29er – Flash in the pan?

Giant 29er. Not Ian’s but the same model. Original Image courtesy of ‘Ky’ on ‘Ride with GPS’

For several years I’ve been intrigued by the 29er, the big (wheeled) brother of the mountain bike. They look kinda odd, with their  29 inch wheels pokin’ out from what looks like mountain bike geometry.  But for me at least, they also make a lot of sense. Big wheels rolls better, I ride my cross bikes almost exclusively when hitting the trails (leading to much aggravation in the spares and repairs department) and that big frame will take a big knock. The cross bike thing is particularly important; the run up to the 3 peaks each year involves battering my poor bike over gnarly terrain. So after yet another frame enjoyed yet another incident (this time something big, hard and heavy fell on it), I’m  investing in one. To check that the 29 thing was for me, Craig advised me to try one out and Ian Jeremiah of Cyclopaedia/Cardiff JIF kindly loaned me his. Ian believes quite passionately in the comfort and the efficacy of the 29er, stating that he’d ‘never ride a hardtail 26″ mtb again’. Whilst making it clear that plumping for a 29″ wheel will be a matter of personal preference, Ian’s comments represent strong words of endorsement from a rider well respected in Welsh cycling. Rather than bore you with loads of technical detail from a person barely equipped to relay them, here is  a review of Ian’s Carbon XTC 29er, delivered through my recollections of Sunday’s two and half hour ride and a mid afternoon sugar rush of coffee and carrot cake.

Here we go. Blimey those handlebars are wide. It all feels a little odd, but this thing shifts. Time to climb. Bloody hell. That was easy. Those wheels roll like a good ‘un. Oops. Note to self; you couldn’t do big jumps with a normal mtb, so why do you think you can do them now? Anyway…Got away with it. Now then. Descending. Wow. Flew down the horse track. Flew down the rocky castle descent. Flew down the Garth. In summary; it flies. Position? Great. Nice and upright. Kit? Very good. Like these SRAM shifters and nothing’s broke yet. Forks? Bloody marvellous. Fox know what they’re doing and they’ve got one of those twiddly adjusty things. Overall? Thumbs up. No! Double Thumbs up. Buy one? Yes.

Eye of Sauron – scary

So there you go. For what it’s worth I liked it (a lot). The bike took a little while to get used to, but once I did, I felt like I was riding the 29er better than I’ve ever ridden a 26” mountain bike (queue smirks amongst my sarcastic mates). It certainly won’t be for everyone; the whole  set up feels big and I’m guessing the advantages get bigger (or smaller) depending on how tall you are. I’m 6ft tall and it felt superb, but the caveat here is definitely try before you buy. Just a final word about material choice. This particular 29er is carbon, a word that drives fear into my heart like the piercing gaze of Sauron. I’ve had one or two….err…..”issues” with bike bits and plastic doesn’t do anything for my blood pressure. I fully expect to be riding a steel 29er very shortly (such as the Singular Swift), unless the Cyclopaedia lads can work their best salesman patter into my impressionable lug ‘oles (which is – of course – possible),

Incidentally, the ‘flash in the pan?’ bit of the title was an ironic/rhetorical question from Matt Morris of Might Contain Nuts . We’ve been talking about these bikes almost as long as people have been asking that question. The answer? No.

Thanks to Craig for forcing me to try one first. That’s proper joined up thinking, for you. Thanks to Ian for the loan. Thanks to the forestry commission for providing lots of lovely land to hammer across.   

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