Over the past few years there’s has been much conversation of wheel size within the industry - with the standardised mtb wheel size moving from 26-inch to 27.5-inch perhaps causing much of the controversy. Now, many brands are looking to the biggest, most burly wheel size around for their gravity oriented bikes…the 29er.
With their ability to carry speed over obstacles and remain stable, Cross-Country race mountain bikes have used 29-inch wheels for ever and a day, and now, this wheel size mentality is being brought into the gravity oriented world of mountain biking.
Enduro racing requires many of the characteristics that 29-inch wheels offer and this is the main crux of why the largest wheel size on the market is being introduced to several longer travel rigs. So, what are the core benefits to 29-inch wheels over their smaller counterparts;
Naturally, with the increase in diameter to 29-inch wheels comes an increase in stability - and that’s particularly significant when it comes to rough terrain. On ‘big mountain’ descents where you’ll find large rock and root features, a 29-inch wheel will cope better and provide more stability, enabling the rider to remain confident and fast through technical sections.
“29ers aren’t new, actually they’ve been around almost as long as the 26-inch wheel has, the key thing at moment is the advances is technology. With the introduction of boost hubs front and rear, 29ers have really shown the trail, alpine and enduro markets what they are capable of.”
- Sam Bannister, Bike Buyer.
Speed is everything when it comes to enduro racing, and due to the ‘stage’ format of the discipline, enduro racing requires riders to be quick on the ascents, the descents and on the flatter sections of the course. A 29-inch wheel lends many attributes to carrying speed through the different elevations of enduro racing and indeed riding in Alpine environments.
Sam says: “I’ve been a fan of 29ers for a long time now, and this is mainly down to the ‘speed for free’ you get. By maintaining rolling speed over technical features in the trail means you’re ultimately faster down the trail and less likely to get caught-up in tricky parts.”
One of the main selling points of a longer travel 29er is its ability to feel as confident as a downhill bike on the descents but remain as nimble and responsive on the climbs as a shorter-travel, 27.5” trail bike. This is a major reason why the 29-inch, longer travel philosophy is becoming so popular throughout both the enduro racing and trail riding scenes.
“I feel the slight loss of manoeuvrability you get with a 29er is worth the overall speed, and the improving geometries and lighter & lighter weight builds have really made the 29er a force to be reckoned with out on the trail.”
– Tom Crane, Equipment and Components Buyer.