why do mountain bikes have 29 inch wheels

Why Do Mountain Bikes Have 29 Inch Wheels

why do mountain bikes have 29 inch wheels

There used to be a time when all mountain bikes had the same wheel size. Then all of a sudden they went to 29 inch wheels. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this.

Why do mountain bikes have 29 inch wheels? Mountain bikes have 29 inch wheels because you get more traction, its easier to roll over objects, and they are more efficient at maintaining speed. The wheelies are heavier, the ride is more stable, and the top speed is higher. Plus 29 inch wheels are better for taller riders and heavier riders.

Let’s take a look deeper at these reasons and see what the benefits are to riders that use a 29 inch wheel.

What Are 29 Inch Wheels Good For

  • Mountain bikers ride on many different types of terrain like dirt, gravel, rocks, roots, and sand. In order to ride on these surfaces you need tires with good traction. 29 inch wheels are wider than smaller tires therefore there is more tire in contact with the ground increasing the grip.
  • The width of the tire allows there to be more knobs on the tire which increases traction. Along with the width of the tire the sidewalls of the tire are taller. So when you ride through soft dirt, mud, or sand you don’t sink as much compared to a smaller tire.
  • Trail riders need to be ready to ride over all sorts of obstacles like rocks, roots, and logs. If the obstacle is tall in height then you will need to slow down more to avoid an accident. If not you will need to find a way around it.
  • 29 inch wheels can handle taller obstacles because where the obstacle hit the tire is lower compared to smaller tires. This is known as the attack angle. When the attack angle is lower the wheel is more easily able to roll over the obstacle. 29 inch wheels can go faster over multiple rocks and roots compared to smaller wheels.
  • Once a rider gets up to a fast speed he then needs to maintain that speed through pedaling or he will slow down. 29 inch wheels are better able to maintain a high speed compared to small wheels. The rider does not need to put in as much effort in order to maintain the speed.
  • This is because 29 inch wheels have a higher rotational mass. The overall weight of the spokes, rims, inner tube, and tire is distributed farther away from the center of the wheel compared to smaller tires.
  • This additional weight creates more momentum at higher speeds which reduces the effort required by the rider to maintain the speed. The same applies when going downhill without pedaling. The 29 inch wheel mountain bike will go faster downhill than a 26 inch mountain bike because of momentum.
  • 29 inch wheels are heavier so they are going to be able to handle and absorb more impact. Because larger wheels can handle more impact, this will make your ride feel more stable. This stability over all sorts of terrain will enable you to reach faster top speeds compared to smaller size wheels.
  • 29 inch wheels have allowed a larger section of the population to now enjoy mountain biking. Taller and heavier riders use 29 inch mountain bikes. Before that it was more awkward for them to ride a 26 inch bike. 29 inch bikes are a better fit for taller riders and they can handle the weight better of heavier riders.

Are There Any Disadvantages of 29 Inch Mountain Bike Wheels

29 inch wheel bikes are heavier than 26 inch and 27.5 inch bikes. So when you slow down with your 29 inch bike it will take more effort for you to get up to speed again. A solution for this is to use a lighter material for your handlebars, and fork, like carbon.

If you ride singletrack trails that are narrow and twisty. Or you go through switchbacks, you may find the 29 inch bike more difficult to navigate through these types of trails. This is because the 29er is a longer bike because of its larger size wheels.

How Tall Should You Be For a 29 Inch Bike

  1. Ideally mountain bikers should be 6 feet tall or taller when riding a 29 inch bike. This pretty much ensures that the standover height for the bike is at least 2 inches. But even if you are a 6 footer be sure to standover every bike you are interested in.
  2. For those riders that are less than 6 feet tall definitely standover every bike you are interested in. Depending on the frame size of the bike and your inseam, that is what will determine whether a 29 inch bike will fit you. Riders who are at least 5 foot 8 inches have a chance to fit on a 29er. Just standover every bike and give it a try.

When Should You Use a 29 Inch Bike the Most

You will get the most benefit from your 29 inch bike when you are riding on trails which have a lot of rocks, roots, and logs. The larger wheels of a 29er can roll over them much easier than a 26 inch or a 27.5 inch bike. There isn’t much a smaller wheel bike can do to over come a 29 inch wheel in this situation.

When Should You Not Ride a 29 Inch Wheel Mountain Bike

  1. You shouldn’t ride a 29er bike if you are going to do a lot of jumping and tricks in the air. It will be more difficult for you to get air and to maneuver a 29 inch. They are heavier and longer than a 26 inch bike. For jumping and tricks 26 inch is better to use and safer.
  2. Another time when 29ers may not be so beneficial is if you climb a lot of hills. 29ers are heavier so you will have to work harder to get up the hill. You are not going to be able to generate enough speed going uphill in order to take advantage of any momentum.

Is It Worth It To Upgrade From a 26 Inch To a 29er

In short yes. If you are an intermediate rider or better then it makes sense to upgrade to a 29er. No matter what trail you have been riding on with your 26 inch you will be faster on that same trail with a 29er.

Larger wheels are faster, roll over rough terrain better, and have more grip. If you are a beginner then I would say no. Stay with a 26 inch for now. 29 inch bikes are heavier, and they are more difficult to maneuver. This will make it more difficult for beginners. Wait until you improve and are stronger.

Can You Corner With a 29 Inch Wheel Mountain Bike

  • You certainly can corner with a 29 inch bike. You just need to pay attention to a few points because this bike is heavier and longer. Whatever cornering technique you follow you need to exaggerate it more with a 29 inch.
  • Make sure the outer pedal is down. Lean the bike left or right. Lean your hips towards where you want to turn. With the 29ers grip you will carve around the corner quicker. Be sure to look through the turn. Look ahead to where you want to go. Don’t look right at your front tires.
  • Before you get to the corner brake a bit earlier than you would on a 26, a 29er needs a bit longer to slow. This will allow you to set up your body and weight for the turn. Then with increased grip you can go faster in the turn.
  • You’ll be able to exit the corner faster than with a 26. But this will take practice because the 29 inch is longer and heavier. You just need to upgrade your cornering skills. Yes, you can corner and shred the corner with a 29er.