As a long time 29er die hard, I've come to realize the benefits of the 275 wheels after spending quite a bit on time them. Of course, back in the day, I started on a 26 and used it for everything from xc racing, super D racing, to DH.
About 8 years ago I went full bore 29 and have not missed the 26. For hard trail riding and AM the 29 does have drawbacks beyond geometry issues. While the new Spec Enduro 29 has addressed those geo issues, other big issues still remain.
Wheel weight and sturdiness. AM riding requires big rubber on the wheel. No way around that. You need traction and rim protection. Big rubber on a 29 wheel does get heavy. Yes I know, compared to total rider weight it still is not a huge deal but it can be felt when you need punchy acceleration on technical climbs. AM rims are finally getting wider - thank you very much. Add that to a 29 wheel and that further bumps up the weight. Factor in the the lack of lateral sturdiness, and the increased lever size of a bigger wheel yanking on the proportionately long stays (and fork legs), and you end up with bike with waggle that I find affects handling.
Without a doubt bigger wheels roll better. You can get a faster overall bike with bigger wheels, and I've found that 29 wheels give good control on AM surfaces while still rolling along almost like a xc wheel. 26 wheels are on the far end of that spectrum the other way. I see very technically adept, in shape, AM and trail riders struggle to hang with riders on 29 wheels when the trail goes flat, or uphill. At this point, I can't see 26 wheels being used on trails that are either non-buffed, or on rides with a lot of hard fast pedaling and climbing - or, I should say i cant see 26 wheels being used before a larger size wheel, given the rider had a choice.
Drivetrain. Maybe the 1 x 11 will make all this go away but I'm still running 9 speed stuff and it is not 29er friendly. Gearing is too tall. Even the 2x10 I run is not ideally geared for a heavier 29 AM bike if you want to do extended technical climbing. The 275 works very well with at least the 2x10.
With all that said, on paper it might seem that a 275 would be the way to go for trail and AM riding. In reality that is what I've found. The 275 rolls better than the 26 and offers a more controlled feel, like a 29. But it retains enough of the stiffness and punchy accelerating properties of the 26 wheel. I've found the 275 to not feel overweighted with a wide rim (Flow EX in my case) and big rubber.
Why not then a Spec Enduro 275? This bike has been a long time AM rider favorite. Personally, I love the way a Spec feels. Low BB, super plush rear suspension, easy to corner, and yet very stable and confidence inspiring.
Can I get folks to rally and get Spec to do a 275 Enduro?
I'e been running a 275 on the back of my Stumpy FSR 29er and love it. I never did get use to the full 29 set up. If Spec does not come out with a 275 Enduro I might resort to a 29 Enduro and again go with a 275 out back.
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