Honestly…how many different wheels sizes do we need? With the introduction of the 650B (27.5″) wheel size, we are now up to 3 different available wheel sizes for mountain bikes if you don’t include the 24″ variety. The idea is that you get the same rolling power seen in 29″ wheels with the agility of 26″. I am not jumping on the bandwagon that fast for several reasons.
- When you take most 26″ wheels and add large volume tires, you are almost in the 27.5″ range already.
- Tire Manufacturers – Remember how long it took to get some decent tires for the 29ers? It is going to take at least that long to get them for the 650B’s. Molds have to be created, more part numbers and fewer quantities mean higher prices for the end user. I understand trying to give the riders more options, but at what cost?
- Frame/Forks – For the most part, you are going to have to use the 29er frame and forks that are already on the market to accommodate the larger wheels. There are some circumstances that you can use 26″ forks with 650B wheels. I have seen pictures of Rock Shox Pike’s with the new wheels mounted to them, but the clearance under the arch is extremely small providing little to no mud clearance. So in the meantime, the 29er forks are going to be the best to use for these wheels, and there is still a shortage of these forks available that are really worth riding.
- Rim Manufacturers – Basically the same argument can be made for the rims that was made for the tires minus the molds. The more we force manufacturers to into more product lines at smaller quantities, the more we are going to see our cost rise.
So why is there a 650B wheel hitting the market today? Everyone has to have something different these days to get noticed. It is almost starting to seem like everything has been done already in the mountain biking market, so to get your name out there, it has to be something new and different.
Will the 650B wheel hold or fizzle off? Time will tell. I’ll be honest, I didn’t jump onto the 29er craze right away either, but after riding several, I can say that I do see the benefits in cross country hardtails with the most benefit going to singlespeed rigids. One thing that the 29ers have that really helped them in the market is that they are extremely different than 26″ bikes in the way they handle. I have a feeling that the 650B is going to be too similar to what is already out there, and this will make it difficult to get everyone on board. Right now it is getting headlines because it is something different. Over time, we will see if it sticks or not. Who knows…I could be completely wrong…but in the meantime, I will hold out for the 28.25ers.
As always, Sherwood has kept ahead of the curve with his new addition…the 650B El Bastardo.