If you’ve walked into a bike store, opened up a mountain bike magazine, or read one of the many online MTB publications you’ve undoubtedly caught wind of the plethora of mountain bike wheel and tire sizes available today.
Choosing the right mountain bike for you can be daunting due to the recent introduction of yet another wheel size, 27.5 Plus (27.5+), joining the already well established 27.5″ and 29″ mountain bikes. The 27.5+ size features the same wheel diameter regular 27.5 but are equipped with a 2.8″-3.0″ tire which is up to 50% wider than a standard tire and makes the wheel/tire almost the same diameter as a 29″ MTB wheel. While the new size is a great addition to the world of mountain biking and has it’s place it shouldn’t totally replace the other two popular sizes of wheels. They all have their niche and excel in certain scenarios, and ride really well in their own way so read below as we try and help you find your perfect size.
The 29ner was the original departure from the original size, 26, and is the largest of the wheel sizes. The bigger wheel is the fastest rolling of all the sizes, and is the wheel size of choice for cross country racing and those who favor speed above all else. They also roll over obstacles better than 27.5 wheels so if you’re the type of person that likes to mow over things and let your bike do the work they will suit you well.
27.5 is the wheel size that has nearly replaced the traditional 26″ throughout most of the mountain bike industry. They are smaller, lighter, and more nimble than the larger 29″ wheel so they are best suited for those who like to have a playful and maneuverable bike. They are easier to handle in the air than a 29″ tire and by being smaller can be equipped with longer travel suspension. You’ll see these as the preferred choice for downhill riding, dirt jumping, and most enduro racing.
That leaves us with the new kid on the block 27.5+. The huge tires fixed to the 27.5 diameter wheel makes for a wheel that is almost the as big as a 29″ wheel only with 50% more width. Extra width means more traction which equates to more confidence on the trail through faster braking, increased cornering grip, and more traction while climbing. The trade off is that the larger tires are a bit heavier and ride better with a wider rim that again adds weight. The weight gains acceleration out of corners but do little to reduce the fun. Currently they’re best for those looking for an increase in confidence or simply anybody who wants a really fun bike. The way we look at is that people gave the first generation of fat skis the stink eye for “cheating” and being “for beginners” but when you’re in the lift line on a pow day you can easily see how long that theory lasted…
The bottom line is that whatever wheel size you choose mountain bikes are in a heyday and all sizes rip in their own ways and you won’t be dissappointed with any of them. Hopefully this helps clarify the mysterious world of mountain bike wheel sizes this summer. Come walk in to talk with our bike nerds on the floor to get more info and specifics of mountain bikes beyond the wheel size. Also if you’ve got to try it to buy it we also have all three wheel sizes for demo from the best brands in the industry.