Editor’s Note: For several years now I have closed out the year with a Top Ten List. However; with the proliferation of gear, complete bikes, and now our broadened focus on non-29″er related stuff, this approach made less sense to me. So this year we decided to bring you our thoughts on what we found significant, odd, or what ever it was that struck us as important to comment on from the past year. Each of us were free to choose whatever it was we wanted to write about.

I hope you enjoy these opinion pieces. Thanks for reading Twenty Nine Inches, and we all wish you a Happy New Year.

2012- Looking In The Rearview Mirror-by Grannygear

Some things change…some things stay the same.

Looking back over 2012, it was a year when the 29″er world ‘settled’ a bit as far as innovation and new things. In 2010/2011 companies could not bring big wheels to market fast enough as the big-wheeled bandwagon had passed some key players by. 2012 was a bit muted compared to this frenzied rush to market share, and except for the deluge of carbon 29″er hard tails, many being me-too China Specials, there was not a great deal of buzz out there for 29″er fans. 2013 looks to be more of the same as 27.5 is poised to suck up the lion’s share of money and marketing focus moving towards 2014. And that, so it seems, is the life breath of the cycling industry. “What is new?” and “when can I buy it?“. Things change and that drives the economy and satiates our consumer need and sometimes even makes cycling better in the process. Sometimes, but not always.

And I cannot remember a time when cycling was so niche. 700c wheels can be, just in a dirt sense…never mind road stuff…Monster Cross, Gravel, Cyclocross, Adventure Touring, 29″ers, and whatever the new Surly Krampus is. Whew! Fat bikes are growing like acne on a 15 year old and there is XC, Trail, AM, DH, AM hard tail, endurance, single speed, and the list goes on. Lots of slices in that pie.


Some things stay the same. For instance – Simplicity. Value. Fun.

One thing that has grown out of the popularity of those big wheels is a near resurrection of simple bikes for off road use. Consider the hard tail. Before 29″ers, I knew no one that rode a hard tail anymore unless they were a kid, a hard core XC racer boy, or broke. Everyone else rode FS cuz 26″ hard tails are pretty sucky unless you have an iron spine or are a trail acrobat. Single speeds? Ummm…sure if you had a beach cruiser. Steel frames? Wait, let me think a minute…

29″ers do more with less. And that big rolling doughnut of grace has made a simple bike fun again for more people. A steel 29″er hard tail, of which there are many to choose from, is a pretty sweet ride and Ti? Well, dreams are made of such things. Single speeds and big wheels are a perfect match. The craftsman who stitches together an off road capable frame just for you is still here and quite possibly thriving, due mostly, I would say, to the 29″ wheel.

As a bike reviewer and typical bike nut, I have to be, and am willingly so, on the fast train to what is new and next. The readers expect it. So, carbon this or that, new drive train upgrades, smart forks and shocks and all that techno-weenie stuff is fun and has elevated the modern mountain bike to a level of performance (and cost) that is amazing. But often I am struck by how one can have such a good time on a simple bike with high quality, well made components and a basic approach to getting out there by bicycle.

And I think 29″ wheels helped us rediscover that.

Image stolen and embellished from 'Fixie' Dave Nice, a simple man living a simple life on simple bikes. Whee, indeed.


Linky to Dave’s blog http://cellarrat.blogspot.com