Tuesday, April 5, 2011

29ers versus 26er - article by... www.bikes.org.uk

There is a lot of debate about which is best when it comes to mountain biking, 29" or 26" wheels and to be honest there are pro`s and con`s to each. 26ers have been around an awful lot longer, partly because they were easier to come by back in the 80`s, but that doesn`t necessarily mean they are better. There are many advantages to big wheeled bikes. The decrease in the approach angle on bigger tyres means that they can roll over obstacles much more easily plus they are much less likely to sink in mud or soft ground thanks to their larger surface area. There is more traction both in a straight line and on corners thanks to the longer contact patch and of course, bigger wheels means more ground clearance. Riding on big wheels with low tyre pressures also absorbs bumps and pot holes easily and helps your bike stick to the road like glue. The increased weight and momentum gives riders much more grip which makes travelling at speed a breeze as well as giving greater confidence in riding a straighter line.

There are some drawbacks too and it is mostly down to the weight. The wheels on a 29er are always going to be heavier than its smaller counterparts. The extra weight is part of a rotating mass so it actually counts as double. Having a greater mass means you need more force to change the steering angle and the longer spokes mean the wheels themselves are much more flexible. There`s the height issue as well, a smaller rider (under 5`5" for example) is probably going to find a 29er much harder to ride, although the flipside of that is that for tall riders a 29er is going to be much more ergonomic.

So really it comes down to what kind of rider you are and what you want out of a bike. Most 29ers are a bit more flexible than a smaller 26" bike and they can be heavy and slow to manoeuvre. When it comes to trail riding, however, both types of bikes are pretty good. A decent 26er will take a 29er where there is a lot of manoeuvring or a steep descent involved but when it comes to technically challenging situations, 29ers are far superior thanks to their low centre of gravity and their ability to roll over obstacles with ease.

Although on the whole 26ers are a little ahead of 29ers in terms of development, there are improvements being made all the time. There is a new breed of 29ers which have been precision engineered to give high performance to rival any of the smaller and more manoeuvrable 26ers out there. At the end of the day it comes down to personal preference and the way you ride but the enhanced ability to ride over obstacles, increased stability and reduced rolling resistance certainly makes 29" wheeled bikes a very appealing option.