Thoughts On The Future Of 26 Inch Wheels vs 27.5″ers: by Guitar Ted
Several years ago, Niner Bike’s Chris Sugai made a bold prediction in a video from the Interbike showroom floor stating that in ten years from the time of his statement the 26 inch mountain bike wheel would be dead. Well……we kind of suppressed a giggle then, but these days, it seems he might be on to something. What we didn’t know then was that a different wheel size would be proposed as its replacement. That would be the 27.5″er size. (Some call it 650B, but we prefer to call it 27.5″er, because it differentiates from the road size which 650B is based upon. I mean, we do not call big wheeled mountain bikes 700c, if you catch my drift.)
The thing is, really big hit bikes- Down Hill, All Mountain from 150mm travel and up- are really difficult to get right with 29 inch wheels. Designers have toyed with 29 inch down hill and some really long travel bikes with 29 inch wheels exist, (Lenz Sport being the major player here), but for the most part, riders are not drawn to 29″ers for the longer travel applications. Designers and marketers see this, but the big wheeled benefits, so they say, can be felt with long travel and 27.5″ wheels. We have already detailed to you that we will see a lot of longer travel AM bikes for 2013 and even more for 2014.
But what about hard tails? The 29″er rules there, right? Well, maybe here in North America, but Europeans are still warming up to the idea, and some are not buying it at all. Marketers see Europe as being ripe for the 27.5″er hard tail bikes and a big push will be seen in the market place there with XC/Trail oriented 27.5″ers for 2013. We’ll get a feel for just how big this might become very soon, as Eurobike is set to happen soon. Our own c_g will be there covering the biggest news items from the show.
But surely 26 inch wheels are not going away anytime soon, right? Well, I always thought this, but just the other day, while reading the trade paper, “Bicycling Retailer and Industry News“, I spotted this quote from a mid-level company wonk that was talking about long travel 26″ers,”…we see 26″ bikes as becoming a niche.” Wow! Really? I still find that thought sort of shocking myself.
Still, if 27.5″ers can gain a foothold, who knows? Maybe someday we’ll be paying big bucks on an online auction site to score that Fox 40 long travel fork to restore that old 26″er AM sled we loved that sits out in the garage. But maybe not if we have these bigger wheels to play with.