Indian Cyclists Network

Hi guys,

Sometime back I had a wee bit of a test ride on a Trek 29er (Gary Fisher series) at a bike shop and really liked the feel, but since it was just a test ride, I wasn't on it more than 5 mins.

I'm curious to know how 29er's (bikes with 29''ø wheels as opposed to the normal 26''ø) fare as compared to 26er''. I've done some online reading on many bike forums since then, but there is not a general consensus, some swear by their 29ers while others say 26ers can handle corners better, I've also read contradictory statements that 29ers can climb more efficiently while others say 26ers climb better. I do understand that these statements are from pros and each one of them have their own personal preferences and skillsets.  There is a general consensus however that 29ers have more speed  and roll over obstacles better among others

My main question is do the 29ers climb better? I do a lot of uphill and intend/attempt to practice even more so if anybody riding a 29er doing ghats or major uphills can share their experiences it would be really great.


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Thanks Jal, ill read up on that :)

Climbing depends on gearing, not wheel size.    However, given that the gear ratios are typically the same on both 26er and 29ers, you'll find that you don't have as low a gearing on 29ers.   So for people who rely on granny gears a lot, the 29er will be a little harder.

26ers probably corner better for people who ride at the limit of your bike's abilities.   For most of us, our own confidence level is the limiting factor.   I have an XL 29er with a massive wheelbase - about as truck like as a hard-tail can get.   However, I've never had any problems taking any corners with it, probably because I don't push the bike to the limit of its abilities.   These days, you can get shorter-wheelbase 29ers with steeper geometry, which will probably handle comparably to a 26er.

29ers certainly handle bumps and obstacles better than 26ers.   In terms of trail handling skills, it is like going up one botch (or adding an additional 20mm of suspension up front).

Thanks Vandit for the input, if I may ask would it be wise to go in for a 29er, I currently use a normal 26'' MTB for a little bit of everything. Are there any pointers I should be aware of if I go in for a 29er ?


For me, I will never ride small wheels again.

For the type of trail riding I do (used to do is more appropriate, I suppose), the Niner just feels rock-solid and planted, and I feel very stable on it.   It also fits my riding strengths/weaknesses - I can corner quite well but tend to wuss out on technical downhills.   A 29er gives me a lot more confidence on bumpy, bouncy downhills.

Pointers - some people will say size down for a 29er or stuff like that.   Ignore that.   Bike fit is bike fit, and independent of wheel size.   

i have a Marlin, and in my novice level opinion, i do agree it doesn't corner well in sharp turns (if in speed). well, that's about the only thing negative about it. but i don't mind.

again, lot of positives, in my humble opinion, a single revolution in a 29er will cover more distance than a 26er.  hence i feel it does roll better and really touches good speeds. ground clearance is an obvious plus. it also gives lot of confidence while coming downhill on rough hilly patches.

and like vandit mentions, slopes have more to do with the gears and if i may add, overall weight of the bike. one good plus would be to have hydraulic lockout system for suspensions, it's the most efficient way for uphills.

Hi Jen, Thanks for the info, could you tell me how long have you been using your bike and have there been any problems/niggles you may have faced till now?I guess the forks do come with a LO, Any positives/negatives you feel about this particular Trek Marlin model? 

i got it first week of Jan, have divided my time between my road bike and the marlin...road bike gets more attention, but marlin has seen better days too.

it does come with manual LO.

overall, just positives, it's a pretty "firm" and responsive bike. pretty good for long distance too. no complains so far and it doesn't look like i'm going to have any.

the only things you may want to look for is better features, it all counts. when you are planning to spend as much in a marlin...might as well chip in another 6-7 k and get ones with better features such as hydraulic brakes and suspensions. it does make a helluva difference. but if those features don't mean much, then Marlin is a pretty decent choice. and hey do check out Wahoo as well. both marlin and wahoo are 29er's with slightly different features from each other. see what you like better.

JeN, while it is true that a single revolution of a 29er will cover more distance, getting it to turn a single revolution is harder for a given gear ratio.    Speed is a function of how much power you put out - as long as the gearing is similar and bikes are fundamentally equal in efficiency/riding position - you'll get the same speed.

200W on, let's say, 80 gear inches will give you the same speed on a 26er and a 29er.   

@ Vandit - oh ok. i missed out on that part of physics!

btw, for ghats and uphill, is an MTB good choice? shouldnt it be hybrid?

I've said this here over and over again - I don't understand why people choose to ride MTBs on tarmac.

A rigid bike (road bike or hybrid with a rigid fork) is vastly stiffer, lighter and more efficient than a MTB.    If you are riding on tarmac, it will put a massive grin on your face with the way it accelerates and holds speed.    MTBs have their place.  On a trail.    You don't need massively overbuilt, insanely heavy frames to ride tarmac - even bumpy, potholed carbon.   Frames don't break under regular usage.   My 7kg carbon road bike with carbon wheels has survived a crash at 55kph (rear tire blowout) without a scratch.    

People can do whatever they want.   But often, I see people being guided into buying MTBs b/c of a mistaken belief that road bikes won't handle "Indian conditions".   And usually this well-meaning but erroneous advice comes from people who haven't tried both options, and so really are NOT qualified to give comparative advice.

So yes, I do feel that a road-focussed hybrid - which will have sturdy wheels and ability to take 700x32-35 tires - is a much better choice for general (i.e. non-racing) riding in urban conditions.  

Btw, my example above was simplistic - riding position also makes a difference, and efficiency is rarely the same.   On 2 MTBs with identical seating position, speed depends on power.    Same power, same gear ratio = same speed.   But MTBs vs hybrid or road bike - you'll find you are able to turn a higher gear ratio on a hybrid or road bike, simply b/c of the greater drivetrain efficiency, better stiffness of the bike and better aerodynamic positioning.  

So yes, you are correct:  hybrids will let you get up the hill easier for a comparable gear ratio.   

i agree.. road bike is damn addictive!! and surprisingly more tough. zipping thru slopes and down hill is pure thrill.  cant beat that.

@Jen good to know you are happy with your 29er, I just checked the Wahoo and Marlin on the Firefox website, they are the same except fot the sram x4 shifters and rd,which I find to shift better than the shimanos.

@Vandit, thanks for clearing my doubts about how the 29ers work compared to 26ers and that the bike fit remains the same irrespective of the tires, I did infact wrongly assume that a size smaller to compensate for the bigger tires would be neccessary :(

While I do agree to the fact that roadbikes are the speedkings followed by hybrids, I personally feel a lot less confident and comfortable because of the aggressive posture, the higher top tube, the narrower saddle, and different placement of shifters. I know its a matter of getting used to these positions, but I always find myself coming back to the fat boys for want of comfort and stability.

I've rarely seen people riding 29ers, so unluckily, taking one of these for a little spin from a friend is impossible, but  I'm kind of convinced to have a 29er as my next bike next year. 

Thanks again for all your valuable inputs!

Cheers and happy biking!



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