650 B: You’re Going To Hear A Lot About This- Again: by Guitar Ted.

Now that the cat is out of the bag.

We’ve covered the “Goldilocks” wheel size, better known as 650B, here before at TNI. We even had a website dedicated to the mtb version of the ISO584 tires and bikes for awhile, but it was scuttled after the initial interest in 650B waned and manufacturers let the wheel size sink back into the shadows for awhile. Now, it is poised for not just a return, but to be “the next big thing” in mountain biking.

From SRAM's OE MY2013 Catalog (Image courtesy of anonymous contributor)

We were tipped off to the existence of the above image showing a Rock Shox 650B version of a Revelation model fork back in mid-December from an Australian source. This shows us that the 650B presence in the marketplace is going to be real. Why? Because the tooling and set up to make a fork lower is expensive, and Rock Shox/SRAM isn’t going to produce a fork like this without an OE contractor. Who could that be?

We have had contact with representatives of DT Swiss who told us back in December that they were “getting hammered” about 650B specific wheels from several manufacturers, including a “California based” manufacturer that was going to hit the market with a line of 650B mountain bike products. We were also tipped off by this same DT Swiss source saying that several new tires were also in the works to support this new push for 650B wheels.

Why Now? Here at Twenty Nine Inches, we’ve analyzed the reasons why a 650B mountain bike might be getting a big push from several manufacturers. First, take a look at the model that was chosen for 650B suspension duties. That Revelation model has a travel rating from 130mm to 150mm. This overlaps the maximum travel that we’ve seen 29″ers go to. Many manufacturers are expressing to us the difficulties in making a 29 inch full suspension bike that combines all the attributes of short chain stays, long travel, and triple chain ring capacity with the biggest 2.4″ tires on wide rims. 650B has always been touted as a way to overcome that issue. Next, front ends and stand over issues are another complexity facing designers of longer travel 29″ers. 650B would obviously relax those issues for designers of 5 plus inch travel bikes.

650B will therefore be seen as a way to get your cake and eat it too. Bigger wheels with longer travel with none of the geometry and fit issues that come along with 29 inch wheels. We’re going to hear about this a lot, and soon we’ll be seeing these products and bikes appear. Our bet is that Sea Otter will be quite interesting this year.

While we suspect some 650B hard tails will also come along in the coat tails of this new push for 650B, we’re betting it will be slotted into the longer travel applications where 29″er wheels are proving to be a difficult sell to the core market users of long travel and where the designers of full suspension for those folks don’t feel 29 inch wheels work.

Stay tuned for further developments on this story.

For more on the rumors and news about this development, click the link at the top of this post in the first line which will take you to “Mountain Bike” where we saw the story break first.