|34x19 (29) - 34x18 (650b)|
Guess what one is faster?
I hate 29ers!!!
Actually it's a love-hate thing.
I love the idea of being able to roll over things more comfortably but I hate the sluggish handling. I hate the extremely flimsy tires and the ever increasing flimsy components to make the 29er a competitive weight. At what point did a 21lb bike become a porker? I hate my handlebars being even with my saddle. Even with a negative stem and a flat bar. I don't even like the way the 29er looks in the medium size I ride.
I really HATE the low bottom bracket!!!!!
Combined with a stretched out wheelbase a 11.8 in bb becomes nearly unridable in technical terrain. That is if you want to pedal anything that resembles a circle. Yeah, I know, "You get used to it". I don't want to get used to it. If I have to make adjustments to ride well, whats gonna happen when I'm tired? I'll probably run into something I shouldn't, puncturing one of those 535 gram paper thin tires. Or worse, I'll strike a pedal and be thrown. The bike should feel instinctive. It has nerves in it. It should be a extension of your body. It shouldn't require you to jack the cranks and pedal to get the front wheel over a 6inch log.
Okay, I'm exaggerating, maybe it's a 8in log.
I don't want this to be a negative post. I'm working hard at seeing the positive side of things lately. So here you go.
If you're over 6ft.... You may like a 29er.
I have many friends that are tall and they look really normal on those bikes. I actually don't know how someone who is 6'4" rode a mountain bike 10 years ago, before the 29er craze.....
I'm 5'10", on a good day.....
Now I'm gonna tell you something that I'm not proud of.
In the fall I started to mess around with a 650b. I loved it as a trail bike. The higher BB and short wheelbase was great on my local trails (Ringwood and Wawayanda). I was clearing stuff I've never cleared on any bike and riding fast. Ultimately my head got the best of me and I decided I needed a 29er to keep up with the big boys in the race game. I may have a year or two of this racing shit left in me so I purchased a 29er frame in January and built it up just in time to take it to Tucson for a 10day training camp at casa-de-mom. That trip went well. I got some crazy hours in on my timed loops in Southern Arizona and enjoyed the bike. It was fine.
Not blow your doors off fine. Just fine. This was to be my race bike.
Until I came back here a few days ago.
I brought the 650 to Tucson this time. I figured what the hell. I plan on riding it occasionally anyway, we're still a way off from race season. Riding a different bike couldn't hurt.
Holy difference Batman!!!
I'm now bouncing off stuff and hitting lines that were a passing thought on the 29er. I'm having a ball. The bike corners well too. Dare I say, at least as good as the 29er. Po Po to you and your contact patch.
"I can climb about the same but the descending and my single track skills seem to come so much easier. I'm riding faster, with the same effort."
I rode at South Mountain (Phoenix) on Saturday and 650b was amazing. I made shit that I never thought I would. I always try to clear everything but often have to bail midway. I was riding up (and down) stuff way above my pay grade.
To confirm or debunk my good feelings, I went to ride the SSUSA course from 2010 (I did on 29er in Jan too). This course starts with a 9mile dirt road climb up Redington Rd. and hits High Chiva, sections of the Arizona trail and finishes up on the super technical La Milagrosa trail. 48miles and 7500ft vertical. I ride from home so it adds about 20 more miles too.
The verdict is....I was 25min faster than my 29er jaunts just a month ago and in striking distance of my race time in 2010. I put no extra effort in and even got turned around at one point so I lost a few minutes there. I was just able to flow so much better. I noticed I was off the brakes much more and was able to ride drops and roll offs that I never could on a 29er or even the full suspension I had out here last year. How is this super high bottom bracketed bike so stable but delightfully twitchy at the same time? I have no frigging clue. I will tell you though.
I never hit my cranks.... Not once....And
I think I wasted a bunch of coin on a 29er!!!
Next time..... I'll review the Voodoo Bokor 650B I'm riding now. -M