The idea of a new, larger diameter wheel standard will have many people reaching for their pitchforks and the caps lock key, but what if there's a good argument to be made for a 32" wheel? Or even a 36er? For as much as many of us love shiny new gear, we're a cynical bunch when it comes to the kind of wholesale changes that another wheel size would require. Then again, given that we've already been down that trail on 27.5" wheels, many of us against our will, a weary opinion would be completely reasonable. And expected.
But if 29" wheels on a trail bike make many things easier, what would happen if wheels got even larger? And should someone who's 5'5" be on the same wheel size as someone who's 6'5"? You guys asked in the comments, so we put some feelers out—and surprisingly, got confirmation that at least one brand is currently testing both 32" and 36" wheels.
Former World Cup and National racer Travis Brown leads Trek's Field Testing program where he's currently experimenting with the two larger wheel sizes to find out how they compare to bikes that we're more familiar with. There's no need for that pitchfork anytime soon, though, with Brown stressing that his 32er and 36er are for pure research and development purposes only; there won't be an even bigger-wheeled Top Fuel anytime within the coming few years, and maybe never at all. The idea, Brown explained, is for them to find out what's possible, what works, and what doesn't.
We called up Travis to get the lowdown on Trek's weird-wheeled prototypes, where they excel and where they fall short, and to find out what the stopwatch says about them. Spoiler alert: Bigger is faster.
If you want to read the interview instead of listening to it, you can see our entire conversation with Travis here
Available on Apple Podcasts
, Google Play
, or wherever else you get your podcasts.
THE PINKBIKE PODCAST // EPISODE 8 - DO WE NEED A LARGER WHEELSIZE STANDARD?
May 13th, 2020
Will your 26" tubes even fit?!
Hosted by Mike Levy and featuring a rotating cast of the editorial team and other guests, the Pinkbike Podcast is a weekly update on all the latest stories from around the world of mountain biking, as well as some frank discussion about tech, racing, and everything in between.Previous Pinkbike PodcastsEpisode 1 - Why Are Bikes So Expensive?Episode 2 - Where the Hell is the Grim Donut?Episode 3 - Pond Beaver TechEpisode 4 - Why is Every Bike a Trail Bike?Episode 5 - Can You Trust Bike Reviews?Episode 6 - Over Biked Or Under Biked?Episode 7 - Wild Project Bikes
Hit us in the comments with your suggestions: What do you want to hear us talk about? Would you be into watching a video version, or are our dulcet voices enough for you?
Interesting. Progress is always a tax on people who are happy with the status quo, that's fair enough. But a lot of people aren't satisfied with the status quo either.
As media we have a vested interest in change, of course, but I do want bikes to keep improving where possible—even if I don't chase KOMs.
Lol. Boost is the go to. Everything is still available in boost. If you’re riding a boost bike, you’re fine. You’ll be able to upgrade it for years to come. There’s no problem. It just means you can’t buy the new pivot or the new knolly you want and bring the wheels with you. But boost is still the de facto standard for almost every brand.
Now I’m not saying that will last forever. But for now it’s not a problem.
I mean I really had way more fun since I was that crucial half second faster on my 29er last time I rode my hometrail but still...
Shorter riders already get arse buzz with 29 rear. Maybe for ridrs around 6.5 ft a 32/29 mullet combo could work.
I'd like a 40/36 beach cruiser please :-)
32 and beyond could absolutely make sense for taller folk. Sorry for your loss manlets
I would hope bike tech improves over the next 10 years, rather than manufacturers sit back and go ‘yep, that’ll do.’
Aren't we all about inclusion around here? How could riders under 6'2" possibly ride a 32" or 36" wheeled bike down a technical DH course? Future downhillers will all have to look like Cathro! (no offense Ben, you're the man! All Gid!) Those big wheels, under a tall rider will absolutely be faster than a 5'8" rider on a 27.5er or 29er. Where's the limit? Maybe that's the way things will progress in the sport, riders getting taller and taller to accommodate the larger, faster wheels. I mean it's only about going faster and faster right? "Improving" right?
Yes you have a vested interest in change. Why has the "change" been so focused on "faster" lately? There's more to this activity than that. Little to no lifestyle pieces. Bikes that aren't "faster" are portrayed as inferior. Expand yo mind Craig!
But not every one will be able to get the best out of it!
But smaller riders can use reinforced shorts, until they realize that they need to go smaller at least in the rear?
If you search for wheels there are 10 listings, only one could be a possible option. I say possible because it gives no information about the wheel and it's nearly $800 for only the rear...
You also reference derailleur options, on CRC there are 8 choices. Only 1 is nine speed (BOX Components) and it's out of stock. Plus it won't work with a Shimano shifter if you are trying to replace a broken part so you would need to replace the derailleur and shifter.
If you take a look at suspension forks on CRC there are no 1 1/8" steerer 100mm QR forks available, not even a listing for one.
That's just one distributor that normally carries more options then others. This does sound like hard to find parts to me compared to whats readily available and sold.
One or two options is not the same as an option from every tier level and from each brand.
CRC aren’t a distributor, they are a retailer, but all the options I’ve mentioned above can be found via a fairly well known website called, iirc, ‘Google’.
It’s also worth knowing that just because something isn’t listed, doesn’t mean it can’t be made by much smaller companies that don’t have mass market presence.
My point being, of you really want to hang on to an old frame or parts (despite new ones being faaar better) you can. Complaining that you can’t get an exact, brand new, replacement of something that went out of production 25 years ago, 8 speed XTR for example, is ridiculous.
This, of course, is ignoring the second hand market, where everything is still available.
I can see what you’re saying that parts are becoming less available from top brands, and that is totally a bummer.
But that’s the price you pay for innovation- Where do you draw the line on what’s ‘Good enough?’ You know damn well somebody complained about 6 and 7 speed being replaced with the 8 and 9 speed parts you are happy with... What if those parts never got made?
It would be nice if manufacturers continued their legacy product lines forever, but that’s just not affordable, and stifles the resources needed to move forwards.
Fortunately for us, this is where secondary manufacturers who aren’t worried about a cutting edge reputation can take up the torch and supply that demand. This is no different from any other industry- You can’t expect Sony for instance, to keep selling CRT televisions, but if you really want one, they are available.
Fortunately for you, the world of the high-end MTB bubble is positively littered with 26” and 8 and 9 speed bikes. Parts for these machines will probably be available after our actual deaths. It may not come with an XTR badge, but It’ll work fine.
Its about choice they said....
well can i have a 26er then?
no we stopped making those
I don't think that for most types of riding and most sizes of people the demand for 27.5 or 29 will go away any time soon. Less 27.5 trail bikes maybe, but there are lots of smaller riders and kids that the industry will need to provide for.
This of course would not be possible if we, the consumers were not such a suckers... Average Joe will buy anything for the promise of performance gain with no effort.
Used to ride 26, tried 27.5, now ride 29. I would lie if I say I ride faster because 29ich. There are so many variables. I can only say I did not have a wow effect going to 29. I think what matters is: 1. You, 2. Geometry 3. Suspension, 4. Brakes, 5. Wheel size. In this order. I mean for enduro style riding.
May be that grim donut would work better with scooter wheels?
‘Size doesn’t matter’?
A manufacturer has wondered ‘what would happen if...’ and you all are already slamming it. They don’t normally tell you about it at such an early stage, but it’s called progress, this is how it happens, deal with it.
What I want to see is the 32" wheel to catch on, all teams using them to the point where 29" tires stop being made. Then, a couple old school DH track that are twisty AF and treacherous show up in the WC rotation. That would be fun to watch!
I really wonder if I should just start a business where I get some Chinese company to make some 26" frame with some new random linkage design , then write a lengthy article full of BS engineering (not that you guys would be able to tell) on why 26 is better for trail riding, and then spec it out with AXS/Fox stuff and sell it for $8k a pop.
I'm not sold on bigger wheels obviously. We do need better rear suspension though. High pivot idler designs are a step in the right direction and I believe we'll be seeing big strides in those setups soon. Forward axle paths are inferior. 29 front with a smaller, lighter and more maneuverable rear wheel (27.5) attached to a mostly rearward axle path seems pretty logical for any riding that is more aggressive than standard trail riding. I love the SC Blur on trail rides but once the trail points down at a certain grade for a certain distance the Blur is sketchy AF. Did I just sell myself on the Druid Mullet?
People complain about e-bikes. At what size are huge wheels considered cheating?
>Some of the differences are good some bad but for the most part, given that most other geo and suspension variables are close, the 29ers feel like boats
This is all due to the geo. People fail to undersand this bit.
From the perspective of forces, the thing that matters is the two contact patches, the CG location with respect to those contact patches, and the steering geometry (headtube angle and trail) The ground doesn't care which wheel size you have, it will apply forces on the contact patches based on what the steering input is and the resultant force/torque from that is what makes a bike turn .
If you take a 29 and 27.5 bike and 26 bike, and equate those 3 things (which would invovle different geometry because you would have to have different bb drop for each wheel size to keep the height the same), the bikes would feel identical turning. Wheel inertia moments are negligible.
It just so happens that 29ers are on the avearge longer than 27.5. But if you compare a Trek 29+ bike with a modern 27.5 downhill bike, you will find that the Trek is vastly more agile despite massive wheels.
Also, its a fallacy that longer bikes don't turn. They do, you just have to have more lean angle, which feels weird to some people. You have to give the bikes a lot more input, but they turn just as well as a shorter bike. Google motorcycle gymkhana videos, there is a guy on a Hayabusa, which is a 540lb motorcycle with a 1480mm wheelbase, and the guy makes tight circles in the space of your living room. So the fact that people have trouble getting a 32 lb 1300mm bike around a tight corner is laughable.
Watch Moto Trials. They aren't on Hayabusas.
This is how the argument goes: You say that 29ers handle worse. I show you that its not the case, because a 29er xc bike is way more agile than a 27.5 DH bike. You then go on a complete tangent and say that you wouldn't ride a DH bike on a trail.
Like, no shit? Nobody is talking about what bike you would or you would ride on what trail, the point is that 29ers wheel size does not matter for handling, its all in the geometry.
Is it really that hard to admit you are wrong about wheel size?
Take two bikes, in the same category, with similar geometry, HTA, wheelbase, reach, stack BB height (not drop), front center and rear center, etc. The 27.5 will feel more agile. In order to make a 29er feel as maneuverable as a 27.5 you have to move the geo towards the XC realm, as you have explained. So with a 27.5 I can have more aggressive and more versatile geo in a more agile package. This is why we're seeing more and more mullets in Enduro and DH racing.
>The 27.5 will feel more agile.
Wrong. It will feel exactly the same. (I am assuming you implicitly included the geometric trail number in "similar geometry", since you need different fork offsets for 27.5 vs 29, and also same tires, as tire profile can affect handling.)
Again, remember that the ground only interacts with contact patch, and the forces from the ground is what make the bike turn. The ground cannot magically affect the forces it outputs by somehow "knowing" about the wheel size. Physics supersedes any anecdotal experience that you may have with 27.5 vs 29.
>In order to make a 29er feel as maneuverable as a 27.5 you have to move the geo towards the XC realm
You are trying to weasel out. You are correct, take a long slack 27.5 enduro bike and a short 29er xc bike. You would agree that the xc bike is more manueverable. Start reducing geometry on the enduro bike until you reach similar handling to the 29. By your quoted statement above, this is possible.
Now you have 2 bikes that handle the same, with 2 different wheel sizes. This goes counter to your original comment of "29ers just don't handle like 27.5 bikes".
>You cannot change the distance from the ground to the axles.
Doesn't matter. Axle to ground distance only matters in lateral wheel flex, which is way less compared to overall fork flex and frame flex. Has no impact on turning in the way that you are describing
>You cannot have the same BB drop and BB height with different wheel sizes given all other geo remains the same.
BB height from the ground is the thing that matters, and you can absolutely have that be the same between a 29 and 27.5 . BB drop does not. You don't pivot around the axles or linkages when you lean the bike, you pivot around the contact patch.
> For these reasons bikes with larger wheels can never feel as agile given their intended riding category and corresponding geometry is the same.
Again, moving the goal post. Now its about intended riding category?
We already proved in the last post that 27.5 bike can handle identically to a 29er, by your statements. Not sure what the point of contention is.
You're the one comparing DH bikes to XC bikes. You don't ride XC bikes on DH tracks and vice-versa. I'm not comparing completely different bikes. Make a 29er feel as agile as a 27.5 or 26 and you have to sacrifice other aspects but the gyroscopic affect remains. 27.5s and 26s sacrifice rollover and carrying of speed (flywheel) for agility vs 29ers. Everything is a compromise. Even larger wheels will absolutely compromise some aspects of handling while improving others.
>the gyroscopic affect remains
Ok im 100% done with this conversation.
Telling consumers that the bikes have been optimised to ride the same, regardless of frame size, by resizing not just frame dimensions, but also component sizes, has to be a win.
32" would fit a L sized bike.
Next time - a 36er ebike prototype
People spend ages dialling in cockpit and suspension settings but then I see people who are 5'8" riding 29ers alongside people who are 6'2+. That makes no sense. 29ers are perfect if you're over 6ft but Id have a 27.5" anyday if I was 5'8".
The biggest factor in this is UCI. Only reason mullets are more popular now is change in UCI rules and DHers running them.
Look at road , I'm sure a 32" would be better for a lot of riders and faster but there are standards set and traditions adhered to hence 700c is road cycling.
MTB is the enemy of itself as it is a newer sport. And is ripe to be used explotatively by media and manufacturers.
In the end a sport is defined by the professional competition. BMX, road, golf anything. Make whatever size wheel you want and run it. It wont sell until UCI sanction it.
But there isn't only one type of 700c road wheel. Basically every other aspect of road wheels is evolving, the width for example. Then you've got tubulars, clinchers and hookless-tubeless. Then you've got various aero-wheels, from shallow section to full disc. Then you've got your climbing wheels.... Rim vs. disc brake, it goes on and on.... bike frames and "standards" (frame tire clearance, QR's & thru-axles) have to change as these things evolve.
The road bike is far from static, and about the only thing that hasn't changed is the wheel diameter. But don't bet that it never will just because it hasn't recently.
I can see how some people are into that though. (Not really).
That being said, on a 5 mile natural singletrack loop my avg speed with the Hightower is faster. I really only care about the sections of trail that put the biggest smile on my face and they are way more fun on the Bronson. If I were focused on racing or fake racing (strava) I would most likely be on a mullet before going back to full a full 29er.
In addition, I recommend that when giving feedback you take a more structured and critical approach:
1. First, consider if there are any areas of credit in the original piece and note them. Think phrases like, "It is nice that you brought up the point about..." and then perhaps offer a countering viewpoint.
2. Try to have substance in the response in addition to the appeals to pathos and ethos. Alternately: "At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you rational BECAUSE you didn't consider the certain benefits of smaller wheels like weight, strength, and torque for direction change." The word "because" is very helpful in these scenarios.
3. Avoid hypocrisy in your response. If you are critiquing rambling, avoid rambling by reinstating a single point multiple times in succession with no new information.
4. Bring up certain parts of the original argument that are in error. Quotations help strengthen the argument and offer an opportunity to juxtapose your alternate viewpoint with the original.
5. Offer different supporting or opposing sources to establish credibility.
You can find more information here: owl.purdue.edu/owl/teacher_and_tutor_resources/teaching_resources/effective_persuasion_presentation.html
Lets compare now to the mountain bike world for $10,000 AUD you get the second from the top Specialised enduro, the rims will probably break if you hit the wrong rock (carbon), the derailleur will probably last 3 months, if it doesn't get ripped off. The Suspension is 5 years old it runs cable shifting and doesn't have any sort of engine, and the bearings will probably flog out in a matter of months.
So what i would like from the manufactures sport i love so much is to be more like Honda. Settle on 29" wheels. Now make the bikes all that they can be. Rims that don't break and ding in five minutes, design a gearbox that has no drag and electronic shifting, Bearings that are sealed, Adjustable reach and chainstays and Head Angles. Don't build a bike out of 7075 aluminium move the geo around 5mm put basement parts on it and tell us it costs the same as a crf 450! MTB's are way to expensive as it is so just leave the wheels alone and work on making bikes better more durable and cheaper. That would be what i vote for.
So everyone knows i own an enduro mtb, Emtb, roadbike, and an mx bike, so i'm voicing my opinion as an invested consumer that has first hand experience.
Then immediately release a new hub width called Über Boost 158.
That said, I fought the 27.5 for a long time, and now I've built my DH bike into a mullet rider. The larger diameter helps, but it was more that I was forced to do this because a quality 26" triple crown fork is becoming really hard to find.
Not discussed here is gearing on a 36er in the back anyway would be challenging for us climbers. What a 24x60?
I run a 24/50 gear ratio on my bike to climb crazy steep stuff but would love a 60T expander cog so I don't have to run a 2x system!
The industry wants to sell more bikes, so more sizes...
For perspective, go watch the Collective from 2008. Those guys, on 26” wheels, are absolutely shredding Whistler.
20, 24, 26 (albeit not very well support these days), 26 Fat, 27.5, 27.5+, 29, 29+ (also not well supported).
36 may be too far out there, but 32 could be viable particularly in the XC realm. I don't think anything larger than 29 will ever be on a Trail, Enduro, or Downhill bike ...but then we said the same thing about 26 so who knows.
With advances in flexibility of manufacturing, the additional cost for mfrs to accommodate more wheels sizes may not be as prohitibitibe as it once was. You do have to wonder though, does more options during the fuel the trend of very expensive bikes? High prices force many of us to only be able to afford 1-2 bikes, even when we likely would prefer to have 5-6 albeit at a lower pricepoint per each bike. High prices do not allow us to be able have many bikes across many wheel sizes and types. I do agree though, that maybe that is wrong way to look at this and that we should instead be selecting the right size bike for us based on how large/tall we are individually and that wheel size (along with geometry) should scale with rider size. When I worked in a bike shop I would automatically direct riders under 5-10" to 27.5 bikes, and taller riders to 29ers. I would slide those recommendations down a bit though when recommending XC bikes though.
Lastly I agree, will larger wheel, suspension travel requirements would need to be less and less with 120mm being a lot for a 36" wheel bike. Remember the early discussions where 100mm travel 26 bikes were equated to fully rigid hardtail 29ers? Same goes for wheels larger than 29, although I'm also inclined to say there are probably diminishing returns on that philosophy. I highly doubt a 100mm travel 36" would have equivalent performance to a 200mm 26" downhill bike, even that logic would seem to suggest that could be the case.
The not so funny thing is that rarely do these "upgrades" make bikes funner to ride - mostly just easier to ride and safer for less fit and poorly skilled bike handlers.
Related to this: Will professional DH turn into a big-guys sport, like Basketball? I see that 5.2" people can´t ride 36" wheels and if bigger-is-faster, then future generations of DH riders could look like an NBA team.
And one tech question, in case you have time in one of the next episodes: Do you think they will move the freewheel from the rear into the bottom brackets? I know it would never work with a 2x11, but with a working chainguide before the chainring, I only see advantages: Weight goes from the unsprung mass in the backwheel towards the center of the bike and we could shift without pedaling!
Also @mikekazimer you were a little skeptical of the Trek team testing these larger wheels and it sounded like you were suggesting they should be focusing on perfecting what they have rather than trying something new. But what if 29" isn't the ideal size and they're "perfecting" something that's a compromise in the first place. Not to mention r&d is happening everywhere, in every corner of the market. Some brands are focused on refinement, others are looking big picture and we're all reaping the benefits. I'm happy to hear when someone's trying something kooky. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
At a certain point you aren't journalists but an extension of the bike industries advertising arm. If you're going to continually use this site to test the communities acceptance of "new" marketing terminology you can't be called journalists. The only thing it does is keep the price going up.
30 million Americans out of work and Cannondale is putting out a 4k base model bicycle. This industry sucks and it's because of the people in it constantly looking to extract dollars from the base without providing them a benefit.
The whole trail bike/down country thing wasn't cute. It's actually a big part of the problem that keeps 99.9% of people who don't currently own a nice bike from even looking at one. Annual obsolescence for multiple thousand dollar toys is detrimental to the industry, exacerbating that by constantly making new product categories and shoe horning old products into them while marketing them as some new advancement is just scummy business. It's dishonest. It's the bike industry.
It provides 0 benefit to the consumer, and instead of saying "no we won't let customers get ripped off by blatant marketing speak" you promote it...
- We just reviewed a load of amazing bikes that cost under $3,000 and UNDER $2,000 USD, and there are tons of similar options out there. They're all much, much better than a $6,000 bike from five years ago. The industry doesn't "suck," it simply needs to make money like any other industry. If you want to piss one someone's cornflakes, why aren't you talking about everyone who has their hands in the pie before the bike gets to you? The industry does not suck; you're POV sucks.
- And yes, I totally get how "The whole trail bike/down country" thing and how it "keeps 99.9% of people who don't currently own a nice bike from even looking at one." ?????????????? Wait I don't because that makes no sense at all.
Nice attempt at a personal insult there Mikey. But what are your polls for if you aren't selling that information back to advertisers? The bike companies have people that follow this website and view the reactions from the community. To say it doesn't happen when these companies post under their company handles in the comments is ridiculous, Mike. It's dishonest.
You can take shots @ your "peers" but some of them are actually journalists, don't shit on them because you decided to take your career in the direction of a corporate shill. You're basically and instagram influencer. Some of them have integrity.
Wrong. Stay in your lane grandma.
Dirty 6 ers maybe ? NBL players were the customer
Can ride over anything & even do backflips or frontflips just by pulling on the brakes?
Please dont even start this bull$hit. We have mullet bikes cos some people cant fit 2 29 inch wheels as it is.
Que the hundreds of posts from people who are 6ft 2 and think there giants and need bigger wheels????
What is the latest update with Pinkbike academy?
Just gonna leave this here