Mountain Bike Wheel Sizes
PIck your poison–29er, 27.5er or 26er

Buying a bike used to be easy. You just went to your friendly neighborhood bike shop and picked one you like. But today, with so many types of bikes to choose from, picking one that suits you seems to have become much harder.

This is especially true in the world of mountain biking where new stuff gets unveiled and marketed almost every day. 29ers used to be cool. 29ers were once the hipster anti-mainstream enfant terrible of the mountain biking universe. But nowadays bikes with 29-inch wheels are more often seen as “the establishment.” Like all rebellions that became all too successful, the 29er movement seems to have lost its aura of defiant nonconformism. It is now the mainstream.

Now it seems that 27.5 inch wheels or 650b is where the action’s at. Bike manufacturers are betting big on 27.5, with Giant even putting all its eggs in the 650b basket. So what’s the hype all about?

A 650b Bike
Bong’s bike shop no longer stocked 26er frames so he got a 650b

Since I don’t actually own a 27.5 bike, I asked a friend of mine who recently made the switch to this format about his thoughts on the matter. Like every other mountain biker, Bong started with a 26er. Last year he made the switch to a 29er bike. And now he also owns a 27.5er. There’s also hardly a week when Bong isn’t hitting the trails of Timberland, so he knows his stuff.

Slacker: So what’s the big deal about 27.5?
BM: For some time before I actually built one, I often read articles that in effect state the following: It’s supposed to have the rolling capability of a 29er and still retain the agility of 26er. It should also be easier to pedal because of the smaller wheel diameter compared to 29er.

I’m 5 6.5’ not tall by US and Euro standards, and so it also seemed that 650b or 27.5 might be a better fit for my height compared to 29.

Wheel size comparison. Photo from hadleycycles.com.au

Slacker: What convinced you to buy a 27.5 bike?
BM: I wasn’t really intent on building a 27.5 bike. After riding the new Green Zone at Timberland San Mateo several times on my 29er with varying success on the switch backs, I figured maybe a smaller wheel size would be a better choice. I wanted smaller wheels when riding technical trails like the Green Zone, or tracks like those at Filinvest Alabang. I wanted to build a 26er for XC races.

When I went to canvas for a 26 inch frame at my “suki” bike shop, they didn’t have a 26 inch frame anymore. So I ended up building a 27.5 XC using a Vision 650b hard tail frame. I transferred SLX group set and the Epicon fork which was lowered to 80mm so that it would feel like 100mm with the 27.5 wheel set.

Slacker: Are you keeping the 29er? Why?
BM: After stripping the group set and fork from the 29er to transfer to the 17.5, I purchased a rigid fork and was able to rebuild my 29er from spare parts that I had kept. Will I keep the 29er? Yes I will, first for the practical reason. I have 2 teenage boys, and they said they want to join me on my bike rides. This leaves us just one bike short, and I’m planning to buy a built bike 27.5 too. The other reason is because the Vision 650b 27.5 is configured for XC race and that is where I will use it. If a ride is 80% trail, 20% road, or 100% trail, I will use my 27.5.

If it will be 50% road, 50% trail I’ll use my 29er. If it’s going to be an epic, long ride like Sierra Madre loop, or rides that will involve the likes of Kennon Road, Ambuklao, Benguet province and the north, I will still use my 29er.

711trail1000 teaser from Edrie Ocampo on Vimeo.

Slacker: Where have you ridden your 650b, and how does the ride differ from your previous bikes?
BM: I’ve used 650b mainly for training at Maarat, for the 7-Eleven Trail 1000. In fact you can say that I built it for that purpose. The race kind of expedited the project. I joined 3 recon rides before the 7-11 race. On the first one, I used my 29er. On the second track read I used the 27.5. For the third track read I just changed front tire of the 27.5 from SB8 to Slant 6 to get more front wheel traction. I loved the ride and feel after the third recon on the 27.5.

When I used to ride a 26er, the one thing I hated about when riding technical trails (up or down), is that it tended to go to the places I didn’t want. It tended to veer towards deep sections of ruts. When climbing up technical ascents with lot of rocks and lose gravel, I would often dismount and just walk up and push the 26. When I shifted to 29er, I became more confident and braver when attacking technical ups and downs. On the 29, I could climb or descend what I use to dismount on my 26. So I sold the 26 frame, wheel and Fork. Now I believe I have keepers, one 29er for long distance and epic rides, one 650b for technical tracks/trails and races.

650b Bike
Bong finishes the 711 Trail 1000 on his new 650b bike

Slacker: 27.5 is supposed to be the perfect wheelsize for Enduro races and “all mountain” riding. Any thoughts on this?
BM: There may be some truth and logic to this since Enduro races have uphill and cross country sections where it would be easier to mash and pedal up with a smaller wheel size. For the more technical longer DH sections of an enduro race 27.5 will also offer better rolling and handling than a 26.

Slacker: You already have a road bike, a 29er cross country bike, and now this—isn’t that a bit excessive?
BM: I don’t think so, each one has its intended purpose. 29er for epic rides, 27.5 for XC races and technical trails, the road bike if I want to go all out speedy, peloton riding (which is also fun every Sunday at QC Circle), road bike also for duathlon races. So you see it’s not excessive at all, and all my bikes are, bang for the buck setups, and not high end rigs which cost thousands or hundreds of thousands per bike.

Slacker: Where do you plan to ride your 27.5 next and why?
BM: Helipad and the Licao trails, It’s been a while since I’ve been there. I remember going fast down from Helipad on my 29er, and so I also want to test the 27.5 there.

So there you have it–the low down on this new wheel size and bike frame format.

The emergence of 29ers and then of 650b’s led a lot of bikers to believe that 26er bikes will soon crash into the dustbin of history. More and more manufacturers are shunning the 26er format for 29ers and 650bs. But is the 26er really going the way of the penny farthing?

It seems that the conventional wisdom these days is that the mountain biking world is splitting into three very distinct disciplines with its own wheel size:

  • 29ers are for cross country races and ‘epic’ rides (and tall riders)
  • 26ers are for downhill and freeride (and not-so-tall riders daw)
  • 27.5ers are for all mountain rides and enduro races (for anyone who feels that his height is just right hehe)
The On One 45650b All Mountain Hardtail

I myself am actually very interested in getting a 27.5 bike. The On One steel 45650b looks particularly appealing to me. It’s either that or I get a fullsus all mountain 26er bike for the rougher terrain.

Surly Instigator 2.0, a 26-plus bike. Photo from outsideonline.com

And just to add to the confusion, Surly has announced a bike that blurs the lines between a 26er and a 27.5er. The new bike dubbed as the Instigator 2.0 has massive 2.75 inch tires on Surly 50mm Rabbit Hole rims which make for really big volume tires that almost approach fat-bike territory. Surly dubs the new bike as 26+ and says it has the total tire diameter of a 27.5 Surly adds that: “All this means you get loads of traction and cushion yet you can still accelerate like mad.”

So maybe the 26 is just evolving into something different.

But if you’re someone who is just getting into mountain biking, don’t let these things confuse you. In the end, it’s just you on a bike on a trail. Personally, I think what matters is not the size of your wheel or even the type of riding you do. It’s the size of the grin on your face when you’re out there riding.

58 thoughts on “How About a 650b or 27.5er Bike?

  1. Cool article. Thanks for posting.
    Did I understand correctly, your friend is using a 29er Epicon on his 650B?
    Also, curious as to what 650B wheelset he got.
    Where’s Bong’s bike shop?

    1. Hi izzy, bong’s suki bike shop is john wilkie in marikina. And yes he is using a 29er fork on his 650b. The nice thing about epicon forks is you can have the travel adjusted.

      1. Thanks for the reply.
        Just FYI, a 26″ Epicon actually fits a 650B wheel. I tried my front wheel (Velocity Blunt + Pacenti 2.3 Neo-Moto) on a 2012 Epicon at a friend’s shop and there was loads of clearance.
        I just wasn’t able to take all the air out to test if the tire would bottom out on the crown.

  2. Hi sir, ask ko lang po, you mentioned in your article na you’re interested in getting a 27.5 On One steel 45650b AM Hardtail or a fullsus AM 26er. Ask ko lang po bakit sa fullsus 26er preferred ninyo? di po ba ok ang 27.5 kapag All Mountain fullsus?

    1. it’s a matter of affordability 🙂 there are lots of fullsus am 26ers that aren’t that hard on the wallet–the vision cruizer for example. on the other hand, most fullsus 650b all mountain bikes are still priced for those who have cash to burn. since the 650b format is still young, the budget frame manufacturers have yet to get in on the game. wala pa akong nakikita na 650b fullsus frame na kayang bilhin ng isang maralitang tulad ko (sniff)

      the on one 45650b steel frame meanwhile is relatively cheap. mahal pa rin, pero pwede ng pag-ipunan. steel also has that shock absorbing quality that makes it ideal for all mountain rides

  3. Question as well- I fantasize on a custom made 27.5 titanium Firefly Bikes mtb. But with a frame price that would bankrupt me($3,500), I’m also looking at the On-one 45650b. Where do you think is it available? Thanks! 🙂

    1. hi bro, i think your best bet is the on one shop on katipunan. pls check on one philippines fb page for details. pls tell me if they have a 45650b there when you’ve visited 🙂 and tell me how it performs once you’ve assembled your dream bike

  4. Hi sir, jojo here a newbie. I’m planning to buy my first mtb. Yung built na, may 2 ako na pinagpipilian. Giant talon 2015, 27.5 25,000 ang price vs specialized pitch 27.5 na rin 22,000 ang price. Papacomment ko sana sa inyo kung alin ang sulit sa presyo at mas may kalidad. Thank you.

    1. halos pareho lang specs. nagkakatalo lang sila sa rear derailleur, alivio sa giant, acera sa specialized. higher end alivio, pero that doesn’t seem to justify the 3k difference.

        1. if you have the budget for a better bike, get a better bike bro 🙂 pag nawili ka sa biking, upgrade ka ng upgrade nyan. mas maganda kung wala a na masyado papalitan. sa akyatan, talo ka sa 7-speed.

    1. if you’re tall and you like long epic rides (yung tipong 80+km) get a 29er.
      otherwise, pwede ang 26 o 27.5 sa yo. pero mas pipiliin ko ang 27.5 kasi yun na ang direksyon ng bike industry

      1. Thanks sir. na filter ko na trip ko. Revel 0, which is walang stock sa lifecyle, cyclepro and ryan bike shop. 2nd option is Merida Big nine 40, and 3rd option is Pitch Comp 650b (unng Satin Charcoal/Gloss Black/Red and with 9 speed acera) hehehe. budget ko lng lng is around 20 -25, this coming saturday I might visit glorious. after buying a built bike, enjoy ko muna for the next 6 months (hopefully) before buying a Deore Set. haha. tapos epicon na and then I hope no more craving for a better or should I say high end group set/fork haha

        1. hope you get a great bike bro. about the upgrades, hwag nga muna hehe. pero i think mas priority mo dapat yung fork kung mag-upgrade ka. mas ramdam sa trail yung weight at lambot ng air-oil forks

          1. hmm, good idea. epicon muna siugro. parang bad timing bumili ngaung Christimas season, walang stock/walang size (puro L, XL) tapos medyo nag taas. tsk tsk.

  5. sup sir! request naman dyan review naman about slx or some comparision between slx and deore. Im planning to upgrade my built bike (halo-halo set kasi plus suntour crank set and im dying to have the hallowtech crank) hahaha! pero laspag muna for my current groupset. tapos, review naman din sa mga helmet. medyo tinipid ko kasi helmet ko. MOB G-Pro lang gamit ko ngaun. im planning to buy a helmet na nag range around 2500 to 5000. for safety and papogi reason

    1. hey bro, thanks for visiting the site. i wish i could help with the review on slx vs deore pero wala akong budget! ayaw din ako bigyan ng free samples ng shimano! hahaha. anyway, mas magaang ang slx kaya mas mahal sya. that’s all you need to know. looks are a matter of taste. about the helmet: swerte mo kasi i’ll be reviewing affordable but cool looking helmets from spyder. stay tuned!

      1. I love your blogs and FB fan page! thank you for creating this one, parang local version ng bike radar. yup, I been reviewing all spyder helmet din, most likely parang trip ko ung shox or dark, but im still undecieded. hahaha! kasi, conio effect, that i might go with fox, giru, or bell helmet. pero bahala na, baka maka chamba din ako sa mga bike tiangge. sana maka sama kita sa ride someday. this coming sunday, mt maarat kame.

        1. thanks! i’ll be joining some friends in a ride to puray falls this saturday. baka laspag na ako for maarat :p pero see you in timberland one of these days

  6. I really read all your blogs, its so informative for people like me who’s planning to be in mountain biking, i just like to ask, what is the best bike for beginners like me and what should be my frame size? I’m 5’5 tall. is it ok if I’ll buy a 27.5? And where should i get my first bike? 🙂

    1. hey bro, yung frame size na bagay sa yo is medium. size 17 siguro. ok din yung 27.5 na bike since most bike manufaturers are switching to that wheel size. pero ok din naman yung size 26 na wheels kung nagtitipid ka kasi mas maraming 26er na bikes na mura sa ngayon. some of the trusted brands are cannondale, specialized, trek, and giant. pero a lot of the cheaper brands like sgm, trinx etc are pretty good too. have you read this blog post?

    2. hi daniel, please take note of this comment from a reader: “Sir, I’m 5’7″ and I’m using a 27.5 with a 16″ frame. Sakto lang po yung clearance sa crotch ko so a 17″ might be a tad big for one who is 5’5″. Try nya muna po different built 27.5 bikes with 16″ frames para makasiguro sya ng proper fit.”

      1. wow! thanks for the reply! 🙂 magkano kaya yung kailangan na budget? And saan pinakamagandang bumili? I live in sta rosa Laguna, and gusto ko sana ung madali sumakay pauwi, hehe. ok kaya sa cartimar?

        1. hi daniel, mahirap magsabi kung magkano ang kailangang budget. may newbies who are willing to pay only 10k, meron naman 20k, at meron ding sky’s the langit 🙂 have you read this article? try searching google for bike shops near your place. kung wala ka magustuhan, then tsaka mo puntahan yung bike shops sa quiapo or cartimar

  7. Sir, I’m 5’7″ and I’m using a 27.5 with a 16″ frame. Sakto lang po yung clearance sa crotch ko so a 17″ might be a tad big for one who is 5’5″. Try nya muna po different built 27.5 bikes with 16″ frames para makasiguro sya ng proper fit.

    1. i’ve seen bike hacks on the internet which used a 26er fork to fit a 27.5 wheel. pwede naman pero not recommended. halos wala na kasing tire clearance yan para sa putik, baka tumama na ang gulong mo sa crown ng fork. pero kung desidido ka, pick a small volume tire. siguro 2.1 or even 1.9.

  8. I am planning to biuld a 27.5 bike but my question is that are there any difference if i buy a 29er frame.. and used 27.5 wheel set? what are the advantage and disadvantge if im going to ride it on a XC and hard trail like enduro?

    1. hi lyndon, yup. if you use a 27.5 wheelset on a 29er frame, your bottom bracket will be a bit lower, and this will affect bike handling. my suggestion is to stick to the wheel size appropriate for your frame.
      xc frames are also different from enduro/all mountain frames. xc frames are designed to be light. the geometry (angles of the head tube, seat tube, etc) is also optimized for climbing.
      all mountain/enduro frames are heavier because they are designed to be tougher, and easier to handle on descents. you can race enduro on an xc bike, but it’s not going to be easy. you may also damage your frame.

      1. hi sir, nice blog by the way, very informative indeed!.. I just would like to ask for your opinion on what size of mtb should I get?, planning to get a 27.5, I’m 5’9.5, 235lbs. should I get a Medium or large sized mtb? . Thanks!

        1. visit a bike shop and try out both a medium and large frame. most reputable bike shops allow you to sit on the bike so you can get a better feel of the ride. if your crotch hits the frame while standing up, or if you feel that you’re reaching too far out for the handle bars, you can get a different-sized frame, or have the mechanic make some adjustments (get a shorter or longer handlebar stem, or adjust the seat forward or backward) until you are comfortable on the bike. since you are also a bit heavy, a good plush seat will mean extra comfort

  9. Sir, ok lang po sa sa 5″8′ na height ung 27.5 tapos 16″ na frame size? Gusto ko po sana kasi bilhin ung TRINX Tracker 618.

    At sa tingin nyo po ba, ok kaya yung price sa specs nito?

    Frame: Trinx Alloy Smooth Welding

    Fork: SR Suntour XCT Alloy with Lock out

    Handlebar: Trinx 31.8D Oversize

    Stem: Trinx 31.8D Oversize

    Crank: Prowheel Flint

    FD: Shimano Altus 2015

    RD: Shimano Altus 2015

    Cogs: Shimano Acera 9 Speed

    Shifter: Shimano Altus 9 speed 2015

    Brakes: Shimano Hydraulic Brakes

    Hubs: Quick Release

    Tires: Kenda 27.5

  10. Sir your Blog is so helpful. May I ask your opinion or advice. Bumili ako ng 27.5 wheel-size na hardtail with a “XS” frame pero ang height ko is 5′-7..Advisable ba para saken yung ganun bike size para sa ride mula marikina upto antipolo? I am afraid baka pagmulan ng body injury yung bago ko hobby..Thank you so much and more power to you..

  11. Sir your Blog is so helpful. May I ask for your opinion or advice. Bumili ako ng 27.5 wheel-size na hardtail with a “XS” frame pero ang height ko is 5′-7..Advisable ba para saken yung ganun bike size para sa ride mula marikina upto antipolo? I am afraid baka pagmulan ng body injury yung bago ko hobby..Thank you so much and more power to you..

    1. Hi luis, that frame is too small for you. di ka naman mai-injure pero it’s gonna be very uncomfortable and difficult because you can’t generate enough power with your legs on such a small frame. baka mangawit din ang leeg mo at likuran. a medium or small frame will probably be better for you. you can use the xs frame for dirtjumping 🙂

  12. hello po mga sirs. i really appreciate ds kind of blog. sir 5’7″ po height q. 26er un bike q. size 15. ask lg po sna prone sa injury ba yun frame size q na 26? anu kya bagay sa akin na frame. salamt po. more power n blessings.

    1. walang bike size na prone sa injury 🙂 mas efficient lang sa clmbs ang 27.5 at 29in wheels. size 15 is good for most people na 5’2 to 5’7 ang height, pero depende rin yun sa length ng limbs mo. kung hindi comfortable, you can get a shorter stem or move the seat forward

  13. I have a Giant Talon 3 27.5 Medium. It’s my first real MTB after 3 decades. It’s well and solidly built. I have no issues with the frame size, in fact, it feels natural and a blast to ride. I haven’t ridden a 26er or 29er, but I think 650b is just perfect for me.

    1. 650b is a great all-around platform 🙂 pwede sa aggressive, pwede rin sa xc. but right now i’m really lusting after 27+ bikes hehe

  14. Sir ask ko lang. Sa halagang 30k. Mag assemble kase ako ng bike 650b, mahilig ako sa mga long ride, pero balak ko din mag trail(minsan lang) cant decide kung 650b or 29er ang bibilin ko. At ang gagawin ko ay bibili ako ng parts by parts para makapili ako ng Magaan. Sir Gusto ko po tlga ng magaan na bike. MTB na ndi lalagpas ng 10kgs(may ganto po ba na weight ng MTB?)

    Eto po ang napili ko:
    Groupset:deore
    Cockpit:
    -mountain peak pedal
    -mountain peak Grip
    -La Bici Handlebar
    -La Bici stem
    -La Bici headset
    -La Bici Seatpost
    – Cole Saddle
    Shock:epixon 2016
    Frame: Cole Brontes XC
    Wheelset:
    -Alexrim dp20
    -maxxis crossmark tire
    -maxxis tube
    -Origin 8 spokes
    -Sagmit m120 hubs

    If ever na may sabihin kayo na makakatulong para makabawas sa timbang. Sige lang po.

    *No to Carbon po ako hehe salamat

    1. hey bro, baka kailangan mo mag-compromise dun sa ibang specs mo. medyo mahala kasi ang brand new na deore–nasa 11k ata. while epixon goes from 8k up. if i were to choose between those two, i’d choose the fork kasi ramdam mo talaga sa trail ang difference between a light air-oil fork and a heavy coil fork like xcr. don’t scrimp on the saddle either, kasi uupuan mo ng matagal yan 🙂

  15. Good day.

    Ask ko lang po kung saan po nabili ni Sir Bong yung Vision Frame 650b. Hanap po kasi ako authentic frames. Para hindi sayang upgrade.

    Thank you.

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