A few years ago when 29ers and 69ers started emerging my thoughts were along the lines of
I figured it was a marketing ploy to create need and want – you know, your basic marketing strategy that our entire world economy is based on – that they might even disappear after a few years when people came to their senses. I even mocked them at times (in only the most respectful humour).
The arguments for the bigger wheel kept coming and they weren’t going away. In all this time, despite being confronted with them in person on a regular basis* I never rode one until now.
My 26″ wheeled mountain bike is a somewhat beautiful Yeti with many moving parts. Linkages, rear shock, dropper seat post, suspension forks, the lot – it is one hell of a great bike. It’s the greatest bike I’ve ever owned and that is why I’ve decided to retire it over the winter months. It gets muddy round here and apart from wearing all these moving parts out and being costly to replace it’s a pain to clean, and cleaning it is the last thing you want to do on return from a cold rainy ride, as you stand there with the whites of your eyes being the only spot not covered in a fine mix of sediment and cow shit. So I subtly pressured my wife into letting me build up a low maintenance winter bike. She eventually agreed and I decided to go the 29er route. A plunge into the unknown.
Most of it is second hand, except the wheels – and it didn’t cost me much to build.
Last weekend I went out on it for the first time. I was a little unsure of what to expect coming from my 5″ travel über steed.
Things were certainly different but nowhere near a harsh as I thought they would be. The larger wheel size does roll through things and it feels very stable. I did have to adjust my riding style. The Yeti ploughs through anything I throw at it and I pick very direct lines knowing the bike can take it. Over the course of the ride I became much more aware of my line choices. Excuse the cliche but I felt at one with the trail. It was a revelation; reminding me of my early mountain biking days when even the top race bikes had rigid forks (with maybe a flex stem) only this time I had the larger wheel size benefits. It’s even a Diamondback which is what one of my early mountain bikes was (though it was Diamond Back then).
I’m a convert. And it may have only been one ride but I’m a little fearful that I won’t want to go back. …but that remains to be seen.
* I worked at Singletrack Magazine where new and exciting bikes would roll in and out of the office on a regular basis (not that I was really party to that – but that’s a whole other story).