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Head020913Unless you are living under a rock, you will know that mountain bike wheels now come in a variety of sizes. Even if you are living under a rock, you must have noticed some wheels seem to roll over it easier.

Apparently, after three decades of fun and frolics on wheels that are more or less 26 inches across, it turns out they never should have been that size. It’s just that’s what was available. A lone voice in the Colorado mountains started wailing about 29 inch wheels almost immediately, but nobody paid him much attention until Gary Fisher did. Like civil unions, 29ers became available, then acceptable, then almost mainstream.

But wait, there’s more. The euros already had a different wheel size, and it sits somewhere in between the other two. Pioneers like Tom Ritchey even gave them a crack way back when. They call it 650b, we call it 27.5 inch, because we use the metric system in everything except wheel sizes.
Most brands are all about this new size, and word from up the hill says you won’t find a 26 inch wheeled bike above a midrange price point pretty soon.

If you were going to move to 29 inch you probably already have, taken the snorts of derision and the derogatory comments, and rolled over things more smoothly. If you are going to stay small you will more than likely flog your current rig until it breaks or you forget its on the roofrack when you come home from a big day out, and your new sled will be a mid-sizer.

What does all this mean to us? Depends who you ask. If it’s somebody whose job is selling this year’s model, you will get a black and white answer. Same goes if you talk to somebody whose day job is talking about new stuff.

You certainly don’t need to stress: one of the priests at my place of worship currently has two top shelf bikes in his possession, stunning examples of each of the smaller wheel sizes. His level of trail craft is far removed from that of ordinary mortals. I thought I could ask him about the differences he had found, surely he would know.

He couldn’t really say, because only one of his bikes has carbon rims, the other was carrying alloy ones. The unstated message was that alloy rims are so generally inferior as to render any comparison moot.

As he pointed out, definitely a first world problem.

I have decided my favourite wheel size is the one on the bike I am riding when I should be working.




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