Smile! You’ve Just Been Had!
The biggest joke in the long history of the biking world, with the collaboration of all the bicycle producers and their great marketing engines, will be revealed this year in all its glory.
Stay with me here, because in another moment money-chasing advertising agents will emerge from the rocky forest, escorted by the chief marketers of all the bicycle companies known to man – all of them with cigars in their mouths, plump with glee and full of themselves….
“Look how we fooled them,” will say the head of the big company from Taiwan. “They really bought that bullshit. I don’t believe it,’’ will mutter the well-known engineer from the American company. “Even if I had sold them square wheels and told them that they were the best thing since sliced bread, they would have come in droves,” will laugh out loud the general manager with the German accent. You are probably asking yourselves at this moment “What the hell is he talking about? Apparently the 24 hours straight that he spent on a trainer are beginning to take their toll.”
For more than 20 years I have been in the “industry” of bicycles and I stand behind every word that I am about to write here. Take it however you want (and I would be happy if it’s possible to have some responses at the end of the page… after all, I’m also a leftist), but you can’t escape reality:
Bikes with 27.5 inch wheels are the biggest practical joke in the history of the biking world.
We’re talking about the fruit of the imagination of company owners who were late jumping on the 29 inch bandwagon and so were left behind with a colossal drop in their sales. A whole line of 26 inch bikes left in their big warehouses left them cursing out loud and thinking of creative ways to return to selling bikes to the upgrade-hungry consumers.
So it’s true that there were those who sat on the fence because they “couldn’t connect” with the way 29 inch bikes handled. They like to “jump, ruffle and dip” and so on and so forth with words that only only riders who have Strava KOMs understand… With them on the same fence sat those height-challenged ones who were wary to switch to bikes that could potentially be longer and less agile. And finally there were those who simply didn’t understand why there is a need for a bigger wheel… with one fact it was hard (and still is) to argue: 29 inch bikes are just faster.
Don’t get me wrong – with bikes with smaller wheels (for example 26 inch) there is an inherent speed that it is almost impossible to replicate on the platform of bigger wheels. In parallel, there is also the fear that we all have of changes and upgrades. I understand that. But, more importantly, the manufacturers understood that. So what did the big-wigs of the big companies, who were now left behind, do to chase their lost consumers? They molded in their minds an evil and frighteningly-expensive plot: to reinvent the wheel (the 26 inch one)!!
“Let’s call it,” they said, “The 27.5 inch revolution!!”
And I say (and you are invited to quote me, got it?) – A big pile of crapola!
I invite each and every one of you, dear readers, to a test with your eyes closed: We will take the same 27.5 inch-wheel bike with the same geometry and the same parts and we will replace the wheels with 26 inch wheels and I am willing to not ride for an entire week if one of you will find a difference.
Lucky for the money-hungry manufacturers, you could say, that at the same point in time came another revolution that will influence the biking world much more and help the conglomerates to sell the 27.5 inch plot, a la compression socks in triathalons….
This revolution, ladies and gentlemen, is the transfer to the 1X drivetrains (pronounced one-by as in 1X11). This invention of Sram’s (which was happily joined by their friends from Shimano) totally opened the potential for change in the geometry of mountain bikes as we know it. The chainstays shortened, the angle of the headtubes and the seatposts changed, derailleur hangers grew or shrunk. And all this due to a single chainring in the front.
The ability to totally get rid of the front derailleur together with the possibility of bringing the rear wheel closer to the front triangle created a new world of possibilities for the engineers of the big companies. And, what a wonder, everyone started to play with the different components of the geometry of their bikes.
Thus all those who jumped at the 27.5 inch “revolution” got on their new bikes on Saturday in favorite trail centers and were shocked by the “crazy” new wheel circumference.
“The traction is just fantastic. It’s a different world, I’m telling you. That extra inch in the circumference is felt in every turn, pedal, ruffle, dip and jump, back flip, berm, rock, spotty, willy, bunny-hop, manual and French toast!’’
And I say (and you’re invited to come hit me with a 2.35 tire): Bullshit!!
The same geometric changes, if they would be made with a 26 inch wheel bike, would lead to the same new and wonderful feeling of an improvement in the abilities of the bike and the additional traction (which is minimal, I might add).
So they tricked you twice – they sold you a 27 inch bike and told you that it is 27.5 inch (check it), and they also sold you stories that the wheels are what made the tremendous changes in the behavior of the bike.
The 29 inch wheels, in contrast to the sad joke of the 27.5 inch wheels, is something totally different. A much bigger circumference plus improved traction and rolling = a faster bicycle. And now comes the real twist in the plot in which we all get something out of this fantasy world we have been living in for the past five years. The same “27 inch wheels,” which were actually sand in the eyes for the hordes, suddenly were given “extra value.’’
When the demand grew amongst the trail riders to increase the width of the tires and maximize the surface area with the ground and to widen the rims, the real brains started working. Or, then the new and justified concept of the past decade, the 27.5 plus inch wheel, was born.
Tut-tut all you want, I say. “Another sputter of the manufacturers,” you say to yourselves. Only this time, finally, the joke is not on you. We’re not talking about a trend, believe me, we’re talking about the future of mountain biking. In your future. The day is not far in which all bicycles with more than 120 mm travel will be 27 plus inches. Give it three or four years and you won’t be able to escape it. And justifiably so.
Bikes with 27 plus inch wheels will make you better trail/singletracks/Enduro riders already tomorrow morning. The final circumference of the wheel is almost 29 inches but the width and the volume are much greater than what is acceptable today… You ride with a low pressure (12-15 PSI) and the traction is just amazing. So then you can produce tires with small and fast cubes and in this way get the best of all worlds.
It’s true, the technology is still in its diapers. So you can in the upper levels of the price-range find light- and quick-enough bikes to enjoy. But as it is always with bicycles, the technology is trickling down. Three or four years from now you also will find yourself on a 27 plus inch bike with fat tires and a handsome appeal.
So, don’t let them fool you. (And you can quote me on that).
About Chanoch Redlich:
Age 35 but with more than 20 years of gravel and singletracks under his belt, and still in search of the extreme abilities of humankind.
Finished first place on the 870 mile bike packing endurance marathon ,the HLC. Finishing in 6 days and 14 hours. and he did it YOYO style! Riding the same route on the opposite way just before the contest.
Critiquer of bikes and gear from the cheery days of MountainBike Action and a columnist judging everything that rolls.
A guide and coach for groups and individuals everywhere that it’s possible to ride. An expert on receipts (also meaning Kabala, Jewish mysticism), invoices and world music.