Bigger Wheels for Mountain Bikes

If you’ve ever tried your hand at mountain biking, then you’ve no doubt noticed throughout the years that mountain bikes have traditionally offered 26-inch wheels. Well, over the last few years, this trend has changed, and mountain bikes are now commonly equipped with 29-inch wheels. Now some of you may have asked yourself, “Why the change?” Some of you are also asking yourself, “Does it really make a difference?” Well, the split between those who are fans of the size change and those who aren’t fans is evidence enough. Today, though, we’ll take a look at the positives and negatives of 29-inch wheels.

One benefit to the larger wheel size is that it provides improved momentum once the bike gets rolling, which ultimately means more progress for less effort and higher speed over open terrain. Larger wheels also mean larger tire contact area when riding the trails, which provides better traction and control, which is especially beneficial when climbing or cornering.  29-inch wheels also provide a heightened feeling of enhanced stability and control. This translates to fewer moments of on-trail panic attacks and more confidence and comfort.

The cons of larger wheels are minimal. There is a small amount of increased weight, simply due to the added wheel mass. Also, there is a slightly slower initial acceleration from a stop. Lastly, some may complain about the raised center of gravity that comes with the extra inches, which can make some riders feel a little more top-heavy. Really, though, the height actually creates a more natural riding position, even for taller individuals. Shorter riders may find a 29-inch bike to be too tall for them, however, which is where a 26-inch model would be a better fit.

Whether you’re a staunch advocate of the classic 26-inch mountain bike or a proponent for the new trend in 29-inch wheels, the larger size is growing in popularity, so it’s fair to say they’re here to stay. If you’re in the market for a new mountain bike (like me), or you’re just interested to feel the difference in wheel sizes