Each morning, I get up with my piss boner, and go to the bathroom and look in the mirror and I ask myself: Why am I such a dick about 29ers? What's my problem exactly? Here are a few rationalizations.
- The only advantage of a 29-inch wheel for trails around here, which are tight and twisty hardpacked dirt with your gratuitous speed-bump thrown in to justify all those shock absorbers, is a larger footprint. Better traction, especially when the trail gets dry, no question about it. Although I would argue that rigid 29ers are a net zero on this advantage; no shock, no contact in chattery corners.
- But thanks to centrifugal/centripetal force, a bigger wheel offers more resistance in the turns, making it a bit more of a wrestling match to weasel through our bitchin' singletrack. Nothing dives into the corners like an Eastern-style "woods bike" with a shorter wheelbase and steeper headtube -- and junior-sized rims.
- Generally speaking, the bikes that are sold around these parts are way overdesigned for the trails we have. The local trailbuilding folks have sort of decided to build trails to match, and they've done a great job. But when you stop to think about it, it's sort of like: with all the SUVs around, why don't they design more highways to look like this:
- I like to make fun of Grant and all the other Rivendell retro-grouches out there with their leather handgrips and canvas saddlebags, but the truth is, anyone who regularly wrenches on a variety of bikes bemoans the expanding universe of standards. It still irks me when I go to the basement and see my Bontrager Privateer and my Indie Fab hanging forkless, for want of a decent fork of any kind-- rigid or shock -- for a 1-inch head tube. Splined BB spindles? Internal headsets? Feh and feh. And if you're a wheelbuilder or spend any time replacing spokes on a fleet of bikes, you know that you pretty much need to have about a half dozen different spoke lengths on hand just as a starting point. (When I am elected King of the Universe, all hub flanges will be exactly the same size. Violators will be demoted to the folding bike department.) So: Any bike or component that offers infinite adaptability is fine with me. Where does the 29er fit into this moral continuum? Well, sure, there's some interchangeability with 700c tires and rims, so that's kind of cool to get a little dirt-road crossover, although generally speaking it's only the wealthy and the insane who can afford to build, say, a set of 700c DT Swiss roadrims to run on a 29er in the dirt. It is encouraging, on the other hand, that folks who run disk brakes (who doesn't these days, except Luddites and super weight-weenies?) can swap out 29-inch wheels with their 26-in wheels. Or running a 29X26 rig is kinda sexy. I'm all for asymmetry. Except for that stupid Lefty fork, heh heh.
- Finally, insofar as my bike stable and workshop are concerned, it is patently clear to me that change is bad and new things are suspect. It's the same thing with rearranging the living room furniture. I liked it the way it was. It was perfectly good. Geeze.