The timing of your current feature on the 29er couldn’t be better as been looking to join the “Big Wheel Revolution” since I was lucky enough to ride one in Bootleg Canyon outside Vegas whilst on business last year.
As you know big wheels are huge out there as was evident in the lack of standard size wheels in the shop that I rented the bike from, 29er being the only option. As you would expect the terrain was particularly rocky and technical in the Canyon but I was extremely impressed how easy the big wheels coped with the rough stuff giving you the confidence to attempt things that you would normally think twice about on a standard wheel. Also at over 6ft tall with a long reach the whole set up seemed to fit my shape and style better, so since then been planning on building one as soon as the opportunity, funds (and the wife) allowed.
So, after several months spent gaining the appropriate number of brownie points, numerous hours on the internet reading articles / reviews, talking with as many people that would listen and frankly boring the pants off my riding buddies on the virtues of the big wheels, I finally decided on a Niner SIR9. Though have to say compared to selecting a standard wheeled bike there are a couple of issues that I came across during the process that appear to be more 29er specific:
In general top tube lengths are longer as a result of accommodating the large wheels, so something to bare in mind when selecting your frame size. The large frame I went for worked out 10mm longer than my Genesis so just added a shorter stem to compensate, rather this than take a smaller size and longer stem resulting in barge like handling.
The headset is also certainly going to be higher than you’re used to and still experimenting with this since the build trying various combinations on keeping the bar height down (ie turning the stem over, going to flat bars….), rather than cut the steerer right down.
Biggest problem so far on the component front was trying to get tyres as though there are a lot of people advertising nobody has any stock at present (particularly Continental). Guessing that this will only improve as they get more popular.
Wheels also needed a bit of thought as I’m not the lightest of fellas and going to the bigger size and running single speed wanted something that would be strong enough as there are stories of the larger wheels flexing a lot on the more cost effective options. So I turned to Mark at Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre, based at Cannock Chase, who not only built up a lovely set of Hope hubs on Mavic rims but provided valuable advice on all aspects of the build.
If like me you’re running a single speed setup then you also need to take in to consideration the effect of the larger wheel on the gear ratios, otherwise if you maintain the same you will find things a little harder. In short the rule of thumb appears to be add an extra 2 teeth on to the rear cog to achieve the same, so a 32T 16T becomes a 32T 18T.
How does it ride?
From the ride point of view it’s early days yet as I’ve only managed a couple of outings so far but it’s looking good. It feels a bit weired to start off with, looking down at the big wheel up front, but I have to say it’s certainly a more stable and confident ride than a standard wheel. For me the thing I have noticed the most is the increased levels of grip / traction that you get across a wide variety of surfaces. My main riding is done up Cannock Chase and the Dog and Monkey Trails offer a good mix of conditions only made more interesting last weekend by the additional ice and snow.
Despite the near freezing conditions under the trees and liquid mud on those areas exposed to the sun the mountain kings 2.2 performed excellently not slipping once, it would have certainly been Trailrackers on the smaller wheel. Also the ride is certainly softer as you role over the bumps with ease almost appearing to flatten some of them completely, therefore allowing you to build up the speed taking sections faster than you would have previously done.
Strange thing is that you don’t notice this at 1st (at least I didn’t) as you actually appear to be going slower and its not till you ride along somebody on a normal wheel that this becomes apparent, as it did to me when I bumped in to one of guy’s that I have previously been preaching 29er too (by the way he now has one on order). The only down side that I have noticed so far is that they can be a little slower off the mark and you need to think a bit more before tackling tight switch backs due to the longer wheelbase thought this is just down to taking the right line.
So all in all pretty pleased with the new addition and suspect that there will be a few more appearing up the chase over the year…
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