29er Mountain Bike
29er Mountain Bike

Originally, I wanted to say “Upgrading to a 29er.” But I realized that that would be biased. It would suggest that 26er bikes were somehow inferior, which is hardly the case. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why 26 inch wheels have come to dominate the mountain bike world.

But first things first. For those new to mountain biking, a 29er is a bike that has wheels with a diameter of 29 inches. Standard mountain bikes have smaller 26 inch wheels. And no you can’t simply slap a 29 inch wheel into a standard mountain bike, they just won’t fit. You’ll need a new bike frame and a new fork as well.

26 inch wheel versus 29er
Mine is bigger than yours hehe

So why did I choose to switch to a 29er? More than anything else, I guess it’s because I wanted to try something new. Just like my switch last year to a more minimalist style of running, the switch to a 29er means forcing yourself to re-learn mountain biking.

Of course, it also helps that 29er wheels supposedly offer advantages that smaller 26 inch wheels don’t. Some of the more common claims made about 29ers are:

Huge wheels need powerful feet
Huge wheels need powerful feet

A 29er offers a smoother ride.
Engineers at the NASA human propulsion laboratory have calculated a significant variation in the angle of approach to an obstacle between a 26er and a 29er, and have consequently determined that 29ers are… way smoother. Actually I just made that up. But if you’re really into the technical stuff, there’s a very interesting and mathematical discussion about diameters and angles of approach on mtbr.com. My two cents worth? Smoother indeed. Having bigger wheels means you can roll over small bumps without feeling too much jag.

29er biker
29er bikes are great for tall riders

A 29er is less likely to deflected by large obstacles
I have yet to test my rig in a proper trail, but I tried to simulate encountering large obstacles on my rides around the UP Diliman campus. The kerbs in UP range from 4-6 inches. On my 26er, I needed to do a minor wheelie to get over them. On the 29er, I just plowed right on. Having bigger wheels means you can roll over large bumps without too much effort. This means you can go faster on rough terrain.

26er bike
My faithful 26er bike. Sadly, I must send you off.

A 29er is easier to handle on steep climbs
Again, I have yet to test the 29er on a proper technical climb. But on the steepest section of The Wall on the way to Timberland, I felt more comfortable rising out of the saddle than I did on the 26er. It didn’t require as much handling to keep the rear wheel from losing traction. The bike is longer from wheel to wheel, which means you are less likely to tip it over by shifting your weight to the front.

A 29er feels like a better fit for a tall rider
Some say people who are less than 5’5 should stay away from 29ers. But I’m 5’9 and so this huge bike feels just about right.

I can’t wait to test the 29er on a proper trail this weekend so I can discover for myself its other supposed advantages. But even with my limited testing time on pavement, I also noticed some disadvantages of the 29er compared to a 26er.

A 29er is slightly harder to turn.
Bigger wheels require a much larger area to shift direction. On a narrow road, it’s almost like making a two-point turn on a car. On fast descents, you need to lean further to the side to make it turn. A 26er is definitely snappier when it comes to turns.

A 29er is harder to accelerate
Bigger wheels require more effort to move, thus the new bike feels a bit sluggish at the start. Standing up on your pedals and mashing big gears don’t seem to have quite the same effect as they did on the 26er. But once you get them moving, they retain that speed a lot better.

29er biker
My new ride, we’re gonna have great times together

A 29er needs more braking power
Because they retain speed better, they also require more effort to stop. I found myself squeezing the brakes harder on the descent from Timberland. It takes some getting used to.

29er wheels feel flexier. 
While a 29er can easily roll over a six-inch high obstacle, the wheel does feel flexier when it does this. A 26er wheel on the other hand, feels stiffer and stronger.

A 29er is harder to fit in the elevator
My old bike required only a simple twist to fit in our building’s elevator. This new 29er bike however requires some complex jiujitsu to make it fit. And now no one else can ride the elevator while me and my bike are in there.

Anyway, I’ll be testing the new rig on proper trails this weekend. Hopefully I chose the right weapon for upcoming XC race in La Mesa next month. Hopefully, I won’t need to do anymore upgrades soon. Upgraditis wreaks havoc on  pockets.

UPDATE: Tested it several times on real trails and I must say I love the 29er. Sure, it’s not as nimble as a 26er, but since I am not exactly Justin Bieber’s age anymore, I don’t mind. I don’t do a lot of flicking or tricks, but I like long epic rides and this where the bigger wheels stand out.

But if you must ask: which is faster? Well there’s no easy answer to this. 26ers supposedly accelerate faster, but 29ers retain momentum better. Angry Singlespeeder of mtbr has put both types of bikes to the test, and thinks he has it all figured out. It’s a very interesting article 🙂

 

23 thoughts on “Switching to a 29er Bike

    1. glad to be of help. there’s a raging debate right now in the mtb world about which format is better, the 26er or the 29er. i say it’s horses for courses… it’s all about what you want to do with the bike

  1. what can i say..thanks a lot for the topic …it is very informative….be reading your future articles

  2. Very well said! Outsideslacker is telling the real thing about 29er because I am experiencing everything he said here. I’m a newbie from Samal Island, here in Davao del Norte. I decided to buy a 29er MTB after I read reviews about it and also after reading this http://www.outsideslacker.com/8-tips-on-buying-your-first-mountain-bike/.
    but my main reason on buying a 29er is because the roads here in Samal Island are not all paved and there’s a lot of bumpy and steeps roads and most of all I don’t have the budget for a full suspension bike.
    I agree to Outsideslacker that a 29er can easily roll-over bumpy roads and easy to handle on a steeps ride. honestly, so far I never get off my bike every time I go uphill.
    By the way my bike is a hard tail specialized hardrock 29er and it is really fit on me specially for my cross country/trail rides. So if you are riding the same trails as I do, I’m sure a 29er will also work perfectly for you.

    1. thanks for dropping by marcial. please post pics on outsideslacker’s fb page about the trails in samal. i’ve only been to davao city itself so i’m curious about the trails there 🙂

  3. My first bike is a 29er. nashock ako nung mabuo ko sya kasi ang laki, i got size 19 frame and imagine how big my bike is. i told my erpats to take a shot while im sitting on my bike and that photo convinced me that it is just the right size for me.. by the way im 6’0 ft tall.. happy with my 29er

  4. very informative article. 😀 bago lang ako sa MTB.. 1 month palang ako. 29er din gamit ko. sir may marecommend ba kayo mga groups sa fb na mga tiga manila? madalas kasi magisa ang ako nagbibike. gusto ko maimprove skills and makarating sa mga pinupuntahan nyo. 😀 will be reading all of the articles. lol buti may ganito nakakaadik lalo. haha!

    1. may small naman na 29ers, size 15 o 16. pero subukan mo munang sakyan sa bikeshop and see how you look. some feel that a 29er is just too big for them

  5. For now I’ll stick to my 26s, partly due to budgetary reasons, and since medyo lean ang build ko even if I’m a 5’8″ tall person. Kung magte-29er man ako sa road bike na yun (29″ is roughly equal to 700C). 😀
    Mas nimble nga rin ang 26, although this means mas jittery siya at high speeds, esp. going downhill na naka-tuck…

    Although why don’t you try writing about fatbikes once you get to ride one, (whether it’s wise considering the Philippine context, how it handles, practicality, etc)? Pansin ko kasi nagiging “uso” siya, kahit medyo restrictive pa yung prices… 😀

    1. i’d love to try a fat bike. but at those prices, i could already buy a very good 400cc motorcycle :p i’m more interested in building a 27.5 steel hardtail bike right now for all mountain rides

  6. sir mag tatanung lng po ako kung anu mas ok bilhin po d2 blak ko po kc bumli ng bike,., for new entry level. purpose q po exercise d2 ko po gagamitin s tanay rizal

    veloce php 5900
    Specs:
    >Frame Size: 17″ Oversize Alloy
    >Suspension Fork 120mm
    >21 Speed
    >Alloy Handle Bar
    >Alloy Brake Levers
    >Seat Post: Ryder/Warrior Alloy
    >Stem: Ryder/Warrior Alloy
    >Hubs: Warrior Alloy
    >Disc Brake: Warrior
    >Rims: RIDE IT 26″ Double Wall Alloy
    >Cogs: Shimano
    >Shifter: Shimano SIS Index 3×7
    >Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tourney

    xxxxVSxxx

    marzona php 5900
    Specs:
    -Alloy Frame Oversize
    -Frame Size: 17″
    -21 Speed
    -Suspension Fork 120mm
    -Alloy Handle Bar
    -Alloy Brake Levers
    -Alloy Seat Post
    -Ryder/Warrior Stem (Alloy)
    -Warrior Hubs (Alloy)
    -Warrior Disc Brake
    -RIDE IT 26″ Double Wall Alloy Rims
    -Shimano Cogs
    -Shimano Tourney RD
    -Shimano SIS Index 3×7 Shifter

    xxxVSxxx
    voyager php 5,900
    Specs:
    *Frame Size: 17″ Oversize Alloy
    *Suspension Fork 120mm
    *21 Speed
    *Alloy Handle Bar
    *Alloy Brake Levers
    *Alloy Seat Post
    *Ryder/Warrior Alloy Stem
    *Warrior Alloy Hubs
    *Warrior Disc Brake (Front and Rear)
    *RIDE IT 26″ Double Wall Alloy Rims
    *Shimano Cogs
    *Shimano SIS Index 3×7 Thumb Shifter
    *Shimano Tourney Derailleur

    xxxVSxxx

    SGM Intensity Light Alloy 2014(26) php 5900 (2nd hand)
    21-SPEED
    Original Shimano Parts
    SHIFTLEVERS: shimano
    FRAME: Original Sgm Intensity light alloy
    FRONT DERAILLEURS : sunrun
    REAR DERAILLEURS: shimano tz
    CASSETTE: shimano
    BRAKE LEVER: sgm
    CABLES: sgm
    RIM: sgm double wall allo
    SADDLE: sgm
    DISC BRAKE: sgm dual disc
    FORK: sgm w/ shocks
    HANDLEBAR: sgm alloy
    STEM: Sgm alloy
    color black and green

    anu po kya mas magndang bilhin po sknla wla po kc aq fb account cencxa n po sir..

    marming slmt po

    1. wala naman masyado pinagkaiba specs nito. the components are fair for this price range. don’t bother with the second hand bike kasi halos ganun din specs nya compared to the brand new bikes you listed here

      1. Maraming slmt po sir, malki po naitulong nyo po sir,
        Tanung ko n dn po sir kung bblhn ko po ung brand new anu po ung mga dapt ko i upgrade sir., slmt po uli sir

        1. I would say saddle and fork pero kung brand new pa ang bike huwag mo muna i-upgrade. Enjoy the bike as it is for a few months.

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