As I was leaving the LBS the other day, I was stopped by an older mountain biker who wanted to know how I liked my 29er. He had a 26er mountain bike that he rode for a few years, then converted it to a commuter bike. Now he was looking into a new mountain biking and wanted to know the benefits of the 29er.
Here are the advantages I shared with him: The first is the 29er’s ability to roll over obstacles (probably my favorite). When I first started mountain biking, riding over roots while going uphill was a recipe for “hike-a-bike”. Small to moderate sized roots would stop me in my tracks. But with the 29erâ€™s larger wheels, roots that would stop a 26er are smaller to the 29er and therefore easier to roll over. The upshot of this is that roots become something that I roll over, not get stuck on.
The second advantage I shared with the biker is the 29erâ€™s longer contact patch. When riding the 26″ bike, I’ve gotten stuck numerous times going through sand and mud. In fact, one of my hardest falls was when I rode through a patch of sand and it “grabbed” my tire. I flew over my handle bars and got the wind (and snot) knocked out of meâ€¦ not much fun.
After riding through that same patch of sand on a 29er, I noticed that because of the longer contact patch, the 29er has more contact with the ground than the 26er. This helps me ride over sand rather than sink into sand and get stuck.
The longer contact patch also increases traction which leads to higher speed cornering. The 29erâ€™s longer contact patch means more of the tire is gripping the trail which leads to being able to take corners at a higher speed.
When you add up these 29er advantages (better obstacle roll over, less sinking/getting stuck in sand & mud, greater grip in the corners) you end up with a bike that keeps its speed better than a 26er. Keeping speed with less energy used means the conserved energy can be spent on riding trails for a longer period of time. And who amongst us does not want to stay out on the trails longer?
Surprisingly, the older biker also mentioned that they just plain look manlier. Haha.