Interesting Short Documentary On The Push For 650B Wheels

Really interesting documentary on how and why the mountain bike wheel size came to be and why manufacturers are pushing it. For more information on whats driving the trend, check out our in depth tech article on 650B wheels.

Do you believe the hype or are manufacturers going to have to pry your 26″ trail bike from your cold dead hands?

Comments

Ripnshread - 09/07/12 - 5:33pm

Ben Anderson from Kenda hits the nail on the head for me. The boom is about sales not what people want. Riders were happy with 26″, some larger XC/light trail riders like 29″ but building a small bike or ones with more travel around a 29″ meant cutting some corners…so…27.5″. Tires will also roll over an object easier if you have good handling skill and just lean and loft a little…like 3/4-1 1/2″…lol.

DaleC - 09/07/12 - 7:06pm

“sales” = “what people want”

I have never sold anything to anyone who did not want it.

redbarn - 09/07/12 - 7:12pm

I don’t know, I’m not in sales and I want it. Booms sometimes happen when products do certain jobs better. The man is not always responsible for your choice.

Watchtower - 09/07/12 - 7:40pm

When Specialized produces a 27.5″ Epic I’m there.

Craig - 09/07/12 - 8:00pm

Wow, great job, Alex. Neat to get all those perspectives. Thanks for posting this, guys.

Joey B - 09/07/12 - 10:31pm

Wishing Trek would have introduced a EX 27.5 for 2013. I agree with the guy from Intense; 5 years and you’ll be hard pressed to find a 26″ wheeled bike. Maybe at Wal-mart & Target the 26 will go.

Ben - 09/08/12 - 2:49am

Nice documentary, good to see the DT Swiss guy giving his personal opinion instead of marketing chitchat. Think wheelsize is also something measured to a persons’ length. Under 5’8 probably 650B above that 29″.

satisFACTORYrider - 09/08/12 - 7:01am

Bigger wheels have their merits, it’s physics. Just like smaller wheels progress the rider’s skill easier because of physics. 26 was probably chosen arbitrarily from the start cuz it was the easiest thing to use. Making the ride “easier”(aka fun) is a lot easier to sell to the old than selling the idea of time to acquire skill cuz that’s a young persons game and the young have no money but they do have time to acquire skill.
The marketing of physics meets the physics of marketing. Having tried all three sizes and growing up on and still riding bmx my skill set and mindset still prefers the 26.

db - 09/08/12 - 9:28am

I really don’t think wheel size is as big of an issue as its being made out to be.
Personally I think geometry is the most important aspect. It’s about finding the right sized bike along with geometry that works for you. With today’s technology I don’t buy any of the traditional “old” 29er downfalls. However, again it comes down to the bike and its geometry. I’ve tested a few brands and hated the bike, but I’ve found a bike brand that is absolutely amazing. My wife is 5’2” and rides a 29er. She changed from a 26er and within the first few rides was sold and refuses to even ride her old bike. So to say wheel size would go with body height isn’t quite right.
I think whichever wheel size one rides it all comes down to the fit with geometry.
Geometry has a huge impact on riding dynamics which can make or break the riding experience

Topmounter - 09/08/12 - 2:25pm

All I got out of that video was “26-inch = Lady-bike” :-)

But seriously… I think wheel size has more to do with the rider / frame size for the “typical” mountain bike rider than anything (and by typical, I mean the majority of consumers who are buying a mountain bike to go mountain biking, rather than niches like a DH’er buying a DH-bike to go DH’ing or whatever).

Which of course is DEFINITELY not what the big manufacturers want to hear… since they want to maximize sales across a minimum number of SKU’s… which makes 650b attractive to them since they can move towards eliminating 26″ and 29″ bike from their line-up and their marketing departments can just spew some variation of the “Best of Both Worlds” BS and stick people on the XS, S, M, L or XL 650b bike that matches their budget (just like the good ol’ days when 26′ers ruled the roost).

Is what is best for the manufacturers best for consumers?

Radiant Ultralord - 09/08/12 - 2:56pm

It’s more about general feel and handling than the rider’s size. I don’t see 29er going away for racing. I have no idea if 26er would go away for DH bikes. It will be interesting to see if 650B DH bikes become “a thing”. If somebody started winning world cup races on one that might be that.

They should work better in theory? I’m no DH bike expert. If it makes it harder to lift the front end or maneuver that would be bad but it should be close with the appropriate geometry (e.g. shorter chainstay)

Ted's Mom - 09/08/12 - 11:04pm

Hmmm… I have to say that this seemed a little biased, not that I am for or against 650b.

First of all, it left out the big players: Trek, Specialized and Giant all of whom I believe are not jumping on board (yet).

Second, the ‘hype’ for the 650b as portrayed in this video contradicts an article in the latest issue of Bicycle Retailer which basically said that shops aren’t too excited about this-for a number of reasons.

Personally, I made the switch to 29″ wheels earlier this year and cannot imagine going back to a smaller sized wheel. However, I think Tyler Morland’s sentiment is the key point to the video and the whole 650b thing: Choice.

Substance - 09/09/12 - 11:24pm

I love my 650B Jamis. If you don’t want to try something new, thats fine, don’t then. I think all wheel sizes have their place and theres a lot of personal preference that plays into in anyway.

As far as shop not liking it, I feel like 10 years ago shops would have said the same thing about 29 inch wheels. Its not that much more to stock, its not difficult to explain to a customer if it even needs to be explained. I’ve worked at shops for a long time and I wouldn’t explain the difference unless someone specifically asked. A bike sale regarless of type would start with, “where do you want to ride?” not, “which category of bike or which wheel size do you want?” Normal people don’t care, they just want a bike to ride where they want to ride and an intelligent salesperson will get bikes with the correct wheel size under the right riders.

Bike shops are probably the only place you’d find people who would complain about a new wheel size because its “more stuff to stock and deal with” but also complain about the stupid customer that asks for a tube and doesn’t know what size they need.

29er - 09/10/12 - 11:31am

With 29inch wheels, you are buying skill. If you are not racing for less than 2 hours, then the 29er will fit most of your needs. It’s way more fun than a 26er, but the wheels aren’t as good/strong, yet. If you have tons of cash, you can get a 29er to race short track. My bike is 28 lbs, a tank, and I have no plans on being on the world cup podium. 650b is for racers, 26er is for racers….you can get a 29er to maneuver like a 26 inch bike…ok, maybe 5% of the time you can’t. bottom line, the majority of people will be happier on a 29er.

Paco - 09/11/12 - 12:31am

Funny, when 29″ wheels hit, riders wanted em and MFG’s were behind the ball.
Now that 650b is landing, it’s the MFG’s trying to justify it while riders seem weary.

There are two ways of looking at these “In between” standards. One way, being touted here by MFGs trying to sell what they’ve invested in, is that it combines 50% of the benefits of 26″ & 29″ wheels.

The other way, is that it combines 50% of the drawbacks, lacking the rollover of 29″, and strength, weight, & clearance of 26″, making 650b a bland compromise optimal at neither function. The same can be said for the “in between” 100x15mm front thru axles. …and 135mm flange width 142mm rear thru axle hubs. …and 1.5-1.125 tapered headsets. …and legacy disc mounts designed around puny xc forks from the 90′s. …and drivetrains designed around road bikes from the 1970s! With this kind of thinking on product managers part, it’s a miracle mountain bikes have come as this far at all. Disappointing.

Todd - 09/13/12 - 1:30am

So if larger wheels are so much better where are the bigger wheel road bikes. Certainly everybody wants to go faster on the road. I would expect a new road size, how about 30.785″???

Radiant Ultralord - 09/13/12 - 8:59pm

@Paco, your thinking is flawed. By the same argument, there should be just hardtails and downhill bikes. Come on, pick what you want! Do you want suspension or not! Anything in the middle is a blah compromise good at nothing.

Etc.

david mackey - 11/14/12 - 8:47pm

Clown wheels were invented by companies to stimulate sales. Something new, but they look like…well, clown bikes. And now after all these years of pushing the huge hoops, mountain bike action magazine is now downing the 29″ wheels in favor of the “new” best thing…the 27.5. Enough. All my bikes are 26″ wheeled bikes and thats all I will ever have. I have tried the clown wheels and they don’t handle the tight twisty trails we ride and are slow out the corners and are hard to climb.

Nick - 10/03/13 - 11:57pm

I was sold on the marketing. I love 26 and 29, each for their respective traits. But 650b seemed like it would just be the best of both. So I rode one a few different times last week. I was amazed at how boring the wheels/bike was. It is not as snappy or fun as a 26 and has nowhere near the rollover or confidence of a 29. It IS a bland compromise in the middle that has no personality and is great at nothing. I will stick with two bikes, 26 and 29.

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