Battle of the Wheels

Currently the mountain bike world is torn by 3 different wheel sizes; 26, 650b/27.5 and 29. Primarily most mountain bikes use a 26-inch wheel with rising popularity in the 29-inch and new 650b wheels.

What’s in a wheel size?

When mountain biking pioneer Gary Fisher first decided to take a bicycle off-road the only available option was the old balloon tire cruiser with 26-inch wheels. Ever since those early rides the 26-inch wheel has ruled the dirt.

In early 2000’s Gary Fisher once again decided to reinvent the mountain bike with a change in wheel size. He started looking at the physics of how a wheel rolls over objects (rocks and trail obstacles) and found that a larger circumference wheel rolls easier and with more momentum. A 29-inch wheel produces a faster, more confidence-inspiring ride but may feel a little bulkier in tight corners.

The current bike buzz is all about a new wheel size 650b or 27.5. For 2014 this new size is sweeping the bike industry and nobody really knows where it originated or why it has two names. Although this new size sits in between 26 and 29 it is more closely related to 26. It allows for a quicker handling bike but also rolls over objects better than a typical 26-inch bike.

Wheels sizes: 26 - 650b/27.5 - 29

What’s the right size wheel for you?

Each wheel size has its merits so we want you to ask yourself- What kind of rider am I? Are you a cross country racer wanting a competitive edge? Are you the type of rider who keeps the wheels on the ground and powers through the technical sections? Or do you like to use technique and find yourself jumping through the rough stuff?

For a cross country racer the 29er is definitely the wheel of choice. It’s just plain faster. The bigger wheels will ride over objects and carry more momentum saving much needed time.

For trail riders all three wheel sizes can be very applicable. This is where you will want to know your riding style. A bike with 26-inch and 650b wheels will be more playful requiring more technique while a bike with 29-inch wheels will be more confidence inspiring requiring more power.

Choosing a bike.

Remember that wheel size is just one variable. Once you’ve identified your wheel size, it’s important to choose a bike on which the whole package—suspension, geometry, frame construction, drivetrain, component spec—has been refined and integrated. Even when you know your ideal wheel size, it’s still possible to find a “bad” bike due to sub-standard suspension or geometry design. The best bike is the one with the best overall sum of elements.

All these wheel sizes might be a little confusing at first glance. We hope that this will help you understand the difference between them and help you towards buying the right bike with the right wheel size. If you are still a little confused we are here to help. Stop by the shop or contact us with any questions you might have.

Start shopping wheel size:
Shop mountain bikes.
Shop 650b/27.5 bikes.
Shop 29er bikes.

Hyland Cyclery Salt Lake City, Utah    


  1. Good posting! 26 Inch Rims. It’s very nice post. 26 Inch Rims


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