So there’s a lot of discussion about wheel sizes for mountainbiking. World cups have been won this year on 26ers, 29ers and on the new 650b (27,5inch). Those who think that the 29er is the better bike usually claims that the larger wheels rolls better over bumps and gives better traction when climbing. The disadvantages would be that the larger wheels are heavier which makes acceleration slower. Also the overall weight of the bike is higher since wheels, tires and the fork is heavier then on a 26er. 650b is sort of in between the two and there’s not that many models out on the market yet.
In the last year I’ve seen that more and more people are switching to 29ers and I wanted to give it a try myself, to see if I was faster on one. I decided to do a back to back test on my two testloops to see which bike’s the fastest for me. The bikes I used was these two:
26er Aluminum 1350g wheelset w/ 500g race king 2,2 (my current race bike)
29er Aluminum 1495g wheelset w/ 450g Geax barro race 2,0
Basically there’s not much weight differens between the two bikes except the wheels and tires. Also the fork on the 29er is about 100g heavier then on the 26er.
The first testloop is pretty flat with lots of twists and turns and also quite a lot of roots and stones.
2nd testloop has a hilly and technical section and also a flat and easy section.
Conclusion: I thought the 29er would be faster on the 2nd loop since you get better traction with the 29er on the climbs. Turned out I was faster with the 26er on both. I was surprised over how big the difference it was between the bikes. Going from the 29er to the 26er it became very clear that the 26er feels a lot quicker, which is also why I was faster with it (I think). Acceleration is a lot easier and faster. Tho the 29er feels a lot smother over the bumps once you’re up to speed and it’s easier to keep the momentum over the technical stuff.
I don’t think 29ers are for everyone. I think it comes down to your riding style and what type of racing you do. If a 29er supports your weakness (climbing or technical riding) then maybe you’re faster then with one. I’ll continue to race my 26er.