MTB Wheel Sizes
Today, there are are two primary mountain bike wheel sizes available, 27.5” (650b) and 29” (29ers). These numbers refer to a tire’s diameter. Choosing the right wheel size depends on what the rider’s preferences and what kind of riding they would like to do.
The traditional 26” wheels are still available, but they are often reserved for freeride, dirt jump and kids’ bikes. For a long time, mountain bikes used 26-inch wheels. This was true until about 15 years ago when companies started trying different wheel diameters.
The Advantages of Riding 29-inch Wheels
29” wheels are best suited to those looking for a smooth ride on rough trails. They roll over obstacles more efficiently, keeping momentum. In many kinds of terrain, a 29er will be faster on everything from hardtails to downhill bikes.
They are they preferred choice for cross country terrain. Regardless of the type of riding, at higher speeds they offer more control. They perform very well on less terrain that is less technical. Taller riders will also find it easier to balance on a larger wheel size.
The Advantages of Riding 27.5-inch Wheels
27.5” wheels are best suited to riders who prefer to ride on trails that require frequent changes of speed and direction. 27.5” wheels are more responsive as compared to a larger wheel with equivalent rims, hubs, and spokes.
They are also more suited to very heavy riders as they are also stronger. 27.5-inch wheels also allow for more frame clearance, potentially allowing for a wider tire. Having a wider tire, while heavier, can provide better grip as this kind of tire can be run at lower pressures. Smaller riders will find 27.5” wheels more maneuver and responsive.
Overall, what is best for one rider may not be ideal for another. Both types of wheels have their own advantages and trade-offs. It is important to consider your own needs and type of riding you will be doing. There truly is something for everyone.