running 2 gears higher to get ahead. That's tough on a little kid, heck that would be tough on most adults! In the last race there was 1/2 mile of road and about 1 1/2 miles of dirt road and another mile or so of smooth rolling singletrack out of a total 6 mile lap. These are the types of terrain where 29ers excel and my kid was 6 minutes behind the leader in the first lap but only three minutes the second so her fitness level must be pretty good for her to make up three minutes but the distance gained in the first lap just can't be overcome without it being a longer race.

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    A professional bike fitter that cant find a 29er hardtail for short people? You might be getting too caught up in the numbers. Bike fit for mountain bikes is over rated, just one mans opinion

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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    I just want to play this out and understand, not argue the merits of wheel size.

    So the smaller wheel size bike needs to be in a larger gear therefore requiring more work to maintain the same speed or higher to stay ahead right?
    No. The gear is the gear, whatever combination of chainring, cog, and wheel diameter is required to get it there. If you are in the same number of "gear inches", a standard measure of gearing on a bicycle, on a 26er, 650B, 29er or 36er you are in the same "gear". Do not confuse being in the same size chainring and cog on these different size wheeled bikes with being in the same gear. All calculation of gear size involves the wheel diameter. But of course the leverage due to the length of the crank arm is also relevant so the best unit to compare mechanical advantage on a bicycle is the "gain ratio". For bikes that employ any combination of chainrings, cogs, and crank arm length to get to the same numerical gain ration, it will take effectively the same effort to turn the cranks and if you turn them at the same rpm you will be going the same speed. If a rider is losing time over a particular section of a course it's because they're not putting out as many watts/kg as the rider that's moving faster. Think about it -- if what you claim to be true were true, no one would ever ride a 26er or even a 650B -- they'd at least always be on a 29er or a 36er -- and there are successful pro and elite racers riding 26ers to this day.

    I drank the 29er koolaide many years ago, but in my opinion you are massively overstating the 29er advantage (if there is any). The kids at the front of each race are absolutely ripping, charging the hills, powering the flats and flashing the technical sections. There are kids with skills doing amazing things back in the pack in the technical sections and downhills, but they aren't landing podiums not because they are on under geared 26ers but because they just didn't have the fitness or the engine (yet) to be up front. Many of the kids have skills worthy of envy, but in every division of the Colorado league races they need both skills and a big engine to be up front.
    "The plural of anecdote is not data." -- Attributed to various people in a variety of forms, but always worth remembering...

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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    I just want to play this out and understand, not argue the merits of wheel size.
    Yes, its an interesting discussion, and not at first intuitively obvious. But I have had this discussion numerous times around here with all the local physics nerds, and all the equations to prove these concepts are on this forum somewhere, but I will try to minimize that

    Edit: I apologize in advance for the wordy explanation. I hope it makes sense.
    Edit Edit: PEt posted as I was typing, and it is a good post!


    So the smaller wheel size bike needs to be in a larger gear
    Yes.
    therefore requiring more work to maintain the same speed or higher to stay ahead right?
    No. The same work is required to accelerate the same mass to the same speed.

    Here is an example that people who have switched from 26 to 29 are familiar with. When you get on a 29er and try to climb a steep hill in the same gear as you would on your 26er, you know that it is harder on the 29er. You need a lower gear for equivalent work output and equivalent speed. That's why bigger cassettes with 36T large cogs came out at the time 29er mtbs came out.
    It would be nice if 29ers allowed us to climb using less energy, or go farther with the same energy, but that would violate the laws of physics.

    The total work you do on your bike is related to how far you travel for each crank rotation. This distance is not just a function of the chain ring and cog, but also of the wheel diameter.

    If D is wheel diameter, A is the chainring and B is the cog, then the distance per crank rotation is
    (A/B)*pi*D.

    If D gets bigger then A has to get smaller or B has to get bigger. When you match distance per crank rotation you match the work output. You are going the same speed and doing the same work regardless of wheel size.

    If you are familiar with physics, the energy of the bike is the translational energy of the bike plus the rotational energy of the wheels. The translational energy of the bike is 1/2MV^^2. This tells us two objects moving at the same speed with the same mass, have the same energy.

    The rotational energy of the wheels is a similar equation but uses rotational velocity and moment of inertia. It works out that 26 and 29 wheels also have the same energy if mass is the same. The 29er rotates slower, but has higher moment of inertia. The 2 effects cancel and it ends up the same.

    So, both bikes have the same energy, so both riders had to do the same work to give the bikes that energy.

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    All of this is true, in a perfect, smooth world. Unfortunately here on earth we have to deal with things like trail imperfections. A larger wheel rolls over these with less effort, requiring less energy over the course of a race. I have 27 bikes. That includes 26", 26"x4.7" fatties, 27.5" and 29er. I can tell you that I am working much harder to maintain forward speed while riding a 26" than a 29er. I cannot tell the difference between a 26 and 27.5 even though I've spent hundreds of miles on each. I'm not a fan. 29 may take extra effort to come off a start or out of corners but it's imperceptible. Once it gets going, it's going. I can hear my buddies on 26 pedaling like crazy to keep up when I'm coasting.
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    A couple of things I found on the internets. The first 2 links are for people who did some time trials and found the 26er faster, the third link is another test where the 29er won.

    The tests are not scientific and you can't put much, if any, faith in the results, but they do help make the point that the results are close. There is no magical benefit to one wheel size or the other. Tread pattern, bike weight, trail conditions, random variation, etc, probably had more to do with the results than the wheel size in these tests.

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

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    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1WA...g&feature=plcp

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    Don't throw out rolling resistance when on the fire road. IMHO a 29er is much more efficient... one of the reasons I finally sold my my 26". I was able to "commute" to the single tracks via fire road with what I felt was less energy expelled. That led to longer rides and more downhill fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LB412 View Post
    Don't throw out rolling resistance when on the fire road. IMHO a 29er is much more efficient... one of the reasons I finally sold my my 26". I was able to "commute" to the single tracks via fire road with what I felt was less energy expelled. That led to longer rides and more downhill fun.
    I agree that rolling resistance is probably the biggest reason 29ers have caught on in the racing world. That and rolloverability, which is related but different.
    But the numbers I have seen don't support the claim of "much more efficient". A little more efficient, maybe, depending on the terrain, is probably more accurate.

    I'm a big fan of 29er wheels, and I think I can feel the momentum maintaining and smooth rolling qualities that people talk about. But looking at the physics, and the real world lap times, the overall benefit is pretty small, and 29ers usually weigh more, so under some conditions they could be less efficient as well.

  40. #40
    J-Flo
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    I think 29ers have an advantage but it is modest on some courses and nonexistent on many descents. The advantage is not due to gearing (PeT is correct). Compared to 26ers, 29ers pay a weight penalty, an acceleration penalty (takes more effort to get a bigger wheel rolling), and an agility penalty. They make it up, to have an overall advantage in many XC applications in my view, based on a larger contact patch (lower rolling resistance), better handling of small bumps and obstacle (due to less sharp angle between the tire and bump/obstacle), and greater rolling momentum. I think the main advantage is as Silentfoe says, they roll easier over uneven ground.

    I would think a 4'10" rider would not want a 29er, as the wagon wheels would make the bike much less agile, but who knows?

    A pro racer (female) who I know swears by her 26er and says 29ers are a passing fad. Wheel see.

  41. #41
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    Follow at the experts. Juliana (SC) offers a 26 and a 27.5 for a XS female... Moves to 29 at size small for most with a few 650B options... At least last time I looked.

    Oh, and my 4'10" 10 YR old daughter rides a 26" wheel 14" frame Kona HT. I think its still a bit big for her. My 5'4" wife loves her Tallboy 29er.

  42. #42
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    I think you can get use to, and ride almost any bike thats properly fitted with saddle time. No matter what size wheels.

    Lets not lose focus on the important stuff. Self accomplishment wether you place or not, breeding our future generations of Mtn Bkrs and Trail Stewards, the social aspect, and getting the kids out of the house.

    One thing for sure is the NY league rides some serious terrain and has some amazing talent.

  43. #43
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    ^^ Yeah the terrain hasn't been "easy" that's for sure and these kids are eating it up. It's such a pleasure to watch

    Quote Originally Posted by Silentfoe View Post
    All of this is true, in a perfect, smooth world. Unfortunately here on earth we have to deal with things like trail imperfections. A larger wheel rolls over these with less effort, requiring less energy over the course of a race. I have 27 bikes. That includes 26", 26"x4.7" fatties, 27.5" and 29er. I can tell you that I am working much harder to maintain forward speed while riding a 26" than a 29er. I cannot tell the difference between a 26 and 27.5 even though I've spent hundreds of miles on each. I'm not a fan. 29 may take extra effort to come off a start or out of corners but it's imperceptible. Once it gets going, it's going. I can hear my buddies on 26 pedaling like crazy to keep up when I'm coasting.
    Nailed! Like Steve says below - rolloverability (I like the new word ) is the key. A few seconds here and there really adds up over the 10-12 miles (or more) that these races are. I don't think the weight penalty comes into play much for the larger riders as it's a smaller percentage of their body weight than it would be for a 95 pounder so it doesn't affect them too much.

    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    I agree that rolling resistance is probably the biggest reason 29ers have caught on in the racing world. That and rolloverability, which is related but different.
    But the numbers I have seen don't support the claim of "much more efficient". A little more efficient, maybe, depending on the terrain, is probably more accurate.

    I'm a big fan of 29er wheels, and I think I can feel the momentum maintaining and smooth rolling qualities that people talk about. But looking at the physics, and the real world lap times, the overall benefit is pretty small, and 29ers usually weigh more, so under some conditions they could be less efficient as well.
    In response to the fit aspect mentioned earlier - Take a look at how a shorter rider needs to have the bike set up. The rider is sitting inside the bike and on steep descents can't really get out behind the saddle without rubbing on the wheel. This isn't much of an issue when you're riding fire roads and other less aggressive terrain but doesn't work too well with what we have around here. The rider may fit in the cockpit just fine but moving around the bike is a no-go.

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