Opinion: Calm Reflections of Big-Wheeled Panic

May 2, 2017 at 11:19
by Matt Wragg  
Header for Matt s Op Ed pieces.

With all the hysteria over big wheels in Lourdes last weekend, it is easy to miss the truth of DH racing: that it's the rider, not the bike. Always. So before anybody gets carried away with Loris Vergier's quali time, we need to remember that it is Loris that put the time in, not the bike. You could fire me down Lourdes on the best bicycle ever invented, but I still won't make the cut for qualifying at a World Cup…

The question is whether the bike helped him gain that advantage over Loic? It is less than 1%—0.244%, to be precise. The change in wheel size is about fighting over those final fractions of a percent that make the difference between victory and defeat. So if you're currently sitting there looking at your current 24/26/27.5 bike and wondering whether it's still relevant, the answer is simple: If you were not there in Lourdes, or unless you were supposed to be there but are sitting out injured, then it doesn't matter. The value of your bike is supposed to be how much fun you can have riding it. What happens at the World Cup shouldn't change that.

So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at those margins. To get an idea of what it takes to fight at the front of a World Cup let's take a look at the history between Greg Minnaar and Aaron Gwin at World level since 2008:

Opinion Calm Reflections of Big-Wheeled Panic

If we take the percentage time difference from those 61 races, eliminate Pietermaritzburg 2013, Leogang 2014 and Vallnord 2015 where Gwin had mechanicals leading to a time difference of 19% or more you get a median time difference over those 8 years of 2.62%. There are probably a couple more results that could get trimmed out, so the real number is probably slightly lower, but for here this rough math will do. That is to say that over 58 races the average difference between Gwin and Minnaar in their finals times is just over 2.5% of the total race time. That covers Gwin switching from Yeti, to Trek, to Specialized, and to YT. It also includes the switch to 26 to 27.5 wheels.

When you start to look at racing from that perspective, looking for a marginal gain from something like wheelsize surely becomes the logical conclusion?

Both Nico Vouilloz and Fabien Barel put the rider/bike percentage in DH at 70% rider, 30% bike, so a radical improvement in the bike is certainly something worth chasing. With the teams reluctant to talk precise numbers, we must look elsewhere for a frame of reference. Dirt's Steve Jones has probably done more on-the-clock bike testing between different bikes than anyone else in the sport and he puts the difference at around one second per minute. Going back through those eight years of races between Minnaar and Gwin, a one second per minute advantage could have changed the result in 25 of those races.

There is one time that was not discussed on the live feed during the race, and that is Greg Minnaar's race time:

Greg Minnaar // 3:09.986
Bernard Kerr // 3:12.158
Brook Macdonald // 3:12.508
Troy Brosnan // 3:20.638
Remi Thirion // 3:24.339
Loic Bruni // 3:26.278
Loris Vergier // 3:29.993
Luca Shaw // 3:41.751
Danny Hart // 3:57.590
Aaron Gwin // DSQ


This needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as the conditions were changing, so unless you were there on the track, it is hard to be sure whether Brook Macdonald had the same condition track as Loris Vergier. The times and common sense would suggest not. What is clear is that Minnaar was faster than Macdonald and Kerr, who would have had a better track than him. If you saw his run on the livefeed, it was clearly a mighty effort in the conditions and a reminder of why you shouldn't count Minnaar out on any track, in any conditions. Did the big wheels help? Hard to say, but another Santa Cruz rider at the head of a group of riders is starting to look like a pattern.

What Lourdes didn't offer is any certainty. There, certainly is circumstantial evidence from both qualifying and the race that makes a compelling case that a 29er might be faster. While for most of us who are spending our hard-earned on our bikes, we want more than a possibility to switch bikes, to not expect World Cup racers to start scrabbling for 29ers is to fail to understand the circuit. Racing is won and lost in the mind as much as it is on track. While the possibility of speed is surely enticing for the racers, the possibility that someone else has an advantage they don't have is at least as powerful. It would be foolish to expect them not to chase that.

Big wheels doing it with authority under Loris Vergier today.

One myth that does need to be popped is one that was repeated on the live broadcast a few times this weekend—that a 29er won't work on a tight, twisty track. If we cast our eyes over to the EWS, it is fair to say that this idea can be dispelled quite easily. Tracy Moseley dominated on a 29er from day one of the EWS. Justin Leov won in Scotland, Greg Callaghan in Ireland—two of the tightest courses on the circuit. At the end of the day, anyone who has spent time on the latest generation of 29-inch trail bikes will tell you, with the right geometry and suspension, they can at the very least hold their own on any terrain, and be significantly faster in a lot of situations. What has happened in the last few years is that 29ers have polished their positives and worked hard to reduce, and maybe even eliminate, those negative traits many of the early bikes showed.

It is clear that Trek have a 29er en-route. If they are confident enough to show it off to the media, they surely have made certain their riders have been putting the laps in on board the bike. The smart money says they won't be the only ones upping the wheelsize before the season is done, with Mondraker at the head of that list. Maybe the other teams were saving it up their sleeve for Fort William—a track that would appear to suit a bike that can roll faster and through bigger holes, or maybe they were still working to get the bike or components right. If that plan had worked out, then maybe 29ers were planned as special track bikes, another weapon in the arsenal. What Santa Cruz did was beat everyone to the punch, on a track where maybe the conventional wisdom stated that a 29er was not so much of an advantage. The fact that they put down the times they did there has only upped the stakes and the path to 29-inch wheels becoming a regular sight at World Cup DH has been started. The only real question left is how far will it all go? If 29 becomes the norm in DH, surely that is a step towards a single wheelsize in mountain biking once more? Something maybe the sport needs with the ongoing proliferation of sizes and standards.

But, for anyone pulling their hair out in frustration, just remember that Richie Rude has won the EWS on a 27.5 for the last two seasons running, even as larger wheels have proliferated in the field. It all comes back to that one, crucial point: It's all about the rider, not the bike.


218 Comments

  • 174 11
 I think the key point here is that the change to a bigger wheel size is of zero importance to most people. If you have a bike with 24/26/27.5 wheels, it hasn't become any less fun. So stop bitching and ride your f@#$ing bike.
As to whether or not it makes any difference in racing, the results from this weekend are meaningless, so let's reserve judgement until we have some meaningful data.
Everyone is so ready to be upset by the most minimal and inconsequential things these days. If you actually find the wheelsize of the bike you own specifically for riding down hills to be of real concern, you dont have it all that bad in the grand scheme of things.
  • 51 8
 You'll wait for meaningful data until the cows come home.

Matt looks at Minnaar's run and asks whether the 29er wheels helped him. I look at Shaw and Vergier's runs argue that they were hindered by their bigger wheeled bikes when the going got sloppy. I won't go there because its all about the rider, really. And the numerous other variables that determine a race outcome.

Say Greg wins at Fort Bill by a second. What will that prove? That his bike is quicker, or that he is a pro at winning there as he did last year? I bet Greg could win at Fort Bill on a 26er V10 - the one he used to love even when the rest of the field was on 27.5 and the Syndicate carried on winning races.
  • 23 0
 Absolutely codfather; I was out riding yesterday on a new route on my local trails and had a blast and a half on my outdated wheelsized bike!! Loved it!

However, to play devil's advocate, ...."the change to a bigger wheel size is of zero importance to most people", only holds true until consumables are no longer available. I am dreading the day I cannot get what I need to keep riding my "f@#$ing bike".

Keep making those tyres y'all!!
  • 3 2
 @headshot: you're absolutely right. Under the circumstances its very difficult to draw any useful conclusions from race runs as there are so many variables. I think in all likelihood, the only useful information comes from back to back testing by the teams out of public view. If Minnaar is slower on his race run than Gwin or whoever it could be down to ability, fitness, mindset, conditions, mood, etc.
  • 14 1
 @orientdave: I have a stockpile of 20+ 26" DH and trail tyres so I'm set. However there are tons of options on tyres, rims etc still available for sale. I'm really not sure why people whine about lack of availability, it simply isnt true.
  • 9 0
 @orientdave: Yep and that is the real issue most people have. I could care less what wheel size anybody rides and would happily do a 29er, but in a few years when I break my small wheeled shred machine. Manufacturers who provide optional wheel sizes get my vote - like Banshee and a very few others.
  • 3 1
 @orientdave: I had my previous bike for 17 years and didn't have a problem finding parts for it (even a fork rebuild kit for an old Manitou Spyder) to the day I sold it. I don't think anyone needs to worry about it. If there's a large swath of bikes out their with "old" tech, companies will still produce parts and consumables for them.
  • 17 8
 "the change to a bigger wheel size is of zero importance to most people",
gotta dissagree, I tried a niner for aboot 9 months an while my overall times where 1mph up on avg speed. That was only on straight fire road sections, tech single track was slower AND a LOT harder work. Overall WAY less fun. so back to 26 cos I'd rather be having more fun an slower
  • 8 1
 @nojzilla: That isn't what I meant. I wasn't referring to personal switches to different wheelsize bikes. Of course for the average rider, different sizes work better or worse based or conditions, terrain, fitness, whatever. What I meant was that if racing does go to bigger wheels, the wider riding community will be unaffected. Your existing 26/27.5 bike won't be any less fun just because a WC was won on a different sizes wheel.
  • 20 8
 @nojzilla: I'm on my third 29er and this is the first one that I think is really right, I think they are still somewhat hit and miss, depending on the brand/model. My current one is the first one that has really convinced me that they are better. My times reflect that too, I am beating my times on longer-travel, smaller-wheeled bikes pretty much everywhere on it.
  • 24 3
 @mattwragg: Is this the same Matt who wrote an article praising his 26er Enduro when the 29er came out because it was more fun?
  • 5 0
 @codfather1234; Just to make it clear, I never said there is any problem with availability. I agree with you that no-one has any significant trouble finding what they may want right now for recently abandoned sizes (see the CRC data below).

However, I am predicting I might have trouble at some point in the future "riding my fu@#$%g bike" were consumables to become unavailable.

On CRC right now there are....

122 29er tyre options
142 650b,
210 26"
and for 24" there are 13.
  • 1 0
 Wait, what are we talking aboot again? I'm out
  • 14 3
 I think you misunderstood why people are angry about wheels. It's not because they hate some random number. It's because a new standard will mean they will find it harder to find parts for their bikes and if they sell their own bikes used they will be less valuable. It's a loss on convenience and money.
  • 8 2
 @codfather1234: As for availability. It is true you can still buy 26'' but rip a tire in a bikepark and have no spares? SOL. No 26'' tires there.
  • 9 3
 Take spares then? If you're riding hard at a park and aren't taking spare pads/tubes/tyres I have no sympathy.
  • 6 0
 @headshot: how do 29er wheels hinder in sloppy conditions? I'm interested
  • 44 5
 @headshot: Yes, and having learnt what I have learnt in the past few years, I wouldn't ride either of those bikes today. That was four years ago and thanks to working with PB I have been able to ride a lot of different bikes and speak to a lot of people who are smarter and/or faster than I am, so I understand a lot more today than I did then.
  • 3 1
 I really want to upvote this, but t has exactly +29...
  • 4 15
flag thustlewhumber (May 4, 2017 at 3:38) (Below Threshold)
 Say what you want Matt, but the truth is that history has shown that Loris Vergier and Luca Shaw (especially) had the absolute best qualifying results of their life onboard 29ers. Even though I think this is the equivalent of allowing e-bikes in XC races, I predict that 2 races from now most of the field will be on 29ers.
  • 7 3
 @orientdave: Absolutely, the general public has been told that 27.5" is the way forward and you now can not even buy a 26" wheeled adult DH bikes, THAT is what the hysteria is about. Set a standard and stop changing it, we all know that on a rocky track a 33" wheeled bike will be smoother and quicker but we will all have to buy several new bikes till then. Industry cash maker Santacruz yey. Sort it out UCI!
  • 6 0
 @mattwragg: What is your current 29er?
  • 2 0
 Luca shaw was right
  • 1 0
 @codfather1234: good idea but watch the rubber doesn't degrade
  • 2 1
 @orientdave: If there is demand, it will be supplied
  • 3 0
 Thats a lucky position to be in. Most of us ride for fun and are stuck with the same bike for several years. All I know is my old 26er Enduro is huge fun and plenty fast enough down a hill for me.
  • 3 0
 I think wheel size will become a personal preference in a very near future. The more wheel sizes the sooner this will happen. People are still looking at it as an imposed standard by the industry.
  • 3 1
 I'm not sure about all this compatibility and standards moaning.
Take a 10 year old DH/FR bike and a 10yo trail bike (pre 'enduro' there was nothing really in between). Yes it was possible to swap more parts over in theory, but generally it would be impractical or dangerous to do so.
Today you can buy a bike in any amount of travel and head angle and tyre grip/durability to suit your preferred riding skill/location/discipline.
Bike park on a 120mm? yep
Win an xc race on a 170mm travel bike? been done
pro xc riders and dh riders using the same brake? yep
I love riding both my bikes, even though I cant even frame swap with the latest version of the same brand and model because so much has changed.
  • 6 0
 @jzuijlek: Orbea Occam TR
  • 2 0
 @dbendixen: I ride a bike from 1960, long,slack,29" (120cm wheelbase,but really 700c),iron frame,no problem to replace any part of the bike. Renthal fatbar,21 century wheels and tyres.
  • 2 2
 @sideshowb: No idea, but Vergier and Shaw were slower than many of the 27.5's in the wet so maybe they are a hindrance :-) You see what i am getting at?
  • 1 1
 @headshot: yeah, because opinions can never change with new data
  • 9 4
 @mattwragg: so smarter faster people convinced you that you weren't actually having fun?
  • 2 3
 @tomlynchwatson: He didn't say that. His statement meant that those people convinced him that all the older, lame riding first gen trail 29" bikes are gone and the newer generation are much better. Nice try though
  • 6 2
 @tomlynchwatson: I see what you tried to do there. They explained to me how I could be having more fun. And I am. Having better suspension, a bike that fits me better, better geometry and a very different wheel/tyre combo has given me the bike I was looking for for a long time. For instance, when I reviewed this: www.pinkbike.com/news/Lapierre-X-Flow-712-review-2013.html The bike I have now is very close to what I thought this bike could be with a few tweaks...
  • 2 0
 @homerjm: Aw man... I was hoping to see a pic of that bike in your profile. Would be cool.
  • 2 1
 @mattwragg: Spot on Matt, it a combo of things - geo suspension and fit. Thats exactly how I feel about my 26er. Modern fork - check. Decent geo and fit - check, Great rear suspension - no - would love a better rear shock. Better rider skills and a willingness to learn - check
  • 2 0
 Yup. Bad suspension can ruin pretty much any bike. My current bike used to throw me off frequently, but ever since I've replaced that Monarch with a Vivid Air, it has become the most confidence inspiring machine I could imagine. I guess 29ers suffer a lot from this - they demand a different suspension setup, and it took time to find the right way.
  • 9 0
 What I learned from this article is that Greg Minaar is a super fast and consistent rider.
  • 5 0
 @orientdave: I love that 26ers have been devalued so much that I could find a serious deal on a 2009 Stumpy for my kid. I hate that it might betray hard to find tires in a while...

Commencal just announced a new 26er - a 150 mm FS trail bike aimed at kids who've outgrown 24s. Perhaps there is a market there that will stay viable. I see lots of kids here on used 26s - and they ride a lot. So hopefully, that's typical and will keep Dena d for those consumables up at a level that they'll keep being produced.
  • 6 2
 @spaced: Are people really buying bikes new with the thought of resale value afterwards?

These aren't stocks/shares or artwork. it's a recreation/fitness tool that likely is used and abused.
  • 3 0
 @gonecoastal: Yes, I used to, all the time, but not any more.

I used to really enjoy trying out various different combinations of frames and components (which we call "tinkering" where I'm from).

As just one example of many, when RS upped the size of the Boxxer stanchions to 35mm, I found a fantastic deal on a last generation 32mm stanchion World Cup, so contacted the guys at Transition and after some discussions about geometry, went ahead and bought them, swapping out my 180mm single crown for the Boxxers.

I learned a LOT from riding my Blindside with both sets of forks; learning how by changing only one thing on a bike you know, you can change the entire ride experience.

However, resale value of the spare set of forks that I would eventually end up with was crucial to being able to support my family; we just don't have the money for me to spend what I would like.

So that part of the enjoyment of riding bikes has been lost for me and many of my mates here over the past three to four years with all the changes the industry has seen.

Furthermore, if I come on PB, and express disappointment, not anger, but disappointment, that accompanies the huge changes we have seen recently, there are huge numbers of "haters gonna hate" blah, blah, blah people about who somehow have come to the conclusion anyone who expresses their opinion about a new standard somehow doesn't go out and ride their bike!!!!

Numpties.

Right, early morning here in Japan, I am off for a ride, followed by a family trip to the pool, where the flow pool, whose silhouette, when viewed from the air, apparently resembles a Trek. Wink
  • 2 0
 The embers from last weeks 29 debate must be dying down a bit.

www.pinkbike.com/news/poll-if-racing-does-improve-the-breed-will-you-trading-up-to-29-inch-wheels-next-season.html

Time for the PB media to get some more clicks by stoking up the fire AGAIN.
  • 1 0
 @g-42: 9 I still ride 26 and I means you can get a better bike at a great price. its unbelievable, I just bought the best Schwalbe tires for 8 bucks each on jenson
  • 1 0
 That's because people think the internet is a popularity contest.
  • 1 0
 @headshot: his 3rd 29er.. first one was shit..
  • 1 0
 @kjjohnson: You and me both. He is a machine
  • 49 2
 I think the normal man in the street buying a DH bike doesnt race WC and will never have the ability to worry about marginal gains. What they most worry about is laying down 3-4 large on a new bike in the "new" wheel size only to find (literally less than 2 years later) their bike has zero resale value, their wheels dont fit any of their other bikes and have no use any related compnents / forks etc

When you throw Boost into the mix and metric shock sizing its easy to see why people get so animated about it. its fine for Steve Jones et al to belittle us all as "keyboard warriors" or such like but at the end of the day the "innovation" is making lots of other things obsolete.

And before you all moan "Its all about the progress and innovation" I totally accept the fact Syndicate etc want to win more than anything and dont really have a long term view on the impact it could have on the industry. Its just that, as Spesh and SC ditch their 27.5 bikes from the trail and DH range over the next year or two those "fools" among us who happened to want a new bike during this era will be left feeling pretty pissed off. And yea I love riding my bikes, and the resale value isnt everything, but I just feel like I have been taken for a ride a bit here.
  • 11 5
 27.5 was a crutch until boost and proper 29 geometry frames and wheels where available. 26/29 only 2 sizes needed, and I'm on a 27.5 atm.
  • 3 0
 I think from semipro to amateurish-weekend-warrior-casual-racer, most will try (=spend money) not to be in "disadvantage".....thats the way it is....
  • 4 0
 @sam2222: boost was an ill thought out "marginal gain" and the biggest kicker was that existing 150/157 standards were already on the market. A lot of companies rushed to Boost and much like the shit early 29ers this was punishing the early adopter.
  • 3 1
 @sam2222: I disagree. 26" is bested by 27.5" on trail bikes. 29" has its place for trail but it's not as good all round as 27.5"
27.5 is legit. I'm riding 26" now and it's a pita, I get tired quicker, less grip, more rolling resistance. I had 29" before and it was a pita, like a sail in the air, hard to manual, tonnes of drag with big tyres.
I like 27.5, it's a good middle ground - although it's closer to 26 than 29 ;-)
  • 3 0
 I feel like my 26" DH bike gets hung up on rocks and obstacles a lot easier when I make a mistake compared to my 29" enduro bike. For the average rider it might not be about time, but about keeping your wheels right-side up. I can screw up and still have a better chance of riding it out on a larger wheel, which is a big upgrade for the average rider, even if they don't care about splits.

My experience with my 29 enduro bike also makes me skeptical that you can get adequate tire-butt clearance on a 200mm 29. I'd love to try one and see how it does.
  • 1 0
 @ThomDawson: I'm 6'1" and 230#. My xl 29er fits me well, and I appreciate the big wheels. I've tried xl 650b and didn't like it - at my size, I can throw my bigger wheels around just fine, so the 650b has no playfulness advance the time. My wife, however, at roughly half my weight, likes the responsiveness of her small 650b. She has tried size small 29ers, and hated them - the big wheels felt cumbersome to her. Meanwhile, my 12 year old is barely big enough for a grown up bike. 26er is about as big as he'd want to go. Variety is good...
  • 1 0
 @g-42: absolutely, variety is good. I didn't mean to say there's no place for the small or the big wheels, there definitely is, I was just trying to point out that 27.5 also has its place and I believe for many it makes the most sense. I'm quite shocked that everyone who hated on 27.5 (any many whom still haven't tried it) now seem to think that 29 is the one true god when everything these people claim to dislike about 27.5 is amplified in 29. There are greater advantages and greater disadvantages and i think if you really want a bike that does it all from DJ to DH and everything in between then 27.5 still rules imo. Of course body type comes into it as well - I'm just talking averages.
  • 23 0
 I think the problem here is the media, who went crazy over the 29" DH bike news. You all created an hype that quite frankly I find it hard to understand. As this article mentioned, "a one second per minute advantage could have changed the result in 25 of those races": the real question is "Is the 29er capable of reducing that gap"? Let's be honest, 1 second over a minute it means 3-5 seconds over the entire race run, which would be really impressive if that were the case.

Lucky for us, Luca Shaw (Syndacate team) stated on the RedbullTV interview (before it's run) that he doesn't think 29" wheels are the game changer: he told us clearly that it's the rider who makes the difference, not the wheel size. Just to be clear, he surely has some experience with both 27.5" and 29", so he knows the time differences (if there are any).
  • 5 0
 I saw that on the RB TV interview also. Amid all the hype that was going on...everybody pretty much glazed over what Shaw said.
  • 3 4
 @abtcup: Either glazed over or are too blinded in their #26forlife point of view to see that evolution might lead to better bikes for consumers. I mean, had it not been for DH racing, the Fox 40 might never have existed.
  • 11 0
 Luca Shaw looked kind of insulted by the question that suggested his qualifying time was only achieved because he had 29" wheels.
  • 12 2
 Yes, it's the dishonest MTB media! The totally failing @pinkbike is a disgrace. #fakenews
  • 4 1
 Also, Brendan Fairclough made the valid point in a video on Dirt Magazine's facebook that, if they turn out to be consistently faster than 27.5", everyone will start running 29er wheels and re-level the playing field, so eventually, you'd expect everyone to be riding 29ers and although the race runs would be faster, the time gaps to be essentially the same as they were before.
  • 16 1
 but most importantly - how many articles have there been on this, and comments on other DH related articles, and minutes of coverage on the race broadcast. Every mention of Minaar or 29 or V10 achieves the end game of selling more Santa Cruz trail bikes in whatever wheel size. All bike racing is advertising and if SC have to custom build 3 29er DH bikes a year that no amateur will ever want to buy, thats OK for them. Nobody makes money on DH bikes, but people are queuing up for a Hightower.
  • 7 1
 Example - I really want a 5010. Im sure devinci and Rocky mountain make a very similar 120-130 27.5 carbon wonder machine, but I don't even know what they are called.
  • 5 8
 @AyJayDoubleyou: They are required by UCI rules to now produce this bike for the public. It's going to happen.

You don't know what they are called because you didn't bother looking. The rest of us know what bikes they make, and that they are just as good if not better than the 5010......
  • 8 0
 Red bull didn't "glaze over" that interview. They deliberately let it die. That interview didn't do them or Santa Cruz any good. You can bet Luca will be coached up on the interview process and won't be saying things like that on camera again if he values his job.
  • 2 0
 @shoprat: Exactly
  • 2 0
 Thats all well and good, but if there is no truth to the 29 then why is Luca riding one?
  • 6 0
 @MondoEndo: he is paid to that is why. and so would every single person bitching about it on Pinkbike as well if they had the amazing chance to get paid to travel the world and RIDE BIKES for a living.
  • 3 1
 @AyJayDoubleyou: Yep, we should not underestimate the role riders are expected to play in selling their title sponsors bikes. In this case this thing is being sold as the riders own initiative. That may well be, but its working very well for SC even if not for the riders so much to this point. Looking forward to another GM win at Fort William mind you!
  • 7 1
 @bman33: So Santa Cruz is forcing its riders to run 29's with no tangible or appreciable benefit to performance.... If it turns out that Santa Cruz riders start losing because 29's are inferior that will work out great for them. Ill stick with the most non tinfoil hat explanation personally. That team testing has shown an appreciable benefit in performance of 29s and the riders are sick of fielding questions that imply that the only reason for their good performance is the bike instead of their skills. An understandable reaction, but one the riders should have been prepared for.
  • 1 7
flag bman33 (May 4, 2017 at 8:32) (Below Threshold)
 @MondoEndo: "Force"? So if they decide they don't like VPP and want single pivot are they free to ride a YT instead? Your argument is ridiculous. They are paid to ride Santa Cruz bikes.
And 'no tangible' benefit? So you say you know more than Greg Minaar when it comes to what he sees as fast and performance enhancing? Please tell us more about your World Cup expertise.
  • 5 3
 @bman33: You're the one claiming the the Santa Cruz riders are only riding 29's because they're paid to and not because there is a tangible benefit dipshit. Not me.
  • 1 1
 @philseparation:

My point exactly... Of course he's not gonna say he had that result because of his wheel size, he wants some credit too. But let's be honest it most likely helped him.

Most people focus on the point that 29ers may not be fasters but to me what that race proved is that 29ers are not any slower!
  • 3 4
 @MondoEndo: not at all. I said they ride them because they are paid to, I never mentioned a thing about benefits or not. Greg Minaar himself said they are faster in many situations. I tend to believe him over and of us armchair quarterbacks here on Pinkbike. As for 'dipshit' name calling, you keep staying classy.
  • 7 2
 @bman33: Let me recap for you:

OP : Lucky for us, Luca Shaw (Syndacate team) stated on the RedbullTV interview (before it's run) that he doesn't think 29" wheels are the game changer: he told us clearly that it's the rider who makes the difference, not the wheel size.

Me: Thats all well and good, but if there is no truth to the 29 then why is Luca riding one?

You: he is paid to that is why

Me: Ill stick with the most non tinfoil hat explanation personally. That team testing has shown an appreciable benefit in performance of 29s and the riders are sick of fielding questions that imply that the only reason for their good performance is the bike instead of their skills. An understandable reaction, but one the riders should have been prepared for.

All directly quoted. Have a nice day.
  • 3 5
 @MondoEndo: Show me exactly where I mentioned anything about performance until my last statement. As for people bitching about riders being paid to ride a company's products and testing things they may or may not 'like' or find 'cool' (remember they are paid to and get flown around the world to do so), I don't have much sympathy. Luca is an awesome rider no matter what he rides. I would be willing to bet he knew at the time of signing with SC the 29" was in testing, these guys are behind the scenes. He flubbed the interview a bit, no worries, he is young and will polish that up. My overall comments are all of the pinkbike peanut gallery bitching, crying, whining thinking they know best or what really goes on is laughable. Hell, we might see crap results all seasons on 29" wheels and that experiment will go away just like several other tech experiments over the yeas.
  • 3 0
 @bman33: I think we are generally on the same page. My original point was that it would seem like an odd decision for Santa Cruz to make Luca ride a 29 if testing had shown that he wasn't as fast on 29's. Since it would seem to benefit SC more to have their riders going as fast as they can. If that statement is true, then Luca is riding a 29 because testing showed he was faster on 29.

I personally have no idea what happens behind the scenes, Im just trying to employ common sense. I saw Luca's interview and, while I understand that its gotta get old people implying that you're going to post a fast time because of the bike and not your skills, these guys should pretty much be expecting it.
  • 4 0
 Did you watch the Loris - Warner interview? He said Luca and Greg we're consistently faster on 29 in all conditions during testing, but his times weren't much different.
  • 1 0
 @atrokz: They are required to make them available for sale. They're not required to make money on it, and if piles of Hightowers and Tallboys go out the door, they'll be quite content to keep churning out homologation specials.
  • 26 3
 What I'm interested in seeing is if the 29 inch wheels prove to be an advantage for the bigger riders but not for the smaller riders. 29 inch wheels may be faster but not an option for the smaller guys. It would really suck if only the tall riders are able to take advantage of 29 inch bikes but the smaller riders just can't make such a large wheel work for them, and so they're at a disadvantage due to their size. One of the great things about DH is that you height doesn't matter much. Gwin, Sam Hill, Danny Hart and many other great rides are 5'10 or shorter, and then you have minnar, peaty etc who are super tall. There aren't a lot of sports where you can be any height and be great. I would hate downhill to have a big advantage for people who are tall and can therefore use larger wheels. I don't want a bunch of NBA players winning races because they're tall enough to use 34 inch tires etc.
  • 5 2
 + from a guy 5' 4"
And don't forget Rude & Clementz :-)
  • 4 0
 Vergier is 5'10 as well and he's rocking the 29. Let's see how he does in Fort Bill.
  • 3 0
 Indeed these are my thoughts on it too.I have no doubt that the bigger wheel is indeed faster and just about everyone of my taller mates that have tried them loved the A to B speed boost (This is why they are not for me personally I'm short and I like to take a bit more time to savour and have fun on the journey rather than just hold on and get it over with as soon as possible) they gave them and never went or will go back.

The flipside of this is 'if' it is indeed proven true that bigger longer 29ers bring an overall speed advantage now to DH racing is that the tall guys have been riding handicapped for a long old time now - well.....forever .

Early days but interesting ones.
  • 5 3
 thats not correct -for years bigger riders had a disadvantage -mostly because of bikes beeing too small. minnaar and peaty are not super tall -at least within german standards. payet is large and he has only recently gotten a bike which looks proportional. actually there are very few large and fast guys on the curcuit. there is no point in taking away proportinal bikes (and wheels) from the big guys - let them run what they want. the whole NBA thing denies that actually the opposite is true.
  • 6 0
 Katy Winton quite happily wins stages at the EWS on a 29er Trek and she's 5'2".

After all, over the last decade, we've seen trail bikes seat and head angles go from 73/70 to 75/65, reach numbers grow 50mm or more into the 450mm+ range and wheelbases have grown too. No-one's complaining modern bikes are unrideable for shorter riders and those changes have been much more extreme than the changes you'd have to stomach to switch to 29".

You might have to handle a slightly higher front end, but then again everyone's riding riser bars and stems anyway, so you have wiggle-room to compensate and anyway, 29ers gained real traction first in the XC world, where they like lower front ends than anyone else.
  • 5 0
 Bigger riders have other disadvantages. Higher center of gravity, less agile in really twisty stuff, more weight means they don't skim over rough ground as easily... I wonder if the 29er will just equalize those weaknesses.
  • 1 0
 @Smevan: Good points but maybe the question here would maybe be - would a 6ft Katy Winton be even faster on a bigger longer bike.Even within the Santa Cruz team Minaar is the only one who is tall enough to have a bike big enough to run 210mm of travel compared to his teammates 190mm-that's if indeed more travel is a desirable advantage for DH racing .
  • 1 0
 @GravesendGrunt: Trek's test rider cole, is not tall and he's been riding a 29er for the past three years + in competitive DH racing and prefers it.
  • 1 0
 @Loamhuck: That's because it is indeed no doubt faster for him,otherwise why else would he choose to race on it. Is he racing/testing on Treks 29er Session?
  • 3 0
 Tracy Mosley isn't tall and she shreds on 29 inch wheels mate. I work in a shop and have sold 29ers to all shapes and sizes plus ride one myself! Trust me they're for everyone and they're fast!
  • 1 0
 @akasnowmaaan: I think different wheel sizes complement different riding styles. Bigger heavier riders will prefer bigger wheels and vice versa. As you say I think it will level things out.

It will be interesting to see if 29F / 275R can (UCI rules) and will be used as it's probably the best of both worlds.
  • 1 0
 @GravesendGrunt: I'm sure there's a limit to practical bike size, depending on how tight your trails are, but yeah, it does seem reasonable to expect the frame and wheel size should roughly scale with rider height.

It's weird to think back to reading bike reviews in the late 2000s, when I first got into mtb and magazines would sometimes recommend leaning towards a smaller frame, for more nimble handling.
  • 28 3
 I, for one, welcome our new 29" overlords.
  • 7 0
 Well played... don't upset them in public but secretly set up a the resistance. I too think 29er's the best thing ever. Nudge nudge.
  • 19 1
 @Matt Wragg You guys at Pinkbike and other MTB sites/mags are the ones trying to create the fuss.
There is no panic besides the one we readers see on these articles. Don't forget that the user base of this site is but a minority and definitely not a good one at representing the community. Most of us don't care much about this "discussion", but you insist shoving it down our throats whit a sneaky tone, trying to induce "panic"... kind of Buzzfeed-esque. Unfortunately, it seems to work as we can see in the comments sections.

Furthermore, it seems that for the most part there is an open attempt to oppose technologies (or wheel sizes), trying to create controversy where there simply is none. Sadly this attempt seems to come directly from the sites/mags...
  • 5 1
 Took quite bit of scrolling to read something that actually makes sense.
  • 17 0
 I'll only be convinced once they start using 52T+ chainrings and taking the visors off of their helmets.
  • 16 1
 "Doesn't matter what the size is, as long as you know how to use it"
cit. Rachel Atherton
  • 13 0
 I got an immaculate pair of 26in superstar carbon wheels for £50 recently. I fully support this brave step into the future and will happily relieve any of you of your 650b downhill bikes for marginally above scrap value.
  • 2 0
 Hahahaha, well said! If people can't get top notch parts for their slightly older 26" bike these days they're not looking
hard enough! High end older bikes/frames aren't worth a lot now which suits me too!
  • 16 6
 I think you miss the point by a million miles. If people are so upset by these new DH 29", it's because we know the cycle industry is going to shove down these bikes our throats, wether we want that or not. It's just like the switch from 26 to 27.5. In 5 years the 27.5 wheel size will be dead. Just like 26 now.
Oh and maybe a DH 29er works with a 3000$ wheelset, but it won't with regular wheels. It will be too heavy with too much inertia.
  • 5 2
 *This* It's awesome that the tech at the top is progressing to make the fastest people in the world faster. Sick.
I still love my 26" bikes and have no plans to change them.
BUT 'The industry' is reducing the options for replacements and upgrades for parts so that even if I am happy with my current ride, the pressure is external for me to change it.
  • 8 2
 Absolutely correct.
We're getting to a point where entry level bikes may actually become worse because they have no access to "necessary" components or standards like the mentioned 3000$ carbon wheels.
Just imagine a downhill 29er with a cheap wheelset. It'll be 2005 with taco'ed wheels all over again.
  • 3 1
 100% correct. I could care less what the pros ride, but what they make for the pros gets pushed down to us consumers and it makes finding new parts with the latest technology harder for people who want to keep their bikes for more than a year.
  • 2 2
 @retswen: 1800+ 26" freeride/DH bikes for sale on Pinkbike alone. I can still find plenty of tires for them as well (even though people say other wise). It resale value affected, yes. But the "can't find parts" is bs.
  • 2 2
 @bman33: Thank you for the rebuttal, but I specifically mentioned "finding new parts with the latest technology".
  • 1 4
 @retswen: You still don't make sense. So you are upset that a 2001 model bike cannot run 2017 components in one way or another? My 2015 Jeep won't accept parts from the 1987 I had without major mods in most cases. Will a 2001 Honda CR250 accept all parts from a 2017? I doubt it. "new and latest' is just that ...'new and latest'
Time marches on, shit changes. Is is difficult at times? Yes, but the bitching because all parts don't fit all bikes is ridiculous.
  • 5 1
 @bman33: Nice straw man argument, but try the example of my brand new built in 2015 wheels not being able to fit any of the 2017 forks. If you are okay with that, by all means keep spending your money. I, however, take issue with it and will vote with my wallet.
  • 1 1
 @retswen: There eventually has to be a line where new isn't back compatible with old in EVERY tech change no matter the industry. The unfortunate part is that we are in it now. It happened with threaded vs. threadless headsets, to 1" to 1 x 1/8" head tubes way back when, etc. etc. Call me as 'straw man' all you like. Doesn't bother me. You just said what everyone needs to hear, 'vote with your wallet'. There is ZERO forcing of you to buy new stuff. Ride what you have till it falls apart. I guarantee you can find a new 2017 fork to fit your 2015 wheels right now unless you are changing wheels sizes. Just looked up 2017 Fox 36 for example, these are the options : "5QRx100, 15QRx110, 20mm or 15mm convertible pinch-axle". For DH forks, any new 20mm Boost can be sorted with 5mm spacer as seen on Pinkbike and Vital in recent days.
  • 5 0
 @bman33: I appreciate your points. I am responding to this article that says what the pros ride should not matter to us and I am disagreeing with that because the tech trickles down to us and we are forced to use the same standards that the pros are using. Your Fox 36 example highlights my point. My hubs do not fit any of the axle sizes you mentioned, because it is easier for all the fork manufacturers to move 27.5 forks to boost spacing even if it was originally designed to help with 29 inch wheels. People were saying the same thing back then about it not affecting me since I don't ride a 29er. Well it looks like the complaints back then were valid, and they are still valid today. If you can afford a new bike and new standards every year, by all means keep enjoying the sport. I am on a limited budget and I need to stretch my dollars and it looks like the bike industry doesn't really care about people like me.
  • 7 0
 I got 26" on my DJ bike, 27.5" on my Enduro and 29" on my XC/Trail Hardtail and I love riding every wheelsize because of their different abbilities. I do races sometimes but end up nowhere near the top 20% of the field so it doesn't really matter. The limitation factor is still me Smile
  • 3 0
 Right tool for the job. There is a lot of choice right now, and I don't really think that's a bad thing...
  • 8 2
 @mattwragg another great article with some science behind it. Keep em coming.

On a slightly different note do yoy think the UCI would relax the "different wheel size" rule if it were found 29F / 275R was the fastest? I have been following the mtbr Geometron thread and this seems to be where it maybe heading.
  • 2 0
 the rule is the biggest bull of all times? what were they thinking- i just do not get it. pretty sure it applies also to regional races (where you can gain uci points) as well. so technically i can not race my starling 97 on national dh events (not that i actually had a chance of getting points). all i can say is that the combo works great for me.
  • 3 1
 @optimumnotmaximum: I had a brief look at the rules for mtb racing - couldn't find this rule.
It definitely exists for road and track as a smaller front wheel got you closer to draft the rider in front. There are pages and pages of UCI rules for road bikes that stifle all development and keep road bikes looking the same double diamond drop bar silhouette they've had since the 70's
  • 1 0
 @AyJayDoubleyou: thanks, that makes actually sense, i did not think of track, but i thought that it would apply to mtb as well-might look in the rules myself
  • 11 5
 Thank you @mattwragg - I thought it was really necessary for a big site like Pinkbike to have the "everybody calm the fk down, it's only wheels" article. It is undoubtedly a precedent to have the first 29er DH bike ridden by winning riders on a winning team to show up on a World Cup competition, but many reactions were over the edge. I think of all, Dirt went full retard, possibly unintentionally. I have utmost sympathy and respect for Steve Jones, I know he wanted to do it "LIVE", had limited time and did a fast run around pits, also out of respect for our attention spans, but it was just too manic blowing everything out of proportion.

Again I love this article for content and the fact that it came up
  • 5 2
 I lost a lot of respect for Jones after his media rampage days before the race, claiming everybody who disliked 29ers is just a bad rider/pussy and does not know what they're talking about. The guy blew everything that much out of proportion it was just ridiculous.
  • 4 3
 @Loki87: I met him on two occasions and spoke to him a lot, and he is definintely a guy who knows what he is talking about and doesn't take stuff out of his arse. Geat rider and huge bike geek. Yes he is biased twoards 29" bikes (he's tall ndaaaa) but in his case it is an informed and most importantly, the experience based bias. He has also been waiting for 29" DH bike on World Cup circuit since at least 5 years and I bet there are very few journalists out there as excited about it as he is.
  • 3 0
 @WAKIdesigns:
Maybe. I do not know the guy. I can just go from how he presents himself through various platforms. I tended to take his opinion seriously and i understand where he's coming from. I'm not a 29er hater in any way, i just have my reservations about them for my personal intended use. I do see the bigger picture though.
But Jones' rant about all of us (and even pros who will at least know as well as him) who dislike the idea of 29er dh-frames really rubbed me the wrong way.
You can't claim everybody else is just a pussy and has an uninformed opinion and expect to not leave a sour taste with other people. He just went way ahead of himself, as you said. The live feed wasn't even that bad imho. Even though you could see most guys cringe damn hard at his excitement and the Syndicate boys seemed rather defensive about the whole subject, probably because he made it sound like it all came down to the bike IF they were to win, taking away from the young riders who came into this round red hot and surely put in a lot of work in the offseason.
But that's something all the media platforms are guilty off as you already mentioned.
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Steve Jones is just another fanboy/ass licker. Just read the reviews, check their "best bikes of the year", he does not even hide it, it's always like "this year again, the fox 40/demo/stumpy outperforms the competition"
  • 2 0
 @zede: he has his favorite things but I would not call him ass licker. Especially considering that he likes Öhlins and Fox while he is prancing around innPowered by SRAM jersey
  • 2 0
 @zede:
I wouldn´t even call him fanboy. He´s just bandwagoning waaaayyy to hard right now.
I mean, good for him there are finally big 29ers for big and fast guys. I can totally get behind that. Minnaar seems genuinely happy with his new bike, but didn´t feel the need to express how ridiculously superior the 29er V10 is due to its wheelsize.
The thing is, he claims to be a journalist while what he´s doing at the moment is much more fitting the description of a lobbyist. He´s aggressively pushing the 29er agenda with total disregard for the needs and concerns of other people and THAT is not objective journalism. That is just propaganda. His basic assertion on the whole matter was "if you´re not with me on this, you´re wrong" and no matter how knowledgeable someone is, that is an ignorant point of view.
So asslicker may be the wrong term. Egotistical is probably more fitting.

@Waki:
The dude running around in a SRAM shirt doesn´t really count for anything though. If i had no ties to any manufacturer and still got shit for free i´d be wearing it too. I see no contradiction there
  • 2 1
 I disagree that Steve Jones blew it out of proportion. 29DH bikes are a big thing and the guy is excited about the development of the sport. When 29ers were introduced who would have thought they would end up being raced at WC DH level? I think the bigger wheels make for incredibly fast bikes that need ballsy guys and girls to ride. It's a shame 650b was rammed down our throat as I think most are still recovering where as 29 is the fastest wheel size.
  • 4 0
 @Loki87: I do not accuse him of being on SRAMs paycheck. On the contrary, I give it as an example that he ALLEGEDLY may like Fox more yet he still wears a thing from RS. With his position he does not need to suck up to anyone. People just don't get this, the bigger the site or mag, the less they are controlled by advertisers. It is the small sites that have limited number of clients so they have to be "nicer" to them, and the smaller the media outlet the more it's "employees" are affiliated with a brand. It's pure logic and I speak from experience with different sites. It takes hell a lot of time and work aside of regular job, to stay interest neutral like NSMB seems to be to me, yet still write critical or just personal reviews. But if your little silly site suddenly starts rolling, when you become a bit more than reposting piece of "click gathering" crap (like maaany) then you are much more likely to get an incentive and promote someone more just because he sent you a fork and he kind of gives you a wink that he doesn't want it back. I believe that if Steve or Mike Levy or Spoomer promote certain thing more it's because they just like it more, like each single one of us, and if someone expects them to be immaculately objective he should get f*cked. Yes journalists should strive for objectivity but at the end of the day it is impossible. Not even a super AI could probably do that. If you think about it, all those moralistic twats on the internet if they could design an AI that could perfectly objectively decide which bike is best, they would never accomplish their goal, because they would have to choose a bike that seems best for everybody and such thing f*cking doesn't exist. It cannot. That would be a definition of utopia. And even if they did manage to create best bike bot site who on Earth would like a world where everyone rides the same bike. People are just so fkng stupid and self unaware to expect such thing as journalist objectivity to exist, while in fact all they actually strive after is: I want to read a review that glorifies the stuff that I like or eventually lies in the area of my acceptance. I may see that Steve like Specialized or YT in particular but he never wrote anywhere that Spesh or Fox is best and rest is sht. It is the people who lean towards other products who add that on him or whoever wrote anything. Pinkbike awards are nothing more but an opinion of a bike site, it is not the 4th law of thermodynamics.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns:
Few years ago, trek was pushing toward 29er more than most brands, and they were developing a 29 session at the time (around 2012?), I might now recall well but every single bike journalist including sj was saying it made no sense at the time
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns:
As i said. He wears the shirt, that's it. I don't see how that makes him any more or less biased towards certain things.
I'd never accuse him of any affiliation and certainly not because of a shirt. My whole point is that shirt does neither account for his affiliation with any brand nor does it disprove his preferences in any way. It's a guy wearing a shirt he got for free, nothing more.
I do not know why the shirt is part of the argument really XD It's a non factor.

@fartymarty
He blew it out of proportion because he hyped only one aspect (the positive one), with total diregard for the negatives. Yes it is a leap forward for racing, even though it'll once again be negated once the whole field is on 29ers just as it was the case with 650b.
So the benefits are definitely something to argue about, but that is not the point.
I just disliked how he solely focused on the positive aspects and showed massive disregard for any critical commentary.
Of course that was my personal impression. Yours may vary and that's fine. But it is the reason why i think he blew it out of proportion.
  • 6 1
 There's alot of people praising their 29ers saying they're beating there fastest times etc, but did you consider your new 29er bike might have many other new features that make it faster, or even that you have got faster from riding your bike more or learning the trails better, even trail conditions could vary slightly but you haven't noticed.

Id argue that 70-30 split is way out, when your talking about riding a £500 bike compared to a 5K bike then yes it will make a big difference but when your talking high end bike vs other high end bike with bigger wheels, or wider bars, or updated suspension dampers or sizing and geometry changes (Basically all the marginal stuff that is made year to year) then its more like 90-10, and even that is generous to the bike, its all about the riders skill so please stop taking it away from the skill of the top guys.

The focus atm might be on 29" wheels but there's alot of assumption and opinions (with no real facts) getting thrown around, there's no definitive answer to what's faster in a sport with so many variables that all center around individuals with different preferences and different styles and different riding types. i suppose this is summed up well by just go ride your f**king bike (as so many others have said too)
  • 1 0
 Agree with you, totally. All the pro's ride great bikes. Its not rocket science despite the telemetry some teams use- the best riders push those bikes to the limits and the fastest of the best manage to hold on and win when it nearly goes pear shaped.
  • 15 6
 26 aint dead
  • 4 0
 So the best part of all this is my order of 5 schwalbe 26er tires just arrived from the USA....$9.99 USD for Hans Damps and Fat Alberts that are $110 Canadian in most shops if you can find a shop with a selection of 26 in tires these days. As a workin guy that has been at this for 30 years......just ride brand new stuff that was great 2 seasons back and now that the experts are saying that stuff is headed for the museum you buy it for big discounts and see how many 29ers you can slay per day,ride,race! I will ride another wheel size when I choose not when the industry chooses. PS....I read that the $21 xt 10spd chains are slower too.....now that the eagle has landed!
  • 11 4
 It was about the weather, not the bike or rider.
  • 3 0
 Especially during off season we learn how important it is for the pros to have a huge amount on their bike to make it feel like a part of their body. That's why I can't see a top rider switching back and forth to/from a 29er depending on the next track. I say the 29er DH bikes arrived in Lourdes to stay, other teams will follow soon and stick to the big wheels as well.
  • 4 1
 I'm not a 29 hater, but Santa with this move just fu***ed up the market, no one with healthy mind would spend 5k 6k 7k for new 27.5 dh bike and not for 29er benefits, but those 27.5 spectacular frames will worth a penny in the future if ipotetically market change in 29er direction...
  • 3 0
 This is a fantasic article, thank you for posting it. I think its all about image, everyone wants to look cool on the trails with thier new fancy wheel sizes, carbon frames etc. Thats why if 29" DH bikes to become available to the public they will sell like hot cakes even know it will make little to no difference the the buyers riding. I currently ride a 2017 SC V10cc and i really stuggle to find any real difference between it and the 2014 Specialized Demo i had before it! I was at a race at Innerleithen the other week and there was a dude riding an old Giant ATX and guess what, he didnt come last! I think mountain bikers are becoming to vain and losing site of the fact that we do it to have fun, not to look cool! When was the last time you were chatting up a girl or guy in a bar and they were impressed at the fact you rode a 27.5" DH Bike and not a 26" one............ never!!!
  • 1 0
 Industry wants to make Mtb like road.
  • 5 0
 I rode 29" trail bikes for 3 years.
They are faster but not nearly as much fun.
Its racing and everyone wants that edge so get ready folks.
  • 3 0
 I'll be that guy: it's the bike manufacturer's fault. For example, Trek thinks that you should only keep your $4-6K bike three years at most, and it should come full of proprietary parts. I get that DH 29ers are race-only, just like KERS is race-only tech for race cars, but you don't see car manufacturers pushing KERS as the next big thing for cars that you just can't live without, while I bet more than a couple bike brands will make the 29er dh push later this year.
  • 3 0
 The more I read about this wheel size stuff, the more I understand why Ratboy quit. I think it will be proven that at the highest race level 29 is going to be faster. But on the fun level ( really highest????) 26 or 27.5 is just more fun. Ride your f#*kin bike!
  • 3 0
 In the end it won't matter, you will just end up with a level playing field of fast guys going slightly faster all together, just Ike when they all switched to 27.5. So now they can all go a little faster and crash a little harder. Staying with 26 across the board would have been fine. It all boils down to marketing and selling more bikes. If 29 becomes the mass preference for WC racers, the grassroots racers will all be buying new 29 dh bikes, which wil boost the mtb economy. With higher capable speed comes higher consequences.
  • 3 0
 over 2 decades evolution and improving bikes and getting faster and faster was inherent to mountainbiking, hence there are very few rules how a mtb has to look. now -for some reason 29 inch on dh bikes is unbareable and many are crying for rules to ban this blasphemia - including nico and brendog who actually work for companies. now they a playing the evil industry card !? come on- companies do not sell alot of dh bikes, so if was just about selling bikes it is the worst idea ever. i can understand nigel pages comment, who said that it is bad for companies because now you have to develop a 29 inch dh bike of which you sell only a couple a year. brendogs argument is the worst ever, in a competition with few rules you cant just say ,"lets keep the status quo its fine", because you do not like the direction competitors are going.
  • 5 3
 It is really all about momentum, bigger wheels take more effort to get up to speed and more braking to slow down
So you ride them slightly different,
But DH racing is all about going fast over rough ground and 29er wheels do that better
The funny thing is that does not seem faster
Best thing to do is ban 29er from DH competition before wheels get even bigger?
  • 8 2
 I got 29 inches in my Minions. I don't care about your opinions.
  • 5 0
 I look forward to the 30'' downhill-ebike with skinsuits, it's the natural progression.
  • 3 1
 "it's the rider, not the bike" - why even change the wheelsize then? It weight more, it cost more and its less fun in the park. It removes skill from the rider since they roll over obstacles much easier. This is simple an unnecessary money grab from the industry.
  • 2 0
 Can anyone comment on the center of gravity for a 29" bike versus 27.5". And does it matter? Does a 29 have a higher cg and therefore takes more leaning angle to compensate in the turns? Same for high travel forks etc. Low cg should be able to handle turns easier it seams.
  • 2 0
 I like this article x1000. If Minnaar/Shaw/Vergier/any DH racer is more comfortable on a different bike they will be faster. Why would they not want that? Bikes are cool. DH is a game of tenths of seconds. Every little bit counts.
  • 2 0
 my 26 was fine , I have gotten a couple 27.5 bikes now and they are fine ,but the fact is that the only reason I got a 27.5 bike is because the industry has abandoned the 26 , so are they gonna do the same with 27.5 .Don't be so quick to say no because that is what they said about 26
  • 4 0
 Josh Bryceland had the best season of his life, when he was one of the only guys still riding 26 against a field of 27.5s.... Food for thought...
  • 2 1
 Yet on his own bike of choice in downtime is a 29
  • 1 0
 For xc rides. Of course it is.
  • 1 0
 @gabriel-mission9: if that's how people rode XC it would be a bit more fun to watch.
  • 1 0
 ...Finds xc boring to watch.....Thinks 29 is a good thing in DH....How do you do the facepalm emoji again?
  • 2 0
 I´m missing something...DH or enduro tracks are never the same,when the people hits the track one time and other the track is changing all the time. It´s possible to get the same run in a dyno testing an engine,but in the real world it means nothing (F1 grand prix kind of things...). This weekend we all see that "wind" wins the world cup,or maybe was that Lourdes "virgen" who wants a French guy win that day,not Loic,not Loris....Even a little stone that the previous rider let in your line can ruin your perfect run,a flat or "la virgen de Lourdes"
  • 5 1
 We need to stop all this development. It's hard to get pads for my Intake , I can't get a good fork for my 1" quill stem either -
  • 1 0
 height adjustable stems are a great idea
  • 1 0
 @MuddyFoxCourierComp: have you tried a suspension sestpost? The devil's work.
  • 2 0
 "The value of your bike is supposed to be how much fun you can have riding it. What happens at the World Cup shouldn't change that."

I agree with that statement 100%. But the problem for most people is that the industry does not feel the same way. It may not matter to me personally if 29ers provide a minor advantage on the WC track, but it will matter to the industry if it does. If these bikes prove to be faster its only a matter of time before the bike companies start shoving 29 inch DH bikes down our throat, along with all the new "standards" that go with it. Options for people who want to ride 27.5 will decrease and the already barely existent options for people with 26 inch bikes will likely just vanish.
  • 3 1
 The most important point that is being missed here is this is cycling. An industry dependant on obscene over pricing and the bank accounts of Dr.s and lawyers. The planned obsolescence and fracturing of the market place has pushed the fun bixe, affordable, ripable, aluminium dh machines off of lbs shelves. Now Lycra clad rodies can explore the dirt like they do the highways. Every weekend on the way to the trails I pass so many middle aged men in buttered up Lycra riding $5 to $10 k road bixe. Fractions of seconds do not matter. What matters to me is that this industry is ultimately hurting itself by fracturing its market and only targeting two places the idiots who have no need for a $10k bike and the biggest piece of the pie the ones who will buy what is easiest to market. Who cares about the fun. The r&d is less important than marketing.
  • 2 0
 Wheelsize debates are religious debates. Meaningless. Any wheelsize will bring you to the finishline (heaven). How the path to the land of glory feels, be it 29ism, 650bism or 26ism, is only a matter of (religious) taste. Nothing more.
  • 2 0
 Literally 99 percent of the 29er hype at Lourdes was fuelled by Pinkbike and now you're gonna condescendingly take the side of the general public as if we haven't been aware of this newfound "it's the rider not the bike" idea.
  • 2 0
 The real problem is the bike industry makes us feel like we wont get new parts for old 26 wheels. Now it wil be the same for 650b. Wide rims (for a reasonable price), nope sorry only 27.5 or bigger. CushCores, sorry. The latest tire, nope. I think most of this tech will trickle down but how long until all 3 sizes are represented equally in manufacturer's product lines?

I could give zero f*cks what size my tires is : )
  • 3 2
 But Bruni or Gwin could be faster with 29er? we will see

In every technical sport the connection rider-mtb/ski/motorbike ecc.ecc. Is crucial...

Minnaar said that he is tall.. and need longer bike... if he gad a 29er 5 years ago... can win more races???
  • 5 0
 29" for downhill, 30.5" for xc, watch this space
  • 3 1
 Interesting read. I agree that it is nearly all down to the rider. Will 29ers dominate the 2017 season? Nope, a 27.5 inch will. Gwin will dominate like he's done for years. On a good day I really don't think he's beatable.
  • 3 1
 "If you were not there in Lourdes, or unless you were supposed to be there but are sitting out injured, then it doesn't matter" - But it does matter because "Strava". Fractions of a percent DO matter every weekend!
  • 2 0
 In the latest Downtime Podcast, Jordi from Fox mentioned that he had tested a couple of new things in Portugal that were 3 seconds quicker over 3 minutes. There's your 1 second over 1 minute again.
  • 4 0
 I think the biggest concern at the moment is: what will industry do with the stock of 27,5 frames they still have????
  • 1 0
 As far as racing goes, who gives a rat's tuchus as to what they are riding? How well Loris' bike was at the splits has no bearing on my local rides. As far as I am concerned when it comes to bike racing, racers should be able to ride whatever they want as long they alone are pedaling it.

Regarding 29er's, as Mr Wragg said earlier they are still somewhat hit and miss. It was only in '12 that I rode my first 29er that I didn't think sucked (a Kona Honzo). Prior to this, they all handled like shopping carts or I felt like I was atop a bar stool after being over-served. The biggest change has been in adopting modern aggressive geometry that allows the big wheels to do what they do well (mow over everything and go fast) versus trying make them ride like a twitchy XC whip. I'm looking forward to seeing what is possible on my forthcoming Wreckoning.
  • 1 0
 Really good read. At 1.87m tall I would definitely consider a 29er for my next bike but I would be concerned about younger and smaller riders in the future not having a step up between 24" wheels to 29", if they were to become the "standard" wheel size.
  • 5 0
 Skinsuits are also faster...just sayin'
  • 1 0
 Yeah, but they are faster... Sooooo
  • 3 1
 So glad this was all explained to me with math and bar graphs. ...Becasue I really could not wrap my fucking head around the concept of race results and the even more extremely challenging concept of time racing.
  • 1 0
 you forgot one thing though, for it to be the rider, training is required.... this is a hobby so a lot of people dont train as hard as they should....so in order to ccmpensate that people will buy the "best" bike which will always bring back the argument, is it the bike or the rider, it is just a cycle.
  • 2 1
 I wonder where it ends. At what point is too big and too slack? Why not find that limit first and work backwards? 31" with a head angle of 58 in another 2 years. 33", 55 degrees after that. If someone can pilot a 40" bike, then why not build one?
  • 1 0
 Because santacruz and trek have no chnges of the design and technology especially appearances from the last couple years back V10 and session still the same just a small changes on geometry and colors yeah the fact why we dont just make it bigger,longer & slacker... thanks to commencal,norco,antidote,canyon and many other bikes manufactures who already give a different design and technology of course all about taste,feel and appearances each customers (riders)
  • 2 0
 29 inch wheels are faster. This whole debate is so stupid. A larger diameter wheel is no different than a wider bar or a different length crank. It is simply the scale of a component on the bicycle.
  • 1 0
 What's the big deal intense 951 29er in 2010 and khs to 2010...the first companys with 27.5 and 29er on modern bikes with good Geometry..def the rider not the bike I been racing for 5 years and can hop on any bike and pretty much do same times if ur confident on ur 2 wheels the size doesn't matter just makes the lil things easier going over gapped roots and gapped rocks where usually u use suspension to absorb instead u use tires to absorb with big wheels so u get better small bump compliance when really needed with suspension .....like driving a stock jeep offroad then one with 33 tire ..just makes sense
  • 1 0
 Here's my 2cents.
Still riding a 26" hard tail single speed with a
2012 Revelation on my local " hill" and having
a good ol time... Mind you there's a hot chick riding
along that makes all the diff.
Bottom line, it's all about fun and we should take all
of this as it is...
  • 3 1
 What is wrong with everyone?
No-one complains about T-Shirt size of shoes size, even the are bunch of f**g standards EU/US/GB/and so on, however everyone bitching around wheel size?
  • 1 0
 Ok sure maybe they are faster for some people, but we can have them as a norm for the mountain biking community because what about the free riders, they say 29ers feel like sails. They wouldn't work at Rampage. At most we'll have companies creating either only 29er DH bikes, or they make both 29ers and 650b for the free riders. I personally would want a 650b cause I see a DH bike for free riding cause i race enduro.
  • 1 0
 I've been running the new 3" High Roller(looks like the front tire on a 250F MX bike...literally. It's only 5mm narrower than the 80/21 they put on those things) since the day after they released it, and the level of traction it brings is ridiculous.
It also has every bit of feedback that my narrower tires have.
I like them so much I threw a 2.8" on the front of my DH bike, and went faster straight away.
IMO the DH train will only make a quick stop at the 29"wheel, and the next *final* stop will be the 27.5+
The hold-up has been the tires not delivering feedback and traction in all environments, but that's changed now.
Obviously I could be wrong, but time will tell.
  • 3 0
 Well said! Don't really care what size my wheels are as long as I'm on my bike!
  • 3 1
 peole are talking aboot UCI rulings, I'd actually like to see a rider have to pick a wheel size an Stick to it for the whole season..
  • 5 0
 32" on the horizon
  • 3 3
 Interesting read but riders will just pick the right bike for the right course for them - the only downside is if a smaller bike company that currently sponsor a 'dirtbag' rider can't afford to create a 29" frame and make it available to purchase under the UCI 9 month rule it may well lead to either those bike manufactures pulling out or the dirtbag riders not being able to compete on a level playing field.
Meanwhile (let the Darth Vader music start to play) the big boys such as Trek etc who can afford multiple bikes will come to dominate the field (where's the fun in that?)
  • 3 0
 All this hub bub about 29. But this was the first wheel size experiment like 15 years ago! 29 aint the new new.
  • 1 1
 "It's all about the rider, not the bike."...but this isn't entirely true. Downhill racers are looking to gain a fraction of a second on their competitors, especially at the WC level. SC, Trek and others wouldn't invest their time and money into a product they felt wouldn't help their riders gain an advantage. If 29ers didn't win on the race course then they're likely not going to sell to the average rider.

In regards to WC downhill, 26" is dead, 27.5" may be dead at some point, and 29" may be the future. We'll see, But to say it's all about the rider is inaccurate.
  • 2 0
 I'm back on 26" again this year after a short stint on a 27,5" last year for the bike park. I learned that the actual bike is more important than the wheel size.
  • 3 1
 Blah blah blah, 29er crashing the DH party and the 27.5s turn to cry and make excuses! Btw, 26 party is not dead, still freeriding!
  • 2 0
 "The value of your bike is supposed to be how much fun you can have riding it. What happens at the World Cup shouldn't change that."

@mattwragg This is gold. Well done, Sir.
  • 2 2
 I think 29ers have their place, but its not in WC DH. Maybe they make sense for the ultra pros that can get new rims and wheels whenever they need them. Rougher tracks like Ft William are going to tear those wheels to bits!! Smoother and straighter tracks like MSA 29ers could have some sort of advantage there.
  • 1 0
 Well, I don't want 29ers to be faster. Unfortunately they seem to be. That's okay. But I am just wondering if they are fun. Like if they are fun, without your main focus being speed.
  • 4 0
 The bike industry has gone full retard
  • 10 9
 next they will be in body suits its been proven before that 29ers and bodysuit (Lycra) makes you faster and your penis smaller. FACTS
  • 33 2
 Smaller penis saves weight. #marginalgains
  • 4 0
 @Bluefire: Marginal gains? For you maybe, but some of us have some serious gains to make there.
  • 1 0
 Ride your bike Travel to ride your bike Drink beer and tell stories of your rides and your travel Wash-Rinse-Repeat as much as you can! 20-24-26-650b-29... doesn't matter!
  • 2 0
 It's all hype for marketing !!!!!!!!!!!! Once again everyone will fall for it............
  • 4 0
 #NeverFellFor275
  • 1 0
 Maybe just wait until these Santa Cruz riders rides a course with similar conditions to what they rode last year to get an accurate comparison?
  • 1 0
 "your bike is supposed to be how much fun you can have riding it. What happens at the World Cup shouldn't change that"

So why can't I buy a 26" bike anymore?
  • 1 0
 Since the intro of 27.5 and 29 I have been picking up some 26 inch 2nd hand bargains !! It aint the bike/wheel size holding me back it's my riding ability.
  • 2 0
 " It all comes back to that one, crucial point: It's all about the rider, not the bike. "
  • 2 1
 Great article thanks for posting the times of the top guys runs. I had wondered what that would show.
  • 2 1
 Pretty sure a 27.5 has won last 2 years of ews and were the top 5 bikes in forst ews this year
  • 3 0
 whatever make you happy
  • 1 1
 29er bikes are maybe faster but most people are out there for fun and for most people 26 or 27.5 will just be more fun and are better for popping around on the trail
  • 2 0
 29ers Will rule the down hill pronto .
  • 4 4
 I think the wheelsize is relative with riders height, 29er good for Minaar but for sure not good for a guy like Dany Hart..
  • 1 1
 I plan on putting a 20'' wheel out back on an old big hit with a 32'' up front, 26 inch aint dead.
  • 1 0
 Am I the only nerd bothered by spelling mistakes?
  • 5 4
 heal up soon Vagina !
  • 1 2
 Cool it hotrod!
  • 6 6
 Leave the penny farthing wheels for... the penny farthing.
  • 9 12
 pinkbike forgot nobody gives a shit
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