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 Guitar Ted
Looking back at the year gone by now I have seen a lot of things that have impacted my mind as being significant, not the least of which was changing the look of this very site earlier in the year. A change which was a year or more in the, (off and on), making. Then there was the launch of the German Twenty Nine Inches site, (see it here). So, just from a technical, media standpoint, 2012 was a sea change for c_g, Grannygear, and myself.
Along with that I have noticed that the entire perspective on these mountain bikes we focus on has changed dramatically. 29″ers are still here and as strong as ever. As you read in c_g’s piece, even in Europe 29″ers are now more mainstream and accepted. However, with the 29″er’s proliferation, and therefore market saturation, companies are looking for “the next big deal” in cycling. Something to keep the ball rolling, as it were, and for some companies, a chance to cash in on the next trend because they missed the boat on 29″ers.
With the new landscape in mountain biking, we here at Twenty Nine Inches have batted around ideas on how we should change along with things. We added accessory reviews, and we have dabbled into the news of 27.5 inch wheeled bikes, (once again), while trying to keep our main focus on 29 inch wheels. It has been a challenging and exciting year here for sure. Now, at the end of another year, we will be looking at even more tweaks in the months to come regarding this site and how we do things.Looking at a few specific things I found very interesting, I was very impressed by Shimano’s Shadow Plus rear derailleur technology. This is a component tweak that will be a time marker for those of us who have been mountain biking in the “pre-clutch” era of rear derailleurs. There will be conversations in the future about those “old derailleurs that derailed your chain in the rough stuff and remember the noise?” Having single speed drive train quietness with a full compliment of gears and no noises from chain slap will be a revelation to those riders who get 2013’s with the SRAM and Shimano clutch equipped rear derailleurs. I know I can hardly stand my clattering old derailleurs now!
Another thing I was interested in was what the limits of 29″er technology might be. Bikes like Cube’s Stereo 29 are few and far between. Carbon fiber, full suspension, and 140mm travel from front to rear. Talking with several companies, it seems that the realities of the limitations of the size of these wagon wheels is reached at 140mm of travel. Not that it can not, or should not be pursued, because as we have seen from c_g’s reports on the Stereo, the limits of 29″er technology can be exhilarating. However; it also seems to point to the line of demarcation set by manufacturers, a line which when crossed over will lead to the coming wave of 27.5″ers.
Finally, the new-ish trend of the “All Mountain Hardtail 29″er” is something I think is going to catch a lot of folks attention. Diamondback’s Mason hard tail is on test with me now and has shown me, (once again), that there are still more surprises in twenty nine inch wheels for those that have not ridden such a bike. The numbers for these bikes may not make sense for many riders on the surface of things, but given the chance to ride such a bike, I think we’ll be seeing these rigs in more places than British Columbia.
What will the future bring? Who knows? When I first heard about 29 inch wheels in 2000, you couldn’t see one unless you were aware of the small internet forums devoted to the upstart wheel size. I got a hold of my first one in 2003, just, (almost), ten years ago now. Then these bikes were oddities that were not expected to stick around by most in the cycling industry. Now, an entrenched category of mountain biking, 29″ers are old hat. Many young folk may not even know 26 inch wheeled bikes were the only choice in mountain biking for many years.
A New Year and with it new changes. It should prove to be another exciting, challenging, and fun year for us, and we hope for you readers as well. Thank you for making Twenty Nine Inches a stop on your internet cruising, and we hope our work here is of some value to you. As always, our goal is to help you achieve a higher level of fun and to help you enjoy the benefits from cycling, which we believe is not only a healthy habit for you, but for our environment as well. Whatever you choose to ride, we wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year and miles of smiles.