Above photo: http://thepeopleofsantopoco.blogspot.sg
For those of us who had been mountain-biking for a while, the venerable 26 inch mountain bike has been around for the longest time and many honed their handling and riding skills on the 26 inch platform. Then about a decade ago, the very first 29 inch mountain bikes appeared which received a less than enthusiastic welcome to those who were so used to 26inch mountain bikes. Fast forward today, almost every bike company has a 29er model and improvements in ride geometry and availability of related accessories make it an irresistible choice for those considering a new mountain bike.
Another more recent trend (though not new) is the 27.5inch wheel size and some companies have been producing 27.5 specific models in the hope that it will take off and really start becoming popular.
So there are a few schools of thought to wheel sizes: Some say bigger is better (especially for 29ers which roll over everything on the trail) while others contend that a smaller wheel size means that the bike will be more agile on a very technical trail (the classic 26 inch mountain bike seems to be the winner here).
Well, to help our readers have an easier time in making a decision amongst the three wheel sizes, I summed it up in this chart:
Other factors to consider
What has been presented is a rather broad sweep of the various advantages and disadvantages of each of the 3 wheel sizes. Other useful things to consider apart from just the 3 wheel sizes and its characteristics are rider profile/characteristics and wheels/front suspension upgrade options.
If you prefer a more ‘lively’ and ‘responsive’ ride, the 26 inch mountain bike will definitely be a good choice. However, the 26inch mountain bike would likely require more rider input to negotiate with the challenges in the terrain (good for training your bike handling skills, I suppose). In addition, the fact that the 26 inch mountain bike has been around so long means that there are plenty of choices and sizes out there in the market.
29ers have been fast gaining traction (pun intended) in recent years and will probably suit taller riders due to the frame geometry. Given the big wheel size, it will definitely have an edge on long descents and will be suited for long-distance event lovers.
The new old and ‘in-between’ wheel size of the 27.5inch may appeal to someone who wants the best of both worlds? It may also be helpful for those considering to ‘upgrade’ from the 26inch but do not want a sudden jump to the 29er.
Wheels/front suspension upgrade options