26" v 29" - Kenta Gallagher and Liam Killeen on the wheel size debate

Bikemagic recently spent the day at the Olympic mountain bike course in Essex, where Great Britain’s riders, including Kenta Gallagher and Liam Killeen, got the opportunity to ride the updated course.

We asked under-23 national champion Gallagher on why he’s stuck with 26″ wheels and four-time British champion Killeen on why he’s switched to a 29er for 2012.

Kenta Gallagher’s Boardman EM 1.7 racing bike

“I tried a 29er last year for a couple of practice laps and, yeah, it does roll faster but I prefer the 26″ wheels because I can have more fun on it. It suits my riding style; I come from a downhill background so I like to wing the bike in a lot more and I felt I couldn’t do that on a 29er. I didn’t feel the 29er was that great because, while once you got it up to speed it was fast, trying to get it up to speed wasn’t ideal for me personally. A 26″ hardtail is what I’m comfortable with so that’s what I’ll run at every race. Technical sections are a strong point of mine so I don’t have to worry about courses being too challenging.

I signed for Boardman in March and they’re good bikes. I use the EM/1.7 for racing and the EM/1.0 for training – it’s just the kit that’s on it that’s different. My racing bike has full SRAM XX, with Specialized Roval rims, DT Swiss hubs and S-Works Renegade tyres and it’s obviously a lot lighter than my training bike.”

Liam Killeen’s Giant XTC 29er training bike

“It’s the XTC 29er frame and the single ring is just for training; I haven’t tested it in a race. I use a 28-39 chainring setup when racing and a 11-36t cassette on the rear.

It’s the only bike I’ve ridden since the end of last year and I’m just going to stick with it this year. I just wanted to stick on one bike and I feel the 29″ wheel gives you a slightly softer ride than the 26″ hardtail. It’s not a full suspension but it allows you to ride better over rockier ground and you haven’t got the weight penalty of a full suspension. I think it’s a really good all-round machine.

A lot of riders like to switch bike depending on the course but it’s another thing to worry about and it’s another bike to travel with. Looking at the course this year, I think I’ll be happy just to stick on this one. A 29er suits the Olympic course at the moment. The bigger wheels roll over some of the rocks nicely and it feels good round here.”

  1. Stephen

    Good to read honest opinions from the professionals and balanced pros and cons rather than all the recent hype. I would be interested to know what both riders deemed a negligible weight penalty to performance when riding a full suspension bike in terms of weight for a fast trail rider who typically rides for 1-3 hours at a time. Good luck at the Olympics

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