Probably one of the hardest questions for mountain bikers of this generation has become “Which wheel size to choose?”. Trust me, I’ve been in this situation myself. To even get close to the answer, we must first discuss the main differences of 27.5 vs. the 29er.
Main Differences: 27.5 Mountain Bike
If you haven’t caught on by now, 27.5 is the diameter of the wheel in inches which makes it obviously smaller than a 29er wheel. The change in wheel size makes a noticeable difference in how the bike rides, handles, and more.
The 27.5 wheel is notorious for being a great compromise between agility and speed. Since the 27.5 wheel is smaller than a 29, but larger than a 26, this makes the bike very easy to throw around, accelerate, and manual. Not that you can’t do any of this on a 29er but it’s genuinely easier to do with a smaller wheel size. Bikes built around the 27.5 wheel take advantage of the traits of this size by reducing the chain stay length, designing it around a shorter stem, and optimize the rear suspension to be poppy and fun. That is why we have put extra thought into our RIP 9 RDO 27.5 frame instead of just fitting the 27.5 wheels on the 29 optimized frames.
Main Differences: 29 Mountain Bike
After reading the last paragraph, you might be thinking, “Why would I want anything else if 27.5 is truly the best compromise?” That’s where the 29er comes in to upend your paradigm. Some people may find the most fun by jibbing, whipping, and popping the most manuals but for a rider that has a need for speed, the 29 wheel size is the key to your paradise. Niner started out with a commitment to 29 wheels and still aims to push the wheel size to new boundaries. The RIP 9 RDO 29 is a fantastic example of the enjoyment of riding that the 29 mountain bike can bring to so many people.
Because of the larger diameter of the wheel, the 29er creates a larger contact patch with the ground and also rolls quite faster when up to speed. Even though it accelerates slower than a 27.5 wheel, 29ers can maintain their speed because of their advanced rollover capabilities compared to a smaller wheel size. This trait is also beneficial to tackling technical terrain for the obvious reasons of the greater contact patch with the ground. Accumulated, all of these benefits turn out to make one heckuva fast mountain bike. Whether you’re racing XC or enduro, more and more manufacturers caught on to the value that these types of bikes bring to the market which is why the choices have gone through the roof.
Conclusion: Which bike size is right for you?
After reviewing the differences, you may have already created a bias to which size you might choose over the other. However, here are the general recommendations for who should choose what wheel size. Demoing both wheel sizes is also a great idea. A list of demo locations and tours for Niner Bikes can be found on our website: https://ninerbikes.com/pages/demo-tour
27.5” wheels are best for:
- Bike park riders
- The “occasional” DH racer
- Prefer riding mainly flow trails, dislikes or avoids tech trails
- Doesn’t go for the long, epic rides, or races, more of the “get some fun in after work” type of rider
- Not willing to sacrifice handling capabilities for more speed/rollover
29ers are best for:
- Enduro racers
- XC racers
- Serious DH/bike park riders
- The rider who enjoys speed and aims to go fast on the downhills since that is the enjoyment of their ride
- Likes to ride technical and flow terrain
- Willing to sacrifice some handling capabilities for more speed/rollover
In the end, whichever wheel size you end up going with, you’re going to be stoked on your new bike and the insane places that your bike can take you! Just remember, when it comes down to it, Niner committed to the evolution of the 29 wheel and it wouldn’t be where it is today without that *wink wink*. Go try one yourself and make some of your own conclusions!