26″, 29″ or 27.5″ (650b)?
There is a growing trend in the UK for larger wheel mountain bikes. You may have heard people talking about 29’ers, 650b or 27.5″ wheels – but what does all this mean? More importantly – does it even matter?
Go back 10 years and pretty much all adult mountain bikes in the UK had one standardised wheel size of 26″. This was deemed to be a universal size that suited most people and most uses, however as frame technology has developed and riders have seeked out improved performance, the options for wheel sizes has grown.
29″ wheels have made great head-way over the last 5 years in the UK – these are notably larger than the standard 26″ wheels and as a result roll more smoothly over uneven terrain to provide a smoother ride. On the flat, the larger radius makes for easier and more efficient pedalling. However, they do have some down-sides, most notably the agility of turning. As the wheel and tyre are much larger, quick turns become more difficult and therefore this wheel size is less flexible when dodging trees and rocks and requires you to slow down more for obstacles.
Given that 26″ wheel bikes are easier to turn, but less efficient to pedal over distances; and that 29″ wheel bikes are smoother to ride but more difficult to turn the UK market is quickly looking towards a middle-ground. 27.5″ wheels are the new trend to hit the UK and are looking like the future for Mountain Biking. They provide all of the benefits of both the smaller 26″ wheel and larger 29″ wheel, together in one parcel. Frames tend to be smaller on these larger wheeled bikes to compensate for the extra size of the wheel and therefore it is important to be aware of this when choosing a new bike.
So, what’s in a wheel size? Well, actually, quite a lot. And depending on what type of riding of you like to do, choosing the right wheel size can make a big difference to your overall ride and comfort.