With so many innovations in mountain biking over the past decade, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like still riding on a rigid steel frame with a 21-speed drivetrain. I’m talking about innovations like full suspension frames, disc brakes, and dropper posts. These have become standards that most riders won’t live without, and personally, I would be hard-pressed to buy a mountain bike that didn’t include any one of these things. Among these innovations, wheel size is still top of the list for me.
29 or Bust
And when I say wheel size is important to me, I’m explicitly talking about 29-inch wheels. My current bike is a 2020 Giant Reign 29 Advanced Pro 1 (you can read my review of that bike here), and any bike I get moving forward is going to be a 29er. I was the last person you would’ve expected to be riding a 29er. In fact, I preached that they weren’t for short riders, jumps, etc. But after I took a test ride down Chimney Gulch and shaved 30 seconds off my best time ever, my mind changed. Not that I’m a racer or care all that much about Strava records, but I couldn’t help but notice how much smoother the bike felt and how fast I could go.
So besides going faster, what else do I like about 29-inch wheels? I like that you can run lower tire pressures on them. I find that this helps with grip and added suppleness to the suspension. The bigger wheel also does better in technical and rocky terrain, because it doesn’t get hung up as easily. This helps both on the climb and the descent. When I’ve gone back to riding smaller wheels, this is something I’ve noticed right off the bat. Between the speed, added grip, suppleness, and ability to float over rocky terrain, the 29er has my vote.
Bigger Is Better
When it comes to wheel size, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that bigger is better. You might hear people talking about how bigger wheels are not as good for tricks or as nimble as smaller wheels. In my mind, you will get used to riding a bigger wheel and make adjustments for it, but the added benefits of speed, grip, and ability to roll over technical terrain increase with wheel size. I’ll be riding a 29-inch wheel for now. Until a bigger wheel size comes out at which point I’ll have to try it!