The Great Debate: Wheel Size 17

Once upon a time, there was a little wheel. Then along came a very very big wheel. Goldilocks, who is notoriously picky, thought something in the middle might be just right. To help you figure out what's what in wheelworld these days, Alex Rankin took his camera to Eurobike 2012 and got the lowdown from the industry. Whilst there is no single right answer for everybody, some of the industry players are already betting the farm on the larger options, at least when it comes to the all-important "trail bike" segment (and XC of course).

What's YOUR take?

Film and Edit Alex Rankin

Credit: alexrankin
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  • brandon.olson.7165

    9/9/2012 8:59 AM

    started on 26" hardtail. a year ago I went to a 29" rigid SS. the bigger wheels are lighter than the bargain 26" wheels I had b4 so I actually didn't experience a huge weight gain + I don't have a suspension fork so I don't really need to shave weight. I feel like the rigid REALLY puts those 29" wheels into play. I road a rigid 26" and I go so much faster over all kinds of terrain and cornering is GRIPPY!! on my 29" AND I get more of a sling shot acceleration curve with more momentum and better cruising speeds. i'm also 6'2". I think it sucks that manufacturers want to phase on an entire wheel size BUT! I think that 26'' look so darn small...27.5 would be a really good standard and once the geometry gets refined I think shorter riders will end up being just as comfortable and be able to realize the advantages of the bigger wheels.

  • ZMC888

    9/9/2012 2:45 AM

    It's not having a new new wheel size that I find scary, it's the desire of the industry to 'phase out' one of the wheel sizes to reduce manufacturing costs. I like 29 or 700c for commuting or even XC racing on straight course, and sure a 650B might even be capable of winning in endros, but I hardly ever race I want to have fun on my bike, and when it comes to having fun 20-26 inch is where it's at. I mean think about it, the only reason a chromo strong as heck BMX can still do big jumps is because it has small comparatively light wheels.

    Also it's weird that the pros say it doesn't really matter as each wheel size has advantages and disadvantages, yet the industry is pushing these wheel sizes as the next big thing.

  • NoahColorado

    9/8/2012 2:26 PM

    People dissing the newer wheel sizes while riding carbon fiber, long-travel, acronym covered, dropper-post enhanced super bikes make me laugh. Remember when we used to defend our choice of full-suspension to old-school hardtail purists - now you've become that same dude. Congratulations, you've turned into your father.

  • kidwoo

    9/8/2012 7:21 PM

    Or someone who just corners hard.

  • NoahColorado

    9/9/2012 1:58 PM

    I don't understand? You can't corner hard on 29" or 27.5" wheels? Perhaps you can't corner well on bikes with whack geometry, but the well-sorted ones it's no problem. Even if bigger wheels were/are slower through corners, I'll take them being faster EVERYWHERE else. Ride what you like, but don't be a hater.

  • kidwoo

    9/9/2012 2:21 PM

    There's a difference between "being a hater" and having direct real world experience. If you don't have a problem with folding wheels in half in corners on 29" wheels, have at it. But some people do. And that doesn't make them someone's father with outdated ideas. We've come a long way to making trail bikes really capable. Stiffness in frames and wheels is part of that. Not everyone wants to walk backwards just because something's 'new'. And that doesn't make them uninformed. Quite the opposite. I don't care what people ride. I just don't want people who need crutches bringing about the extinction of some very good systems.

  • NoahColorado

    9/10/2012 6:58 AM

    Folding crappy 29" wheels - maybe, but as you said wheel technology has come along way. I can't say I go through 29" wheels any faster than 26" - I'm actually finding they don't dent as easily smaller ones due to their angle of attack over square edge hits (maybe? maybe I've just been lucky). I don't see bigger wheels as a "crutch" anymore so than suspension, dropper posts, or disc brakes - they're all just technology that allow you to go faster. Maybe it's a regional thing, but around here more and more fast downhiller dudes are picking up wagon wheelers....the good ones are pretty f-ing rad.

  • kyle10bike

    9/7/2012 6:16 PM

    I see no point in complaining about newer wheel sizes. If you don’t like them, don’t ride them. I think it’s awsome we have one more wheel size to add to the line up. That just leaves us with more options… a perfect bike for every aplication. In the end bikes are bikes no matter what wheel size, and if you’re a good rider, you can shred and have fun on anything.

  • tabletop84

    9/8/2012 3:40 AM

    The point is that marketing is getting so desperate to shove it down your throat. I can't hear it anymore. It just gets repetitive.

  • kidwoo

    9/7/2012 5:45 PM

    Yes it was Willits who 'discovered' that a big wheel rolls over things better. That's why those idiots in wagon trains had 16" wheels on their wagons 200 years ago. God the bike industry is full of stupid. Welcome the new era of flexy ass bike equipment for some choad who doesn't know how to unweight over a rock garden. It's hard enough to find stiff 26" wheels that don't weigh 10lbs. If a 650b wheel is '5%' heavier, guaranteed that's with similar parts which will mean much less rigid. It was kidwoo who discovered 'leverage'. You heard it here first!

  • Colin McCarthy

    9/7/2012 5:21 PM

    Rankin rules.

  • MatMoy

    9/7/2012 4:07 PM

    This "debate" is just a tall guy argumentation. OK, you're over 6", you're skinny, you look ugly on a 26" bike... OK, go find yourself some bigger wheels, but just let normal people live their life and buy wheels suited to them and have fun. There's no fun with 650b or 29" wheels on a bike for people under 5'6 (that's at least 3/4 of the people in this world). Just to go a bit further, there's some frame sizes going from XS to XL, wheels should fit frame size, period.

  • Colin McCarthy

    9/7/2012 5:40 PM

    big wheels roll.

  • veach

    9/7/2012 4:00 PM

    I am going to patent Fully Adjustable Rim Technology right now. F.A.R.T. So you can adjust your rim size, cs length and fork lowers on the fly. K, you heard it here first.

  • tabletop84

    9/7/2012 2:39 PM

    not again

  • Albe23

    9/7/2012 4:09 PM

    Oh its happening again

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