Great bikes can be designed with any wheel size.A great bike is a great bike, regardless of wheel size. For fast open trails around Boise, we find that bikes with slacker angles and shorter wheelbases provide awesome a ride feel at speed, while remaining balanced during the climbs. So long as the designer thoughtfully considers wheel size in formulating a bike’s geometry, its possible to find a bike that rides beautifully with 26, 27.5, or 29 inch wheels. Beware of designs claiming to “speed-up” 29er handling by using a steep – 71+ degree – head tube angle. While this concept might work on the east coast, steep angles make for skitter and nervous handling on the open, high speed descents characteristic of the Boise foothills
Bigger wheels favor a high speed, carvy riding style.What really sets wheel sizes apart is ride style. 29 inch wheels excel in open conditions and reward riders who like to carve high speed corners and float their bike through tough lines. Overall, 29 inch wheels have a mellower, more stable feel, making them a great choice for riders who want to descend with authority even at the end of an epic day in the saddle.
Smaller wheels favor more active riding styles.27.5 and 26 inch wheels favor riders who actively engage with their bikes and like to pump as much speed out of every roller and corner. Generally, the smaller wheel sizes feel more lively and energetic and make for great bikes for those who favor shorter, more intense rides. Generally 27.5 and 26 inch wheels have a similar ride feel, with 27.5 inch wheels being slightly more efficient.
Bigger wheels have better climbing traction in Boise soils.Admittedly, the sand and decomposed granite of the Boise foothills can make finding climbing traction a challenge. This is one area where 29 inch wheels have a definite advantage. With a larger contact patch, 29 inch wheels tend to have better traction the loose and dry conditions that define Boise’s summer riding season. If your ideal ride involves long climbs, 29 inch wheels will save you tons of energy.
Ride!Ultimately, different wheel sizes are just another tool better tailor bikes to different riding styles. The best way to figure out what works for you is to hop on the bike and take one for a ride.