A while back I wrote about wheelsize, in the first race of the first Enduro World Series the *new* wheel sizes lead the pack. The racers seem still undecided and the discussion still carries on, there will be 26″ purists. 29″ Evangelists and 650b believers that want the best of both worlds. I’m too still undecided, partly because I’m only going to get a new bike as soon as 2014 so I have time to wander and hopefully try out some more bikes.

What I like most about mountain biking is being outside all day and go anywhere and have fun with friends and your bike. Your bike shouldn’t be the limiting factor and for All Mountain it should be a middle-of-the-road-bike. After about a month on board my test bike, the BMC Trailcrew, I discovered that travel is not often perceived as too little. The Trailcrew had a 12omm fork and 100mm rear (of excellent CTD-Kashima quality) and 29″ wheels, my findings:

  • It wants me to pedal faster and stand an power climb: I like it because it gives me the feeling of speed and that I’m pushing myself more: more fun!
  • It has some oversteer: what I eventually liked once I got the hang of drifting, again makes me feel faster and makes me a better rider too: more fun!
  • Fox Float 32 needed a lot of time to properly get broken in, also worked best for me with less pressure.
  • In fast descents, especially technical ones, was hard work. It’s still fun, but hard work, more tired armes and hands.
  • Rear never bottomed once.
  • Climb position on both shocks made for a ultimate climb machine: more fun!
  • Switchbacks: well what can I say… 1. I need more skills. 2. It’s way harder and more dismounting of the bike happened.
  • My overall skills grew on board this confident bike, I learned more: more fun!
  • Steep vertical and technical descents: I had to re-adjust my position on the bike more. Sometimes you are aware of the “big bike” and I had more cramped feet, something I had never experienced before. Afterwards I realize why: to compensate for the “big bike” feeling I pushed one pedal downward to lower my position on the bike, shifting my weight to one pedal in stead of two in a neutral position.

The 29″ is gaining my preference at the moment. Why? I want a bike that allows me to grow as a climber and helps me carry overall speed, is as light as I can possibly pay for. As long as the character of the bike is suitable for technical descents and singletrails, any shortcomings (if there are any) I could compensate with my skills. This could mean that less travel is more fun.

Of course these findings are subjective to my personal abilities and perceptions, and are 26″ and 650b equally sufficient and it’s nothing I NEED 😉 

The one doubt I have, will 650b be better for me, I’ve tried a hand full of 650b bikes and no “home-sweet-home” on any of them, this could also be a very effective wheel-size for enduro-racing; most of them have too much travel and weight for my liking. Only the Santa Cruz Solo looks attractive still, but I want to tried it first. VPP isn’t always what I like in a bike. My short list:

  • Specialized: Camber vs Stumpjumper w/brain (testing in september)
  • Rocky Mountain Instinct (testing later this year)
  • Santa Cruz Solo (distribution issue)
  • Ibis Ripley (budget issue)
  • Whyte T129s (distribution issue)
  • Lapierre Zesty (wide read angle and noisy e:i is getting used to)

Do you have a suggestion for a bike that would suit me and it’s not on this list? Please comment below, I’m eager to hear your suggestions.