MTBing on big wheels

Man riding a 29er MTB on single track.

The next big thing? 29er MTBs are being tested at elite level, but the jury's still out. Image source:

Likes and dislikes we have them all, which is part of our human nature, free will thinking allows the commercial world to keep looking for more choice offerings for the taking. Mountain Bike riders certainly have a lot more to look for in making choices related to where or how they might like to ride.

Handling is directly related to the frame set up and components, choices are a plenty as the style of bike depends on the discipline of off road riding being undertaken. Since the 1980s the MTB scene has had a new choice based on wheel size the traditional 26 inch or the 29 inch more aligned with the road bike size tyre 700c. Apparently the concept grew out of a prototype built up by English off-road cycling pioneer Geoff Apps in which he used 700c Nokia snow tires from Finland. Other MTB frame designers and builders Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly became intrigued and the rest is now living and growing MTB bike history.

MTBs have been likened to that four wheel drivers in that the original intent for harsh off road conditions has changed considerably and the spectrum of users has widened becoming more of a recreation freedom in get away from the maddening crowd. Like some four wheel drivers of the common term of Toorak Tractors, might never get their tyres dirty or really know where the four wheel drive levers and interlocking hubs are to operate. Some MTB riders are merely off road path riders and enjoy the comfort that dual suspension frame geometry delivers.

The introduction of the 29 inch wheel and tyres for off road use has brought much debate about the larger wheel delivering a wider area to share the surface area over rough terrain. The big wheels found on 29er mountain bikes can be run at lower pressures and allow a bigger contact area with the ground giving much more grip. The thoughts are the 29er can cope with extra weight and are well suited to the taller and heavier riders, allowing a greater momentum they can carry at speed granting more stability. There is also the open debate that they will be more sluggish for the serious technical riders that use the 26 inch wheels and bounce over unbelievably rough terrain at amazing speeds.

Increased height for the centre brackets has been overcome with new designs specifically for 29er bikes, low stand over height has been achieved, wheelbase reduced to compare with the 26 inch length and much work to get stronger and lighter wheels. All this with other technical aspects of frame length and cornering response make some sense to the serious discerning MTB competitor to try a 29er.

Weight can have an effect on acceleration harder to get rolling and braking making slower to stop due to momentum forces gained being heavier. While it would seem negligible to some again to the discerning all factors to be added up and weighed out in performance where 10ths of a second means a win or loss, already 29ers are now winning at the world cup level in elite men. Anyone on a bike has to be a winner and 29er’s beckons you out there to consider.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing


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