Bike Building

Project 29er: Is bigger better?

5 Comments 28 August 2010

One of trends in the mountain bike (or MTB for short) world this year has been the breakthrough of the 29″ bikes or 29ers – MTBs with 29 inch wheels, larger than the standard 26 inchers you find in most mountain bikes. Almost every self-respecting manufacturer will present a 29er at the upcoming Eurobike festival to the drooling bike geeks – yes we are a bit bitter about missing out. Bigger brands like Specialized, Scott, Trek and Cannondale have a few models of 29ers for 2011 and 29 specific brands like Niner have around 10 models both hardtail and full-suspensions by now. According to our colleagues from Bike Magazin who have been following the trend for over a year now and did a very interesting test during this year’s TransAlp “The 29ers are here to stay”.

So what is all about? What is the difference with a 26″ bike – the ones we have been riding for about 30 years now? In short; bigger wheels roll better, absorb obstacles such as tree roots better and you feel more stable (self-assured) in downhills. On the downside you need a bigger range to maneuver in short turns and the bikes are on average 10% heavier than their 26″ counterparts – which is a disadvantage on the ascents. 29″ hardtails and full-suspensions are being used for cross-country (XC), marathon and all-mountain competitions but mainly the marathon category would benefit from the 29ers assets.

Is it just another marketing invention? Is Europe different than the US where 29ers are already pretty successful? And most importantly: Are they better bikes? In the months to come we will look at the 29″ phenomenon from different angles, build a 29er, test the performance and keep you informed on our progress and findings.

Welcome to Project 29!

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- who has written 30 posts on Coming thru!.

Maarten is an avid road and mountain biker who lives and breathes everything rolling on two wheels. You can follow his rantings on Twitter by looking for @maapathel.

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  • Skelle

    In Canada I saw lots of 29″ MTBs, hard tails mostly.
    The local bike shop dude said that over 50% of all hard tails sold are 29″ these days. With hard tail bikes the advantage is felt by many bikers, they say the bike holds more momentum. So once you get going, the bike keeps kind of it’s own speed more easily.
    At the TransRockies there were quite some 29″ bikers, again hard tail, and they were all very enthusiastic about it. Asking about taking short corners and things like that, they all said that’s no problem. If I were to buy another hard tail, I would consider buying 29″, definitely. It still does not look that nice to me, but I will think about it :)

  • Maarten Patteeuw

    Great to get some firsthand testimonials from a TransRockies survivor. I’d think that if it’s good enough for the Rockies it’s at least worth trying out – definitely for longer rides and marathons. Let us know if you want to join the project ;-)

  • Tzed250

    I love my Gary Fisher Superfly100, it has a special fork (as all the Gary Fisher 29ers do) that makes it steer like a 26″ bike. It doesn’t hurt that it weighs just 24.5 lbs (11 kilos).
    I believe the American national XC championships were won on full-suspension 29ers in both the men’s and women’s divisions in ’09 and ’10.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the info on the Superfly100 do let us know your other experiences with the bike! Suppose you are referring to a.o. Todd Wells on his Specialized. But still no WorldCup win in either the mens or womens category on a 29er… a matter of time I suppose.

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Coming Thru (or Coming Through - as that URL was taken) is a daily updated bike magazine - a collection of writings and links that relate to biking in its every form. The idea started from when Maarten met Markus decided to finally start collecting the things we like about bikes and talk about our everyday adventures in dodging moving objects at high speeds.The site is run by a collage of cyclists, most notably by Canadian Johanna MacDonald, Belgian Maarten Patteeuw and Finnish Markus Sandelin.

It all started in the spring of 2010, after a record breaking snowy winter when Markus bought a house 25 kilometers from the office and decided to handle the commuting with a bicycle. It turned out the bike wasn’t up to standards for that kind of stress and the first weeks were more tragicomic than glorious. Thus the idea began to brew to actually document this journey.

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