So I personally never wanted to get involved in this wheel debate but after a Skype conversation with Spoke contributor Seb Kemp the other day and then seeing a post on the Bicycle Retailer site today… well, shit is about to hit the fan. According to Jason Moeshler of WTB, “the industry has made the decision for the consumer”. I’d start stockpiling 26″ tyres now!

“Whether the industry knows what to call it yet is in doubt, but one thing is clear after spending a week with suppliers and product managers in Taiwan at the Taichung Bike Week: The midsized tire diameter is poised to soon dominate the bulk of the mountain bike market.

The wheel size is currently a rarity in most U.S. bike shops and even hard-core enthusiasts are just learning of its existence. But make no mistake, the change is not just speculation, marketing hype or wishful thinking; it’s approaching like a freight train powered by some big checkbooks.

At least one major bike brand recently canceled a production run for a new 26-inch model just before the bike was set to go into production.

Twenty-six inch is taken off the menu

“It was all ready to go, all the engineering was done, all the preparation, then they just canceled,” said Jason Yeh, a sales specialist for A-Pro Tech Co., a Taiwanese bike manufacturer. “I guess they decided to cut their losses,” Yeh said.

The supplier scuttled the order to avoid being stuck with 26-inch bikes when the wave of bigger wheels hits the shores in a few months.

Wheel, rim, tire and suspension makers have also tooled up to supply the demand. SR Suntour, for example, is introducing an entire new fork line for 650B.

At Bike Week, even makers of unrelated products would have liked to get into the game. “I’d like to show you our new 650b saddle line,” joked Richard Todd, international and OEM sales manager for Ergon and Phorm saddles.

Although there are a few holdouts, especially in the U.S., the bulk of the industry here has a consistent view of how the mountain bike landscape will look in a year or so: The midsized tire will dominate the market. Twenty-six-inch wheels will be seen only on entry-level bikes and long-travel downhill bikes. Twenty-nine-inch wheels will be reserved for bikes aimed at the cross-country set, with short-travel or hardtail frames.

As recently as the March 2012 Taipei Bike Expo, suppliers were predicting that the midsized wheel might develop into an alternative to 29-inch wheels on longer-travel bikes, where designers struggled to cram in the big wheels. But since then, many have apparently decided they’d like to offer just two wheel sizes for most mountain bikes. And they settled on the two larger sizes.

“Twenty-six inch is taken off the menu,” said Jason Moeschler, WTB‘s OEM sales manager. “It may seem confusing now, but the industry has made the decision for the consumer.”

Continental’s Brett Hahn had similar thoughts. Earlier this year, buyers were looking for the midsized tire for bikes with 140 to 160 millimeters of travel, Hahn said. But now, most are planning to use the tire for virtually all suspended mountain bikes, from 120 to 170 millimeters of travel.

While the changeover may not have hit at retail yet, Wilderness Trail Bikes president Patrick Seidler said that at the OE level, it’s been the fastest change in tire trends he’s ever seen.”

Source: Bicycle Retailer and Industry News

0 Responses

  1. Downhill Bikes will probably end up being 26 for a while yet, so unless you’re worried about putting 1.5’s on your 26 inch wheel (you freak), you’ll be sweet.

  2. So much for “form follows function”. I guess manufacturers have to think about $ first, which means catering to this 29 inch trend. I’m not convinced 29 suits geometry of small to mid sized riders, or most women, which means those bikes would have to be designed around the large wheel diameter – which sounds like a compromise?

  3. There appears to be some strong views on this issue.

    If someone was trying to tell me that learning to swim was a bad idea or not having never gotten wet, I’d think they were an idiot.

    I can’t decide on 650B, because I’ve never ridden on them. So I’ll reserve judgement for the time being.

    And for all others. Yes, the world is flat. Creationism is the only reasonable answer. A woman couldn’t possibly run a marathon. The climate isn’t changing. A backflip is impossible on a motorcross bike….you get the picture.

  4. I’m waiting for a 650b enduro spec’d bike with little brother XX1 componentry (when that eventually comes) which I reckon will be amazing…not sure how long I’ll have to wait tho…

  5. Having just spent some time on my new650bbbbbbike….. I can report that for once , sitting on the fence has never felt so frickin great. Hype. Rolls like a 29. Handles like a 26. Now the world makes sense

  6. sometimes you need to relate this shit to something we are all familiar with (except jono)
    BEER! lets say 26 = 2 beers, 650= 4 beers, 29r = 6 beers.

    we reach the age to drink and start off slow cause we are new.. 2 beers every time. fuck, feels good doesnt it. mint! life is so much better now. then a bad ass dude moves to your hood, and says. shit dude, you gotta try having 6 beers, its the shit! so.. 6 beers later, holy shit!!! fuck this feels fuckin great, im on cloud nine brother, im never having only 2 beers again. this is better, that chick over there is soooo hot,man i am the king whoops, i think i just pissed my pants, why is everyone laughing at me….did i sleep with that bushpig last night. hmmm, im not too sure about 6 beers anymore!!!! then uncle fred pops over and says, ” son, it takes a while but time will give you the truth about what works best for you. try 4 beers, you’ll feel frickin good, dudes will think your funny and chicks will think you’re hot and you will be where its at. uncle fred.. i thought you were a dick, but you have shown me the way.oh , and nice ferarri.. hows that 26″ mtb graveyard business goin on?

    1. Well the beer thing is kinda close but like the wheel debate, the scale is wrong.
      If 26=2 beers then 650b=2 beers + one shot glass & 29er = 2 beers +2 shot glasses.

      along with the FACT to make the 29er thing seem more than what it is. you measure by the height of the tyre ???? go figure, so it’s really 26″ 650b & 700c. have you actually put the beer 🙂 rims next to each other to see the actual difference ???

  7. The bike industry is a market rather than OPEC, the idea that 26 inch wheels / tyres / forks / etc. will just vanish overnight is laughable. If people are still riding and buying them there will still be options just like when trial bikes were invented as a category everything else didn’t disappear. Now having recently ridden a SB95 I don’t want a 29er but i am interested in trying a 27.5 trail bike at some point. But I won’t be marched down to a retailer by the bike industry telling me that after 20 years riding a 26 inch I’ve been missing out and must move, I’ll be quite happy on my SB-66 until I am not thanks.

  8. In a few years some of us will be riding 26″, some 29″, some 650b. We’ll all be the same speed we always were, but we’ll all be having fun. Except maybe Rod who’ll be trying to decide whether he should buy the just released electric assist AM bike . . . they’re sure to be the next latest thing, and great for those who are getting a little long in the tooth.

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