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I have been hearing for the past months about twenty nine inch wheels for bikes, and seeing such at the showroom windows and on the street.

Also heard that they have a lot of advantages and a couple of drawbacks.

My question is why now? The diamond frame has been around for ages. I suspect the disc brakes and, later, the hydraulic disc brakes were not introduced right away due to technological limitations. But the size of a wheel is certainly not constrained by technology.

So why is this new fashion emerging exactly now?

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closed as too broad by jimirings, freiheit Oct 27 '13 at 5:42

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Is the question about 29" wheels (because 29" are essentially the same as 28" and 700c, and these are around for quite some time) or about 29" bicycles in MTB? –  Mladen Jablanović Oct 22 '13 at 11:33
    
@MladenJablanović, bikes with 29" wheels. I have only been seeing them recently, so if they are not a new thing (and have been equally popular the last 50 years), I would be glad to be corrected. –  Vorac Oct 22 '13 at 11:35
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A quote from Sheldon's site: "not actually a new size, it is just a new marketing term for 622 mm (700C) wheels with fat tires". –  Mladen Jablanović Oct 22 '13 at 11:51
    
I would guess it's because most "mountain" bikes have traditionally been 26" and those going to the 700C standard wanted to be able to easily identify theirs. And "700C" doesn't convey "fat tire" (nor is it sexy). And it's something to hype. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 22 '13 at 12:14
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650b is actually more new (or old, and then brought back, and is somewhere between 26 and 29 inch, at 27.5 inch). However I think a lot of it has to do with there not being a big enough market to support multiple standards. Having more wheel sizes means that shops and manufacturers have to stock, and manufacture many different sizes of spokes, rims, tires, tubes, forks, frames, and other related items. If there's not a very good reason to have another size of wheel, then it simply can't survive. The size of the wheel requires most of the other parts of the bike to be resized to fit properly. –  Kibbee Oct 22 '13 at 14:06
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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Although 29ers have been around since the early 80's they have only been in production from a major producer for the last decade. Trek was the first big brand to offer a 29er in early 2000's.

Reasons why you may not of seen many are:

  • Until the last couple of model years model years 29er's have predominatly been in the XC category (HT and FS) while recently more all mountain and trail bikes have been developed. Depending on what riders were doing in your area there may not have been a market.

  • There has been an increase in world cup/ champs and olympic riders using 29ers in the past few years. At the 2012 Olympics there were very few 26" bikes in the mens (more in the womans due to size.

    • People don't change their bike that often. If you live in an area where there is not a lot of riders the market for a new wheel size retailers will stick to what they know.

    • Entry level bikes have predominantly been 26". Big box store retailers (of which makes up a large portion of the market) will follow the trend for what they see selling the most of. Now there is a critical mass of 29ers they will follow.

    • Most people don't read media about bikes they are driven by what a salesman says, which will generally be in the direction of the most sales and biggest margin.

I do find it interesting that you are commenting that you see a lot of 29ers retailling where you live, in New Zealand apart from XC bikes a huge proportion of the 2014 model years bikes that I am seeing at the moment are 650Bs. I think our market replicates that of the US where companies are moving to this as the new "standard". A good example is Giant who have committed to phasing out both 29 and 26" models on a 3 year glide path. Other manufacturers are offering strong 650B models in intemediate and advanced AM categories this year such as GT, Trek, Merida and Santa Cruz just to name a few.

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29" wheels are 700 cc (http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/wheels/622.html). The question really is why are road bikes now being classified with mountain bike terminology? My guess is that using imperial (mountain bike wheel metric) and euro-metric (road bike wheel metric) for one thing (bike wheel) is confusing - this has always been the case with me - and so some smart folk have decided to opt for just one.

Although in my opinion mountain bikes are the inferior or their road brothers, they do seem to be more popular, especially for commuters - who are becoming the mainstay of the bike consumer market.

In Britain we use Imperial, although as cycling is 'bigger' on the continent (proper Europe), we get lots of bike stuff from there, and so are used to interchanging metrics. 700 cc wheels are 29", or 29eers if you're 'hipster'.

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-1: for "In my opinion mountain bikes are inferior" and the rest of the answer –  mattnz Oct 22 '13 at 19:20
    
Maybe you should read the full sentence. "Although in my opinion mountain bikes are the inferior or their road brothers, they do seem to be more popular", it says 'OR' and concludes "they do seem to be more popular" - which is my opinion. Basically I'm saying I don't think which is 'the best' matters, but popularity has leaned to adoption of mountain bike metrics. –  Sam Oct 22 '13 at 19:58
    
+2 for "In my opinion mountain bikes are inferior". ;) –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 22 '13 at 20:44
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Indeed, though no downvote from me. They're different tools for different situations; Mountain Bikes are more durable (read: can take a pothole or 6 foot drops) and can go places that would make road bikes cry, but clearly can't keep up with their additional rolling resistance, weight, and aerodynamic drag. –  Ehryk Oct 22 '13 at 21:07
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Not sure what you mean by "road bikes being classified with MTB terminology"? Also, I would call introducing another name for something which already have more than 2 names and consequentially stirring even more confusion anything but "smart". :/ –  Mladen Jablanović Oct 23 '13 at 8:45
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