old and the new

“Yes, my child…I was there when 29er”s were still considered weird.”

By Grannygear.

Looking back on the old, and looking ahead to the new, I wanted to sift out a couple of products that struck me as important, not only for how well they worked, but for what they represented.

It is without a doubt that this past year was different. With the industry rush to a new wheel size, things slowed down in the 29″er marketing world. Bike and accessory makers were either in search of the true “best of both worlds” or were desperately trying to ready-up the latest ‘thing’ to hook the consumer into needing a new bike…you decide which. But in either case, 27.5″ was a big time and money suck for any company looking to maximize it’s engineering/marketing budget. As well, 29″ers have come a long way and are pretty well figured out by now. The days of big wheel fans hanging on every new post about another tire or wheel or carbon FS are past us.

And then there was the Great Flood of 2014, where I found my house filled with a few inches of water from a plumbing issue. That took me out of any real bike biz from Mid-August to just about now, actually. Between living out of a hotel and then back home living out of boxes, the small details of bikes and reviews had to take a back seat.

So I did not review as much as I typically do, but there were two things that left an impression on me and that I think represent either an important trend or a evolution of the breed. The first is a bike that continues to impress me every time I ride it.

DSC05885Scott Sports Genius 910 –

In the beginning, 29ers were typically hard tails with rigid forks, then the early Rock Shox Reba came along. Of course full suspension was a natural development, and then carbon and on and on to the point where now we have a dizzying array of bikes with 29″ wheels. But as new and exciting as those first years were, the riding experience was often still in that awkward, adolescent stage. Geometry, suspension design, better forks and tires…all this was still being worked out. These were issues that 26″ wheeled bikes had figured out ages ago. It took a while, but today, as 29″er fans, we are in a really good place as I think we have shed the pimples of puberty and moved into what is at least young adulthood. Big wheels and clear skin too. Awesome.

And to me, this bike, the Scott Genius 910, represents just how good things have gotten. Take a look at what we have here.

  • Carbon main frame. Alu rear section. Keeps it a bit more affordable but puts the carbon where it can do its best work.
  • Selectable on-the-fly rear travel between 90mm and 130mm
  • 130mm front travel
  • A moderate and modern trail bike geometry that is user adjustable between two settings.
  • Drivetrain and brakes that are so good, so reliable, and so easy to live with that it brings a tear to the eye.
  • A suspension design that pedals efficiently and smoothly, yet runs down rough trails like crazy.
  • Dropper post.
  • Weight well under 30lbs.

It just amazes me how good this bike is when I am just out trail riding the thing. Not racing, not fretting over Strava times, just riding with a big old smile on my face. With the right lightweight parts on it and that Twin Loc lever giving me the option for a more XC feel to the suspension, I could line up at a local Average Joe’s race and not be riding a knife into a gunfight. It will climb all day, albeit with a slightly slower tempo than something like their Spark XC FS bike, yet run down rougher trails with a combo of grace and speed that no 100mm XC bike can match. Are there other bikes that can do the same thing? Undoubtably so. And that reinforces why this bike represents something so significant.


In a word, ‘maturity’. This is a very mature bike.

Trail bike suspension with efficiency and agility too. A weight that is still in the ‘fun zone’ for all around use. A component choice that will run for miles and miles and not break the bank when parts wear. The Scott Sports Genius 910 is a fine example of where we 29″er riders have come to. And we have come to a very sweet place indeed.

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American Classic Wide Lightnings

I remember the day in the 90s when a buddy came riding up on a set of the rolled down Mavic MA40 rims that Keith Bontrager had created for 26″ wheeled bikes. Looking back on those, I now know that riding a rim that narrow and shoehorning a 2.2 tire and tube in there was stupid, but the weight savings were pretty crazy compared to an old rim like an Araya RM25. Now somewhere along that timeline of development, we went from wide rims to narrower ones and stayed there, although not to such an extreme as the MA40s. Up until a year or so ago, a normal MTB rim would be somewhere around 19mm to 21mms internal width and 23mm to 26mm external width. They might have been lighter or heavier or weaker or stronger, but they were not really far outside those dimensions.

Until lately. Among others like Velocity with the Blunts, Blunt 35’s and the crazy wide Dually, we have Ibis touting the “New Normal”. Their ‘New Normal’ 928 wheel has a carbon rim with a 22mm internal width/28mm external and a weight of 1580g a pair. The ‘New Wide’ they advertise is the 941, a carbon rim that is 35mm internal/41mm external and weighs under 1800g. You could set the old MA40 inside the ‘New Normal’ rim and most of the MTB rims I have in the garage would fit inside the inner walls of the ‘New Wide’ 941s. All except one.


The American Classic Wide Lightnings.

The American Classic Wide Lightnings are a real fighter in the battle for the wider MTB rim, balancing XC weight, tubeless use, and a no-nonsense build with an under a grand price. With a 29.3mm internal and 32mm external width, they fall around the same dimensions as the Velocity Blunt 35 and are right in between the two Ibis rim dimensions. At 1569g, they are light enough to race on and strong enough to trail ride with.

The real bennies of a wider rim come from the ability to run tires at lower pressures and have the tire be supported by the wider rim’s stance, allowing for a surprising amount of stability even at pressures well below normal. Plus or minus 5psi is a lot on a MTB tire, and the increased traction and wider footprint delivered by a wider rim and a lower PSI tire can have a dramatic affect on bike handling. As well, it tends to spread out the tire and increase tire volume, so a 2.1″ tire plumps to 2.2, a 2.2 to a 2.3, etc, something Bill Shook’s rim design does with not only the width, but the bead hook and sidewall dimensions. So a smaller, lighter tire can have the volume of a one size larger (and heavier) tire.

So far the set I have had has been trouble free, even on a 130mm trail bike, although they have been treated well and not abused. Based on the experience we have had with American Classic products, I expect no hub issues or spoke issue or tubeless issues, etc.

The American Classic Wide Lightnings represent a trend that will lead to good things for 29er riders. Wider rims, as long as we do not pay a high price in weight, will be nothing but good for the average MTB rider and suddenly, all other rims that are the ‘old normal’ seem off the back. And that puts these wheels on my favorite for 2014 list.

Note: These two products were sent over for test and review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.