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I'm thinking of buy an expensive touring bicycle.

One of the bicycles has 26'' wheels. (https://www.patria.net/produkt/terra-legendaeres-reiserad/)

The other one has 27.5'' wheels. (https://www.patria.net/produkt/kosmos/)

I'm worried 26'' wheels and tubes and rims are being replaced by 27.5'' (and higher). Are 26'' end of the line, a thing of the past?

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    For global touring I'd avoid 27.5. One reason people choose 26" over 700c is better worldwide availability, and 27.5 is less common again
    – Chris H
    Nov 23, 2023 at 8:06
  • I'm considering to build a 26" bike, for use in urban area, where the saved inches make all the difference in stairs, storage in apartment… but it's a very specific use case! In your case, I would recommend to pick 27.5", some day you will appreciate the broader choice of tires, wheels… Also, the 27.5" model has disc brakes, which is a must have. Nov 24, 2023 at 2:12
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    Another thing, note the 27.5" doesn't use a chain for the drivetrain, but a belt. It's a much less common system, you should first learn a little about it, in particular about its serviceability. Nov 24, 2023 at 2:22
  • Even 16" and 20" gear is readily available enough, despite the folder market being far smaller. I wouldn't worry at all. Nov 25, 2023 at 16:19

4 Answers 4

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The sheer number of bikes in the world with 26" wheels means finding a tire is unlikely to be a big problem for a long time, if ever. Plenty of BSO's being sold are still 26" and there are also a number of mid-range makes/models of commuter and hybrid style E-Bikes shod with in 26", so 26" is not going away anytime soon. Finding a quality tire that has the exact characteristics you are after is becoming harder, especially if you are into MTB, where 26" is all but dead except some very niche bikes.

Finding a decent tire is likely to mean ordering in. What I am seeing where I live is the range and quality 26" tires are becoming hard to find, most bike shops have at least one quality 26", but have a range of hundreds in 27.5" and 29" with the full range of tread design/composition and price points.

I do not imagine the likes of Schwalbe and Continental will stop making quality 26" any time soon, although expect them to reduce the number of models on offer.

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  • 26" is also quite common on tandems, but they're not a big enough market to make much difference. Similarly a variety of bikes for small adults and large kids
    – Chris H
    Nov 23, 2023 at 8:02
  • @ChrisH 27.5" is not uncommon for the rear wheels of front loading e-cargo bikes, and smaller sizes of many bikes.
    – Renaud
    Nov 23, 2023 at 8:29
  • @Renaud yes, but I was only talking about more market segments in which the unfashionable 26" spec will keep going
    – Chris H
    Nov 24, 2023 at 10:14
  • @ChrisH I got it, but considering the size of the e-cargo bike segment (and hence heavy duty wheels), do you see a reason for the tandem segment to remain in 26" even if suitable 27.5" (or 29") are available?
    – Renaud
    Nov 24, 2023 at 13:59
  • @Renaud 26" seems to be a bit of a sweet spot: full size wheels with reasonably wide tyres (to reduce shock load on a heavy bike and improve comfort over bumps) but the wheelbase is kept down - even so a tandem is far less manoeuvrable than a single rider bike, which is partly why you can't avoid rough bits of road very well. Racing-style tandems may use 700C with narrow tyres. But tandems seem to have long lifetimes. Being rarer and more expensive than single rider bikes of the same type/quality, it's worth putting the effort into keeping them going.
    – Chris H
    Nov 24, 2023 at 14:49
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Global touring is a niche, with very specific needs. Even if the general trend is the increase of the size of the wheels, there might specific reasons for a heavy duty touring bike to prefer smaller wheels, like resistance to higher loads or wider worldwide availability of tires. For this specific application, the general trend is less relevant that the needs for this use case.

Note that on max allowed weight, the bikes you linked are on the high side, but are not record breaking - 160kg. It's possible to find 700c/29" touring bikes with higher max allowed weight - like the Decathlon Riverside 900 touring, rated at 170kg, so that wouldn't mean it's a condition to tolerate higher loads.

As other answers pointed out, availability of 26" shouldn't be an issue, but I would think that unless you fit into a niche where 26" remains relevant, 700c/29" might be a better choice: it's more comfortable, more efficient and more common in some parts of the world. The fact that it is more common available also means that you'll have more choice in tires and tubes.

Note that if your goal is real touring in remote, there are other considerations. The 26er you linked has for example very exotic brakes (Magura Hydraulic rim brakes, and for many tourers, that would be a no go, as it would be impossible to service them in remote areas).

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  • If you are going remote, cable discs have a place, because the levers and cables are normal, you can (and should) carry spare pads with you, and the calipers are robust (the biggest failure mode I've found is that adjusting the fixed pad can become very difficult with roadside tools). But with sintered pads they have good stopping power and excellent heat tolerance if you have to drag them on long descents. The model with the more common brakes still has hydraulics. But in many countries that's fine
    – Chris H
    Nov 24, 2023 at 10:16
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Largely, I think you can say that the answer to this question is "yes".

There are some exceptions where new, enthusiast-to-professional grade bikes are specified with 26" wheels. The one that comes to mind for me first is dirt jumping/slopestyle bikes. These are somehwere between BMX bikes and hardtails, but have wide & flat handlebars and typically a small amount of front suspension (~100 mm).

That said, the paragraph above is colored heavily by a North American and Western Europe-based understanding of the market.

If you're planning on touring very far afield in other parts of the world (e.g., SE Asia, Western Africa), 26" wheel may very well be the safer bet when it comes to finding replacement parts in remote areas.

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I think the title of the question should be edited to state that the question is related to touring bikes. Right now the title and questions body are really asking two related but separate questions IMO:

  1. Are 26" wheels losing market share (becoming a thing of the past)?
  2. What wheel size should I get for a touring bike?

The answer to the first being Yes means you probably don't want to buy a brand new 26" wheel MTB for riding your local trails, but it doesn't mean you should necessarily avoid 26" for a touring bike specifically.

As the other answers clarify, yes, 26" wheels are slowly being phased out for 27.5" in some disciplines e.g. MTB. However, they're still far from difficult to find.

And I suspect that if you were able to easily survey all the regional bicycle parts markets globally, you'd find many areas where 26" still dominates and 27.5" is actually a niche/cutting-edge product that's harder to get and commands a higher price. So to answer your question on the touring bike you should consider where you want to tour. If it's primarily in North American and European countries, never straying far from cities, I think you'd be fine with 27.5". But if you're interested in touring in developing nations where 27.5" wheels/tires/tubes may be difficult to find, 26" may be a safer bet.

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