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29" wheels - what advantage do they provide over smaller wheels?

Do 29 inch wheels make a difference off road? They certainly cost more.

  • 2
    Perhaps edit your question, like "What difference do 29 inch wheels make?". Question as it is makes difficult to give an useful answer. Nov 30, 2011 at 2:33
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    In comparison to what alternate size?
    – Unsliced
    Nov 30, 2011 at 11:02
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    "yes" answers your current question, but I would imagine you'd like something more specific than that. You should edit your question so that it is more specific and so that it can be answered objectively. As it's phrased now, it's going to get closed.
    – joelmdev
    Dec 6, 2011 at 21:31
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    Hasn't this been asked before (and more clearly)? bicycles.stackexchange.com/q/2681/2148
    – Jason S
    Dec 7, 2011 at 0:01

6 Answers 6


Since I switched to my 29-er in september, I can keep up with the fastest bikers in my "team". Before that I just could not. It could be due to the new material, but I think there's a speed difference of about 2 km/h.

I bike on the flat tracks of nothern Belgium and the south of the Netherlands. So no climbing or descending.

The 29-er is definitly faster on (loose) sand, and mud. And a lot more comfortable on tree-roots and the "Belgian Blocks".

For really, really small turns, I notice the wheelbase is larger, but otherwise I do not notice any difference in handling.


If you think about rolling over a tree root, or rock, or really anything on a mountain bike, the bigger the tire, the easier it is to roll over these obstacles.

The angle created by the 29 inch tire is less than the angle of a 26 inch tire, so it rolls up and over with less effort.

You also gain more ground clearance, the larger tire elevates your bottom bracket, chainrings and pedals allowing you to roll over larger obstacles as well.


Where you are going to notice the difference is in clearance of "obstacles" because of the bigger diameter of the wheel objects you go over seem smaller, therefore, making it easier to roll over them


Compared to 26":

They are heavier and/or weaker. They force frame designers to lengthen chainstays making bikes handle less well, as well having knock-on effects for rear suspension travel path.

Personally I think they are another gimick standard, their lower rolling resistance may outweigh the negatives for mild off-road XC, but for anything else stick to 26". Your wallet will thank you.


Comparing with 26"

Pros: - goes more softer - more suitable for tall biker

Cons: - more expensive (in general) - weight - acceleration is lower


Well, I think the wikipedia page currently offers a pretty concise view of the differences between a 26" and a 29" wheel without being overly biased.

One item from that list, though I would also list in advantages (not just disadvantages): "More force needed to change steering angle due to greater mass and longer contact patch". This can also be translated the other way: more force is needed by obstacles, trail conditions, etc. to change the steering angle. 29er's are often less "flickable" or "agile" but depending on your type of riding/needs this can be advantage!

Does changing the wheel size make a difference? Yes. Does it make a difference that means that it is better/worse? Not really. To further confuse things, there are two other bikes that mix things up: the 96er (front wheel is a 29er, back is a 26er) and the 650b (a size in between the two).

In the end, you'll learn to ride with the advantages/disadvantages of your wheel choice. I personally also feel the terrain you ride the most also dictates what works the "best". And your own opinion as well.

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