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  1. #1
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    Seriously... 26 or 29er

    Hi I'm looking for some more advice and help for my next bike. I've been looking at 29er FS bikes and even got a chance to ride a few around the parking lot from my local bike shop in Squamish which was cool of them (Tantalus for people that know them!).

    What I want most is to feel comfortable on my bike for racing this year.
    My main aim for this year in racing is the 24 hours adrenaline worlds in Canmore, also I've entered the Furious3 Whistler and the Transrockies 4 day. I'll probably do a few local toonie races here around Whistler and Squamish too.

    From riding a couple bikes around the parking lot, I really liked the Rocky Mountain Element 29er. I rode the Kona Hei Hei 29er too. Obviously it's pretty hard to tell what a bike will feel like for racing by riding it for a couple of minutes, but the Rocky Mountain almost felt like an extended part of me when I got on it.

    Well I have never owned a 29er so I'm trying to find out if it's a suitable bike for me. Maybe I won't like it very much compared to my 26 inch racing full sus, but that will be hard to establish until I've raced it. In that case I'll either sell it or try and like it!

    Have many people bought 29ers and not liked them? Any help or advice would be appreciated!

    Thanks.
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  2. #2
    Daniel the Dog
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    It is like saying which is better blondes or brunettes? It is personal choice. Some races 29ers are a benefit while other races a 26er is the best bike. Ride what you like because you will have more fun. Anyone who tells you 29ers are faster in every situation is wrong. I ride a 29er endurance bike but Lance won the Leadville 100 on a 26er Trek. He left the 29ers in his dust....

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaybo View Post
    It is like saying which is better blondes or brunettes? .
    I'd say it's a fair bit different to that. And I think Lance could have nearly won on a Walmart bike .
    "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional"

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  4. #4
    Daniel the Dog
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    check it out

    Quote Originally Posted by Damitletsride! View Post
    I'd say it's a fair bit different to that. And I think Lance could have nearly won on a Walmart bike .
    Dave Wiens rides a 26" bike. A carbon HT
    Levi Leipheimer rides a 26" bike. A Trek Fuel.
    jeremy horgan-kobelsk rode a 29" bike. A Trek Superfly

    No one bike is best! It is all what you like and think you can go fastest on. Mountain Flyer did a well comparison of 26ers and 29ers and said there is not a huge advantage to either wheel size. They did state the wheel sizes were better on different courses.

  5. #5
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    At an industry level at least, you're seeing fewer pro riding 26ers this year. It may be a push by the industry to market 29ers, but it is what it is. There may be a section of trail that trips you up on a 29er, but overall you may finish a lap a minute faster on the 29er. That's the growing consensus among riders that have moved to 29ers.

    Todd Wells won Leadville last year on a 29er hardtail and was only seven minutes off of Levi Leipheimer's record time. He also won La Ruta last year and placed 11th in the World Cup. It's been a long time since an American has graced the top ten.

    The strict adherence to 26er hardtails in World Cup XC was turned on its head last year when the rainbow jersey was won in dominating fashion on a full-suspension 29er by Jaroslav Kulhavy.

    Other endurance pros: Jeremiah Bishop has long been in favor of big wheels. NUE champ Christian Tanguy races a 29er hardtail.
    Last edited by chomxxo; 03-09-2012 at 08:32 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaybo View Post
    Dave Wiens rides a 26" bike. A carbon HT
    Levi Leipheimer rides a 26" bike. A Trek Fuel.
    jeremy horgan-kobelsk rode a 29" bike. A Trek Superfly

    No one bike is best! .
    True... I don't really care who rides what bike, and I don't want to get into a discussion about which is better, I'm just trying to figure out which will be most suitable for me. I've said in my first post the races I'll be doing this year.
    "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional"

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  7. #7
    Daniel the Dog
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    You asked and I gave you a good faith answer. You need to figure it out. Go ride some bikes....no one right answer you have to figure out what you like.

  8. #8
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    Well I'm only able to ride them around a parking lot so it's hard to tell from that. So i'd like to hear from people with more knowledge than me.
    "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional"

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  9. #9
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    take a chance. its not like it's life or death. it's 3 inches in wheel diameter. for anyone less than a high level pro, it's not going to make **** of difference in your time. especially in endurance racing where you are going uphill for hours at a time.

  10. #10
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    Get the LBS to let you take a loan bike - if they wont go somewhere else. Take a 29r (then maybe a 26r) and ride your favourite trails for a weekend. If you are going to do endurance then ride the commonest type of trails (if you can) you will find in them. IE if 60% of an endurance ride is on open trails then ride 60% open (dual track) trails. That way you get a feel for the bikes in the conditions you are likely to encounter. If all the LBS will do is let you ride round a parking lot go find a shop that has loan bikes. Then make sure you getr bike fitted

    FWIW there is a general feeling (stress feeling) amongst some that a 29r may be too tall on tight single track for those under under 5'8 or 9". I'm 5'7" and find single track is my weakest spot on my 29r. But there is no way I'd go back to a 26r. There is also a rumour that the elite riders are selecting smaller frames and longer stems, but wouldn't advise you select on rumour

  11. #11
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    Damn you 29er!!!

    I was facing the same exact problem. Since the world has gone 29er crazy, I decided to test ride one before making a decision. For me, the 29er did not seem faster, it was not more comfortable, but what I did notice immediately was how it rolled over things very easily. Where I disliked the 29er was on switchbacks or tight spaces. It seemed hard to maneuver the bike and getting my speed back up when the trail forced me to slow down. I Also did not have very much fun on the 29er; I grew up racing BMX and motocross, so I like to throw my bikes around. I like to jump and bunny hop logs and rocks. I like to pull my front end up over step ups and thrust my body forward to get the rear end up over the step up. I like to throw and launch my bikes off drop offs. I could not do any of that very effectively on the 29er. I could only roll over it. For me, the 29er was boring, so I knew instantly it was not the bike for me. I can understand why people love the 29er, but like a lot of people have said, it's each individuals own preference and not one is better than the other. I'm just pissed that the 26 inch bikes are starting to dwindle away. Some bike shops refused to carry them because of sales. If you sale your bikes after a yr or two that may be something to think about as well.


    I could see where the following people or scenarios would benefit or enjoy a 29er more.

    1.) You're a tall person
    2.) You're coming from a road bike background
    3.) You ride a lot of fast singletrack that requires you to just hammer and go without a lot of slowing down
    4.) You struggle with rougher terrain on a shorter travel 26 inch bike and do not want a longer travel bike.


    I'm a proud 26 inch man and these sexy *****es are mine!!!

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  12. #12
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    You left out 2 important pieces of information:
    How tall are you ? ( be truthful)
    What is your budget ?
    I'd say buy the best 29'r you can afford. If it doesn't work out for you, it'll be much easier to recoup your cash by selling a 29'r than a 26".

  13. #13
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    Redheads... (aka 650B)

    Go with what feels right?
    Authorities speculate that speed may have been a factor. They are also holding gravity and inertia for questioning.

  14. #14
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    During my solo 24hr race last year I had a bolt break off in a suspension part on my GT i-Drive 26er. Easy to fix with some tools I had in the garage but not at the camp site. MY cousin had come to pit for me and brought his Stumpjumper FSR Expert 29er for some pre and post race riding.
    I am a fairly small rider around 140lbs and 5'4" tall. MY cousin is around 5'10" and 240ish as he body builds.
    My bike broke after 3 laps and we ended doing our best to set up his bike for me to finish the race. So we adjusted seat height to almost as low as his seat post would go(one of those remote 3 position ones) and quickly reset shock pressures for me.
    After putting in a lap I felt like I had been riding this bike all summer. I'm used to narrow flat bars (E-90) and Ergons grips so I think the wide bars were the weirdest part for me.
    The bike had the stock S-Works tires (I believe, Specialized tire anyhow) and I like low pressure so we set them and left them at around 25 psi.
    I felt the traction was awesome, the bike handled fast, steep downhill switchbacks with ease and speed. I was worried about the bigger wheels and 2x10 for not having a low enough gearing for some of short, but steep climbs as I got later into the race. I was pleasantly surprised that the gearing ended up being great.
    One down side was I ended up getting a sharp pain on the outside of one knee which had me have to rest for a few hrs. This was most likely due to the different bike set-up than what I was used to. Otherwise I think I would have had a PB race!
    Anyhow, I was pleasantly surprised at how the 29'er handles. I didn't find it had and problems turning in switchbacks like some people say is one of the differences of 29'er vs 26'er. It also climbed great even with 2x10 and bigger wheels.
    So from this experience I'd say that I really liked both bikes. Right now I have a lot of 26'er stuff in the stable and I can bring lots of spare stuff to races that all fit 26'ers. If I won a 29'er I'd certainly do some riding and racing with it.
    I'd note that all our local clubs get along great and I end up doing a good bit of spring and fall riding on my CX bike and am good technically on it, so used to 29'er size wheels
    I think the 29'er has become popular enough now that there is starting to be competitive prices and availability of parts and tires are also great so no real issues getting a bike set up how you like it.
    I think at the end of the day you will be happy with either 26'er or 29'er.
    Buy what you think you will be happy with and ride! You won't be disappointed!
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by RyderX View Post
    You left out 2 important pieces of information:
    How tall are you ? ( be truthful)
    What is your budget ?
    .
    Oh yeah so I did, oops!

    I'm 5' 8", looking at about 3300 canadian dollars as my top end budget.
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  16. #16
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    Damn you 29er!!!
    I was facing the same exact problem.
    Cheers Utley. What kind of terrain were you test riding the 29er on? How long did you have it for?

    Also, do you do many endurance races?

    Thanks.
    "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional"

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  17. #17
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    And seriously...26 for sure I own ride and raced both,my times on a 26er will always surpass my 29er! 29er for all out XC only everything else they seriously lack!

  18. #18
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    I fall into the category of thinking a 29'er is probably a faster bike but since I also came from a BMX background I like to throw the bike around a little and I would easily consider a 26in bike more fun. Where you priorities are is up to you though. I also feel that if I have been dropped on a ride/race it was never the bikes fault, a strong motor can win on almost anything.
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  19. #19
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    There was an article in a recent Mountain Flyer magazine that was one of the best comparisons I've seen. The author took two very similarly set up bikes, a 26 and 29, and over a number of weeks rode them over multiple courses. Some were clearly suited for the 26, others for the 29. To keep it fair, he measured time and power over each course on each bike. He noted not only the speed differences and power differences, but also how they "felt".

    Turns out that there isn't a nickel's difference between the two wheel choices until you factor the feel that you as the rider like and your skill level. The skill level comes in when you consider the additional stability with the 29er wheel. For me, given my relatively low skill level, it's a no brainer to choose a 29er. Your skill level may be much higher than mine, but I'd still guess that overall you'll be better off on a 29er given the events you listed, as you'll be dealing with a fair bit of fatigue and therefore need for a more forgiving bike after a day or so.

  20. #20
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    I looked at buying a niner this year. Decided instead to put that money into getting myself better. SonI'm still on my 26" and Going to get better. Just a thought. Why replace what you have? Are you not flexible? Do you need a bike fit?
    If you can be blissfully ignorant to the notion that something is impossible, then you might surprise yourself. -- Andrea138

  21. #21
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    For the application you've stated, I'd say the 29er is a no-brainer.

    Forget all the other arguments, the 29er will just be more forgiving of your foggy-brain and exhausted body-induced minor errors during the latter portions of an endurance race.

    Better chance of getting on the box if you aren't laying on the ground on the side of the trail!
    Whining is not a strategy.

  22. #22
    LMN
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    Quote Originally Posted by Damitletsride! View Post
    Oh yeah so I did, oops!

    I'm 5' 8", looking at about 3300 canadian dollars as my top end budget.
    The budget is an issue.

    At 3300 canadian dollars (assuming your paying full pop) you are looking at a 27-30lb 29er dually. That is a heavy beast.

    If I am racing and that is my budget, I am going to go with a hardtail, probably a 26inch one. You can get a wicked 26inch hardtail for that price. Something that climbs like a rocket ship.

    And really they don't descend that bad. I have no problems keeping up with anyone on mine.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  23. #23
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    The background in my pic, behind my house, is the terrain I ride on Small little ski/mountain bike town called Ogden Utah. Moab and Zion are in Utah as well and about 3 1/2 hours from me. The riding there is absolutely insane!!! 75% of the riding here would be considered "all mountain riding".

    Most people here own 26 inch bikes with 5-6 inches of travel or 29ers with 4 inches.

    We have an Xterra race that comes through my town once a year that I'll race in from time to time but thats about it.

    As I read everyones great responses and reflect on how I described my riding style. I realized how munch energy I have to use when I'm "throwing my bike 26 inch bike around". If I were a serious racer, I could see where the 29er could really help with fatigue.

    Because I did not enjoy the ride of the 29er and do not race that often I'm sticking to my 26 inch bike. However, If racing were important to me I could see my self selling that Anthem 26 inch bike and buying a Anthem 29er. No one is taking my Trance damn it!!!!

  24. #24
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    Go for the 29er. In my neck of the woods (Appalachia/ East Coast/ Mid West), 26" bikes are a rarity. It's almost an event to see one in the middle of a 100 or 50 miler. Most of the guys racing have been on 26ers, and realized the bigger wheels work better in a long race.

    Flickablity doesn't matter when it feels like a big effort to lift a water bottle to your face

  25. #25
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    Agree with the majority! For what you say you need it for, the 29er is your best option.
    I have ridden both, and I have limited experience (resulting in limited tech ability), so for me, the 29 is more fogiving and more compliant...resulting in a faster more comfortable ride for endurance events.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    The budget is an issue.

    At 3300 canadian dollars (assuming your paying full pop) you are looking at a 27-30lb 29er dually. That is a heavy beast.

    If I am racing and that is my budget, I am going to go with a hardtail, probably a 26inch one. You can get a wicked 26inch hardtail for that price. Something that climbs like a rocket ship.

    And really they don't descend that bad. I have no problems keeping up with anyone on mine.
    I've used hardtails as spare bikes in 24 hour races before, and even though I don't mind them for a couple of laps, I can't imagine doing 24 hours on one. Ye that price would get me the mid range Roky Mountain Element 29er. The weight is something I haven't thought about too much, just thinking about the ride properties in terms of how it feels.
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  27. #27
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    for the same money, a 26er will be lighter. i went with a FS 26er this year for that very reason. the race that i am targeting has a decent amount of climbing, so bike weight is important to me. i can't wrap my head around the idea that making a bicycle heavier by increasing the wheel size will somehow make it faster.

    i also couldn't wrap my head around paying $5,000 for a 29lbs mtb!
    something about the west coast...it makes me wanna ride

  28. #28
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    i can't wrap my head around the idea that making a bicycle heavier by increasing the wheel size will somehow make it faster.
    Good point .
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by uncreative View Post
    I can't wrap my head around the idea that making a bicycle heavier by increasing the wheel size will somehow make it faster.
    Probably find some absolute steals on 24-inch, or even 20-inch bikes out there, for that matter!
    Whining is not a strategy.

  30. #30
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    ive ridden both , went from 26er to a rip 9 , than to an anthem x1 29er, nice bikes but decided to go back to a trance carbon sl1 , couldnt be more happy , it put back the fun in riding, if i were to get another 29er , there would be 2 on my list , for your 3300 budget, you can check out the santa cruz tallboy, you can find one in this range , used just a good deal, and it accelerates quick and feels alot like a 26er with the benefits of a 29er, or a specialized epic advanced, now were talking some cheddah, 7k to 10k, i just had a buddy that went from a tallboy to a rocky mountain, he wishes he kept the tallboy

  31. #31
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    My 2 cents:
    I live in Montana and the riding is mostly smooth trails, but huge climbs and descents. Non tech coming from New England riding. There is virtually ZERO flat riding. It's totally binary, either UP or DOWN. My whole riding focus is the Butte 50/100 race lately, so I put on the miles. I see no point to the 29er for this terrain. For hours of smooth climbing, there is no advantage. I am on a Santa Cruz Blur XCcarbon. Not too many 29ers in my group yet. I think only one guy has one.

    If I lived where it was rough trails, or flat trails, I feel the 9ers would be good. So many questions in these forums are affected by geography. I wish under the avatars they would have user's locations stated. It affects so much about what works and what doesn't.

  32. #32
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    29er rolls over bumps easier. If you expect bumps get a 29er.

    The difference between a 29er and a 26er is half the difference between a 26er and a 20.

    I like my 20 inch BMX for smooth stuff.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    The budget is an issue.

    At 3300 canadian dollars (assuming your paying full pop) you are looking at a 27-30lb 29er dually. That is a heavy beast.

    If I am racing and that is my budget, I am going to go with a hardtail, probably a 26inch one. You can get a wicked 26inch hardtail for that price. Something that climbs like a rocket ship.

    And really they don't descend that bad. I have no problems keeping up with anyone on mine.
    If your budget will allow either 26 hard tail or 29 fs, why not split the difference and do a 29 hard tail? I scoffed, scoffed I tell you, for years at the big wheels. About a year in on a big hard tail now (market forces) and I am a believer. Unless you are just scraping inflexible middle age, I think you will be set with the hard tail 29. The ne I ride doesn't exactly have a rep for forgiveness, but I find it crazy smooth.

    Quick addendum in the El Train vein. I live where the piedmont dies in GA. Our riding ranges sandy to rooty to rocky, depending on the trail. Climbs are steep but not long. Measured in seconds at the longest until you hit a race up north.
    Last edited by GrantB; 03-18-2012 at 05:05 AM.
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  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Train View Post
    My 2 cents:
    I live in Montana and the riding is mostly smooth trails, but huge climbs and descents. Non tech coming from New England riding. There is virtually ZERO flat riding. It's totally binary, either UP or DOWN. My whole riding focus is the Butte 50/100 race lately, so I put on the miles. I see no point to the 29er for this terrain. For hours of smooth climbing, there is no advantage. I am on a Santa Cruz Blur XCcarbon. Not too many 29ers in my group yet. I think only one guy has one.

    If I lived where it was rough trails, or flat trails, I feel the 9ers would be good. So many questions in these forums are affected by geography. I wish under the avatars they would have user's locations stated. It affects so much about what works and what doesn't.
    i live on front range alberta north of you, same general up/down terrain (i've ridden plenty in montana) and i would choose my 29er every time outside of big AM/DH rides. they climb technical terrain better (IME) than a 26 and are easier to descend rough terrain when you're really tired which is great for endurance rides
    what would rainbow unicorn do?

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Train View Post
    My 2 cents:
    I live in Montana and the riding is mostly smooth trails, but huge climbs and descents. Non tech coming from New England riding. There is virtually ZERO flat riding. It's totally binary, either UP or DOWN. My whole riding focus is the Butte 50/100 race lately, so I put on the miles. I see no point to the 29er for this terrain. For hours of smooth climbing, there is no advantage. I am on a Santa Cruz Blur XCcarbon. Not too many 29ers in my group yet. I think only one guy has one.

    If I lived where it was rough trails, or flat trails, I feel the 9ers would be good. So many questions in these forums are affected by geography. I wish under the avatars they would have user's locations stated. It affects so much about what works and what doesn't.
    I'm pretty sure Tinker was riding a 29er last year at the Butte 100, no only did he win but he set a new course record. I also think the top 2 finishers in the SS cat were on 29ers.

  36. #36
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    Tinker is a few years away from retirement. He got his butt handed to him at Leadville a few years ago by a number of riders...most on 26" bikes. He is incredible....

  37. #37
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    idk if i want a 29er or 26

  38. #38
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    Tinker Juarez won the Spa City 6 Hour, the opener for USAC's ultra-endurance series this year on a Flash 29er.

  39. #39
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    Here's my perspective. I own a Specialized carbon Epic 26" (full-suspension) and a Carbon 29r Stumpjumper hardtail. I have spent some time on a Stumpy FS 29r as well. all 3 bikes have both similar and very different applications:

    >Epic: This is my mainline 24hr solo bike. It is geared well for the long haul with an
    old school 3x9. On switchbacks and technical courses that require quick judgement
    at 3am....nothing beats this bike for me. The bike is light @ 21.5lbs and climbs well.
    Love the comfort of the FS in a 24.
    >Stumpy 29r: This bike is faster than the Epic on courses that are less technical. The bike
    flat out flies uphill and if you are used to riding a road bike it finesses very similarly
    when you corner. The draw back...as a hard tail it beats you up a bit over the long
    haul. I have not raced this bike over 6hours. I plan to race it as long as I can on a fast
    non-technical 24hr course outside Monterey, CA in June. The bike was made for the
    Laguna Seca course.....I think.... I plan to race in Canmore at the Worlds in September
    and with the rock/roots, etc I doubt the Stumpy 29r will make it out of the EZ Up.
    >Stumpy 29r FS: I found this bike heavier than my Epic and did not fully enjoy it. It was
    set up with heavy wheels which I do not like. Love my Stans Crests!
    >I am considering an Epic 29r shortly but will need to ride one before spending the $$. I
    have heard from a few friends they are "the bike."

  40. #40
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaybo View Post
    It is like saying which is better blondes or brunettes? It is personal choice. Some races 29ers are a benefit while other races a 26er is the best bike. Ride what you like because you will have more fun. Anyone who tells you 29ers are faster in every situation is wrong. I ride a 29er endurance bike but Lance won the Leadville 100 on a 26er Trek. He left the 29ers in his dust....

    I think Lance could win most races on or offroad on any bike. Even a Whippet. lol

  41. #41
    mutaullyassuredsuffering
    Reputation: used2Bhard's Avatar
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    The switchback issue was resolved by getting my cockpit set up right.My first 29'er felt like a tank...couldn't steer it...tough on switchbacks....then I changed stem size and tweaked my bars. After that It could get around them just fine. Bike set up can make a big difference!
    Free will is an illusion, people will always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.

  42. #42
    Cars Are Evil
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    Bike setup does make a huge difference. I also learned to trust the increased traction of the 29er and throw it harder around corners.

    It's really nice at 4am to be able to just roll over stuff.

  43. #43
    mutaullyassuredsuffering
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    Yup...its nice in the dark!
    Free will is an illusion, people will always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.

  44. #44
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    650b...it's the future. Just won the Worlds.
    Can't decide between 26 and 29? Decide between 26 and 29: 650b!

  45. #45
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    If you live in rocky terrain it's a no brainer, especially if you have a dialed fs 29er. I do break out the Ibis Mojo on occasion and hit some tight smooth s/t just to bring back memories from the 90's. Embrace the technology!

  46. #46
    Just ride.
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    Quote Originally Posted by used2Bhard View Post
    The switchback issue was resolved by getting my cockpit set up right.My first 29'er felt like a tank...couldn't steer it...tough on switchbacks....then I changed stem size and tweaked my bars. After that It could get around them just fine. Bike set up can make a big difference!
    What did you go from -> to? Contemplating moving things around on my Cobia.

  47. #47
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    wait for 650b options to start appearing everywhere soon

  48. #48
    NedwannaB
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    Oh yeah

    Quote Originally Posted by rydbyk View Post
    wait for 650b options to start appearing everywhere soon
    My next option is coming into my lbs tomorrow. Ventana 650 specific fs frame! Woohoo
    Wait whuuut, who did he tell you that!?!?....

  49. #49
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    Just for my two cents, I am 100% backwards from Utley above. I come from a motorcross and road racing background and when I moved at xmas this year from my 26" blur to my scalpel 29er I instantly felt more comfortable. I was able to use more mx style riding in my opinion. I lean a ton more, I throw the bike around more. I am so much more comfortable on the 29er than I ever was on the blur. The 29er for me just feels so much more natural. Am I faster? A little, but thats because im comfortable I think.

    That being said, really tight stuff, I mean really tight, is for sure easier on the 26 but plenty doable on the 29. Ive ridden a lot of different trails this year so far and im doing at least 4 NUE races in the next few months and Ill be on the 29er.

    One thing I did do just to mention it, is I have my suspension setup stiffer than the recommended settings. Im running right at 20% maybe a tad less in the back when it calls for 25%. Meaning im running more pressure than I weigh. Thru trial and error on some really technical rock trails with lots of climbing I found that really helped me on the 29er. Just saying it since your looking at full suspension.

    Bottom line, borrow, rent, whatever a 29 and ride it on the trails. I bought mine sight unseen and never looked back but I didnt have a choice to preride it.

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