There has been a recent fad in the MTB world about larger wheels than 26″. As the outside diameter of the tires is about 29 inches, the new breed is called the 29er (two-niner).
The technical point is that the larger wheels go over obstacles such as stones or curbs more smoothly. On the other hand, it is harder for small riders to find a bike that fit. Also, there should be a larger resistance when you start pedaling due to the increased inertial mass in the wheels. All in all, 29ers are optimized for long rides at a rather stable speed in vast fields ridden by large people.
So does that work in Japan? My answer is something like, “not the best choice, but probably not troublesome either.” The biggest reason is that most bike riders don’s care about small things, especially those who are upgrading from the mamachari cycles. If you are new to mountain biking, you don’t care what the standard wheel size is. Besides, there are 24″, 26″, 27″ and 28″ wheels in the mamachari world but there is no big ideology battles there. If you are an expert, I reckon it would also be fun to jump on the train and experience the time of the largest and fastest development in the 29er equipment that is happening now.
For myself, though, I don’t know if I’d ride one. Primarily because, based on the trials- and street-influenced way that I ride, the capacity of the bike itself to roll over obstacles is not important. Rather, hopping onto one-meter high obstacle is where the fun lies, so I want my bike to keep up with such moves. And to do that, there are large advantages in 26″, 24″ and 20″ wheels because, unlike when you are passively rolling on your bike, the balance between the bike geometry and your body size matters, not the absolute size of the wheels, when you actively control the bike.
However, I found a rider who makes his 29er look as if it was a regular 26″ MTB. Here is the bike of LeBron James, an NBA star player.
Now this is a great looking bike. He didn’t just fall in love with the bike, but he actually bought stocks of Cannondale. The article is here, though a little bit old.
I wonder if LeBron is still riding this Cavaliers special color bike, after all the free agency mess that seems to have lowered his stock rating. I don’t mind if he repaints it, but I just wish he still does.