There is a growing trend in the world of cycling. 29er mountain bikes are fast becoming a major segment of the cycling industry. These unique designs, originally built by the do-it-yourselfers, have quickly developed into a cycling niche that seems to be here for good.
29er mountain bikes are essentially the same as most other mountain bikes, with the wheel size being the notable exception. The vast majority of mountain bikes currently available use a standard 26 inch wheel. However, as the name implies, 29er’s use larger 29 inch wheels. The three inch difference might not seem like a lot, but there are both advantages and disadvantages that become evident when using these larger wheels.
First, let’s cover some of the advantages of riding the 29er mountain bikes. Like any other wheeled vehicle, larger diameter wheels provide much less rolling resistance than do the smaller wheels. This translates into better cruising and better pedaling efficiency (assuming the gearing is right). Twenty-nine inch wheels also provide a much more comfortable ride than do their smaller counterparts. This is especially true when the tires are kept at a lower air pressure. They tend to absorb shocks and bumps better, and are much better suited to rolling over most obstacles. Larger wheels also tend to provide a much higher level of traction, which can be a real bonus on both paved and dirt surfaces.
29er mountain bikes are also good for taller riders. The extra three inches in wheel diameter raises the rest of the frame as well. This is ideal for riders that have a hard time finding frames that are tall enough on the smaller twenty-six inch wheels.
As previously mentioned, 29er mountain bikes do have their disadvantages as well. For one, twenty-nine inch wheels will always be heavier than twenty-six inchers simply because they are bigger and therefore contain more material. This is an idea that is in opposition to the current trend of trying to make bikes as light as possible. These larger wheels also create problems with suspension systems, as they reduce the amount of suspension travel that would normally be possible. There are some that claim less suspension is needed with larger wheels, which is true, but only to a point, and not under aggressive riding conditions.
29er mountain bikes also tend to force riders to use higher handlebar settings and to use frames with longer top tubes. The elevated headsets and higher overall frame tend to create a higher center of gravity, which can be a problem when attempting aggressive maneuvers. The longer top tubes do provide a smoother, more stable overall ride, but they tend to limit the agility of the bike as well.
Truth be told, the right bike is the one that is most comfortable for the rider and the style of riding. 29er mountain bikes can be the ideal set up for many riders, but they’re definitely not for everybody or every situation. The best advice would be to try one out and see if it suits you.