Up until a few years ago, mountain bikes had 26 inch wheels – and that was that.
More recently 29ers have become all the rage, and with 650b wheel bikes added to the mix, choosing a steed is no easy job.
We spoke to Olivia Bleitz, Women’s Product Specialist at Specialized, about the differences, and asked her ‘do 29er mountain bikes suit women’?
Why ride a 29er?
“Commonly you will see more performance minded cross country riders on 29ers because of how well they carry speed and the ease of rolling over rocks and roots. 29 inch wheels are common on XC bikes – such as the Specialized Fate and Era.
“29ers can also be a great option for a more beginner rider because they are extremely stable and confidence inspiring and are easily able to tackle obstacles in the trail as you are still perfecting your skills.”
Those still favouring 26 inch wheels are generally riders who want a smaller wheel base, for tight, technical rides, those who favour low weight over faster rolling, or downhill riders who can’t afford to sacrifice any of the strength that comes from a smaller wheel diameter.
In the middle, 650b wheels offer a great compromise.
Do 29ers fit shorter women?
Big wheels, means a big bike, for a big rider? It seems not:
“There is a pretty common misunderstanding that if you are short you can’t benefit from a 29er – this simply isn’t true. The fit [of a 29er] is fantastic no matter how tall (or not tall) you happen to be.
“[At Specialized] Our women’s frames are built from the ground up to suit the female rider. When developing our women’s frames we focus primarily on stack, reach and standover.
“By keeping the reach short and the stack and standover low we are able to fit the widest range of riders regardless of their fitness goals. We also ensure a great fit outside of the frame itself with women’s saddles and grips as well as size specific cranks and bars.”
She added that the Fate and Era carbon XC 29ers are are easily able to fit a wide range of riders from 5 foot.
If you’re considering a new mountain bike, and not sure what to go for, Olivia said the best option was to try one out: “If a rider is still unsure then the number one best thing to do is to ride a 29er and see for youself!”
“Not all 29ers are created equal” – she added – so it’s best to try a few if you can.
Wheel size is far from the key concern, however – she added: “Wheel size really comes down to rider preference and should be one of the last deciding factors when it comes to selecting a mountain bike.
“Great things to think about before you ever get to wheel size are: where and what type of riding do you want to do? What material would you like the frame to be made out of? What travel would you like to have?”
What do you ride?
Of course we had to check Olivia out to see if she was practicing what she preached – and she told us: “I have the Rumor Expert 29 and absolutely love it. It is a incredibly capable bike that is a ton of fun to ride. It climbs fast, descends faster and gives me tons of confidence tackling technical sections of single track.
If you’re shopping for a new mountain bike, check out this piece on how to get the best MTB for your budget.