Mountain Bike: What wheel size to choose 26

There is no bicycle with the perfect wheel size for everyone: some prefer 26

When choosing an MTB bike, we must know what to focus on, according to the use that we are going to give it, there are some advantages and disadvantages for each wheel size, let's see them.

26´´ Wheels

Until 2010, the only mountain bikes were those with 26´´ wheels. In that year, the 29´´ wheel was introduced to the market, but the adoption of the 29´´ was not an immediate process and the 26´´ is still today the most common wheel size. The 26" 's advantage is that it accelerates faster from a static position and works very well on winding trails, where a quick lateral reaction from the bike is required. But all 26" are slow, especially on non-technical roads, and aren't particularly good at overcoming obstacles - like rocks, roots, or "roadsaws" - like larger wheeled bikes do, forcing manufacturers to incorporate suspension with larger route to compensate.

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26in: advantages

  • Comparing 2 bikes built with the same materials and with the same components, the 26" a little lighter.
  • They are (and have been) used by cyclists of all sizes.
  • They accelerate rapidly from zero.
  • They are more maneuverable on technical terrain that requires quick reactions.
  • They are more resistant when subjected to lateral forces, which is an advantage on descents with sharp turns.
  • You find covers, cameras and lightning even in the most remote towns of the word.

26in: disadvantages

  • It doesn't overcome obstacles - like rocks, roots, and "road saws" - as well as a 29in.
  • It is the slowest of the 3 options for long journeys, especially on well-maintained or paved routes.
  • They require better cushioning, which can reduce pedaling efficiency if they are not well designed, generating a rebound when standing on the pedals.
  • Less traction due to having a smaller contact surface.
  • It requires more pressure on the wheels, causing a less comfortable feeling and less grip in mud or sand.
29" Wheels

The 29" have gained market share since their appearance in 2010 to the point that some brands no longer produce 26" versions. The larger wheels of the 29" allow them to cover longer distances than the 26" with the same effort. Compared to the 26", they have better traction by having a larger contact surface and overcome better obstacles, which reduces the need of cushioning, resulting in more efficient pedaling with less rebound (a 29" bike gives you the same feeling of cushioning with a 100mm travel shock absorber than a 26" with a 140mm travel shock absorber), but they are not ideal for short riders - including a good percentage of women - riders who need a fast reaction bike at high speed on very winding trails.

29in: advantages

  • Faster over long distances.
  • They overcome big obstacles better.
  • They provide a more efficient pedaling, with less energy loss.
  • The favorite option for mountain bikers looking for long routes that are not too technical.
  • Ideal for tall cyclists.
  • The tires have better traction on smooth or slippery surfaces.
  • They are more comfortable than the 26" since it needs less suspension and less pressure on the wheels.

29in: disadvantages

  • The size of the wheels slows down initial acceleration.
  • They are less easy to maneuver on winding trails at high speed.
  • Short bikers have trouble adjusting to these bikes.
  • It is very difficult to find spokes, tires or tubes in remote places in Argentina.
27.5er Wheels

When the 29" began to gain strength in the market, putting cyclists on the podium in competitive events, the 27.5-inch wheel (or 650b, for the size expressed in millimeters) was introduced to satisfy the niche of cyclists who were not happy with the 26in wheels but for whom a 29in wheel was too big.

27.5in: Advantages

  • It is better than 26" and 29" in most features (it's almost as light as 26" and starts almost as well as 26",  but overcomes obstacles almost as well as 29" and has almost as much grip as 29").
  • Slightly faster than 26" on long trips but reacts faster than 29" on a start from scratch.
  • They overcome obstacles better than a 26".
  • They need suspensions with less travel than the 26", with a more efficient pedaling.
  • Better traction than 26".
  • Good alternative for short riders who need a bigger wheel but are not comfortable in a 29". This is the biggest advantage of the 27.5".

27.5in: Disadvantages

  • Except for size, for mid-size riders, advantages over 26" and 29" are almost unnoticeable for most riders.
  • It is difficult to get spare parts such as tires or spokes in almost all bicycle stores in Argentina.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each one, now it is up to you to choose, on which bike you get on!!


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autor: Fer Robledo.

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