Several years back now, the 29er mountain bike started taking over the market. The cry “26 ain’t dead” quickly became the anthem of the skeptics - a dying anthem as it turns out. At this point I think it is safe to say that the 26-inch wheel is officially dead. Why? Because 29ers have proven to be superior. Here’s why.
Faster on the ups
The world’s fastest cross country racers finished experimenting with smaller wheels a while ago. Now, almost every lycra-clad weight weenie from World Cup racers to weekend warriors have embraced 29er mountain bikes for their superior speed. In fact, they adopted the big hoops early, for a reason. They rode them. They loved them. When the trail pointed up, the added grip on the rear wheel for those nasty technical climbs never hurt. Oh, and the rollover advantage didn’t hurt either.
Faster on the downs
Big hoops descend faster. Downhillers and enduro riders paid attention to the XC world. They saw the benefits, especially when the trail points down. In fact, the rate at which 29er mountain bikes have taken over World Cup downhill is remarkable. In a year, many racers have opted for 29ers. DH riders may have been slow to adopt 29ers initially but when they finally got a taste, the floodgates opened. The benefits of a 29er for descending are not limited to the world’s elite. Riders of any skill level, doing a wide variety of different types of riding, can experience the benefits of bigger wheels on the descents. 29ers carry momentum better, a crucial element to maintaining speed on the trail. Oh, and there’s also that thing called traction. Bigger wheels mean a bigger footprint while cornering and braking. When you ride a 29er, every root, rock, and hole just seems to get smaller.
29ers are more fun. Controversial statement? Maybe. Just hear me out. Go back to my first point about 29ers being faster. More speed equals more fun, right? Of course, it does. At first, before modern geometry and technology caught up, 29ers were criticized for being sluggish and not playful. That argument rarely holds water anymore. I mean, have you ridden a 29er recently? 29ers are just as playful as their smaller wheeled counterparts while instilling more confidence in rough terrain. Oh, and did I mention they provide a smoother ride? Add it all together and you get an increase in your enjoyment while riding. In other words, more fun.
Options, options everywhere. Go online. Do a search. More tire, fork, frame, and rim options can be found than ever before. The days of not being able to run your favorite tires because they weren’t made in a 29 inch version have long since passed. In fact, you’re probably more likely to have that problem if you go with smaller wheels. Even downhillers on 29ers have more options than ever before. Putting together a downhill 29er race bike doesn’t require creative jerryrigging like it did in the past. To top it off, many fork and frame companies give you the option to switch out your 29er wheels with 27.5 plus wheels. In fact, Niner makes a number of models that are compatible with 27.5 plus wheels for looser terrain or if you simply want more cush on the trail. 29 inch wheels also have the same diameter rim as road, gravel, and cyclocross bikes meaning more wheel and tire options for all your bikes!
Yes, consider a 29er mountain bike
If you’re not really sure, that’s great. Do some test rides. Your local bike shop should be able to hook you up with some demos. Ultimately, I’d recommend the 29er for your go-to all around bike. They’re quite simply a great option. 29ers have ruled races and are ubiquitous amongst everyday trail riders, marathoners, 100 mile specialists, 24 hour racers and people who just want to go all day.