Is Bigger Better?


Lately, I’ve noticed some mountain bikes with larger-than usual wheels. Someone told me they are called “29ers” because the wheels measure 29 inches instead of the traditional 26. Are these bigger wheels the future of mountain biking?

—Just Curious

Dear Curious,

Your sharp eye has picked up a significant shift in mountain bike design. Gary Fisher came out with the 29er design three years ago, and a number of manufacturers have followed suit. Converts claim that the larger wheels, with more mass and, thus, more momentum, roll more smoothly over obstacles in the trail. Taller riders say these bikes offer a more comfortable fit than traditional sizes.

The latest twist is to use a conventionally sized 26-inch rear wheel with a 29-inch wheel in the front. Proponents of this setup claim the dual benefits of superior rear traction with the smaller drive wheel and a dampened ride with the larger front-end rolling mass.

Last summer, I borrowed a friend’s 29er to see what the fuss was about. After a test ride, I—an average-size human who abhors buying new gear—decided I didn’t need a 29er. But you should take your own test spin. Perhaps you’ll find that bigger really is better.

Ride on, Jock