Wade Simmons has apparently been ripping up North Shore on 29ers with the argument that the newest geometry releases are much more conducive to more aggressive styled riding.
For a niche market in mountain biking that has been pretty much segregated to the XC and Light AM side of mountain biking, this is an interesting take on how bigger hoops handle the rougher terrain.
His argument, as illustrated in a recent Bike Mag release, is that “if you know how to maneuver a bike, if you can jack the brake and swing the rear end around, a 29er can be a weapon on these trails.”
With more manufacturers jumping on the 29er platform with increased travel, it really begs the question…are we going to start seeing more 29ers in DH and FR segments of mountain biking?
Here are my thoughts.
The Positive Side Of Big Hoops In Aggressive Terrain
- Roll Over – The larger wheel diameter allows you to roll over rocks and roots easier than the 26 inch counterpart. This has been one of the huge selling points for XC racers as the larger hoops, once you get the momentum up, really smoothen out the trail. When you are dealing with rooty and rocky terrain, the 29 inch wheels just seem to plow through with ease. This is something that more aggressive riders will really come to love.
- Increased Grip – The increased tire volume allows for more grip at lower pressures. In fast moving downhill and freeride mountain biking, grip is a luxury that you seek through suspension setup and rubber. The more the better in most situations.
- Extremely Stable Platform – The 29er mountain bike is a very stable platform. With the increased wheel size, the bike actually becomes a little bit more predictable in the air and on the trail because the bike literally feels more secure.
The Negative Side Of Big Hoops In Aggressive Terrain
- It’s A Big Bike – As we saw with the Niner W.F.O. 9 that was reviewed previously, when you add that kind of travel to a 29 inch platform, you end up with a big bike. For a rider like myself that likes to keep bikes feeling smaller for more maneuverability, this is an adjustment in riding style to accommodate the larger platform.
- Forks Are The Issue – I have had talks with Niner Bikes about the ceiling of the 29 inch wheel suspension platform. They actually have designs that can range up to 10 inches of rear wheel travel with zero issue, but the problem becomes the front fork and geometry. Even now…the options for 29er riders looking for more travel out of the front end are limited to 140mm and that selection is small. The fork manufacturers are going to have to figure out how to shove more travel into a smaller space and still keep the stiffness necessary to ride rougher terrain at speed. Niner has gotten around this with Manitou with a modified version of the Dorado inverted DH fork.
- Bigger Wheels Rely On Stiffer Wheel Builds – When you increase the distance between the axle and rim, you are creating more leverage and wheel flex. In an area where the wheels are depended upon heavily to keep a straight line and be dependable, there can be an issue with this increased stress.
- Modified Riding – The 29 inch wheel platform does not carve as quickly as a 26 inch sled. As Wade Simmons points out in his quote above, you are going to have to dramatically adjust how you attack corners and technical obstacles to overcome the larger mass and size of the wheels. In some situations, that might not be possible.
So What Do I Really Think About Larger Hoops And DH/FR?
I think we are going to see more people gravitate towards 29ers for more aggressive riding styles, especially the taller riders. Do I think it is going to overtake 26″ bikes…absolutely not. I like bikes to feel smaller and more maneuverable in rough, fast, technical riding, and I can not get that feeling out of a 29er. I can make the 29er feel fast, but for this rider it will not be my sled of choice for DH runs. For others…it might be…but for me…the positives do not outweigh what I get out of a longer travel 26 inch mountain bike.
What do you think?
Hit up the comments section below and let us know what you think about 29ers and Shore style riding.