What’s Driving the 650B Explosion? Interviews, Tech Breakdown & More!

26 inch 650B and 29er wheel tire and rim size measurements comparison diagram and chart

Seems there’s no hiding from 650B discussions these days. Depending on who you listen to, the sudden explosion is either driven by consumers  looking for something better or industry folks trying to drum up new business. In reality, both are true, and 650B / 27″ / 27.5″ mountain bikes are headed to bike shops this fall. What’s surprising is the “explosion” part. Unlike the slow adoption and cautious market entry many brands practiced with 29ers, no one wants to be left behind the latest craze.

We talked to a wide variety of domestic and foreign bike, component and tire brands to get the scoop…and they opened up pretty well!  Interviews after the break, but first, a little primer on the wheel size.

The 650B size isn’t new. In fact, it’s been used for decades on cruiser and commuter bikes in France. Originally, the 650 number referred to the outside tire diameter with different letters (A, B, C or none) referring to different size tires and rim widths. Note that the number doesn’t refer to the rim’s diameter. To make matters even more confusing (or nonsensical, depending on your point of view), 650mm equals 25.59 inches, which isn’t remotely close to the 27″ or 27.5″ English conversion we’re seeing on parts. It’s a rabbit hole, and if you’re interested in the red pill, MTBR recently posted a nice timeline on 650B’s modern evolution into mountain bikes. Sheldon Brown also has a few good articles on tire size and rim measurements.

The short of it is this: With 26″ and 29ers, those numbers generally refer to the outside diameter of the tire. With 650B, most manufacturers we talked to are leaning toward calling it and marking their parts with 27.5″, which should not only reduce consumer confusion, but also more accurately portray the tire size…sort of. Much of it depends on the tire’s width. Put a 1.75″ slick on your 26″ bike and you’re probably rolling on little more than 25″ of outside rubber. On the flip side, run something like WTB’s massive Weirwolf 2.5 29er and you could very easily be around 30″. As you can see from the images in this post, 650B is actually much closer to 26″ in diameter.

650B wheel size comparison with 26 inch and 29er

A visual comparison of the three mountain bike wheel sizes. Brands are Ellsworth, ENVE and Mavic.

We pitched the following questions to a wide range of product and marketing managers. There’s a bit of redundancy (and a few surprises), below are their unedited responses. When I started the conversation with the brands, it was with the assumption that the industry was driving this, and in some cases they agreed. Naysayers may cry foul, that they’re just trying to boost business, but I think this quote from Paul Aieta, MRP’s VP of Sales, puts a better perspective on it:

“The industry is fueled by thousands of enthusiasts (like me) who strive to make a better bike.  The victor is the consumer because they keep getting better and better bikes and gear that they didn’t even think to ask for.”

Enjoy…

WHAT’S DRIVING THE SUDDEN EXPLOSION IN 650B?

SPECIALIZED (Sam Benedict, MTB Product Marketing): It’s not new to riders, we looked at, and tested, it years ago and continue to pay attention to it.  This latest surge is coming from the manufacturers though, not the riders which is interesting.

SRAM (Tyler Morland, MTB Communications Manager): There’s a few different factors coming together on this. As 29” bikes have gained momentum, there’s more interest in bigger wheels. However, particularly at longer travel, many frame designers feel challenged in designing a full suspension bike with 29” wheels. 650B allows the designer to take advantage of a “bigger than 26 inch” wheel without the same design challenges as a 29” wheel. Weight has also played into the discussion as well. While at the premium level, weight differences between 26” and 29” component parts and frames have narrowed, at the mid and entry level there’s still a big difference. 650B allows the creation of a lighter weight “bigger than 26 inch” wheel bike at these price points.

CONTINENTAL (Brett Hahn, US marketing): Actually not all that sudden, been around for a long time and used more recently by smaller, custom builders like Pacenti or more mainstream like Jamis. Basically the limitations of 29 with regard to frame design/geometry have been fully-realized and it’s time to fix it.

PIVOT (Chris Cocalis, founder): I think the sudden interest in 650B is a combination of things. Some companies have seen where there are limitations to where we can go with travel and frame sizing on a 29er and 650 offers a good alternative to this. Also, some of the European countries really have not bought into the idea of 29ers and this gives them an option to go bigger without following the 29er trend. I think there has been swelling interest for quite some time, but we all needed Fox and Rock Shox to develop some product to make this happen.

CANNONDALE/GT (Bill Rudell, PR manager): I think this is driven from three directions: 1) Riders seeing the benefits of 29” wheels on hardtails & short travel bikes and wanting those benefits on their longer travel bikes that face fitment challenges of the big wheels. 2) Shorter stature riders wanting to reap some of the rewards of bigger wheels, but who can’t fit on 29ers. 3) Euros.

650B wheel size comparison with 26 inch and 29er mountain bike tires installed

A visual comparison of 26, 27.5 and 29er wheels with tires.

AMERICAN CLASSIC (Bill Shook, founder): With the increased popularity of the 29er people are realizing there’s something to the easier rolling of large diameter wheels. The 29er doesn’t fit into long travel suspension frames. 29ers weigh more than 26. Some people are too small to really benefit from 29. So 650b is in between 26 and 29. It addresses all these issues. 650b’s roll well, they are lighter and fit long travel forks/frames (not DH travel).

SCHWALBE (Sean Cochran, Field Marketing): This is an interesting one because several years ago there was a push from the US to create this wheel size but nothing really played out. This year it seems the main interest is coming from Europe. I believe it’s because they found themselves behind by not investing in 29ers and now they don’t want to make the same mistake twice.

KENDA (Ben Anderson, MTB PR): The sudden interest in all being driven by the OEM segment of the market. Aftermarket and end consumers are not the driving force and are in some cases sitting back, puzzled by this sudden burst of excitement in 650B. Jamis and KHS as the long standing supporters of 650B are continuing to push forward on it, and now we are seeing the increased interest from OE accounts globally. I think that part of the mad dash from OEM’s is in some way driven by all the product managers not wanting to potentially miss the boat on this like some companies may have with 29’ers. Tack on to that the fact that Nino Schurter is killing it on the World Cup circuit on 650B (tubulars no less).

MRP/WHITE BROTHERS (Paul Aieta, VP Sales): Not sure, really, maybe because the White Brothers LOOP 650 fork helped Jamis get a great review from Mountain Bike Action (Ha!). Or because the word got out that one of the “majors” was going to get into it, and then everybody rushed to design their bikes and components.

SCOTT (Adrian Montgomery, US Marketing): First, we call it 27″. #keepitinches because all the other bikes in the category are measured in inches, we need to look forward to the retail and customer conversation and keep the units of measure the same. I think that both suppliers and consumers have had a taste of the Big Wheel (29″) and like all the benefits it offers but 29″ doesn’t suit all riders or all bike types. For instance, you cannot build a bike with more than 130mm of travel with 29″ wheels because the BB offset and the rest of the geometry would be WACK. So, some are considering 27″ as an alternative to 26″. #keepitinches

TOMAC (Joel Smith, Owner): Companies looking to grow their sales and differentiate it’s brand. It’s obvious the 29er market has matured and is saturated, so there’s few places to go to grow sales. I mean, bigger than 29 isn’t going to happen, and you’d get lynched for something smaller than 26. It seems natural to go big for 650b, especially when the market is developing and you can be seen as “innovative” for even making a 650b bike.

SANTA CRUZ (Mike Ferrentino, whose comments were presumably vetted by suspension engineer Joe Graney, who is on the record as not looking forward to 650B): First, i do not entirely agree with (the premise that the industry is driving this). I think consumers are a big part of this interest bubble right now. According to francis at MTBR, “650b” is the second most popular search term on their site at the moment, and the 650b forum traffic is showing huge growth. It is valid to argue that the industry is at fault for even beginning to entertain the idea of 650b wheels, but consumers are clamoring right now for what they perceive to be the next better mousetrap. Another thing to consider – IF this takes off, does anyone realize how much crow the industry is going to have to eat listening to grant petersen saying “I told you so?”

650B wheel size comparison with 26 inch and 29er mountain bike tires installed

Comparison from another angle. See below for tire models.

I think on the consumer side there is a desire for some sort of better mousetrap/magic bullet – a wheel size between 26″ and 29″ that will combine all the positive attributes of both into one bike that will do everything. That desire is a bit naive, but people go down that road all the time.

At the industry level, you’ve got the fading popularity of 26″ wheels on hardtails and short travel xc applications butting headfirst into the very real packaging issues surrounding use of 29″ wheels for long travel, high abuse riding. I think within the industry, for some companies at least, there’s also a pretty heavy fear of being left behind if the ‘tweener wheel takes off, and somehow becomes the miracle wheel that everyone defaults to. You know, some sort of amplified 1992 syndrome – fear of being left with a giant pile of 1″ and 1.25″ threaded headsets, right around the time that 1 1/8″ threadless steerers became the industry default. Okay, maybe not.

LAPIERRE (Serge Lopez, Product Manager): There is no doubt now that 29″ wheels are helping a lot but that you can’t design a long travel frame with 29″ wheels. So everybody is trying to find the best compromise and in some cases, 650B could be the proper dimension.

JAMIS (Sal Crochiola, marketing): We saw the sudden explosion with Rockshox and Fox announced that they’d have forks. A lot of brands were watching the market, watching us and KHS do it, and maybe started developing a couple test bikes, and maybe that’s what spurred the two fork leaders to be on board, then that allowed it to explode. Then the tire guys, then rim and wheels guys followed suit. And that was really only in the past six months! We watch the forums a lot, and it seems like people are showing more interest as they’re hearing more about it and as our bike tests start showing up in more magazine tests. And people have been retrofitting their 26″ bikes when they can, and that’s been silently growing. We’ve been explaining it for years, but with 650B, you really have to ride it to get it. I think it’s taken the last few years for the product managers and engineers to get a 650B bike under them.

American Classic 650B rims

American Classic's 650B rim profiles.

If your brand is getting involved, when and why? What’s the strategy behind your timing – are you taking a wait and see approach or looking to lead the segment?

SPECIALIZED: We will continue to look at it but right now we are not getting involved.

SRAM: RockShox is currently in production with a Revelation fork in 650B, and our 650B Rise 40 wheelset will start production in June. Across a number of OEM brands, there were clearly expressed desires to create 650B bikes, but key components like suspension and wheels were missing from the market. With both these products, we were driven to produce these products by the requests from our OEM partners. At SRAM, we pride ourselves on offering choice to the market, and creating 650B options felt like it was supporting the idea of choice.

CONTINENTAL: Way too big to ignore, every major interest is taking the step. We plan to support the dimension with multiple patterns, widths and versions.

PIVOT: We will be in this segment for sure, but it won’t just be a 26” bike adapted for 650. I consider it an all new platform that needs to be developed properly from the ground up.

CANNONDALE/GT: GT is actively looking at 650B for the future for potential use, but it’s a little too early to say if/when these would make our product line.

AMERICAN CLASSIC: We have had 650B for about + 3 years. This is our SECOND generation of 650B. We have 3 new wheel models and one rim only model coming out at Eurobike and available for early autumn 2012. Wheels are RACE 650B tubeless, All Mountain 650B Tubeless, Terrain 650b Tubeless and the new tubeless rim project “Disc 101” tubeless 650B 32h.

SCHWALBE: Schwalbe released its first 650B tire in 2009 the Racing Ralph we did not receive a whole lot of requests for the tire and we almost retired the mold this year but with all the interest we decided to keep it. Schwalbe has always believed in being an innovator we started working on other options last year which is why we will have a full complement of 650B tires in 2013.

KENDA: We are already in the market with the Nevegal 2.10 and 2.35, we never stopped production on it. We are also developing three new tires for the 650B segment, the Karma 650Bx2.00 having already been shown at Sea Otter this year, in both tube type and tubeless ready SCT constructions. As one of the leading tire manufacturers we plan on being a leader in the 650B segment too.

MRP/WHITE BROTHERS: White Brothers helped Kirk Pacenti pioneer this segment by doing the first 27.5” x 100mm travel fork in 2006.

SCOTT: Our involvement has been limited to producing a prototype Scale frame for Nino Schurter to race the World Cup. We opted to make this for him to provide any advantage possible for the Olympic year. The reason we made him a 27″ Scale is that he wanted bigger wheels but had real fit issues on our Scale 29″. If you remember Kulhavy was smoking fools on the 29″ bike last WC but he’s over 6′ tall so it worked for him, it did not work for Nino.

TOMAC: We will do it, because I have learned that missing trends is missing sales and no bike company today can afford to miss sales.

LAPIERRE: We are already testing a lot of things since a few months and, obviously, we are here to lead every segment! When? When we’re happy with the way our samples work… and we’re not far from that. Why? Because we’re convinced that in some cases, 26” are not the best compromise and 650B could help.

JAMIS: Obviously we’re looking to lead it. Last year we introduced two 650B hardtails and that was consumer driven. Our full suspension bikes came in 2009, but shops were asking for hardtails. We’re going to add more models for 2014, we’re developing more for sure.

650B wheel size comparison with 26 inch and 29er mountain bike tires installed

The larger gap between 27.5 and 29er is evident when tires are installed. Shown here are, left to right, Michelin Wild Race'r 26x2.1 - Pacenti Neo-Moto 650Bx2.1 - WTB Nano 29x2.1

If you’re working on it, how long has 650B been on your radar as something you wanted to bring to market?

SPECIALIZED: We have tested other manufacturers’ bikes as well as built our own as far as three years ago.

SRAM: We first started fielding requests for RockShox forks about 5 years ago. However, at that time the requests were all over the map in terms of intended use, travel and price point. Some brands were looking for longer travel forks, while others viewed it as a potentially lighter weight alternative to 29” for race bikes. Last summer (2011), interest began to consolidate around the trail bike segment, in the 140/150mm travel range. We formally launched the development project in September of 2011.

CONTINENTAL: 3-4 Years.

PIVOT: I tested with 650 wheels 4 years ago and at that time pushed hard for both Rock Shox and Fox pursue it, but 29ers were just really gaining steam so it wasn’t in the cards at that time. The announcement about 8-9 months ago that both companies were going to be developing forks changed the game. We will have something special when all the testing is done and we are happy with the end product. I think this is a perfect application for longer travel designs (more than 5.7”) where 29ers have some issues.

CANNONDALE/GT: Personally, 650B has been on my radar for the past 5 or 6 years and on the GT brand radar for the past 18 or so months. I’ve personally always looked at 650B as the size the industry should have done, but didn’t.

AMERICAN CLASSIC: About 1 year or so for this second generation.

KENDA: With the existing Nevegals going as far back as the end of 2008 it has been on our radar for a while. However, the new interest has been something that we have been watching and preparing for, for the last year.

MRP/WHITE BROTHERS: Since 2006. In 2011 we introduced the LOOP 650, the first dedicated 650B series of forks, from 80mm to 150mm.

SCOTT: So far it is not on our radar to bring to market. We’ve been testing since last summer for Nino’s bike and we have some real good data on how the wheels accelerate, the size of their traction patch and their improved rollover when compared to 26″ but at this point we are not planning to make a 27″ production bike. We’ll read through the comments on this story to gauge the market input.

TOMAC: It’s been on the radar for a long time, but the components to build the bikes have been somewhat limited. That’s changed in the past 6 months, which makes it much easier to put the bike you want together.

LAPIERRE: Approximately 1 year, we’ve started to push some of our suppliers because we need them to bring the appropriate products/parts to the market.

JAMIS: We started developing the first 650B bikes in late 2008 and in the market as a 2010 model year. We started with a 5″ travel full suspension bike because we were getting a lot of pressure for a full suspension 29er. Once we hit 130mm travel, it was so difficult to get a good full suspension design, but the 650B wheel size worked, so that’s how it came about.

2012 Jamis Dakar 650B Pro mountain bike

The 2012 Jamis Dakar 650B Pro full suspension mountain bike.

Assuming the wheel size takes off with rapid consumer adoption, how do you think it’ll change the retail landscape? In other words, if it’s successful, what sort of bikes do you think we’ll see on IBD floors in three years?

SPECIALIZED: The retail landscape will not change too much. Shops will still carry mountain bikes and help people get the best ride for them, cross country, trail, DH, etc. Mountain biking will still be a lot of fun. The tricky part will be what shops stock. Most shops have expressed to us that they are not interested in carrying three wheel sizes. Too hard to explain, to carry everything they need, and service new and old bikes. Shops will probably pick two, maybe even one wheel size and focus on what is best for their area.

SRAM: If rapid consumer adoption occurs, there’s a few different scenarios that could play out. It’s entirely possible 650B could become the dominant wheel size in a few years’ time. While I don’t expect to see 26” or 29” disappear entirely, we could see a shift to the point where most “mountain bikes” would use 650B. While short term this might be a challenge for the IBD, a few years out this could actually reduce the amount of variation and complexity in the mountain bike world. Alternatively, it’s possible that wheel size could become a part of intended use, similar to travel. So, shorter travel XC bikes would be 26”, mid travel and all mountain bikes would be 650B, and longer travel bikes would be 26”. Of course, all this depends on the bikes being offered providing a real advantage that the consumer can appreciate. That still remains to be proven.

CONTINENTAL: 26 will remain the longest in the gravity segment, and 27.5 and 29 will merge in the 80 – 160mm travel world, with XC hard tails and shorter travel trail bikes in 29 and the rest 27.5.

PIVOT: In the next couple of seasons, I think there is going to be massive confusion at the shop and rider level with 3 wheels sizes. That part is impossible to get around. It’s pretty clear at the long travel end of the spectrum. Just like now, about ½ the riders like the maneuverability of 26” wheels and the other half like the big wheels. In the longer travel bikes, we will have two options. At the XC race level, the 29er wheels hold a clear efficiency advantage for many riders on most race courses, but it doesn’t have a weight advantage and there are some sizing restrictions so it will be interesting to see how the war wages on the XC front. I think the trail bike (5-under 6”) of travel will have 3 wheels sizes existing for awhile. This category is still dominated by 26” wheel bikes for a reason. They are fun, light and capable. In any case, we are excited to be a part of it and when we release something in the 650 wheel size, it will be incredible.

CANNONDALE/GT: If it takes off as some are predicting, I could realistically see 650B taking off for most dual suspension bikes globally and on hardtails in Europe. For the US, I think we’re solidly in love with our 29ers and it might take a rebirth of Heston himself to pry them from our cold dead hands.

AMERICAN CLASSIC: IBD’s will ultimately go to 650B and 29er bikes. 26” will eventually become a “big box” store item as time goes on.

SCHWALBE: In North America 120mm-160mm bikes for sure. Europe may be a little different in they will most likely have both trail and hard tail race bikes. One things for certain there will be one hanging in my garage.

KENDA: If this is successful, there will be eventual acceptance from retailers who may be initially reluctant to stock an additional tire size and range of product offerings in their shops. In time you may see each of the three main tire sizes become a dedicated tire to a specific type of riding, with some overlap between the categories. 26” tires will remain the tire of choice for downhill, 650B will take over the Trail/All Mountain segment, and 29” will be the tire of choice for cross country in the US. Obviously there will be some overlap, potentially seeing 650B in XC for smaller riders. Additionally, we are already seeing that in Europe there is push for 650B in the XC market too.

MRP/WHITE BROTHERS: 650 could realistically take over a large slice of the pie. 29” hardtails for racing (except perhaps in the smaller frame sizes) and 26” for DH will remain unaffected.

Scott Swisspowers Nino Schurter wins Pietermaritzburg World Cup XC on Scott carbon 27-5 650B hardtail prototype

Nino en route to a World Cup victory on the prototype Scott Scale 27".

SCOTT: I think if we do see another wheel standard take hold then retailers will have one more exciting product to sell, and consumers will have more variety. Think about it like this, kids get 12″, 16″, 20″ and 24″ bikes to fit, why should adults only have two sizes? We come in all shapes and sizes and have varying interests. The ballon tire (26×2.125) standard has been around for about 75 years, isn’t it time we challenge it? I mean we’re not all running around on 1″ threaded steerers anymore, and our BB’s come in varied PF sizes and our FD’s have more mounting types than I care to count. We’re already challenging convention in MTB, this is just another step.

TOMAC: Well, it’s hard to say. I don’t think anyone 2 years ago would have suspected we would be talking about nothing but 650b in 2012. But, here we are, and there’s not denying all of the hype is creating a market for something no one knew they needed two years ago. And you can imagine some brands will do different wheel sizes for different travels, or different wheel sizes for difference height riders, but in the short term it will just be more options for consumers, which is always a good thing.

SANTA CRUZ: IF it takes off, it makes sense that ‘tweener wheels would find acceptance in the mid-travel AM-ish trailbike segment, Nino Schurter notwithstanding. the same people who want that elusive jackalope of a do-it-all 6″ travel bike that is their one ride, they’ll be the prime target for the wheel size. 29″ wheels will continue their crushing of everything at the hardtail and short travel xc end of things, 26″ wheels will still have primacy in the world of DH. But what the hell do I know? I remember thinking hydraulic disc brakes were a fad.

LAPIERRE: That’s a little bit strategical and maybe a little bit early to reveal it at this moment. But if you take a look at what will be happening to Lapierre entry level bikes next year, then, you’ll probably understand where we want to go with the wheels sizes…

JAMIS: In two years and beyond, I think we’ll see a lot more 650B bikes from other brands. A lot of guys are testing prototypes now, as are we. Five years down the road, when you walk into a shop in the US, you’ll probably only see 650B and 29er. When you go over $700 retail today, about all you see now is 29ers. For brands that were considering a high end full suspension bike, you’ll see 26″ go away, replaced by 650B.

——

What do you think? Are you interested in riding 650B? Where do you see bikes headed in three to five years? Leave a comment, the industry’s listening!

Comments

Topmounter - 06/06/12 - 4:44pm

I’m sure the industry wants to see more bikes added to the “required” multi-bike quiver… Road bike, Cyclocross Bike, Tri-bike, 29″ Hard-tail, 29″ FS XC, 650b trail bike, 26″ DH, etc., etc.

Dude - 06/06/12 - 4:54pm

Zero interest in this wheel size….

pass the gravy - 06/06/12 - 5:15pm

I like my 650B Jamis a lot, and a Pivot with those wheels sounds like the coolest thing I can think of.

Gillis - 06/06/12 - 5:30pm

@Topmounter, you’re mistaken, no wants a “tri-bike”. Unless you mean a tricycle by which you further mean an adult-sized big-wheel for hooning around the neighborhood on. IF that’s the case you are right.

Adrian (Scott Bikes) - 06/06/12 - 6:49pm

Just wanted you all to know we’re reading the comments here to gauge the market interest so fire away…

Topmounter - 06/06/12 - 6:53pm

Well ok, only Tri-athletes want Tri-bikes… I should have said TT-bike.

In addition to smaller frame sizes, 650b does make some sense if you want larger-than-26 wheels and a longer travel rear end. I just don’t know if 650b is “better enough” (to justify its existence) on longer travel FS bikes versus sticking w/ 26″ wheels.

aj - 06/06/12 - 7:08pm

I can’t wait, Im only disappointed that I am not hearing that there will be full-blown race bikes in both hard tails and full sus from these guys in 2012. After riding a 29er and going back to 26 it is obvious that 26 is a very small wheel and at disadvantage at a 29er at some things. 29 is a big wheel though and to go full sus sometimes means compromises. 650 is making so much sense. It will be a long time in the US for 29 to fade, if ever, but 26 will fade for sure when 650 arrives.

aj - 06/06/12 - 7:10pm

2013 that is ^

john - 06/06/12 - 7:33pm

http://www.sixfifty.com check this out

ZIP - 06/06/12 - 8:00pm

Im a 6’1 professional athlete.

Love all types of biking, that even does include TT.
Last bike 26″ Blur LTC – Loved it.
Current 1 of my 6 Bikes 29″ Niner Jet 9 RDO – Love it. (yes I need to sell them)

Do not see the need to dilute the market with a third “tier” of product. I believe that the second hand market will not move as well and in turn the retail will not turn over as much the bike industry is shooting itself in the foot for a short term financial gain.

A very wise man once told me “Keep it Simple, do the Simple things well”, I offer this advice to the bike industry. Bike companies who focus attention on developing more and more bikes take away from their other products (generalization). Jack of all trades master of none. I know cause I am a jack of all trades.

DON”T BUY INTO THE 650B / 27.5″

Jeff - 06/06/12 - 8:06pm

I have been riding 29er’s since 2006 exclusivly and since I have no need / want of a LT FS bike of any wheel size I have zero interest in 27.5″ wheels. Plus I am 6’5″ so 29″ are finally big enough to make my bikes look like a adult bike.

Alex - 06/06/12 - 8:08pm

Yet, another way to make you buy a new bike.
What’s was wrong with the 26″ wheels? Nothing !!! is the true answer.

rc - 06/06/12 - 8:08pm

27″ is legit (since people are buying/using them) and I think the Scott rep captured the sentiment well in his response to the last question. I’m scratching my head a little from Specialized’s response which seems very “head in the sand” for a company that wants to dominate every bike segment — or maybe they’re trying to throw other companies off the scent.

Anyways, I’m 6′ and ride a 29er. While the bike fits me and I don’t need any more travel, I think there’s something to be said for handling and the ability to get a shorter chain stay with the 27″ size (if the geometry is right, could improve handling a lot). That and maybe weight savings would be the biggest factors to me.

Darren - 06/06/12 - 8:13pm

I agree with what most of the manufactures are saying. I think
26er will be for DH, Jump, Box store bike.
27.5 will be smaller rider HT, small rider FS XC and the FR segment
29er will be for XC HT, and Short travel XC

I am 6ft and will not be owning a 27.5, but I am interested in the idea of putting of a 27.5 in the back, and a 29er up front.

I run 2.4 or 2.55 on Rigid 29er HT, would be interesting to run the same thing with a 3.0 27.5 tire in back.

CJ - 06/06/12 - 8:17pm

One of the reasons 26″ will remian viable is the available gearing selection for those who are more gravitationally challenged. Turning the cranks up a steep incline on a 26″ vs a 29″ is why 650b is seeing the interest. That said I am, running a 650b on the front of my Turner and once some fork and position adjustments are made it is a better version of the same mousetrap.

stan - 06/06/12 - 8:36pm

Great article. I appreciate the work in getting so many manufacturers to chime in on this. Based on responses it seems like that while there is some consumer interest, it is the manufacturers not wanting to be left behind that is driving it more (at least that’s what I get some bike makers). Fork and tire makers — glad they are getting on board….it would be a short train ride w/o them.

RKT - 06/06/12 - 8:59pm

The only thing I’m waiting on is my Stan’s wheels. As soon as they are in, I will own a reasonably lightweight Jamis hardtail 27″ bike. Really hoping that companies come out with race oriented hardtails and full suspension bikes, but realize the big attraction will be longer travel trail bikes.

rich - 06/06/12 - 9:03pm

Go figure that a 6’1 professional athlete doesn’t mind 29? A big guy with a lot of power should have no problem keeping the big wheels moving fast. But what about those who aren’t 6 foot and aren’t pro? 650 seems like a good option for customers looking for bigger wheel advantage but don’t want boat anchor wheels that come with entry level 29ers. I’ve always thought 29ers were great for racers, but I’ve seen a lot of entry level riders struggle with cheap 29ers

Xris - 06/06/12 - 9:08pm

Doing the 650B thing here in Toronto is iffy. Our shop has a ton of traffic from bikers who have heard of it but are still only just getting into 29er and that shocked a lot of people and still does. It’s still a fresh wheel size that the general public has only now started to fully embrace. I don’t think it’s too soon, but it needs to be introduced with more force than 29er was and have bikes ready to go from a large list of major companies (Scott, Giant, Trek, Specialized, etc), for the general non-mtb enthusiast to actually catch onto it. They’re the ones driving the industry. It’s not the guys who eat, sleep, and breath bikes.

GChambers - 06/06/12 - 9:21pm

I would own a 650B 140mm travel bike as my “Do Everything else” bike in a heart beat to compliment my Single Speed 29er Hardtail.

highpointer - 06/06/12 - 9:38pm

GT and Schwinn (the ones before they were sold) used the 650b wheels many years ago. Has a Trek dealer I would like to see the Trek Fuel EX with the 650b wheels. I think it will happen for 2013 but maybe 2014.

Craig - 06/06/12 - 9:45pm

I have a 2010 Jamis 650B2 that I’m really enjoying, can’t wait for further refinements (carbon, more tire/wheel options etc.)!

Russ - 06/06/12 - 9:47pm

Silly for the manufactures to be thinking about doing this. Complicates the retail environment, adds to the required inventories of the manufactures/ distributors & confuses the average customer.

Lets be honest, what lets the bike industry exist is the customer that would never be reading bikerumor. I can imagine the pain in the a** complex dynamic of showing a customer to the “perfect bike” for their needs, with additional variables.

Don’t do it. Good call Specialized, let the other companies chase “buzz interest” from a bunch of internet bikers that do not ride and burn themselves. It only works if the shops want to sell it and from what I have heard the don’t.

Blooseville - 06/06/12 - 9:50pm

I agree with most of the manufacturers and Darren. 26 = gravity; 27.5 = all mountain – enduro; 29 = xc – hardtails. Choose your terrain/way of riding and then choose your wheel size. There is enough demand in the market for the 3 wheels size.

Rideit - 06/06/12 - 10:07pm

Ok, I have been riding mt bikes since~86′. Owned a shop for many years. Have been alternately skeptical and enthusiastic over the years, part retro-moto grouch, part a gee-whizzer. All that said, at 5’8″, and my favorite trails being quite technical (Peru, Porc, Teton Pass, Whistler), well, 29 just feels WRONG. to Me. unweildy, sluggish, doesn’t like to flick or hop. 26″ has its limitations in wheel efficiency. I Have been wanting something like a 650 platform for a long time, and could not be more enthused for consumers, who simply have another viable choice. And choices are what make this all work and progress! now, if we could only bring back Zapata’s prediction that the 25″ tire would revolutionize DH riding…

Dallas - 06/06/12 - 10:07pm

God please no! The last thing we need is another standard. Two wheel sizes and a “quiver” approach to your stable of steeds is enough. For retailers, this is going to be a nightmare. For consumers, a conundrum. If we feel we must venture down this 650b road, then death to 26″. Three is a crowd…

Ryan - 06/06/12 - 10:38pm

It’s going to come down to what fits within a 17″/430mm or so chain stay length. Sorry but any bike with 18″ chain stays is going to climb like a 2wd s10 on a snowy road. Long chainstays are awful. I can see FS 29ers fading and hardtail 26er’s being reserved for DJ and light trail. Like so many have said wheels size will be opposite travel length.

Wheels stiffness comes into play too. 29er MFG’s should just adopt 150mm dh hubs for the sake of stiffness and be done. 135mm-142mm? No one wants to stand up on a bike and feel like the rear wheel is going to turn inside out.

jeoff - 06/06/12 - 10:40pm

Hey all you 6ft + riders hating on 650B: congratulations on being tall and being able to use 29 without funky frame issues. 650B is perfect for those of us of medium height that want the benefits of a larger than 26″ wheel. Finally we’ll have different wheel sizes to go with different frame sizes, shoe sizes, etc. ’bout time.

Dhracer84 - 06/06/12 - 10:41pm

Living in the north east and being only 5’7″ tall, the 26″ wheel rules! I have test ridden 29ers and have not found one that fits me or my riding style. I feel like I am riding my big brother’s bike that is not as nimble or responsive. Yes, I want all the benefits the 29er wheel offers, but if the bike doesn’t fit me, what good is it?

For the same reasons the 29er doesn’t work for Nino, I doesn’t me either…I really want a 650b bike. Build a 650b mountain bike for guys like me, and guys like me everywhere, will line up to buy it. 

KD - 06/06/12 - 10:45pm

You’re diluting the market! You can barely find a good store to work on suspensions in San Diego and no one even works on Lefty shocks here and suddenly you’re ramming a third standard down our throats when you can’t even get the specs on your bottom brackets right and we’re all still dealing with creaks and pops with PF30, BB30, BBright, BBEVO etc. etc. 650B is the avg of two tire sizes and thus encompasses all the disadvantages and advantages, this is no magic bullet and is not benefiting anyone by having “another choice”.

pcs - 06/06/12 - 10:50pm

I ride XC or trail which is arguably the largest market segment of mtb.
Thus far all my bikes have been 26″ bikes. However, going forward I have almost zero interest in another 26″ ride. I was pretty set on reverting to a HT but with 29″ wheels. However, I have been concerned about the added weight, handling and giving up the dual suspension. A 650b dual sus sounds like a fantastic compromise, particalrly at my medium height.

Joshua Murdock - 06/06/12 - 10:55pm

Bike companies: Please DON’T embrace the new 650b trend.

Now, a lot of people will be quick to point out that if the industry had listened to similar advice five years ago (roughly) we wouldn’t have our beloved 29′ers today. However, there is one fundamental difference here: the driving force behind the trend. Consumers wanted 29′ers for long enough that the industry responded by supporting the wheel size on a greater magnitude. The industry itself is the driving force behind the new 650b trend. Very few riders want or are even familiar with 650b products but the industry is telling them that they need it. It is essentially an attempt to foster a synthetic repeat of the 29′er revolution, just with the “next best thing”. That’s the difference.

When an industry can convince its consumers that they all need a new bike because one wheel size is inherently deficient, every company that chooses to support the new standard will benefit.

At this point, I’m sure someone will be quick to respond with a reference to Nino Shurter’s World Cup performances on a 650b prototype. On the surface his victories are a huge block in the foundation of the 650b argument, similar to Kulhavy’s performances aboard a full-suspension 29′er last season. Once you dig deeper, though, it is apparent that he was settling by riding a 650b bike. After testing 26, 650b, and 29′er bikes, Shurter preferred the handling and performance of the 29′er but is simply too short to achieve his ideal fit on a 29′er. He rides a 650b bike because it’s the closest wheel size bike to a 29′er that he can fit on properly. Scott tried to build a 29′er he could fit on because it was the best performing wheel size.

SCOTT BIKES: “…he wanted bigger wheels but had real fit issues on our Scale 29?.

The last argument against 650b is the most simple: it is essentially a 26″ wheel with a fat tire. Look at the diagrams and pictures above. While it is marketed as being halfway between 26 and 29, it’s barely larger than a 26″ wheel. One might be able to convince me of the merits of a true 27.5 wheel but not a oversize 26′er.

In short, 650b is a silly trend. It’s not a fad, though, as it very well may become popular (unfortunately). It’s essentially the soft-tail of wheel sizes – a compromise with none of the benefits afforded by either alternative. It should go away.

Justin - 06/06/12 - 10:58pm

I think choice is good but I am glad I am not a bike shop or a manufacturer of bikes.
Who is 27.5 targeting?
Riders who are new to mountain biking will buy whatever their friends or local bike shop tells them to buy (they’d buy a 35er if they were told that’s the latest and the best).
For the rest of us who are already heavily invested in our equipment – I doubt too many of us (with the exception of those early adopter / gotta have the latest types) will trade in our 26″ bikes for what is likely to be only the smallest of performance improvements (and let’s face it, when comparing a large volume 26″ tyre to a normal volume 27.5 – the improvement is going to be nominal at best). So, if new buyer will buy what’s already in the market and existing buyers won’t trade in – what’s the commercial point of all this? Sure, when my bike is old / broken and it’s time to buy something new – I’ll consider a 27.5 if they’re any good – but I won’t be spending any money that I wouldn’t be spending anyway on a 26er (or 29er if I was that way inclined).
So from my POV – I think this is just a pointless and missguided dash-for-cash on behalf of the bike industry. The consumer will benefit in the long-run (maybe) but is it really worth all the fuss and hassle ?

Alan Stevens - 06/06/12 - 11:34pm

Let the manufacturers build a 27″ bike if they want. It honestly won’t affect my choice in the least. I liked Scott’s comments about other component sizing standards, and it seems like good justification. Just because they sell a 27″ bike doesn’t mean I’m going to buy one. Just about every company makes a ‘roubaix’ model roadbike too, but I won’t buy it either. If there’s really a market, it will exist. Everyone else will keep riding what they want. I race and train on a 29″ HT, but I like riding 26″ bikes too. Each wheelsize does not have to be mutually exclusive. Though I will say, I’m a little scared of a franken-bike coming…remember the trek 69er?

Zombinate - 06/06/12 - 11:46pm

Gotta say, I love hearing the “it’s the plague comments.” Harkens back just a few years to what was being said about 29ers.

Anyway, In my shop, we have 2 650B converts. Myself and another, both of us are shorter. I am 5’10″ and he is 5’8″ish. While I am sure it is out there, I have never found a 29er that felt right. I ended up converting a 2004 Marin Rift Zone with a fork swap. 4″ of travel front and back with better roll over is pretty sweet. He put together a Soma B-side for his racy bike.

I am looking for the 650B all mountain rig. Something like the Scott Genius LT, Cannondale “Over-mountain” line, GT Force, etc. 650B with 6 Inches of travel? Yeah I have my sights set squarely on that.

Tom - 06/06/12 - 11:47pm

At 5’8″ The 29′rs did not feel right for me and the tight twisty W.N.C. riding I do. Luckily a friend was an early adopter of 650b and I quickly realized it was a better choice for me. I took a chance and ordered a Haro sonix 650b three seasons ago. the ride is light years better than the trek liquid it replaced. I have been a little nervous about fork and tire choices in the future. It appears that is a non-issue at this point.
I will never buy another MTB that is not 650b
P.S. for any industry folks reading. Most of us serious recreational riders don’t want A)more gears B)more levers C)batteries other than the light’s we carry!

ch - 06/06/12 - 11:50pm

I’ve been riding a Soma B-Side for a couple of months now. It is a sweet, sweet ride!
For the past 4 years, I’ve ridden a Turner Flux (26″ x 4″ XC bike). I have loved my Turner since the day I bought it. During that time, I’ve owned a JET9, SIR9 and Kona Unit. Not one of those bikes were fun to ride. I live in an area where 29ers should work best. It’s pretty smooth and flowy. God knows that they are popular around here. Alas, I have no love for the big wheels. Perhaps it my relatively short stature (I’m 5′ 7″) or point-and-shoot riding style. There are lots of people much shorter than I who love their 29ers. Although, I can’t fathom how based on my experience with them.
Back to the B-Side. It is a bike that, like my Flux, just “feels right.” The wheels roll suprisingly better than 26ers. Sure, it doesn’t roll over things like a 29er, but it also doesn’t try to hide freight-train handling behind overly steep head angles and jacked fork offsets. What a fun bike this is to ride!
I for one, want to vote for more focus on the XC market. What I’m waiting for is a Turner / Pivot / Sant Cruz 100mm full suspension 650B XC bike. Since I’m asking, I’ll throw in that I prefer light-weight aluminum over carbon.
Lastly, shout out to Jamis and KHS for commiting big resources to this wheel size. I did test ride a Dragon 650. It was a great bike. If it were available with sliding dropouts, I would be riding one of those beautiful green machines today. KHS – your 609 is sexy!

rob b - 06/06/12 - 11:59pm

Giant NRS carbon fitted up with 650B. Fantastic!!!!!!! (did take a little mod’n).

Mike - 06/07/12 - 12:19am

I am 6’1″ 185lbs. I have demo’d 3 full sus 29″ from different brands. generally, these bikes carve wider and slower than 26″ wheels, and feel higher off the ground with a higher center of gravity. I have observed that there exists an adjustment/break it period, where a person who prefers 26″ wheels will need to ride a 29r in a different way. I recently bought a 650b hardtail, without a field demo ride – and there is no change in riding habits necessary – it noticeably rolls over roots/boulders better than 26, and is still nimble in carving corners…I do wish it had a slightly higher bottom bracket.

29r may be the best wheel for SS HTs – but riders who simply dismiss 26″ and 27.5″ possibly lack any real bike handling skills in the first place. bike skills always differentiate riders, and so bike equipment should really be what is the best fit for a given rider – to provide the level of confidence enough to attempt tougher trails and practice skills. 650b wheel has the broadest application as a wheelsize applicable to multiple niches of bikes, and rider sizes – it is exactly like multiple wheels for kids, and shorter crankarm lengths

also, affordable 2×10 is a better spec for 27.5″ and 29″ bikes..get rid of the 3 front rings!!!

i work in a bike shop. the 650b interest is not fueled by corporate giants desiring to push products on people, but the quest to create bikes that are optimally suited for their design purpose, with the least amount of negative design consequences in the cost/benefit tradeoff balance.

Bill - 06/07/12 - 12:35am

The 27.5 wheel size adds a new dimension to existing 26-in mountain bikes. Rolls with 29er speed and has the agility to knife through turns. This market is rapidly gaining momentum as wheels, tires, forks, and frames are in the pipeline. Joel Smith at Tomac hit the bullseye with his comment that no bike company can afford to miss sales ! Schwalbe tires has identified a market in 27.5 for their line of tires that riders are craving. Scott bikes – The market has exploded as Nino Schurter’s exposure on the XC World Cup scene has generated a frenzy for the 27.5. We await the Scale and Spark to hit on the main stage – when ? yesterday ?

Johnny - 06/07/12 - 12:35am

Ouch I guess I’ll have to rethink my purchase of a Scott 650b hardtail. Hello Eriksen or Kish!

Gillis - 06/07/12 - 12:50am

Personally I see 650b as something targeted at those who don’t think 29″ is for them or weren’t ready to jump on the wagon wheel ride.

But my attitude is that the size of my (26″) wheels have NEVER kept me from enjoying my riding experience. Nor has it kept me from conquering any terrain under any conditions, and I am not slower or more fatigued by comparison to those on different sized wheels on a similar bike.

Obviously if racing is your thing that’s a whole different situation…use whatever is fastest. But the racer market is a fraction of the whole.

I'm On a Boat - 06/07/12 - 12:51am

Well,
the interesting thing about most of the comments so far, is no one has said, I’ve ridden 27.5 and it’s this or that. Everyone is just chiming in with an opinion not really ridden the wheels to create a true opinion.

I have ridden this wheel size for almost a year with great and happy success on a 26″ dual susp. frame from a well known bike manufacture and on a fork brand, that does not recommend using 27.5. I have ridden-raced 26″ for over 15 years.
I have ridden a few 29ers, but didn’t really enjoy their slowness and frame fit for my size. They are Not very agile and not quick enough – up short steep hills and not that fast in and around trees or swoopy trail sections, and the worst part – their inability to spin up fast.
I have found the 27.5 wheels, easy to flick around, (like my 26) they are quick to spin up, they roll as well as a 29er, I can maneuver the bike as easily with the 27.5 as I can with my 26″ wheels. With the wheelset I am using – Stans – there was no weight penalty, my tires are Pacenti set up tubeless. My dual susp. bike with the 27.5 wheelset weighs in at 22lbs. I am one gear-up on the cassette for the same inclines I was riding with the 26. After almost a year, I can’t seem to find a negative.

At a recent national endurance race in TN, I saw so many guys/gals racing-finishing competitively on 26″ wheel’d bikes. So, it’s not all podium time for 29ers all the time. They aren’t always the faster bike and don’t work for every “body” out there – See also Scott (Nino) winning World Cup’s on his 27.5 wheelset against others all on 29.

Let me comment on Specialized statements. If you copy and paste their comments into one document and read them together, you’ll see they are saying – we make the determination where our brand is sold and how we force each dealer to sell what we want them to sell and market. They are truly limiting choices for their dealer network on many levels not just on their brand of product. They are not a company that moves fast on their feet to change or embrace change, hence why they won’t let their dealers sell other brands that conflict with their name. ALL THIS – coming from a company that doesn’t even have a true carbon cyclocross race frame and is a company still pushing ‘downhill bikes’ (who the fu** rides those anymore). Speci is also bleeding big money paying into all the pro tour teams. Hence all reasons they are closed to making dynamic change to the 27.5 model and not permitting their customer to have more choices.

I am glad that someone in the interviews brought up the MTBR data regarding traffic about 27.5/650b. This debunks the statement from Specialized, “This latest surge is coming from the manufacturers though, not the riders…” Specialized is so far out of touch with the customer.
>>> Bike-Frame Manufactures, Tire Companies, Wheel Manufacture’s go to MTBR and read through that forum. You’ll see hundreds and hundreds of Customers there waiting to spend their money on the wheel size and trying to find out what has already been manufactured that can be retro-fitted with 27.5. One word – OPPORTUNITY.

I look at this wheel size as a choice for the consumer. Just like BluRay/DVD, VHS/Beta, Mac/PC. Build the 27.5 stuff, sell them, market them, educate your staff, and let the consumer decide what bike and wheel size they want to ride and where. Stop trying to put baby in a corner.

Tomac (Joel Smith) got it right – “we will do it because missing trends is missing sales and no bike company today can afford to miss sales.”

Bike Rumor – you left out VEE Rubber 27.5 mtb tires and Velocity – wheels/rims.

Manufactures – stop trying to guess or brand market to fit 27.5 into some sort of frame or design or specific market. Options, give us options, 27.5 hard tail frames, 27.5 dual susp frames.

Manufactures – stop waiting around – many of you are so so fing slow to put out product anyway. Take a tip from Apple or some of these brands that are supporting 27.5, learn to adapt, change, and be quicker on your feet to bring new product to market outside the stupid bike shows and big races.

Support your local cycling clubs/teams. They are out there riding and training and racing. They can put 27.5 products in front of your other customers and market them. They can educate your other customer base and bring in sales. Why are you not giving them the best and most significant discount to ride/demo/use and abuse your latest and greatest product? OPPORTUNITY.
Or the teams/riders/racers can start bypassing the LBS and go right to the Manufacture to obtain the latest and greatest, then your customers will come in and say, why don’t you have 27.5, I saw these people riding these cool new wheels and I want some.

As it stands anyway – LBshops don’t carry what they should have in stock or on their shelf and are going to loose more biz each year to the interweb or amazon, if they don’t get out of the dark ages and the forced inventory from brands such as trek or specialized.

If your bike shop employees aren’t smart enough to explain the difference between the three wheel sizes, you haven’t done your job as a manager or owner or teacher or business coach. If they can’t understand the technology or explain it to the mountain bike customer, they shouldn’t be working in the cycling industry.

DeeEight - 06/07/12 - 1:13am

Let’s address a couple pieces of common disinformation shall we…

“barely bigger than a 26″ fat tire”… yes… a typical 2.35″ width 650B tire is what achieves the generic 27.5″ diameter that lots throw about instead of just calling them 650Bs like those of us who got on the bandwagon early… nearly 5 years ago, when Kirk Pacenti started selling the NeoMoto tires. And yes, compared to 26 x 2.7″ tire, its the same diameter. But outside of FR and DH bikes, and Surly hardtails, hardly any brand offers bikes that will actually FIT such tires on their 26ers. Many will have the room for that height of tire (which is why the 650B conversion is so popular) but not the width. And for that matter, a Neo Moto 2.35 is only about 750 grams. Nobody that I know of offers a similar diameter 26″ tire, or even close to that diameter, under a kilogram.

“those invested in 26″ already won’t buy the new size”… wrong… those of us who were invested heavily in 26ers are who drove the conversion market from the start, and included folks from those brands that actually brought out bikes like Haro, jamis, and KHS. That many of the brands already had 26er models that fit the 650B tires then available (pretty much every used the NeoMoto 2.35 size to do their testing), sped up the convincing of their various owners/brand managers to endorse the format. I myself own a ridiculous number of mountain bikes, and aside from my fatbike, have decided not to build anymore 26ers for myself unless I ever decide, however unlikely, to put a DH bike together. There’s just no need for the size in my world any longer. And I’m 6’6″ tall. I much prefer 650Bs to 29ers in fact.

As to specialized’s fence sitting… that’s because they’ve been trying to beat trek to death over being the dominant 29er producing brand, and have invested too heavily in the 29er KoolAid now to admit that grant petersen and Kirk pacenti were right all along. Its pretty telling that part of that mtbr 650B timeline thread, someone posted a copy of a letter, signed by Gary Fisher, thirty years ago… when he tried to get some 650B x 2.1 off-road tires to test out. Even back then, Gary knew we should have been riding something other than 26″ tires.

Todd - 06/07/12 - 1:53am

I’m a xc racer, live in Colorado, 5’8″. Ive been On a 29er HT for two years, and recently entered market for a 26inch FS XC bike. I miss the agility, 29ers feel weird to me. If Scott or any other company produces a 650b carbon XC hard tail I’ll be first in line to buy it. It just makes sense for my riding style.

pcs - 06/07/12 - 2:02am

Joshua M., your rationale make no sense to me. If Nino preferred a 29” bike but couldn’t get one to fit, why on earth would he ride a 26” bike over a 650b? Surely it’s an argument in favour of larger wheels over smaller? Or are you saying that all bikes should be 29ers?

I think it makes more sense to look at the other side of the coin. Optimise the geometry on frames and forks (other than 29ers) for a 650b diameter wheel. If you want more rubber, then you use a 26” wheel and a bigger tire getting the same (or near as) diameter as a 650b with “normal” tires.

Docbraunson - 06/07/12 - 2:04am

26″ and 29″ wheels ride SIGNIFICANTLY different from each other. WHY not have a third choice???????
” this is no magic bullet and is not benefiting anyone by having “another choice”.”(most ignorant thing i have read in awile)
…………….Since when has choices been a bad thing????
26″ wheels were not sent down from the Gods as the “perfect wheel for MTBing” it is not blaspheme to want something larger.
All wheel sizes are arbitrary. All bike part sizes are for that matter. again the gods didn’t beam 175mm cranks down from the moons of jupiter. People didn’t go bonkers when companies started selling 172.5mm cranks, or did they.
I feel like Companies are not cramming 650b down my throat as much as the haters here are cramming 26″ down my throat! i don’t want to ride 26″ anymore. it’s too small for XC. look at the pros they are riding 29″s there is a reason. and it isn’t their sponsors. it is because the riders demand bikes that make them WIN. Period.
I don’t like the feel of 29″ wheels and feel that they are not utilized on the trails i ride (tight NW singletrak). if i lived somewhere else i might ride them.
Thank GOD that manufacturers are adopting this size. For the record i wish it was more exactly between 26 and 29 but oh well.

Federico F. - 06/07/12 - 4:00am

Of course 650b will take over 26″ everywhere apart from the DH/extreme FR market (which is big in terms of prestige, but very small in terms of sales). Everyone understood the pros and cons of 29″ and it just makes sense to try to extend them to longer travel bikes and shorter riders.

But one thing on part of the industry is absolutely NOT RIGHT: use the term 27,5″. THEY’RE NOT! They’re much closer to 26″ rims as all the photos in this article show and the 27,5″ name is entirely misleading. But I reckon that as long as the anglosaxon world will continue to use the entirely irrational imperial system and not convert to the metric one we will be condemned to see the 27,5″ name all over the place :)

joeford - 06/07/12 - 4:06am

For medium size XC racers who can’t or have difficulty riding a 29er, a 27″ inch wheels fit well. . . on a technical course i think it will be more superior in handling. Yes, I looking forward for this!

Tom - 06/07/12 - 5:41am

We were all happy to ride 26″ wheels five years ago, but I must admit that 29″ wheels are better for a lot of different riding style.
I used to think that 29er’s were for XC race bikes or single speed rigid bikes and that’s how I got into it as a single speed rigid bike as they make a lot of sense for that style of riding. Now I ride a 29″ steel hardtail frame with 100mm forks and prefer to ride it over my typical 26″ 140mm trail bike.
I can ride all the same stuff on it and fun to ride as well. So that has got me thinking that a 29″ full sus trail bike would be the way to go. Then 650b pops up and starts to confuse me. So I think I will stick with my 26″ trail bike for another years and see how 650b plays out. But I was riding my 29er the other day and I thought that I enjoy riding it and don’t have anything negative to say about it. So why wait to see what happens with 650b when 29″ works fine for me and 650b might not have all the advantages of 29″(one of the best advantages for me is how they just rail corners). I think a bike like the Santa Cruz TallBoy LT would be spot of for me and I wouldn’t be interested in a 650b equivalent.
I think the battle will be between 26″ and 650b. One will go and I think it will be 650b its just the middle ground a jack of all trades but the master of non. Its just a shame the consumer will have to fund this experiment. I feel sorry for anyone new getting into the sport as they will be confused on the equipment they need and not concentrating on just buying a bike to go out and have fun on.

bob - 06/07/12 - 5:54am

650B the name will stick.

Gotta say, I’ve retro fitted my 26er XC dualie and my 26″ Scott Scale. Took a tweak here and there, but wow, major performance up grade. And does still feel nimble unlike all my buddies’ 29er XC dualies.

Jeff clarke - 06/07/12 - 6:24am

I have stayed out of the new bike market for the last few years. Ridden 26er forever, tried 29er, and now have jumped at the 650b. Currently front only on a Cannondale Lefty (on a superV).
I have ordered another rim for a rear build. Won’t fit on the Super, but will fit on my Surly 1×1.
As a 5’3″ rider, I find this wheel size perfect. Too many compromises with the 29er for me.
I am glad the industry is looking at this wheel size and will invest my dollars there.
Options and choice are good.

José Rodrigues - 06/07/12 - 7:09am

Hi all,
I’m José from Europe – Portugal.
In my humble opinion the choice it’s all about the riders size (height, and other measures).
I mean that riders should have enough sizes the choose from to adapt the bike to their own sizes.
As I grown up I had several wheel sized bikes that were adapted to my own size (step-by-step).
As a mountain biker it stopped on 26” whell size :-(
I had tested 29er bikes and didn’t fell them right for my 1,76m (5′ 9”) tall. I felt them a huge step and not adapted to my size.
I can bet the midle 27” – 27.5” wheel sized will fill a great void in the bike market for the riders that are not so tall.
What about ergonomy on the bike?
Is there any study (statistics) about the (MTB) rider’s sizes?
What bike ergonomists have to say?
Please think about it and them let the market work.
Regards,

BrunOOOO - 06/07/12 - 7:15am

Nice post.

I ride with this size since few month in Belgium and it’s for me a good choise. Why ? because 29er it’s too hight for me (1m72) I don’t found a good position (it looks like a 14 year old kid with his first 26). 26″ it’s good but I was looking for more comfort and inertia on my singlespeed steel bike.

I look since few years but it was not easy finding tires and wheels in my country side. Now it’s different and I a happy man to ride with this size.

Although the difference is small but sufficient to improve my riding in some singletrack and to feel more comfortable.

jeff - 06/07/12 - 8:05am

I find it ironic that Santa Cruz is so anti-650b, when many of there bikes fit 650b wheels with room to spare. I have been riding a Blur LT w/ 650b wheels for 2 years and it is a major upgrade to the bike’s performance.

As far as stocking for retailers and the mass confusion for consumers…c’mon. Really?

To hear this “oh no, another standard!” crap is ridiculous. It is not at all like the BB, headset, hub standards. Hell, the non-compatibility of Sram 9 spd and 10 spd mtb RDs is way more annoying… (1:1 was great, right?)

Anyway, Joe and Mike from Santa Cruz should head over to Temecula and ask Jeff to borrow a couple of sets of wheels to put on Blur TRc or LT and go for a ride…maybe then they’ll get it.

The Tracer 27.5 will be my next bike.

Patio519 - 06/07/12 - 8:32am

Man, I love how fired up people get about bikes! I also think that passion about 650B, whether you are for it or against it….is something which is very promising for the biking industry as a whole. Whatever size wheel you choose, people are buying…and more importantly, riding these bikes. Anything which gets people excited about getting out and turning the pedals, is a good thing in my book. Now, the market will always be there for the devoted riders and hardcore enthusiasts…the real question is how might this new wheel size affect people getting into the game for the first time? Working at a bike shop over the summers (teacher the rest of the year), has taught me how to build and sell a LOT of $500.00 bikes. Does the 650B platform give your LBS the chance to sell more bikes? I have no market research to back me up…but my guess is yes. The “hybrid” market is thriving…and a 650B hybrid might have some real notable implications for this intro buyer. So many times I hear them say, “I want to ride on the bike path, but I’d also like to take it on some dirt roads/trails.” A 650B sporty hybrid with some Conti Speed Tires might be just the ticket to open up a ton of possibilities for this rider segment!

Personally, I love coming onto Bikerumor and seeing the latest and greatest anything! I primarily race road and cross, but mountain bikes are still an object of lust for me. The biggest thing I hear from riders and companies alike is the need for “compromise,” or how they didn’t want to “compromise,” their design or riding style to create/use a certain bike. For many people, like myself, who already have biking passions in other area…when we do pull the trigger on a mountain bike, it needs to be versatile. I am 6’2″ and have ridden both 26″ and 29″ tires. While I loved riding the 29er, and it seems to be a perfect match for me in terms of physical dimensions…I always loved the flickability of the 26″ platform. If there is an opportunity to blend the rolling characteristics of one platform, with the sharper turning of the other…then why not? I would love to see a Fuel 650B for me to rock in races, cruise fire roads, or put through the ringer on trails.

If you are like me, then you spend hours a week looking at bikes and pondering which one would be “perfect.” A 650B platform just gives people another option to find their own dream bike! As long as manufacturers have the means and the market to make and sell them, I’m all for it! Having a do-it-all bike, with a do-it-all wheel would probably influence my decision to buy another mtn bike and get back in that market segment. Again, choice for the consumer is a winning proposition…and eliminates the need to “compromise.” Word.

Caplice - 06/07/12 - 9:25am

Do consumers really need more confusing options when choosing a bike?

PaulR - 06/07/12 - 10:13am

I’m a cross country racer who moved from a 25lb 26in dual (Titus Racer-x) to a 21lb 650b Eriksen. Last fall, I decided I was going to purchase a lightweight hardtail to help keep up with my competition riding <20lb 29ers.

Originally I assumed I'd be getting a 29er, but, after test riding several different models I found the 29er wasn't "fun". The traction, stability and climbing benefits were huge, but if I'm going to be spending thousands of dollars on a race bike, it has to be "fun". I'm a relatively small guy and didn't have enough strength to get the front wheel over stuff on steep climbs, I found it difficult to jump and "flick", it was poor at handling very tight and twisty singletrack (important in the Ontario xc racing scene).

I started looking at custom frames, hoping I could find a builder who could fix these problems. Kent Eriksen, after a long phone conversation, convinced me that 650b was the way to go. I was worried about tire availability, and skeptical about a new wheel diameter, but the Racing Ralph tire and Crest rim is all I really needed.

I picked up the bike in Moab this March and have raced it several times at home in Ontario. It is a spectacular bike for me. I feel the larger wheels smoothing the bumps and gaining traction over the 26in dual, but I can do what I want with the bike. I don't feel limited by the longer wheelbase strange geometry of a 29er.

Having raced (and won) on this bike, I'm convinced 650b is perfect for me.

wanta pivot - 06/07/12 - 10:24am

I have been pretty close to pulling the trigger on a pivot 5.7c after a good solid test ride on local trails. I really hope that 1 of the 2 supposed carbon bikes that Chris C is planning on announcing next month is a 650b bike with similar travel as the 5.7 and with 650b specific geometry as I would prefer to hold off for this.

Alex Wing - 06/07/12 - 10:27am

I really like the 650b idea. I don’t have a million bikes, and I really strive to have a good do-it-all bike. I never went to 29ers because, though they offer some serious advantages, my favorite part of riding is in the turns… swoopy trails are the best, and 29ers are by no means turning machines.

If the industry starts offering great quiver-killer bikes (light and strong) in the 140mm area with 650b, I will absolutely go for it.

Loki - 06/07/12 - 10:28am

Really, only three wheels sizes. Wow, that would really simplify things.

Just have a look around at the rest of the world – how many different sizes for cars ? Wait, so many cars, that’s maybe not a fair comparison, lets take a more niche sport, say motocross. Not counting junior bikes there are 6 major rim sizes. Take any segement; HD television, computers, video play back platforms, kitchen sinks, sailing boats etc ad nauseaum and size options are far more complext than bicycles.

Sure it’ll be a headache in terms of stock etc. Sure, customers might have to be reasonable and wait while a part is ordered in. Sure, we don’t need another wheels size. But that’s not why we buy new bicycles.

I think the most apt comment for me was Adrian Montgomery from Scott: “kids get 12?, 16?, 20? and 24? bikes to fit, why should adults only have two sizes?” That talks as much to the intended use as to the varying statures of adults.

If you wanted one bike to do it all, it already exists – a cyclocross bike. As far as I’m concerned choice is a good thing; if you don’t like, don’t buy it, keep your 1″ threaded cotter pinned steel sport 10 speed bike.

Alex Wing - 06/07/12 - 10:29am

And if 650b is the answer for small folks, please still offer rad 650b frames for us in the XL/XXL sizes. Thanks!

Sandbox - 06/07/12 - 10:55am

Customers want choice.

Bike companies or shops that don’t recognize this… seem strangely outdated. By comparison, do shops and customers get all “confused” about kids’ bikes that range from 14, 16, 18 and 20-in.?

Specialized seems almost hopelessly in the dark on this one. I would have guessed they’d learned from being years late to the 29er party, but apparently not.

Depending on the country, average male height appears to be 5’8″ to 5’10″ (with a few outliers, of course). Average height of women is a few inches shorter.

I’m 5’8″ and 29ers feel too large for me. I currently race and ride recreationally on a 26 DS XC, and I want a 27″ DS XC as my next bike.

Talabardio - 06/07/12 - 11:00am

I want to get a nice light 650b hardtail, with a 100mm fork.

satisFACTORYrider - 06/07/12 - 11:08am

i’m just gonna throw this out there. john tomac and brian lopes(whose still slayin 29ers @ 40yrs old) the two most well rounded decorated mtb riders out of the usa…die hard 26″ OGs. when they switch I’ll think about it. not hatin, just statin. by all means run what ya brung.

Brad - 06/07/12 - 12:10pm

I’ll buy a 650b bike if Santa Cruz makes a 100mm FS, carbon model (don’t care for the PF bottom brackets everybody else uses). Some people enjoy their Blurs converted to 650b, but to me the increased bottom bracket drop is half the benefit, and totally missing with the conversions.

CBontheEVO - 06/07/12 - 12:45pm

Give me a break. Anyone buying into 650b is a chump that swallows every bit of marketing BS there is, and I say that as a marketer. Are you honestly looking at the pics of the three wheels and telling me there’s any discernable difference between a 26″ wheel and a 27.5″ wheel?

I’m 5’8″ and switched from a 26″ to a 29er and won’t look back. I’m sure there are trails that are tight enough to warrant a 26″ and that’s fine, but let’s not say there are three distinct wheel sizes which all serve a specific need in the marketplace.

Cycling is the new golf. Great. I can’t wait until all the fat lawyers and dentists put their bikes away and cycling regains some of it’s lost sanity.

ridebeersleep - 06/07/12 - 12:53pm

OHHH, With my new wheel standard can I get three more bb standards and two more steer tube types?

Mark - 06/07/12 - 1:09pm

My favorite bike from a varied stable is a light trail / All mountain with 4.5″ dually with a 650b wheel in front.

If all I cared about was going fast then I’d ride the 29r more and work on figuring out a fun way to muscle it through the tight technical terrain I ride most often. ..and I’m sure I would enjoy that just fine.

But, most days I’m looking for maximum fun rippin around, pumping the terrain and cleaning obstacles smoothly vs just “go fast” and my *much* preferred bike for that is the trail bike with with the 650b in front. It was a nearly seamless transition in handling traits changing the front wheel that provided some definite benefits in cornering traction and in techy descents. It seems to provide some of the rollover benefits but without the negative impact on handling. ..yeah, I said negative but that applies to my most frequent terrain. I recognize that if I was riding faster flowier, more open trails I might feel differently about the 29 thing but as it is now the 29r is for covering ground quickly and the trail bike is for putting smiles on.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to having more tire choices. That’s fantastic and if they (looking at you Pivot) make a Mach 5.5-ish bike in 650b I’ll be all over that.

pass the gravy - 06/07/12 - 1:26pm

To all of you people who have never ridden 27.5 who are trying to “advise” the bike companies no to produce these bikes because you think 3 wheel sizes is confusing, please stop. 3 wheel sizes is not confusing. If you don’t want a bike with this wheel size don’t buy one. I for one own a bike with this wheel size and love it, and would love to see more options(especially if one of those is a Pivot).

Every industry is always changing and trying new things and the cycling industry is no different. I get the feeling that the people complaining about this are the same people complaining about electronic shifting, or hydraulic disc brakes for road or cross, or 11 speeds, or any one of a million different things that are “new and horrible and not needed.”

The short list if things I can think of that people claimed were unnecessary or passing fads when they first came out includes things like index shifting, 7 speeds, 8 speeds, 9 speeds, 10 speeds, disc brakes, hydraulic disc brakes, suspension, 29 inch wheels, tubeless tires, dual control levers, and cranks that were not square taper. There were people who felt that all of these things were going to change the cycling industry in a negative way. They didn’t.

If you want to ride a 26″ wheeled rigid single speed, thats cool, that option is available to you. The existence of more 27.5″ wheeled bikes, forks, rims, and tires isn’t going to change that.

This is not complicated or confusing, this is not that much more for bike shops to stock, this is not difficult to explain to a brand new customer either. If you luddites would please stop complaining about everything the internet would be a happier place, and I’d like that.

Maluco - 06/07/12 - 1:38pm

Thanks Tyler for taking the time to generate the article with so many manufacturers’ input. I can say I’m interested in moving to this wheel size and look forward to having a selection of bikes to choose from. Personally, I’m looking for a versatile, short travel XC bike that will replace my Pivot Mach 4. I’ve tried several 29” bikes and enjoyed the smoother trail riding but cannot get past the slight lag in acceleration or the compromised fit and slower handling on twisty trails. I’m no longer satisfied with my 26” wheels but at 5’10” I feel a 29” frame is not a great fit for me. I would not consider myself an early adopter but the right full suspension 27.5” bike will make it difficult to keep on the side lines.

From a manufacturer’s point of view, there are some of the basic marketing issues to consider:

Market Size & Trend:
There certainly is a trend towards larger wheels however does everyone need or want 29” to be the only option? Size of the person is already one clear reason some cannot move up or fit well to 29” frames. A 27.5” option with more compact frame dimensions will help open the lower range of sizes to larger wheels.

Complexity:
Proactively addressing consumer confusion, with good marketing, magazine articles, and dealer training, consumer confusion should not become a road block. Early adopters will help get the message out and further push the trend towards larger wheels. It should be easy to get across that 27.5” is better than 26” in many riding situations. However, it will take effort to convey the advantages between 27.5ers vs. 29ers (for example, in size/fit, terrain, and performance).

Advantage:
Whether perceived or real, there needs to be an advantage to adopting the 27.5”. Again, I think conveying this advantage will be easy when compared to the traditional 26” wheel and in certain situations may out perform the 29”.

Trial-ability/Demo:
As a manufacturer, strong consideration of offering demos to help faster adoption. I am a strong believer in demos and have noted that, in other markets, adoption rates increased when a client was able to have hands-on demo of a new product. This would also benefit the dealers in many ways.

What happens if I do not produce and market 27.5” bikes?
I think this is the key question. Likely, there will be little impact to sales over the next year or two. Sales will still occur with the normal offering of 26 and 29” bikes. However, beyond two years there is the risk of allowing competitors riding the new trend and causing a hole in your product line. The risk is having 26” bike being perceived as “old” and unwanted with enthusiast. Possibly in a few years, 26” bikes will be perceived as low-end and or out-dated (it could happen). What does this mean for a manufacturer? Lost sales? Impact on company’s image? Playing catch up? Unwanted inventory? I’m sure there are other considerations that need to be considered and weighted (ROI comes to mind).

These are just some random thoughts. I hope this offers some insight to the many manufacturers considering going down this path. I wish them good luck and look forward to riding with their future products.

275Vibe - 06/07/12 - 1:38pm

As usual there are a lot of speculative comments getting fired off regarding the future of 650b. Fact remains that you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I used to make fun of the 29″ “clown bikes” and now I own one. If there is anything to be learned from 29″ wheels it is that we have found the limitations of what 29″ wheels can do well and the areas where they are less than ideal. I also have a 26″ wheeled fs and switching between the 29″ ht to the 26″ fs is very educational. So, I recently adopted the middle man by converting my 26fs to a 275fs.

While the wheels sizes aren’t that much different on paper, the trail feel is real. Truly the big wheel roll over anything feel you get w/ a 29er, but with way better cornering prowess and stability compared the the frame when it had the 26″ wheels in it.

100-160mm Travel – 275 is the future…

Don’t ride it unless you are ready to commit. Now if Schwalbe would just make a Snake Skin sidewall…

DeeEight - 06/07/12 - 1:38pm

@Federico F….. The 650B MOUNTAIN BIKE tires are dead in the middle between 26 and 29er tires, and are not closer to 26″ than they are to 29″. The photo at the top, shows bare rims… and not even the 700C rim is actually close to 26″.

The mythical exactly 29″ number that is the generic term for the size is based around using a tire of about 2.1″ width on a 700C rim. Well the 2.1 width mtb tires for 650B rims, guess what they work out to in diameter ? 27.5″, and guess what a 2.1 width tire for a 26er rim works out as ? Yep… 26″.

So… 650B as they’re being used today, already, on bikes people are already riding…right in the damn middle between the sizes. Sure you can as already explained skew the figures by using a really wide 26er or a narrow 700C or whatever to try and suit your lame logic, but if you’re going to post on the internet, expect your “facts” to be challenged by people who know better.

The TALLEST 29er tires that exist today, the Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4 width and the WTB 2.55 width Kodiak… are the same diameter, 29.44″. The smallest of recent times, the Bontrager Jones XR 1.8, is actually only 28.18″ diameter. Both are labeled as 29er tires though.

The current range for already on the market 650Bs, of which there are like 8 tire models to pick from (next year they’ll likely be around 15-20 models) range from 27.1 (Pacenti Quasimoto 2.0) to 27.87 (Kenda Nevegal 2.35). The just released Pacenti Mega-Moto 2.4 however is even larger than that, and pushing into 28er territory. I expect the 2.35 width Schwalbe tires on offer next season, like the Nobby Nic and Hans Damf, which have taller tread blocks than the racing ralph model, to be taller than 27.5 also.

As to 26er tire ranges… well a 26 x 1.0 is really 24.25″ diameter, and a 26 x 3.8 like my FatBike uses is close to 29″ in diameter.

Champs - 06/07/12 - 1:47pm

With “27 inch” already taken by 630mm wheels, Scott would do well to just drop that moniker for 584mm. There’s still a mess to clean up from the 571mm 650C standard being called 26″.

EpicThroatBeard - 06/07/12 - 1:49pm

Haters gotta hate.
If you have ridden a 29 that you didn’t like it might have been the builder clinging to old geo’s.
There are a number of agile 29 bikes out there built to rip the climb and then consume the descent.
650 offers a bit more roll over and a more mainstream standover. It is an easier bike to design and, in my opinion, that is driving industry adoption.
Spinning up a wicked wagon-wheeler on Solidworks is tougher than tweaking your existing frame geo’s for a 650.
The major hold-up for me was tire choice. Now that the industry is catering to the smaller groupings we can get decent tires and that really opens the field.
I’ve ridden all 4 of the major wheel size choices for MTB’s and they all have their place.
Here’s an idea, go ride some different bikes you crusty UCI lovers.

ccolagio - 06/07/12 - 1:52pm

HEY! Remember when softride frames were cool?! Remember when 69ers were cool?! Remember when 29ers were cool?! Remember when anodized parts were cool (oh crap…those are cool again I think)?! Remember when white MTB parts were cool?! Sweet slopestyle frame!

This is a great way to get that fool at the LBS to retire his 26 or 29er bike and finallllly get that DO IT ALL! bike…err I mean wheel size. The industry LOVES hype words/phrases/parts!

All you need to do is see past all the buzz BS, build on your riding skills and be done with it.

I used to do a trail ride 7 or so years ago with a maybe 15 or so great riders. All on very nice 26in full sus bikes. The FASTEST person on that ride was on a 24in hardtail DJ frame build. Up or down any rocky, rooted section. He was there first….

Brian "ohpossum" - 06/07/12 - 2:05pm

I’m 5’4″ with a 30in inseam. Short, but all legs. Most small 29ers are still too long in the TT for me. 650b is perfect for me since manufacturers can build a frame small enough to fit without toe overlap or too-high headtubes.

I hope Scott truly is reading these comments. I’ve been patiently waiting for a 650b Scale ever since the first rumors in Janurary. I would buy a 650b Scale and a 650b Spark today if I could.

Chris - 06/07/12 - 2:21pm

Adrian (Scott):

If you come out with a 27″ Spark – I guarantee I will be the first in line at my local Scott dealer.

Joe Graney - 06/07/12 - 2:23pm

@Jeff: I never said I was “anti” 650b/27.5, just that I wasn’t looking forward to it. Thats just because I’m lazy and would prefer to spend more time on my yacht sipping cocktails with an umbrella on it than having to work.
But don’t worry, we’ll still stick to threaded BBs.

California Rider - 06/07/12 - 2:46pm

I am looking forward to 650B and am sure it will be my next bike. I think it is the ideal wheel size for the “trail bike” segment, 130-160mm or maybe more. I think it will work well for a lot of XC riders too, for example women’s bike sizes, or people who want a snappier feeling bike.

Why not 29er? To me it’s mainly about feel, partially about weight, and partially about fit. I am a 5’9 male and personally fit ok on small 29ers but the feel I like isn’t there for trail riding. Short travel bikes are boring and the “long” travel 29ers are awkward. Long chainstays, heavy, gyroscopic effects in the air. It doesn’t feel as connected when winding through the trees. 26″ isn’t horrible but it feels like 650B is just that bit better, maybe not huge on paper but every bit helps on a human powered vehicle.

I know ~8 people who I think would go for 650B… we are all “average size” or smaller and tend to buy “one bike” to ride trails and occasional races, or taking on trips. I already met one rabid 650B fan. People who try it seem to like it.

Bike companies, make sure you pitch 650B at women’s full-suspension bikes and make sure they come in pretty colors :)

The naysayers should just relax and enjoy.

Pete - 06/07/12 - 2:55pm

First off, thanks to Tyler for the post and the bike industry reps for participating in the discussion. There isn’t any other forum, virtual or brick-n-mortar, where I’ve seen this kind of depth of discussion take place and it’s obviously a worthwhile topic to discuss.

I’m 5’6 and ride (off-road) exclusively in FL. I’ve been riding a 26″ FS bike in aluminum with 120mm travel for the past few years and picked up a 29″ HT in Reynolds 853 steel (with 80mm travel at the fork) a year after getting my FS bike. I love them both and they’re a great fit for me with the FL terrain (XC everywhere) but they each offer a distinct type of ride and require adjustments to my riding style to make the most of the experience. Initially, I had issues with toe overlap on the 29er and the standover is pretty tight but I’ve gotten used to both and could see a 650B FS in aluminum with 80-100mm of travel on both ends working best for me, based on my size (5’6, 140#), riding style (aggressive, point-n-shoot), trails/terrain (all XC), and personal preference (metal for MTB, carbon for road).

I can see where some folks are concerned about having too many options in the marketplace and if I owned a LBS, I would have to carefully consider who walks through my door and understand my local market, but I’m in favor of 650B bikes because I own and ride both 26″ and 29″ bikes and think a 650B would be a better fit as a best of both worlds option for the type of riding I do in the area in which I live. Or not. But if the component suppliers don’t make the parts and the bike manufacturers don’t put them together and ship them to my LBS, I won’t have the opportunity to find out.

As an aside, I still hear folks talking about too many options in frame materials (Al, Ti, steel, carbon, wood, other composites), not to mention BB standards, et al., and not all manufacturers offer every bike they sell in every type of frame material from which it could be constructed or with every BB standard, or straight or tapered forks, or double- or triple- drive trains, and whatnot, but that’s okay… I’d like to think the manufacturers who end up offering 650B bikes will carefully consider all the available ways in which a bike can be put together and do the best they can and then let the consumers work with the bike shops on figuring out the best fit from the available options.

Until that day comes, I’ve still got at least a couple options in my garage for riding off-road and I’m happy with both… but I also have room for a 3rd MTB if you know what I mean.

NCMTB - 06/07/12 - 2:59pm

Yo Adrian, your comment “For instance, you cannot build a bike with more than 130mm of travel with 29? wheels because the BB offset and the rest of the geometry would be WACK” is ridiculous. Lenz Sport has been making 130mm plus 29ers for a couple years now, they are definitely not WACK. Just because the amazing OEM bike giant Scott can’t figure it out doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t work well. On top of that the escalation in the news streams of the 650B rage seemed to be perfectly timed with Nino’s WC win, and now your company won’t even commit to support it.

Super poor form on your lack of knowledge, but kudos for making it seem like your company who cares what the riders want even though you have already stated “at this point we are not planning to make a 27? production bike”

I have been riding 29ers for over a decade and people are still hating on them. They personally fit me better being 6’4″ and I have more fun riding them then anything else. I have ridden extensively all three wheel sizes in hardtail/FS, and I will stick with the 29er for my purposes. 650B is just lucky that there are a lot of medium sized people that want a medium sized wheel. 29er tires/parts just started getting good a couple of years ago and 650B is getting all those right away it seems. Big wheels continue to be polarizing on the hate/love scale, hopefully people will flock to the 650B so I continue being the rebel I was 5 years ago or I may have change to riding 36ers.

Andrej - 06/07/12 - 2:59pm

I would love to see a 650B VPP or DW trail bike with 5-5.5″ of travel.
I own a 29er Santa Cruz Tallboy and like it.
i have also test riden the new Santa Cruz Tallboy TLc. I do prefer 29er wheels to 26er in most situations, but I am also 5’9 and could feel the limits of the 29er setup – specifically the Tallboy LT.
I like to have the front at least at the same level with my seat (if not lower…) and there is a limit with 29er higher front. This shouldnt be a problem for a taller rider.
Another thing with FS 29er is the stand over hight. These are all design issues which could be overcome only to certain point.
And of course lets not forget the benefits of the shorter chainstays and the weigt of the wheels…
That’s why I am interested in 650Bs.

So please Santa Cruz, if you are reading this, DO NOT BE TOO LATE TO THE 650B GAME.

Phlegm - 06/07/12 - 3:06pm

Someone mentioned “3 is a crowd”. Agreed.

Death to monster-truck-style 29ers that forgo finess for roll-over-everything ease.

Midtown Bike - 06/07/12 - 3:17pm

Funny, you guy’s didn’t interview KHS. They have got quite the line up of 650Bs. I just recently picked up their 650B dually, KHS 656XC. It’s freakin’ sweet… accelerates and climbs like a champ, has precise tracking, and rocks the rough stuff with the XFusion
shocks. Best mountain bike I have had over the many that have come and gone over my two decades of riding.

Kevin - 06/07/12 - 4:06pm

I have been looking forward to the 650b wheels to take hold for years. I’m 6’1″ and hate 29ers. I like the idea of a bike still feeling like my old 26er, but with the added bennifits of bigger wheels. My question is what took so long. I think a 100mm travel bike w/ 650b wheels will be perfect for my local Georgia and north Carolina trails. This is a good thing people.

Jon - 06/07/12 - 4:55pm

I love my 650b bike. At 5’6.5″, I truly never felt comfortable on a 29er. It was sluggish and heavy to move (especially in a reasonable price point bike). Got on a 650b and felt great. More secure in the turns, rolls over roots and rocks better than my 26″. And…. just so I could prove to myselfthat I wasn’t buying into the marketing. I recently took both my bikes out and rode 4 loops each on a local trail I am familiar with. As a result, my 26″ bike is for sale, I don’t feel any need to ride it again. All I can say is before you knock the wheel size, try it, then voice an educated opinion!

Jeff - 06/07/12 - 5:14pm

@ Joe Graney – too funny. I took you for a cold IPA, post mtb ride kind of guy, but maybe I was wrong.
Whether or not you embrace it, I’ll ride the blur w/ 650bwheels until it breaks. For the rocky, rooty east-coast riding, the slightly higher BB is a benefit. I completely agree with the threaded BB. I only wish I had a newer model with a tapered head tube. That is one standard that IMHO makes sense.

David Turner - 06/07/12 - 5:18pm

I am not the first to mention in this thread, but I gotta point out that most have NEVER ridden a bike with 28″ tires. I KNOW that 29 will not go away, it is a great package and has been refined for years now with a huge following. 26 may loose momentum in the shorter travel market place, but for bigger travel/burlier bikes with geometry tuned for terrain and user the 26 still rips the trails. But for a majority of plain ole mountain bikers that go ride rough dirt for the fun and exercise of it all the so called 650 is really a happy medium. Accelerates better than 29, but tracks truer than 26 etc. Master of none, but in the world of trail riding everything is a compromise to someone somewhere. Ride it a couple hours before you spew hate,it may surprise you. If you don’t like it, rant all you like it’s a free country.

I bought a set of Pacenti rims and tires when they first came out years ago and after riding a couple times knew that this was a great wheel size for a mountain bikes. I also knew without support from RS and Fox it would not be accepted by the majority of riders who are supped on the biggest brands. There have been some great forks from White Bros and more recently Xfusion but it was the announcement of RS and Fox forks coming that seemed to spur the industry on.

One of the points some have stated is the lack of offerings in lighter XC, this is due to the limited offerings from RS and Fox for this wheel in 2013. Personally I would have liked a shorter’ish travel fast light trail bike, but with a Revelation 130+ and a Fox 34, it made no sense. The 2 new tires from Schwalbe are 2.35s if that give ya’ll any indication in what the first direction the big makers are heading.

In modern times I have been riding mid sized wheels for months as my primary ride, out of necessity and curiosity I still jump from Sultan to Flux and 5 Spot for testing different product or trying to optimize bike to anticipated terrain but every time I come back to a mid travel bike with 650 wheels it feels just right. Some of the time I have spent on 650s/27.5/28 has been in long XC races and although the longer travel chassis is not the best choice the first couple hours the extra travel is nice the last couple hours! But the wheels are always my favorite.

Oh, back to the tire size, trail riders that buy the new wheel will ultimately ride 28s when tire availability catches up. Most trail riders ride meaty tires in whatever diameter they choose to get a wide foot print in the dirt, period. Something was missing in all the info from the industry above, and that is the 2.35 tires for this rim size are not 27 or 27.5, but 713mm in diameter, that is 28″. This is what the fork makers are designing around for brace and crown clearance on their first fork offerings as well. Maybe Nino Shurter signature custom Dugast tubulars only measure 27″ but that is not what trail riders will reach for. Even the Racing Ralph 2.2 are over 27″in diameter when new. I am going to say most of the posters here are not WC XC racers so will not be racing 27s on a kick cleaned course. I propose they be called ‘waffle’ cause they are the perfect choice for those not happy with 26 or 29 and they are soooo good.

DT

nick - 06/07/12 - 5:21pm

whether it catches on or not it sure is entertaining!

Jen - 06/07/12 - 5:59pm

All shorter women (and men) should welcome their 650b overlords … I am one of those short people — love it! The 29er thing just never worked right for me. Built my own 650b wheels and have been happy as a clam.

Ron - 06/07/12 - 6:05pm

I plan to buy a new bike next year, I never wanted to jump on the 29′er bandwagon, there are limited options now for 26′ers, to me a 650b will be a perfect choice.

JJ Holiday - 06/07/12 - 7:15pm

I ride a S-Works Enduro (160mm) and a HT 29er for XC/marathon rides/races. I desperately need a trail bike split between these two bikes and you can bet it’ll be a 650. This new bike will likely get the most ride time of the bikes in my stable. Someone, for the love of God, please build a light stiff carbon 650 frame with 140mm or so of travel. And Specialized really needs to change their tune for a company that prides themselves on innovation!!

Richard - 06/07/12 - 7:32pm

I think in the end the consumers like us will pick what wheels we want. I can say 130mm for a 29er is not the max after demo’ing a Santa Cruz Tallboy LT (135mm) like the Cannondale guy says. I have no interest being 6 feet tall in 650b, but I can see shorter riders having interest due to size/fitment issues.

Duder - 06/07/12 - 11:22pm

First time I have seen real good, in-depth reporting from BikeConjecture.

Good job Tyler, honestly, keep this up and this place may go somewhere!

Switch - 06/08/12 - 12:28am

I could see 27.5″ wheels on small and medium frames. Leave 29″ wheels for the large and XL frames. Some might see that as limiting choices, but it would eliminate some customer confusion. I’m a small guy and ride both a 29er hard tail and 26″ FSR. Both are medium frames. The 29er is great on the right trail, but huge on other trails. For my size 27.5″ could be perfect.

Chris - 06/08/12 - 12:33am

Been on 26″, 29″, and recently 27.5″. LOVE 26″ and will never get rid of any of my 26″ race bikes. 29″ just does not work for me, a bit shorter of a rider myself. Every time I get on a 29″ my desires for a smaller wheel are instant. Rode a friends 27.5 and did not want to give it back. Hope more companies get 27.5″ products out. A carbon hardtail 27.5 and 5″ travel bike would be my ideal bike fleet for any trail.

2wheels2go - 06/08/12 - 1:01am

I think there’s room for all three tire sizes. I’m short (5’4″) yet I enjoy my 26″ and 29″ bikes. I’m looking forward to trying out 650b. Horses for courses, as they say…

While I do agree that bike shops will have to get used to stocking the tires and parts necessary to support 650b, I feel that it will be a great opportunity for suppliers, distributors, and LBS that can do it and do it well. When I roll into my local tire shop looking for new car tires, they don’t throw up their hands and say, oh we only stock this small size and that large size, but your car’s size tire is in between so we don’t have it. Silly. Bike shops that want to support their customers will know what is selling and being ridden in their area and will figure out ways to support their local riders. These are the shops that will thrive (as it has always been).

York - 06/08/12 - 2:13am

Which 27,5er clear 29er wheels? I want a 6″ 29er and if they don’t exist I shall replace the dropouts on 650er and make into a 29er. So I shall need at least 4,2″ tyre clearance on a 27,5er. It will be a 275,er with 29 inch wheels just like 26″ fat bikes with summer set of 29″ wheels :P

People will convert them into 29ers anyway. I’m 5’8″ on a rip9 and will not take a step backwards! Kill 650b! DO NOT bring it on. Nino is a shill and this thing smells like sly run for money.

Scott - 06/08/12 - 3:59am

If scott brings 650b in 2013, i would definitely buy it!

Scott - 06/08/12 - 4:01am

650b sounds the best, looks the best! most of us are interested in it here!

Ben - 06/08/12 - 7:12am

This Monday I had to choose between buying a ’12 KHS 603 for $700 and my buddy’s mint ’08 FSR XC Comp for $600. This was probably the most difficult (bike-related) choice I’ve ever had to make. I ended up going with the FSR, just because I’m addicted to full-suspension. I am still, in theory, a huge huge fan of 27.5″ wheels. If the FSR hadn’t been available, it would have been the 603, hands down, vs. a 29′r hard tail from Trek or Specialized.

Dutchman - 06/08/12 - 7:46am

Im 1.87 m tall, and riding a 29er XC mtb hardtail at the moment. I would love try the 27.5 inchers. I love my 29er but i fell i loose much when climbing steep hills with such big wheels.

one thing is certain i will never go back to that small 26″ , that size is just rediculous!

regards

Jesus CHRISTO - 06/08/12 - 8:25am

I am in support of 650b, but only if it does not kill off 26″ bikes. There is something to be said about an XC bike that rides like a BMX sometimes. Quick enough for 3 hour jaunts, and you can torch corners in it. 650B XC bikes would be good race bikes for short people.

ant1 - 06/08/12 - 10:08am

i’ll buy whatever is marketed best. just tell me it’s better. i’m never happy with what i have. if only i wasn’t limited by this inferior equipment, my life would be so much better. spending is happiness.

Kool-Aider - 06/08/12 - 12:20pm

Long-stay 29ers blow because the designers couldn’t figure out how to fit big wheels into proven mountain bike geometry. Same thing for FS 29er. It can be done, but they’re too dim/lazy to make it happen.

650 allows half the advantages of 29er while being EASIER to make into proven, 26″ mtb proportions.

The bike industry does not attract the most creative, capable people.

thegazelle - 06/08/12 - 1:04pm

Can’t wait for more 650b trail rigs! Please hurry.

The Bike Industry - 06/08/12 - 2:44pm

Thanks to all the people who posted here telling me not to make 650B bikes. I was planning on replacing your 29ers with it, and thanks to your input, i’m not going to do that. You guys dodged a bullet there!

mtnbiker9999 - 06/08/12 - 2:52pm

Please manufacture lightweight 650b frames (carbon/ti/steel), forks (Rockshox SID) and tires. If you do, I will buy. Until then I’m riding my 26er.

bikerieder - 06/08/12 - 3:40pm

I go back and forth, but I’m leaning more toward 27.5 than ever before. I currently have a 2004 Giant NRS 1 (size Large, 26”) and really like it. But now that the NRS is getting long in the tooth I have been eyeing the Giant Anthem. I was set to eventually get the Anthem 29er……till I started hearing whispers of the 27.5 wheel. Then I picked up an issue of Mountain Bike Action and their side by side review of the Jamis hardtail in 26,27.5, and 29. They picked 27.5 as there winner. So I started thinking I should wait and see what becomes of this development. Then Mountain BIke Action reviews KHS’s full suspension line in the same wheel sizes. Again the 27.5 rose to the top. Either MBA is full of it or there is something special to this 27.5 size. Everything they discovered made sense to me.

I like the efficient, taught, quick and light xc race rigs over the longer travel all-mountain rigs. So I would be most interested in a 27.5 short travel full sus bike. I agree that each wheel size excels in different terrain. Where I live the trails can be tight, twisty, rocky, roots, sandy, off-camber, short steep up/down hills, fast and flowing, & slow and chop. And it seems from what I’m reading that a 27.5 bike would be a good fit.

All I know is I’m NOT going to purchase a 26” full sus xc bike again. It WILL be either a 29 or a 27.5. I don’t by new bikes often. So I may put a new fork/shock on the NRS to keep it on the trail until the 27.5 flowers bloom. Bring on the 27.5. I look forward to 27.5 as much as when suspension forks, full suspension and disc brakes all took turns causing upheaval.

Vince - 06/08/12 - 4:03pm

Bike Companies – please produce 650B related parts, we’re waiting. I’ve been riding a semi-custom Ventana 650B hard tail since January 2010. Since then I have sold off my 26er and 29er bikes. I’m waiting for a 120mm 650B FS bike. For NorCal riding this wheel size is perfect. I LOL when I see short riders on 29er bikes…….gotta love that compromise, eh!

Davidcopperfield - 06/08/12 - 5:15pm

Why not lower the standover on 29ers and shorten the top tubes and add upside down handlevars for shorties?
http://forums.mtbr.com/29er-components/upside-down-riserhandlebars-short-persons-36ers-29ers-32ers-744348.html
Road bikes have grips under the stems and 29er must have dropper bars in order to place the grips, where 26ers have them. Let’s do it. It has much more sense than following a Nino rationale with only one caveat handlebar height. He knows how to ride 700C road bike so he must know how to get rid of old 26er habits and get the handlebar height right.
http://www.cyclingnews.com/blogs/christoph-sauser/bigger-is-better
Cape Epic winner says 29-inch wheels are superior to 650b

This 584mm rim is laughable. Once that we get to grips with 29ers most infamous drawbacks and acknowledge that they have better riding traits, the industry tells us that we do suffer on them and must take a step backwards into more 26er like category? This can happen only in America. 584mm can’t have the ability to rollover and traction or centre of gravity just ike 29ers do nor can 584mm rim weight as little as 559mm rim. No magic here. I say manufacturers refine 29ers first and do not become spread thin over multiple projects as there will be far less 29ers offerings on tyres, frames, rims etc.
Just read this thread:
http://forums.mtbr.com/29er-bikes/mbas-review-26-vs-27-5-vs-29ers-791279.html

Gaz - 06/08/12 - 6:59pm

29ers haven’t been popular in Europe because for starters they’re pig ugly, and secondly our riding preferences are more aligned with the technical than the flat cardio xc scene in the US&A.

There’s a saying in the aerospace industry, “if it looks good, it will fly good”

29ers just don’t look right, it’s been an excuse for those above 6ft to buy a bike that looks in scale with their gangly bodies.

Gaz - 06/08/12 - 7:07pm

If GT design a 27.5er Carbon Zaskar 130, please can we have one with properly sealed bearings (or grease nipples) and replaceable dropouts that don’t squeek. Cheers, and keep the silver team paint scheme for it too ;-)

BBB - 06/08/12 - 8:56pm

Most of “normal” mountain bikers don’t have a problem with their wheels being too small but with their tyres being too narrow and being run at too high pressure.
Instead of 650 wheels, I’d like to see manufacturers pushing some +40mm rims and fast rolling 3″ tyres.

duder - 06/09/12 - 3:27am

frankly, i think 29ers suck, and i live in a non mountainous state, and am 5’11″, they just arent fun for much else but XC and the handling is sluggish…if i was a racer boi id be all over them, but for trail riding, MEH

so this 650b def entices me, as i like a nice 26″ 140mm full susp and some 2.4 tires, doesnt drastically affect handling like a 29er, and still gets a little bigger without super big sidewalls of a fatty 2.6+”

Jones - 06/09/12 - 4:31am

I’m 6’4″ and ride a 29er for XC and I will have a 650b as well. Specialized makes me laugh, they said the same about 29ers.

tesla34 - 06/09/12 - 7:00am

Did the previous submit work?

The MTB world survived for many years with just 26 inch wheels. 29ers took a long time to catch on despite their now-acknowledged advantages in many situations. The niche where 650B/27.5 has advantages over both 26 and 29er is pretty small. Everywhere else it’s 26 for small rider or manouvrability or big suspension travel, and 29er for larger rider, speed. But there are lots of uses where there are followers of both sizes. Therefore a third intermediate size seems likely to be of marginal value. And the downsides of a third size seem large. Finding the right tire in the local bike shop is hard enough with two sizes, why add a third. It’s fanciful to suggest that 26 inch will ever disappear, it’s so universal throughout the world.
And 29ers have the advantage that the same rim is used for most road bikes, so there is a wide range of tyres potentially usable.

I like my Salsa Fargo with 29×2.1 for touring including rough/loose surfaces. I’d like the fat tire for its surefootedness (Kenda small block 8) but would like something with continuous rib to minimise rolling resistance on smooth surfaces.

Jeff - 06/09/12 - 11:13am

I started riding about 3-4 years ago. I remember when I first started looking around for a MTB that Haro offered a model in 650B. Even though I had no clue about MTB’s in regards to what I was looking for or what I wanted, 650B just seemed like a natural wheel size for mountain bikes. I never bought the Haro or a 650B but that was only because Haro was the only manufacturer that I saw who supported it. I now ride approx 1K miles a year XC and still do not have an interest in 29ers. 650B on the other hand is completely on my radar. I dont see fork selection as being a limiting factor for the advancement of 650B as X-fusion and White Brothers have been supporting the size for a while. What I see as the limiting factor is that nobody seems to make a light, stiff and reliable wheelset in the size. If only Mavic would make a Crossmax ST wheelset in 650B then I would be all over it!

Jason - 06/09/12 - 8:54pm

I’m 5’8″ and I ride all over southern New England. Everything from smooth sandy and hilly stuff on the Cape to flat, swampy, rocky technical. I like to ride xc fast, but I also like to hit the drops and stunts. I have been riding a rigid SS 29er and a 5″ travel 26″ FS. My 26er is a 2004 and its 2nd set of bearings are worn out, so its time for a replacement. I really prefer the 29″ wheels, but longer travel 29ers just seem so tall and I’m worried about weight and durability of the big wheels on a bike that is specific to technical rocky riding. So I bought a 650b. Haven’t ridden it, just pulled the trigger cause I know I want FS, I know I want wheels bigger than 26 and I know I don’t want 29er wheels on my rock bashing FS. Process of elimination led me to 650b. Time will tell, but honestly my attitude is how can I lose? Maybe if 650b went away tomorrow, but it seems as though 2013 is gonna bring more tire and rim choices.

El Gurto - 06/09/12 - 10:19pm

Holy!!! Wow!!! there’s a lot of comments. I am glad to see the interest in 650b. I can’t wait to get one. I’m looking for an all mountain 650b bike.

craig johnson - 06/09/12 - 10:28pm

Looks like the market will decide this one, as is appropriate.
But who remembers the 700D?
http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/tires/587.html
And who remembers Cannondales MTB ride with 26″ front / 24″ rear?
Why not mixing the sizes, it makes sense.

Riza - 06/11/12 - 3:19am

29″ is too big for me, and no problem with 26″ right now. If 650B goes mainstream (=more parts available in the market) I won’t hesitate to go that direction as compared to a 29″.

Tom B - 06/11/12 - 3:54am

It makes sense for manufacturers to produce frames that will accomodate both 26″ and 27.5″ wheels. Being able to use different wheel sizes on a frame designed for both diameters will give consumers the choice of 26″/27.5″ wheels without compromises in performance. Also I think there is probably unrealized demand for 1.8″ Xc tires in 27.5″ size.

Jeff b - 06/11/12 - 10:23am

I’m not sure how many folks are still thinking of 69er conversions…I’ve played with the idea, but on a 6″ travel bike, I still don’t see throwing that huge wheel around up front to be an advantage on more tight/technical terrain. I’d love to see fox come on board with all their new technology and make a 140/150/160 mm fork for 27.5″…I think for someone riding a 3-4 year old frame and wanting to breath some life into it, maybe a “67.5er” would be a lot more realistic, not to mention releasing some of the headache of drastic head angle changes…never bought in to the 69er idea, but I’d strongly consider the idea of a 67.5er if the components and tire choices were at the quality level and price point of similar 26″ offerings!

Transalp08 - 06/11/12 - 7:09pm

Why not frames accepting multiple size of wheels? The difference in radius between a 27,5 and a 29 inches wheel is so tiny that I don’t see why a frame accepting both would not be possible; for instance with interchangeable front and rear dropouts to adapt the geometry to both wheel sizes. The same for 26 and 27,5 inches. For instance, the smaller frames could accept 26 and 27,5 inches wheels and the bigger frames 27,5 and 29 inches wheel (with 2 identical wheels or a larger front wheel).

richard - 06/12/12 - 1:24am

I just cannot wait to see a 100mm tavel xc race bike! that would be my dream, 29ers just handle to slowly!!

Mike - 06/12/12 - 4:49am

Mountain bike industry: Stop hating on short people! I would LOVE a Pivot ~5″ travel bike with 27.5″ wheels, size SMALL. Make it and I’ll be your first customer!

Darren - 06/13/12 - 1:36pm

My next bike will be a 650b-just makes sense to me.

Dmitr - 06/13/12 - 4:38pm

US is not the whole world and 6′+ people are not the largest part of the population, to say the least. There’s a huge market waiting for the new wheel size. Not only because we need it so much (I really don’t believe it will make much difference on amateur level comparing to 26″), but also because investing in 26″ as your next bike becomes not the best idea thanks to these new wheel trends. No big gap between 27.5 and 26? – No problem to temporarily install good old 26 wheels into 27-ready frame, no one will notice the difference and you’ll have time to build a proper 650B set to follow the trend ;-)

I’m 5’9″, featherweight and I gave 29er a try but only to realize I’ll never buy it. It felt incredibly clumsy and joykilling up the hill I enjoy on my XC FS 26″ bike.

Looking forward to see a wide range of 27″ XC hardtails and short-travel FS ASAP. I’d buy 650b carbon scalpel if there was one RIGHT NOW. Hello Cannondale, I’ll be looking for alternatives soon if you don’t hurry ;-)

Rick - 06/13/12 - 10:34pm

Really interested in 650b hardtail XC race bike. I’m not a fan of 29ers, but think a slightly larger wheel size than 26 would be interesting for that segment. Seems like the obvious application for this. Don’t understand the industry’s apparent focus on the trail bike market for 650b though. I own a Blur LTc and its perfect as-is…

Dirt eater kzn - 06/14/12 - 3:53am

after reading these comments its makes me go all warm and fuzzy inside i have no doubt that the tweener with my small build will be awsome i now just hope morewood get all over this like a bad rash and build a dual suspension marathon machine please please please

Joe - 06/15/12 - 2:04pm

Good article, and entertaining comments. Summary; wheel size is a religion and like politics should not be read or discussed at work.

dwainedibbly - 06/16/12 - 9:02am

The naming is getting pretty confusing. Does the industry really need ANOTHER size called 27″? For the love of all that is good, keep it as 650B. People will figure it out. Sheldon Brown must be spinning in the grave!

Daz - 06/19/12 - 4:11am

I’m the same height as Nino…I want one. We ride in South Africa & 29ers are taking over but too big for us smaller riders. Would be nice to custom build our own 650b bikes at a decent price.

Missy - 06/22/12 - 5:14pm

Ha Ha Ha !!!! nothing was wrong with 26 inch, and now all the guys who wanted 29er’s are going to 650b so that will not sound so stupid about buying into 29er’s!!!!!
It was obvious that 29ers are heavy turds, and bike engineers knew it!! They shoved it down your throats because they knew everyone already had 26 inch bikes, and everyone would buy a 29er if they told you it was better!! Inventory is already a BIG problem, and now welcome 650b!!!
You don’t race the Baja with a monster truck!!!

Kenton Ensink - 06/26/12 - 7:23am

29ers have not really caught on in Europe because we tend to err towards more technical downhill trail and gravity enduro riding. Tight twisty rocky and rooty. Europe is leading the charge for this wheel size in everything from xc race hard tails to 160mm gravity enduro machines. I can see 650b or 27.5 taking almost all the sales in a few years time. Just like 29ers in the states right now.

It will always be horses for courses and rider preference that dictates the choice. This years world cup Xc has had rounds won on 26er, 650b and 29 er. That proves that one is not better than the other. It’s down to the rider and without doubt a lot of riders want 650b. It’s nothing to do with marketing or hype. We just want choice.

Balke Melton - 06/30/12 - 6:39pm

I just find 29ers much less fun to ride, even if they are faster on some trails. Hope to see some 27.5 xc bikes as well as trail bikes.

Randy - 07/13/12 - 11:08am

Basically it comes down to this, the average height of an American man is 5’9″. 29ers are not typically a viable option for them. Offer a 27.5 to them and most sub 5’11″ guys will opt for that size over a 26″ trail/xc bike. The new guy who wants the latest and greatest will buy it, the short guy who thought his only choice was 26″ will buy it. And the 6′ fella who wants quicker turning and travel on his trail/xc bike now has an option without going back down to 26″

The 650B/27.5 fills a void. Lets not over think this. Econ 101

Brian - 07/24/12 - 5:38pm

Bring on the 27.5. I’ve been riding 6″ travel bikes for a long time now, and I have been the guy in search of the mythical unicorn of a “do-it-all” bike. 5″ travel 27.5 bike fits that bill pretty well for the vast majority of riders that I ride with.

Like many people have posted on this forum, 29er sometimes just aren’t that fun to ride. They kind of remind me of riding an exercise bike sometimes. They are hard to wheelie, and make techy stuff, well a little less techy. But they do have some great characteristics too! The ones I’ve ridden roll well and seem to climb better than a comparable 26″ bike.

So the question is how do we build the better mouse trap and create a bike that has similar ride characteristics as a 26″ and a 29er….well it seems to me that you find a size in the middle; hence, this whole tread.

Bottom line is this: I will have a 27.5 bike as my next bike. Either retro fitted or as a dedicated bike. So hey bike manufactures, it’s on you now.

gurzang - 08/01/12 - 6:06am

More possibilities, more flexibility, more chances of getting the right bike according to your size, weight, riding style…At my 6.3 height 29ers have been a revelation but can´t wait to see what riders are going to do with 650, the most flexible wheel size.
For instance tire clearance is an issue with 29ers. What if I put 650 wheels with 2.35-2.5 tires in a a 29 frame&fork…

riderX - 08/02/12 - 5:47am

Pretty impressive tread and comments list. One question: what might Niner bikes think of this? Their comments would be interesting as well.

Jon - 08/02/12 - 10:36am

I’ve tried a 26″ (not great for really technical dh for me) and 29″ (just too much for me at 5′ 7″), so I’d love to have a 650b. My LSB owner who built my 29er is a great guy, very knowledgeable but he’s 6′ 7″ and he has no idea what it’s like to be short. He rides 29″ and his bike weighs a little more than mine, and that makes no sense to me at all. I understand the industry reluctance, but the 26″ seems dead to me, soon to be replaced by the more innovative manufacturers. At least that’s what I hope.

Karina - 08/04/12 - 8:58pm

At 5′ 3″, I cannot wait for the 650b frames to come out!!! Please, all bike manufacturers out there, realize there’s a bunch of small advanced female riders out there who are desperate for this solution. I love the ride of the 29ners but they are too large for me. I feel splayed out like a squirrel on a tree on them, even with adjustmens to stem and bar, and without room to maneuver. So for time being am stuck with 26″ bike only, which in carbon XS frame with only 3-4 inches of travel is really hard to find.

Dunny - 08/04/12 - 9:21pm

I purchase a 2010 Jamis 650 B2 solely on the recommedation of my local shop owner. That is VERY rare for me to buy a bike without thorough research and demoing. The purchase was in prepartion for my trip to CO and UT. During the first day of riding on Porcupine rim, the oil leg of the White Bros fork gave out. Since no bike shop in the MTB meccas of Moab and Crested Butte looked at me like I had two heads when asked if they had seal kits for my fork, I quickly developed buyers remorse. The rest of my trip was VERY disappointing as I had to rent bikes (Giant Reign and Kona Tanuki of which I really enjoyed). I was told by Jamis that it was my responsibility to contact White Brothers to resolve my fork issue. I’m very disappointed with Jamis, as they’re the ones who spec’d this fork on THEIR bike but wouldn’t take the reigns.
I do enjoy riding the bike but haven’t noticed a night and day difference. The headache to acquire rare parts is DEFINATELY not worth subscribing to this new foray.

Dunny - 08/04/12 - 9:24pm

Correction on: Since no bike shop in the MTB meccas of Moab and Crested Butte had parts for my fork, I quickly developed buyers remorse.

Justin - 08/06/12 - 8:07am

I’ve been riding a Carver Killer B (Titanium 650B) for two years now. I test rode it pre-event in 2009 and loved it. It has heaps more grip than my old 26er over the same terrain and felt much more smoother over the same terrain. It is a bit of a mountain goat too. I have both 26 inch and 27 inch wheelsets that I swap between to preserve my 650B tyres. You can definitely get much cheaper tyres in 26 inch. Hopefully that will change soon. I love my 650, in fact my only dislike at the moment is that I am due for a new rear tyre but….. due to the recent interest from Nino and probably a few manufacturers need for supplies…. I cannot find a new 650 tyre……

redbarn - 08/14/12 - 6:31pm

So awesome to read all these comments. We are blessed with so many experts!

Here’s a “product development” tip: ride alott of bikes in alott of places, 650′s included, THEN write your opinion.

Bottom line folks: Dave Turner’s right – this wheel rules the trail compromise. This will prove to be right in the future and the folk’s with negative attitudes, industry worries and falty math will be very, very quiet. It will also rule a whole lot of fast trail/XC applications AND some more gravity minded uses. 650b just has a ton of range to do alott of things better than what we have now. So, sue the people in the industry that had the flawed decisions to choose 26″ first, then over-compensate and go to 29″. We’re all very sorry, really. Just tryin’ to get to the best solution….

Written from the future.

Burken650b - 08/16/12 - 9:30pm

The 650b will overtake the 26 inch bikes within the next few years. I have been a 650b rider for 3 years now and it is one heck of a ride. 26 is history.

Burken650b - 08/16/12 - 9:34pm

Justin (post 08/06/12). Try the 650b Kenda Nevegal 2.1 on your 27 inch conversion. It fits really well on my 26 inch Haro convert. Jenson USA selling them for $39.99.

jane - 09/04/12 - 10:42pm

have a 26″; next bike will be a 650b!! tried a 29..not a fan..gotta have that 27.5 so please build some and hurry up ive got $ buring a hole in my pocket (looking at khs right now)

AndyV - 09/10/12 - 8:39am

I just don’t see the point of 650B, the 29er comes with significant advantages over the 26 but comes hand in hand with its penalties. 650B takes reduces those advantages a bit just to reduce the penalties a bit.

So if you got a 650 bike you’d be spending the same wedge as you would on a new 29er for less advantage over your old 26er, and still suffering the downsides of the bigger wheels over the 26.

I have a full suss 26 and HT29 but am waiting for the big travel 29er thats on a drawing board somewhere just waiting for the next financial dip in the market.

Mr. K - 09/10/12 - 8:39pm

2012 SC Blur LT2 with 650b wheels work nicely for me.

PhillyG - 09/11/12 - 11:02am

I”m 5’10″ and do most of my riding in the Southeast (GA, NC). I’ve demoed a Niner on some SE riding and just rode a 29er in CO for a week. I love how the 29er rolls over the rough stuff but it doesn’t cut it when doing technical. I can handle the technical much better on my 26″ S-Works. That being said, I think a 27.5″ would be the best of both worlds. Get onboard Specialized.

simon spragg - 09/12/12 - 3:37pm

Look its SIMPLE – Keep-It-Simple-Stupid. As a consumer wheels & punctures on the trail are a pain. So 26″ ZTR flows with Maxxis Minion dual plys run tubeless with stans jungle juice solve the puncture problem. ZTR flow rims are STRONG make them bigger they must get weaker, I am re building the rear at the moment it is an unavoidable fact of MTBing, make them bigger more stress on rims BAD IDEA! Frame designers have sussed how to give us GREAT FUN performance with 26″ wheels and tyres. This means good mud clearance for wide tyres with descent tread size. Make them bigger then frame designers will have less scope and much more weight, can’t be avoided – IF it can then put the technology into making even better STRONGER and lighter 26″ wheels.
As for the bike shops NIGHTMARE!
Great for credit card companies and loan sharks
Probably great for on line dealers.
Crap for consumers if you can’t ride with 26″ wheels do something else!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joe - 09/24/12 - 1:30pm

I’m 6’1″, and on a FS XC (100mm) 29er now and love it. Definite advantage and better rolling than any of my 26″ bikes. Not entirely agreeing with the 27.5″ size… seen PLENTY of shorter riders on 29ers and they love them. I believe the frames for small and medium riders is the key. Never met a person that rode a 29er that didn’t like it (no downhill friends… ha).

Strength of the 29er is very good. Weights are getting lighter and lighter. Would be interested in seeing a 29er downhill rider… longer travel. And if weight isn’t a major concern, I’m sure MFG’s can build a strong as hell 29er wheelset.

My 2 cents

RodrickRC - 09/27/12 - 9:50am

I do not understand how anyone can see the benefit of the “in betweener” There is always pros and cons to the 29er and more so now to the 26inch because of the 29er for Marathon and XC use. The 27.5 bridges the down sides of the 26 and 29 and makes it as close to perfect as possible (at the present time)
I currently ride a Scott Spark RC 2011 model 26″ and have ridden once or twice on a 29er hardtail BUT the bike just feels big BUT felt the benefits of the greater rolling speed immediately and noticed I worked less to achieve the same on the 29er
I managed to get a set of 650b wheels and tested these on my Scott Spark RC. The fit of the bike was perfect and I immediately felt a difference in rolling speed and in climbing steep gravel climbs that were rutted and off camber. On the climbs There was more contact on the road so each pedal stroke was more efficient BUT not being as big as the 29er format did not require the intial energy to get it going. This resulted in less fatique which has been synonomous with the 29er wheel size and steep climbs.
Even the gearing from my standard 2 x 10 format (FRONT 42/28 BACK 11/36) felt better and I never seemed to run out of legs on the straights but didnt suffer with a shortage of gears on the steeper climbs. The handling was great over technical single track sections which included plenty roots and rocky sections.
The overall benefit is not the small bump compliance (our shocks and forks these days have this covered and if you are running the correct tyre pressures) and if this was the case the downhill mtbikers would be looking at different wheel sizes, but the reduction in fatique and effort it takes to get going and keep going for XC and Marathon use. This over hours adds up and this is where we feel the benefit. I strongly believe that the 26″ format will fade over time to the 27.5″ and the 29er will remain. This will then boil down to rider fit and preference.

RodrickRC - 09/27/12 - 9:59am

Oh Just to add to my comment above because there has been no other options riders have chosen the 29er due to its benefits but possibly at the detriment of fit or even comfort and control BUT now they can make the choice based on the benefits of a bigger wheel and fit of the 27.5 geometry
As the rule of thumb goes with bike size Always buy smaller if uncertain It will give you better bike control Now the 27.5″ allows us to do this with the benefits of the bigger wheel

Mark - 10/02/12 - 1:39am

Nobody is being forced to buy anything, buy and ride what you like, more bikes and more technology great,Do I need a 650b probably not, I have 4x 26″ mountain bikes ,do I want one,oh yes I think this will be a great addition to mountain biking, I have never wanted a 29er, I don’t like the huge wheels and the geometry is strange,I am 6’2 so I would fit one, but I don’t begrudge people who like them ,would I consider telling manufacturers not build them or riders not to buy one , no, If we all drove the same car, talking on our iphones, dressed in our adidas tracksuits the world would suck, bring on new bikes, new accessories,new stuff for me to spend huge amounts of money on……………..New Zealand the best mountain biking country in the universe……………M

Steve Campbell - 10/04/12 - 6:11pm

Working in this industry, I feel fortunate to be able to test ride/ own the latest and greatest. After testing a few 27.5 HT and fullys in past couple years, the performance gains only made sense on paper. The difference in real world testing, ..barely noticeable other than a slight increase in weight. If anything, I found 27.5 bikes somewhat bland, not inheriting much advantages 29ers offers yet taking away the fun attributes of a 26. I beleive the 29er rise is something that was needed. But 27.5 at this point, is just a lot of hype driven by a handful of companies trying to gain a peice of the market on something they couldn’t with 26 or 29ers.
So the question is, do you really think a 27.5 is really the best of both worlds or is it because MB Fiction said it so?

Tony - 10/05/12 - 3:51pm

I think the 650b concept is not a fad but will come to fruition and possibly replace 26″ wheels as the most common wheel size. Some of us are vertically challenged and though some companies make 29′er frames to fit us short folks (Niner EMD 9 in XS), the fit is still not optimal. To all the manufacturers out there who are reading these forums…don’t miss the boat…the 650b segment will succeed. There are plenty of consumers who want wheels larger than 26″ but not as clumsy as the 29″ wagon wheels. Just makes too much sense…

Wasatch Rider - 10/21/12 - 12:35am

I’ve stuck with 26″ hard tails for the last two decades, but have decided to venture into the world of full suspension. Now that I’m getting older, I want some plushness. I’m 5’10″ and feel that 29er’s are too awkward for good control. I expect that my next bike will have 650b wheels.

Bartolo - 11/24/12 - 2:43am

27.5 !? Bring it. I ride a 26 for BMX type of fun and 29er HT on XC trails. I am currently looking for a all mountain/trail bike full suspension bike. I demoed some 26ers but I miss the plow feel of the 29er… however I enjoy the nimblessnes of a 26er. I would love get on a 27.5 – it seems like a great compromise.
If we lived in communist Russia and politburo dictated a wheel standard – I would ride it and be happy. Fortunately we do not. Small differences on a mtb make a huge difference whether is shortening the stem by 3-4cm or setting your seat back by 2cm – the difference is noticeable. 4cm (1.5inch) in diameter smaller than 29inch and bigger than 26inch is HUGE !
More choices makes LBS more relevant than ever. If choosing a bike was simple, everyone would just order online for much less than going to your LBS.

Am I the only one that finds that most people that harp on a 29er and now the 650b – never actually rode one (or tried it our for few minutes)?

Mukand - 11/28/12 - 8:36pm

It is the new wave for the bike industries to gain some market shares. 26er has saturated and it makes sense that new things come and economy will turn around again. It’s all about MONEY!!!

Pier - 12/03/12 - 10:37am

There may be another explanation to why the industry is going to 27″. The manufacturer realized that not all riders want to ride a huge bike. From BTMA: you are sitting into the bike ( 29″) not riding it.
I personally do not like the 29″, not reactive, more difficult to handle and it does not bring any advantage to my ride style. I will look at the 27″ when I will change my bike. I am also disappointed that my preferred manufacturer moved totally to 29″ for the top models: they lost a customer.

KenM - 03/05/13 - 6:32pm

I’ve been riding longer travel 26ers for a while now, and don’t see any industry conspiracy here. Variety hasn’t hurt the ski industry, and like skiers, bikers will reap the benefits of greater selection. Let’s give the new wheel size time to prove itself, or not. It is not about having a quiver of multiple size trail riding tools; I, like many others, think my next bike will be the 650b.

Scott Maurer - 04/02/13 - 11:48pm

I’ve spent the last year on my Jamis 650b and LOVE it. I’m 6′ and 175 lbs. It does everything I ask of it. Great roll/climb, downhill control, soaks up the bumps big and small. The fit was dialed in right out of the box. If I want to ride a 29′er I’ll ride my cross bike.

Alessio - 08/01/13 - 10:13am

Be, c’e da dire che il formato di mtb 650b va bene ma non per questo dovrebbero soppiantare il 26 pollici o il 29. Io ho acquistato un mese fa’ una nuova mtb con ruote da 26 e ne sono molto soddisfatto. P.S. Non capisco perche’ un mio precedente messaggio e’ stato cancellato !!!!!!

Mallory McGuire - 12/04/13 - 3:05am

I for one am embracing the 650B. Especially since I can no longer compete in recreational XC races on my 26er (everyone rides 29ers with 80-100mm travel in XC races now) and frame sizing for 29ers is all over the board when you’re talking clearance/stand over height, and let’s face it, 29ers take a lot more oomph to get going. One of the worst issues for me and 29ers, is all of the frames are too big, with top tube hitting me you know where, every time I put my foot down. The industry measurements for stand over on manufacturer sizing charts for frames is never accurate, and no two companies ever measure in the same place. If us shorter riders find a frame with enough clearance (usually XS), the top tubes are way too short and it feels like we’re riding a kid’s bike. If we find a frame with a top tube that is long enough, then the stand over is too high. Maybe we can all “get used to” dangerous frames that hit us in the pubic bone every time we put our foot down, but it isn’t the optimum. Riding a frame that is too big down the (rocky) garden path is a recipe for injury. Also, those bigger 29 inch wheels take a lot more oomph to propel in many situations, that smaller riders can come up with, unless our sideline is bodybuilding. To remain competitive we can’t use 26ers anymore, and if 29ers don’t fit us, and it feels like we’re dragging an anchor to get it going, the 650B seems like it would be the perfect size for us smaller riders. Are you listening? Market the 650B to women! Womens bikes for the most part are low end weekend basket on the bars boat anchors, or really high end. Make us a mid-level 650B with a decent (light) build group, I’ll take ten!
Women would love to ride a well-designed 650b frame with some clearance built in.

Elvin - 02/17/14 - 8:48am

Aaron Chase, Andreu Lacondeguy, Anthony Messere, they all look great in jump vids & pics on 26, none of them shorter than 5’3″, I’m only 5″1′, why the hell would I get a 27.5? If I’m into Enduro, maybe, or maybe not, it just depends on your discipline, and how not to look like you’re on your big brother’s bike

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.