There are rumblings coming from a sleepy coastal town in northern California known for surfing, skateboarding and bicycles that a 29er mountain bike is on their horizon.
"Big wheels have some really cool attributes, as well as some pretty unique design challenges," Santa Cruz Bicycles marketing dark lord Mike Ferrentino wrote on the Santa Cruz Bicycles (SCB) blog. "Given how much of a hard-on we collectively have for chassis stiffness, wheel flex and frame flex resulting from long frame tubes being torqued by big wheels were concerns for us.
"So was the challenge of packaging some decent suspension into a bike and still having a manageable chainstay and wheelbase length. There were also some unexpected differences in the balance of pedaling performance, acceleration and bump absorption that needed more consideration than we were used to with our current bikes," he added.
This juicy rumour was verified during lunch with SCB owner Rob Roskopp recently. Not many details, other than it'll certainly be light, stiff, and made of carbon fibre, much like the recent Blur XC and Blur LT carbon bikes.
"Anyway, we did a ton of research, ended up with something we’re really stoked about, and we’re going to make a 29er," Ferrentino opined. "It’ll be out before Interbike, fingers crossed. It’ll have VPP suspension. It’ll weigh a whole lot less than some other bikes of similar configuration. It’ll have kickass chassis stiffness, we promise you that."
BikeRadar asked Roskopp about his thoughts on the burgeoning 650B movement, and like many, shook his head as he wondered out loud about why the industry 'needs another wheel standard to monkey with.'
This was corraborated with What Mountain Bike's technical editor and multi-wheel-size-loving Steve Worland.
"There's a long term test feature on 26" vs 650B vs 29er waiting in the wings," Worland said. "The main part of my conclusion was 'from a purely personal point of view, I’ll happily admit that I would like to have been convinced that a classy 650B build is the best of both worlds. But I wasn’t. There just didn’t seem to be enough real world advantages over 26-inch wheels'.
"The Pacenti tamed the bumps very slightly better than a 26er, but quite noticably better when I slotted in a 29-inch wheel up front," he added. "And when I slotted a 26-inch wheel with a 2.55-inch tyre in the back it felt better than with a 650B wheel with a 2-inch tyre. A big tyred 26er would be a far cheaper and more choice-happy solution too.
"At the end of the test, and after a lot of conversation, we were left thinking that a 650B bike is a great choice for riders who are too short to fully benefit from a full blown 29er… in other words sub 5ft 11in riders who like the idea of the rolling advantages of a 29er but find them a bit gawky to ride, or look at."
This, coming from a guy who's tested nearly 3,000 bikes in his time.
Ferrentino concluded his mini treatise on an impending Santa Cruz 29er: "Some of you might say it’s about time. Some might see it as jumping onto the bandwagon. We’re thinking more along the lines of hijacking the damn bandwagon. This bike is gonna rule, and for those of you who’ve been holding your breath, it’ll be worth every second of the wait."
Stay tuned to BikeRadar for more details.
What are your thoughts on 26" vs 650B vs 29er? Take them to the BikeRadar forum or let it all hang out below.