29er Mountain Bikes

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The 29er mountain bikes are relatively new trend. If you are riding a mountain bike for many years, you are probably riding a 26er bicycle. Actually, the 29er wheels are not new: these large wheels are commonly used for road racing bicycles, touring and hybrid bicycles. They are al have the same rims diameter. The main question is whether switching to a 29er bike would be the right move. Before trying to give an answer to this question, let’s first try to understand what exactly a 29er mountain bike is.

What are 29er Mountain Bikes?

29er mountain bikes are equipped with 29″ wheels, (also called 700c, or ISO 622 mm wheels). As a reference, the “standard size” 26er bicycles are equipped with about 26″ outside tire diameter wheels (also called ISO 559 mm wheels). Here is an important note: when we say “29er wheels” or 26″ wheels we are measuring the OUTSIDE diameter. While different bicycle tires for 29er bikes (or for any other bicycle size) have the same inner diameter, they might have different outer size. As a result, not all 29er wheels have the same outside diameter.

The history of 29er bikes in Brief

Mountain bikes with 29er wheels (the “Nanoraptor”) were first introduced during 1999, by Wilderness Trail Bikes.

At that time the 29″ suspension forks became available, and that gave the trigger to this new trend.

As with many new trends, the 29er bikes were mainly made by small, almost unknown bicycle manufactures. Gary Fisher Bicycles, a division of Trek Bicycles, became the first of the major manufactures to offer a line of 29″ bikes.

Now-a-days, most if not all bicycle manufacturers worldwide, including the major makers such as Specialized and Cannondale are offering 29″ bicycles or frames. All bicycle makers admit that the 29er bikes are not a passing trend.

29er Bikes vs. 26er bikes

During the last fall we had our bicycle tours in Slovenia. We were a group of 11 friends: 9 of us had a standard size (26er) mountain bikes, and two had 29er mountain bikes. We had the chance to compare the two types.

Tip: If you want to save money on a 29er, get a hardtail 29er.

29er Mountain Bikes

29er mountain bikes aren't cheap. The technology used to manufacture them is more advanced, more materials are needed to produce them due to the larger wheels and bike frames and demand for them is soaring at the moment. All that adds up to high prices.

Hardtail 29ers are the most affordable category of 29er mountain bikes, so if you absolutely must own a 29er but are feeling cash strapped at the moment, get yourself a hardtail 29er.

There is a real debate now over the issue of which bikes are best, and for whom. I have to admit that for now I stick to my good old 26er Santa Cruz bikes, but I am not sure that my decision will hold for long.

Not surprisingly, those who have switched to a 29er mountain bike are claiming that their new bike is superior. In their view they have now improved rolling resistance, an increased stability and an enhanced ability to roll over obstacles.

The conservative group is claiming against the new trend that 29er bikes are tend to be more heavy, slightly more sluggish, in addition to the reduced front wheel/toe clearance. There is also a real problem in getting technical support for the 29er bikes, but this problem is gradually disappearing. The best way to compare between the two bicycle types is to put it all together in a table:

Factor 26er 29er Comments
Weight
+
29ers have heavier frame, and heavier wheels (spokes, rims and tires)
Finding spare parts
+
26ers are more common. (the increasing popularity of the 29ers is minimizing this problem)
Fitted to taller cyclists
+
The taller cyclist may find the 29" bikes more comfortable
Fitted to smaller cyclists
+
29" bikes might be hard to fit to smaller cyclists
Ground clearance
+
The larger 29er wheels tend to raise the bottom bracket height, supplying a better ground clearance.
Roll over obstacles
+
The 29er bikes are better, due to decrease in approach angle.
Maintaining speed while on obstacles and rough sections
+
29er tend to lose less speed on rough trails due higher angular (and liner) momentum
Acceleration and braking
+
The 29ers are harder to accelerate (or to brake) due to their increased mass

As you can see, the verdict is not clear, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each bicycle type. Let's try another approach!

The Compromise - 96ers and 69ers

As there is no clear winner between the 26ers and the 29ers, bicycle makers are trying to come with new ideas for the perfect mountain bike, and to combine the two.

  • The 96er have a 29" front wheel and a 26" rear wheel. There are more options for rear suspension here, and the smaller rear wheel allows shorter and quicker handling frames. In addition these bikes are lighter. One disadvantage with this type of bicycle is the need to maintain two wheel sizes, and to carry with you on your ride two types of bicycle tires.
  • The 69er is another less common variation: it has a 26" front wheel with a 29" rear wheel.

Buying 29er Mountain Bikes Online

29er Mountain Bikes on eBay

Other E-Stores Where You Can Buy 29er Mountain Bikes

If you are interested in buying 29er mountain bikes you can buy them in one of these trusted online stores:

Final Word about 29er Mountain Bikes

As I said, there is no clear winner here. The bigger 29er wheels (with lower pressures) will absorb small bumps and holes. The main downside is their weight. 29er mountain bikes are more suited to taller riders, but it really comes down to how you ride, and to your personal preference.

"One of the most important days of my life was when I learned to ride a bicycle"
Michael Palin

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