Our guide to 2014's best 650B mountain bikes
If you buy a new mountain bike next year, there’s a good chance it could have 650B wheels on it. A couple of years ago I never thought I would be writing a list of my top five hottest 650B mountain bikes. But here we are, 2014 rapidly approaching and just about every major manufacturer now has a 650B bike or two in their range for the new season. Let’s pick five that I’ve got my eyes on for next year.
One of the most interesting bikes in the new 650B sector comes with a lot of expectation. GT have been languishing in the shadows for many years, but two years spent working on the brand new Force, a 150mm bike designed around 650B wheels, with input from Dan Atherton and Hans Rey, has the potential to reinstate the brand back at the top table.
It uses an updated and simplified version of the Independent Drivetrain (ID) suspension with the new Path Link, stout 15mm axles everywhere and a full carbon fibre frame. Geometry has been honed by the team with much feedback from Atherton and, as I found when I rode it in Utah, is absolutely dialled. The bike is long and low with a 67-degree head angle.
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Pivot Mach 6
Starting with the excellent Mach 5.7, US brand Pivot have spent the last two years redesigning the bike around 650B wheels, resulting in the new Mach 6. See what they’ve done with the name there? It carries over the full carbon frame and massively oversized tube profiles, and uses the latest version of Dave Weagle’s DW-Link. Changes here include a new wishbone lower shock mount wrapped neatly around the seat tube and attached to the seat stays, driving the Fox shock.
Travel produced at the rear wheel is 155mm and the head angle is a slack 66 degrees, combined with a 13.6in bottom bracket. The frame will take a chainguide with the inclusion of ISCG 05 tabs on the bottom bracket shell.
Giant Trance X
With 650B gaining such momentum in the last two years, it was clear that the big manufacturers weren’t going to want to miss out. None come bigger than Giant, and for 2014 they’ve radically overhauled two key bikes in their range, the Trance X and Anthem X.
Interestingly, Giant are still offering 26in and 29in mountain bikes for 2014, with big wheel versions of both the Trance and Anthem still remaining. That is likely to change in the future though. Anyway, the Trance X was, with 140mm of rear wheel travel, always a bike that should have worked perfectly for the UK mountain biker, but for one reason or another it’s never really clicked.
It looks like they’ve nailed the geometry on this redesigned bike though, with a slacker 67-degree head angle compared to the previous bike. Adam Craig has been hammering a Trance X development bike in enduro races this year and been doing pretty well on it too.
Trek has been fully committed to 29er mountain bikes for several years, incorporating the ideas and work of Gary Fisher into their range of models. Longer travel 29ers took a while to develop, but earlier this year they wowed the world with the big-wheeled Remedy. Then immediately followed that with a 650B Remedy. You could get dizzy trying to keep up with the bicycle industry sometimes.
The 140mm has been a popular choice in the UK and the shift towards 650B wheels probably won’t do it any harm. It gets a 67.5-degree head angle and 1131mm wheelbase, and will be available in carbon and alloy versions. So with a 650B and 29er version of the Remedy, which would you choose? I would be amazed if both make it into Trek’s 2015 range.
Santa Cruz Bronson
This bike needs no introduction, one of the most talked about new releases of the year. The Santa Cruz Bronson is in effect a supercharged Blur LT, based around the bigger 650B wheels and with 150mm of travel (up 10mm from the Blur) and with a slack 67-degree head angle. It’s a bike that has been an instant hit, and has already been pressed into service this year, having become a regular sight at the Enduro World Series between the legs of the Santa Cruz Syndicate team.
At its heart is the fabled VPP suspension platform, comprising a pair of short, stout linkages connecting the main frame to the swingarm, which has been in service now for a good few years. Angular contact bearings on all pivots with handy grease ports on the linkages for easy maintenance. They’ll offer a carbon frame - with a 5.3lb medium frame weight - and alloy versions.
That’s my five 650B picks for 2014. What about you?