The advantages of the 29 inch wheel

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The “big wheel” comes with several advantages over the conventional 26-inch wheel, offering higher speed and better stability. Physics provides us with sufficient answers when discussing the 29 inch wheel issue.

Rolling over obstacles

Whatever track you may be riding, you encounter rocks, roots and a variety of bumps trying to slow you down. Unless you are among those riders who can simply jump over these obstacles, you can see below which advantages a 29-inch wheel has to offer in this situation.

There are two forces acting on the wheel (FG – vertical force and FA- horizontal force, acting in the direction you move). The height between the wheel axle and the spot where the wheel touches the object on the track (D1) together with the length between the wheel axle and the spot where the wheel touches the object (D2), create a lever helping the wheel to overcome the obstacle. The higher the leverage, more easily you will pass over the object in your way (in our case, the height of the wheel, from its axle to the spot where the wheel touches the object is higher for a 29 inch wheel then for a 26 inch one).

Passing through holes / ditches

Impossible to avoid on almost any route, ditches can seriously slow you down. As you can see in the second image in our illustration, the 29-inch wheel rolls easily over such obstacles such as it has a greater diameter. A 26-inch wheel will only go deeper into the ditch slowing your pace. For this reason also, 29-inch wheels are considered to be more comfortable.

Rolling speed

This is highly clear to everyone: a larger radius wheel with roll faster than one with a smaller radius. And this is exactly what happens in our case. Moreover, the contact patch of the 29-inch wheel is slightly longer and narrower than one of a 26-inch wheel. The comparison can be easily made using a tire from the same brand, with the same width and with the same pressure.

We may conclude the grip is also better, as more knobs touch the ground. Your opinion regarding the 29-inch wheels is welcome, so we invite you to share your experiences below.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The 29er forums across the internet appreciate this simple, visual and factual display of applied physics! Countless, futile arguments are made basically claiming:

    “There’s very little advantage,”
    -Imagine a ~10-15% increase in overall traction PER WHEEL, lol!? So…Who does not FEEL, a 20-30% traction increase?! The deluded 26ers proponents?

    “The wheels are too heavy.”
    -Once rolling, little can slow them down vs 26er; you CAN clearly feel the advantage.

    “Not ‘snappy’ enough in the twisty trails.”
    -Not sure I’ve ever seen a natural made trail with nothing but tight (useless “twisties)? Niche terrain maybe? Manicured courses?

    “Weaker wheels.”
    -Every 26er rim I’ve had, no matter how “strong” always warped after a few hard rides. I’ve yet to have any warps at all riding the same trails just as hard (& faster) on my 29er. The 29ers flex more = less prone to warping.

    “26er accelerates faster.”
    -To a point sure, and then you’ll be passed rapidly as the 29er continues to gain momentum, and out paced per pedal stroke. Humans do not produce the power to accelerate enough to make it an issue even if so. Where I normally max out ~15-20mph w/26er, 29er@18-28mph!

    I could go on about how the 29ers stop much faster, meaning 1 handed braking vs 2 w/26er etc… But it’s futile; the 29er is superior applied technology. Lets not even mention 29er +120mm full-suspension = completely destroys any long travel, boat anchor heavy 26er!

    “26ers are more agile in the air.”
    -True, until you land, then the superior flex, traction, and overall stability of the 29er once again dominates. Parlor tricks in the “air” = slower than accelerating on the dirt lol. 26ers are slower in all but NICHE specific applications. Which is “better,” that depends on your individual style. I continue to ride both platforms, but… My poor 26er is seeing less and less trail time… You decide, but physics has already shown which is more efficient.

    Thank you OP, this article is a visual, “CASE CLOSED” on the continuously asinine debate.

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