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  1. #1
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    large wheels are pointless

    After riding folders for a few years I think I can finally say I've concluded that larger than 20" wheels are basically pointless.

    Many are familiar with Tony Hadland's table of the advantages/disadvantages of small wheels:

    However, almost all the "disadvantages" are either extremely myopic or are grasping at straws:
    1. "wheel has less inertia" - there is no possible way this could be interpreted as a disadvantage. If it were a disadvantage then one could simply add lead weights, which would just be stupid.
    2. "bumpier ride unless wider tires" - good quality wider tires are better (faster and more comfortable). The only problem that can be attributed to wider tires is that they are heavier, but that doesn't apply if you switch to a smaller wheel because it's canceled by the shorter circumference.
    3. "reduced efficiency of rim brakes" - this isn't a disadvantage because you can switch to hub brakes, which would be regarded as superior except that pointlessly large wheels reduce their efficiency
    4. "higher bearing friction" - has anyone here ever notice a significant difference by upgrading to lighter bearing grease?
    5. "special tire construction needed" - you need good tires on large wheels too.

    The only valid complaints are that the cables are longer, things wear a little faster, and they have more rolling resistance on soft ground. The first two are minor complaints compared to the long list of advantages and bicycles are never very good on soft ground anyway (even big wheeled ones), which is why they weren't invented/popularized until after the construction of modern roads.

    I'm inclined to agree with Xootr that there are really only two cases in which small wheels aren't the superior choice:
    -Downhill mountain bike racing. Let's be clear. If you want to go near-vertically down the side of a mountain, you don't want to do that on a bike with 406mm rims. You want to be able to roll over huge boulders and clear giant felled trees. This isn't the bike for that job.
    -USCF road racing. The Swift (nor any 406mm-wheeled bike) doesn't meet the precise technical standards of the Luddites in charge of most bicycle racing standards.

  2. #2
    Senior Member rbrian's Avatar
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    There is something to be said for having more inertia. Don't get me wrong, I love my Brompton, it accelerates quickly and is a hoot to fling through traffic. But my tourer, on enormous 700c x38 tyres, just keeps on going like a train. My average speed is always higher on this bike, and it's my pick for the open road.
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  3. #3
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    After having ridden my new mixte for around three weeks now after riding on folders exclusively for almost two years, I can honestly say I prefer the little wheeled bikes better. Don't get me wrong, the mixte is a blast to ride, but I enjoy the foldies and small wheelers more. YMMV though.
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    you should learn to embrace change, and mock it's failings every step of the way :p

  4. #4
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu View Post
    After riding folders for a few years I think I can finally say I've concluded that larger than 20" wheels are basically pointless.
    General statements like this are generally pointless. I could point to many applications for large bicycle wheels that small 20" wheels would not operate sufficiently well to be acceptable. I have wheel sizes of 16", 20", 26" and 29" in my fleet. I would agree that the 16" and 20" wheels work well for many bicycle applications, but to say wheels larger than 20" are pointless is ridiculous on its face.
    safe riding - Vik
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbrian View Post
    There is something to be said for having more inertia. Don't get me wrong, I love my Brompton, it accelerates quickly and is a hoot to fling through traffic. But my tourer, on enormous 700c x38 tyres, just keeps on going like a train. My average speed is always higher on this bike, and it's my pick for the open road.
    If that's how you feel then all you need to do is glue some fishing weights to your spokes to increase the inertia. It's not a small wheel thing, it's a lightness thing, but I believe it's safe to say that most people don't think adding weight to a bike will make it better.

    Quote Originally Posted by vik View Post
    General statements like this are generally pointless. I could point to many applications for large bicycle wheels that small 20" wheels would not operate sufficiently well to be acceptable. I have wheel sizes of 16", 20", 26" and 29" in my fleet. I would agree that the 16" and 20" wheels work well for many bicycle applications, but to say wheels larger than 20" are pointless is ridiculous on its face.
    What would those applications be apart from mountain/trail biking or USCF racing? For years I've been looking for an excuse to waste a big chunk of money on a big wheeled bike, but I've yet to find a good reason. I'm not saying there aren't bikes with big wheels which provide unique advantages, but just that they'd mostly be better with smaller wheels.
    Last edited by makeinu; 03-26-09 at 02:55 PM.

  6. #6
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Mountain biking of any type not just downhill racing is certainly one application. Road racing/sport riding when not racing would be a couple more. Touring on rough/poor/unpaved roads. Winter riding. Commuting on poor roads.

    You can get around some of the problems with small wheels with suspension, but that adds cost and complexity to the bike so you can't say a large wheeled rigid bike is pointless by comparison.

    I use different sized wheel bikes one after the other on a daily basis and there certainly are benefits to small & to larger wheel sizes.

    If you wanted to say that for non-competitive use on nicely paved roads you could do almost anything with a small wheeled bike I'd agree, but that doesn't mean large wheels are useless since I could say the same thing for large wheel bikes and they have the benefit of tackling poor roads/dirt roads and off road better.
    Last edited by vik; 03-26-09 at 03:21 PM.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by vik View Post
    Mountain biking of any type not just downhill racing is certainly one application. Road racing/sport riding when not racing would be a couple more. Touring on rough/poor/unpaved roads. Winter riding. Commuting on poor roads.

    You can get around some of the problems with small wheels with suspension, but that adds cost and complexity to the bike so you can't say a large wheeled rigid bike is pointless by comparison.

    I use different sized wheel bikes one after the other on a daily basis and there certainly are benefits to small & to larger wheel sizes.

    If you wanted to say that for non-competitive use on nicely paved roads you do almost anything with a small wheeled bike I'd agree, but that doesn't mean large wheels are useless since I could say the same thing for large wheel bikes and they have the benefit of tackling poor roads/dirt roads and off road better.
    Suspension tires don't add cost or complexity. As I said in the OP the only argument against wide suspension tires is weight, but small wheels negate it so there's no argument against them at all.

    All my riding is on rough, poor roads with a good amount commuting in winter and I don't see what the advantage of larger wheels are. They just make those wide tires I need heavier.

    Dirt/off road sure (there are many strange contraptions which are useful in the wilderness), but it's very hard to see any useful purpose in such riding for the 99% of mankind that lives in civilization, hence, larger diameter wheels are pointless. You can't say the same in reverse because small wheels have many advantages while large wheels have only one esoteric advantage at the fringe of a bicycle's capability. If riding off/unpaved road had a point then the bicycle would have been invented shortly after the wheel instead of thousands of years later during the rise of modern civilization.

    Large wheels are only have advantage for sport; in other words diversion; in other words pointless.
    Last edited by makeinu; 03-26-09 at 03:30 PM.

  8. #8
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Ahahahaha

    OK, let me preface this by saying that I can fully accept that "large wheels are pointless for makeinu and some other cyclists." 100% on board with that.

    Separately, some people just like the ride, feel, convenience, novelty, non-conformity, whatever of small-wheeled bikes. That's also perfectly valid.

    And if you're happy with your bikes, then there is absolutely no reason to change.

    But.

    When comparing "like to like" -- which is, of course, the only rational and fair way to approach the issue -- larger wheeled bikes:
    are more comfortable
    are more stable
    offer better gearing options
    have vastly better ground clearance (for both drive train and panniers)
    offer more fit options (exception for Bike Friday)
    offer more wheel and tire options
    have more widely available parts
    have more frame material options (i.e. currently, no carbon fiber folding / mini-bikes)
    are less expensive

    Some of these aspects can be compensated for; e.g. adding suspension makes a small wheeled bike more comfortable. A few aspects cannot be corrected, such as clearance and tire/wheel/parts availability or expense.

    More importantly, as with everything in bicycle design (and life ), design choices involve certain compromises -- either in performance or expense. E.g. if you add mechanical suspension to make a 20" bike more comfortable, that adds weight, complexity and slight performance loss. (Also, in order to compare like to like, you must compare the ride of a 20" suspended bike to a 700c suspended bike.) Or, you may need to spend $500 - $1000 more for a almost-no-compromise Bike Friday New World Tourist than you would for a comparably spec'ed 700c touring bike.

    I.e. we can add a few things to the "700c is good" list, including: touring, long distance events, commuting, bad weather riding, dirt trails, gravel trails, just about any off-road use, club rides and paceline riding. 20" can be adapted for some of these uses, but at a cost.

    20" bikes clearly have their advantages -- for some but not all applications. I would even say that folders are a good choice for a much wider piece of the market than they currently hold, particularly for urban dwellers, commuters and frequent flyer bike tourists. But these benefits -- and your subjective experiences and personal preferences -- hardly renders the needs of 90+% of the cycling public "pointless."

    Or to put it another way: In many cases, the compromises involved in using a small-wheeled bike are often worth the benefits. But to pretend there are no compromises whatsoever is inaccurate and does a disservice to those who need to make an honest assessment of the benefits and costs of a 20" wheeled bike for their own uses.

  9. #9
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu View Post
    Suspension tires don't add cost or complexity. As I said in the OP the only argument against wide suspension tires is weight, but small wheels negate it so there's no argument against them at all.

    All my riding is on rough, poor roads with a good amount commuting in winter and I don't see what the advantage of larger wheels are. They just make those wide tires I need heavier.

    Dirt/off road sure (there are many strange contraptions which are useful in the wilderness), but it's very hard to see any useful purpose in such riding for the 99% of mankind that lives in civilization, hence, larger diameter wheels are pointless. You can't say the same in reverse because small wheels have many advantages while large wheels have only one esoteric advantage at the fringe of a bicycle's capability. If riding off/unpaved road had a point then the bicycle would have been invented shortly after the wheel instead of thousands of years later during the rise of modern civilization.

    Large wheels are only have advantage for sport; in other words diversion; in other words pointless.
    We'll just agree to disagree then.
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  10. #10
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    I like my 20" Dahon a lot but 20" wheels are significantly harsher than larger wheels. My riding style has adjusted a great deal to compensate for this but at some point, when I have the storage space, I'll probably buy a road bike. Anyhow, I'm looking forward to (and assuming that) Big Apple Liteskin tyres will be available soon; I'd like to switch to a 2.35 at the front to absorb shocks better.

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    You can get a super-everything sport bike for cheaper than a Moulton. That much is hard to get around. It would be interesting to know if the custom sport bike companies like Calfee could make mini-velos though.

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    Actually Big Apples are kind of expensive as are Greenspeed Scorchers (what are the other small wheel, low rolling resistance, soft tires out there?), and Dr. Moulton didn't have them when he designed his small wheelers. You could probably build a suspension frame in your garage, but I think tire making is way too expensive and high tech for any niche company to get into.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Ahahahaha

    OK, let me preface this by saying that I can fully accept that "large wheels are pointless for makeinu and some other cyclists." 100% on board with that.

    Separately, some people just like the ride, feel, convenience, novelty, non-conformity, whatever of small-wheeled bikes. That's also perfectly valid.

    And if you're happy with your bikes, then there is absolutely no reason to change.

    But.

    When comparing "like to like" -- which is, of course, the only rational and fair way to approach the issue -- larger wheeled bikes:
    • are more comfortable
    • are more stable
    • offer better gearing options
    • have vastly better ground clearance (for both drive train and panniers)
    • offer more fit options (exception for Bike Friday)
    • offer more wheel and tire options
    • have more widely available parts
    • have more frame material options (i.e. currently, no carbon fiber folding / mini-bikes)
    • are less expensive

    Some of these aspects can be compensated for; e.g. adding suspension makes a small wheeled bike more comfortable. A few aspects cannot be corrected, such as clearance and tire/wheel/parts availability or expense.

    More importantly, as with everything in bicycle design (and life ), design choices involve certain compromises -- either in performance or expense. E.g. if you add mechanical suspension to make a 20" bike more comfortable, that adds weight, complexity and slight performance loss. (Also, in order to compare like to like, you must compare the ride of a 20" suspended bike to a 700c suspended bike.) Or, you may need to spend $500 - $1000 more for a almost-no-compromise Bike Friday New World Tourist than you would for a comparably spec'ed 700c touring bike.

    I.e. we can add a few things to the "700c is good" list, including: touring, long distance events, commuting, bad weather riding, dirt trails, gravel trails, just about any off-road use, club rides and paceline riding. 20" can be adapted for some of these uses, but at a cost.

    20" bikes clearly have their advantages -- for some but not all applications. I would even say that folders are a good choice for a much wider piece of the market than they currently hold, particularly for urban dwellers, commuters and frequent flyer bike tourists. But these benefits -- and your subjective experiences and personal preferences -- hardly renders the needs of 90+% of the cycling public "pointless."

    Or to put it another way: In many cases, the compromises involved in using a small-wheeled bike are often worth the benefits. But to pretend there are no compromises whatsoever is inaccurate and does a disservice to those who need to make an honest assessment of the benefits and costs of a 20" wheeled bike for their own uses.
    The thing is, half of your claims are just plain false and the other half aren't comparing like for like. In particular:
    • Larger wheels do not necessarily offer better gearing options. Notably the Sturmey Archer 8 speed is, IMO, the best gearing choice for the money and is distinctly unsuitable for larger wheels. Moreover, when it comes to complete bikes internally hubbed configurations (with any model) are extremely difficult to find with large wheels despite being the most common configuration for smaller wheels.
    • Smaller wheels offer more fit options, not the other way around. Larger wheeled bikes are necessarily limited in fit due to the wheels (and supporting tubes) getting in the way of raising/lowering seat and handlebar posts. To compensate, larger wheeled bikes must offer different frame sizes, which is by its very nature more limiting and a bit of a kludge. Companies like Bike Friday which can accommodate both methods offer the most options of all, but such flexibility is of course exclusive to small wheels.
    • Nothing offers better ground clearance for luggage than small wheels which can accommodate on top. The very necessity of panniers with larger wheels is a compromise which reduces ground clearance. All the serious cargo bikes such as those available from Worksman and Bakfiets use smaller wheels because the load carrying capability is simply superior.
    • 406 bmx wheels and tires are more widely available than any other rim size. I bet almost every local toy store, hardware store, and, bike store in the world has them.
    • Which is less expensive really depends on the kind of configuration you like and may be regarded as merely coincidental. Larger wheeled bikes certainly aren't always less expensive. I can't find a 17 pound bike with larger wheels than the Carryme and I certainly can't find a cheaper trike of comparable weight to the Carryall.
    • In order to compare like for like we need to look at wheels of the same weight. Since larger diameter tires are so much heavier they need to be much skinnier in order to achieve the same weight. This makes them less comfortable and compromises performance. Also, as noted by Tony Hadland suspension is easier/lighter to implement with smaller wheels (and wide tires may be regarded as a special case of this). So, although you can compare unsuspended to unsuspended, it's not really a like for like comparison because the parameters of importance such as complexity, weight, etc are not equal. Thus, when comparing like for like on the important parameters of complexity, weight, etc smaller wheeled bikes are more comfortable.

    I'm not trying to be belligerent here, but your arguments simply don't hold any water.

    Now, yes, there are a few very specialist applications for which factors make small wheeled bikes inferior. These are, namely, riding off paved roads and competitions for which small wheels are simply disallowed. However, as I've said from the beginning, these applications are by their very nature pointless and, thus, the large wheeled bikes which they justify are also pointless.

    In all other applications small wheelers are unequivocally superior. Large wheels are the ones making compromises, compromises to keep with the popular look. If you want to convince me otherwise then tell me, what advantages do large wheels have? I still haven't seen any apart from wear and riding on soft ground, which is a short list compared to all their many disadvantages. Your so used to making compromises to accommodate large wheels that you can't see the forest from the trees.
    Last edited by makeinu; 03-26-09 at 08:18 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chagzuki View Post
    I like my 20" Dahon a lot but 20" wheels are significantly harsher than larger wheels. My riding style has adjusted a great deal to compensate for this but at some point, when I have the storage space, I'll probably buy a road bike. Anyhow, I'm looking forward to (and assuming that) Big Apple Liteskin tyres will be available soon; I'd like to switch to a 2.35 at the front to absorb shocks better.
    I'm not perfectly comfortable on my small wheelers either, but a road bike is not more comfortable and a mountain bike is heavier than a dedicated suspension (not to mention compromises carrying capacity, fine tuning fit, etc).

    I just don't understand why people say that small wheels involve compromises when it seems pretty clear that it's the large ones which involve compromises. I tried to believe for a long time that the large ones were somehow better, but it just isn't true (even without considering folding).
    Last edited by makeinu; 03-26-09 at 08:21 PM.

  15. #15
    jur
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    As far as I can figure out the historical reasons, wheel size for the safety bicycle was a consideration of comfort and economy. Rough roads which were of course largely unpaved indicated wheels as large as possible, while ergonomics indicated a smaller size. So the "standard" wheel size we have is as large as can be fitted on a safety bicycle with ergonomic condiderations such as the front wheel hitting the feet. Presumably comfort was more important than economy, or economy had a fairly small impact at the time when wheel size was considered. The smaller size also necessitated some gearing system so that you don't have a stupidly fast cadence for reasonable speeds. So the whole development history stemmed from the original wheel size choice.

    I haven't checked the dates, but I think at the time, the pneumatic wheel was not yet invented when the safety bicycle was invented, so the large as spossible wheel would have been chosen as of high importance due to solid tyres.

    But the advent of the pneumatic tyre to a large extent neutralised the requirement of a large wheel as mathematically shown by me in the small wheel harshness thread. A very modest reduction in inflation pressure results in indistinguishable comfort response between a 16" wheel and a 700c wheel. The reduction in pressure is not so large as to put the tyre into the high rolling resistance region of operation, ie you can get comfort without sacrificing much speed at all.

    So with pneumatic tyres, the only argument that can now justify the large wheel size is the one where road surface has a large scale impact on the wheel, ie bumps/holes much larger than the tyre can absorb, or soft surface where the bigger circumference would sink less into the soft surface.

    One might argue about stability but I don't buy that one, based on experience backed up by a thorough understanding of the underlying reasons. Stability is much less determined by wheel size than the intricacies of geometry and weight distribution.

    The other arguments are spurious, because they are more connected with what's actually available to buy, ie pre-determined by the ubiquity of larger wheels rather than a design necessity. For example, if by some historical accident a 20" wheel had been chosen as the standard, the marketplace, UCI, gearing option etc would all have centered around that size, and the "better gearing options" argument would be stood on its head.
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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu View Post
    Larger wheels do not necessarily offer better gearing options....
    Most folders come with single front chainrings; standard-sized bikes routinely come with doubles and triples. IH's are superior for some applications (e.g. commuting), but a) are less efficient than derailleurs, and b) are clearly available for lots of large-wheeled bikes anyway. They're mostly more common on folders etc due to clearance issues and target market (commuters) -- or, in the case of the SRAM DualDrive, to make up for certain deficiencies (at a cost, as per usual -- by doubling the complexity of the drive train).


    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    Smaller wheels offer more fit options, not the other way around.
    Sorry, that's BS, with the notable exception of Bike Friday and maybe a few mini-bikes.

    The overwhelming majority of 20" bikes are "one size fits all," which clearly offers fewer options than bikes that come in 5-8 sizes, can swap stems, can swap seatposts, can change handlebars, and so forth.

    Offering different sizes allows for a huge variation in geometry specs, including top tube length, seat post angle, head tube angle, BB height, and so forth. For example, if you own a Dahon or a Downtube or a Brompton or many other folders, and don't like the reach, you're pretty much screwed.

    There's no magic involved in small wheels that makes them "better" for a one size fits all approach; any bike can be made that way. The "one size fits all" is basically a way of covering a broad market with as few frames as possible. Don't confuse that with an advantage.


    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    Nothing offers better ground clearance for luggage than small wheels which can accommodate on top.
    Dude. Seriously. The bottom bracket and entire transmission on a 20" bike is far lower than with any 26" / 700c bike. Putting the luggage up high seriously curtails your carrying capacity and load balancing. Keep in mind, I've toured several times on 20" bikes with different configs.


    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    Which is less expensive really depends on the kind of configuration you like and may be regarded as merely coincidental. Larger wheeled bikes certainly aren't always less expensive. I can't find a 17 pound bike with larger wheels than the Carryme and I certainly can't find a cheaper trike of comparable weight to the Carryall.
    Again, comparing like to like, the ability to fold adds to the price.

    E.g. a Bike Friday NWT with Tiagra / Capreo will set you back $2000. That same price will get you an Orbea Onix with a full carbon fiber frame and full 105. Or, for $1000 you can nab a Surly Long Haul Trucker with Tiagra.

    Comparing a 17 pound road bike to a Carryme is simply absurd; their functions and uses are completely incompatible. For example, there is no way you could use a Carryme if you're in 70-mile group ride in a paceline and averaging 20mph; and there's no way you can fold up a Pinarello Prince for a multi-modal commute. The comparison is fatuous.


    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    In order to compare like for like we need to look at wheels of the same weight. Since larger diameter tires are so much heavier they need to be much skinnier in order to achieve the same weight. This makes them less comfortable and compromises performance.
    There are numerous techniques available to lighten a wheel, including using a CF rim or tubular tires -- both of which would improve comfort.

    It's pretty clear though that a "standard non-aero 32 spoke 451 wheel" will be lighter, harsher, stronger and more aerodynamic than a "standard non-aero 32 spoke 700c wheel." The larger wheel has more material and more flex, and therefore soaks up more vibrations. The larger diameter also reduces the impact of dips and bumps in the road.

    Ergo, you have the design process backwards. To compensate for the harsher ride of the small wheel, the designer will use a wider rim, wider tire, and/or lower PSI; or opt for mechanical suspension. (E.g. the Dahon Speed Pro uses a suspension hub and steel frame in combination with high-pressure narrow Stelvio tires.) This provides an acceptable performance hit, as the smaller wheel is faster anyway. Even so, I and many others have found that 406 wheels with wide tires and the same PSI are harsher than 700 x 23c's.

    Separately, there is no reason why suspension is "easier to incorporate" with a small wheel; if anything, a smaller fork could mean less travel. Just because some guy wrote it on his website does not make it so.


    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    Now, yes, there are a few very specialist applications for which factors make small wheeled bikes inferior. These are, namely, riding off paved roads and competitions for which small wheels are simply disallowed. However, as I've said from the beginning, these applications are by their very nature pointless and, thus, the large wheeled bikes which they justify are also pointless.
    So because you do not participate or enjoy those activities, they are therefore "pointless" for ALL cyclists? That's patently absurd.

    Millions of cyclists enjoy off-road cycling. Millions like riding in clubs and fast group rides. Millions like to tour with more stability and comfort than is offered by most folding bikes. Triathletes abound. Pro cycle racing has millions of fans, and there are hundreds of thousands of amateur racers who enjoy the sport.

    And tens of millions of ordinary people simply do not need the advantages of a small-wheeled bike. Space is not at a premium; they don't fly with their bikes; they don't need to bring the bike inside buildings.

    By the way, there are competitions that allow any wheel size (e.g. triathlons), and yet somehow 700c wheels still dominate. There was even a brief period where triathletes favord 650c wheels due to the theoretical advantages of slightly smaller wheels; in practice, it didn't produce definitive improvements, so riders are almost all back to 700c. If 451 or 406 provided a tangible benefit, I have no doubt the tri community would be all over it like white on rice.


    Quote Originally Posted by makeinu
    Your so used to making compromises to accommodate large wheels that you can't see the forest from the trees.
    ...except that I spent about 2 years making compromises riding folding bikes exclusively, and short of dropping $2,000 on a Bike Friday, did everything I could to make them work for me.

    Despite the advantages of folding/20" bikes, I have found FOR ME that 700c works better. My 700c bikes are more comfortable; have better gearing; fit better; can ride on any surface; are much better for club rides; and don't take up more space in my tiny apartment than my folders did. Nothing you've said changes the fundamental character of my experiences and nothing renders my cycling activities "pointless."

    Am I losing something with 700c? Sure. I can't take my bike on the train during rush hour, and I need to use a car bike rack. I don't miss it -- and if I did, I'd pick up a folding bike without hesitation. At this time, the comfort, fit, performance and versatility advantages make 700c a net benefit for me. And thankfully, I can say that without disparaging the perfectly legitimate and enjoyable cycling activities of millions of people.

  17. #17
    Senior Member caotropheus's Avatar
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    I have bicycles in 3 wheel sizes, 451 mm, 559 mm and 622 mm. Most of the times I ride the folding, small wheeled bicycle because of the 342156 reasons we already discussed here.

    This issue of "small" wheels vs "big" wheels is discussed once in a while in the Folding Forums. If small wheels are so good and have so many advantages over bigger wheels, why I haven't seen them in major cycling competitions?

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    jur
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    Quote Originally Posted by caotropheus View Post
    I have bicycles in 3 wheel sizes, 451 mm, 559 mm and 622 mm. Most of the times I ride the folding, small wheeled bicycle because of the 342156 reasons we already discussed here.

    This issue of "small" wheels vs "big" wheels is discussed once in a while in the Folding Forums. If small wheels are so good and have so many advantages over bigger wheels, why I haven't seen them in major cycling competitions?
    Because since the day Moultons were shown to have an unfair advantage over big-wheeled bikes, the UCI has declared them and all other bikes that are not roadies, illegal for sanctioned races. In the HPV arena, small wheels dominate for whatever reason, at least demonstrating the fact that wheel size is negligible in performance.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

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    jur
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Dude. Seriously. The bottom bracket ..... is far lower than with any 26" / 700c bike.
    This is incorrect. They are the same height.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    There are numerous techniques available to lighten a wheel, including using a CF rim or tubular tires -- both of which would improve comfort.
    This is incorrect. Comfort is utterly dominated by the tyre. Wheels flexing simply do not have any impact at all. If they flex at all, it is lateral flexing which is bad for pedalling efficiency.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    It's pretty clear though that a "standard non-aero 32 spoke 451 wheel" will be lighter, harsher, stronger and more aerodynamic than a "standard non-aero 32 spoke 700c wheel." The larger wheel has more material and more flex, and therefore soaks up more vibrations. The larger diameter also reduces the impact of dips and bumps in the road.
    Again, tyres completely dominate the equation - larger wheels simply do NOT soak up more vibrations or anything like that. This is simply one of those commonly accepted cycling myths.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    .... I and many others have found that 406 wheels with wide tires and the same PSI are harsher than 700 x 23c's.
    Well first, you simply can't pump a "wide" tyre to the same PSI as a 700cx23; and even if you pumped said tyre to it's maximum rated value, the pneumatic response dominates. Yours is simply a subjective experience of an entire bike but you fail to appreciate that and blame the wheel size alone. Spurious.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Millions of cyclists enjoy off-road cycling. ...... If 451 or 406 provided a tangible benefit, I have no doubt the tri community would be all over it like white on rice.
    The argument by numbers. Yes, so many people can't be wrong, right? Well they can if that's all that they can buy. Ever tried buying a tri bike with little wheels? Ever seen one even? Market forces dude.
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  20. #20
    Hooligan Abneycat's Avatar
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    After having some trail time with my Pocket Llama now, I can say that the 20" wheels are adequate for cross country riding in most conditions, and are quite decent off-road in many types of terrain.

    They excel in tight maneuvering conditions, and track through most types of terrain quite well.

    They fall short in off-road use in the following:

    deep mud and sand
    larger rocks and obstacles which the smaller wheels will try to strike off, rather than climbing.

    The 26" wheels are better than the 20" wheels for true mountain biking, unless you're doing a tight and smooth singletrack. Would I race on 20" wheels? No, I wouldn't. No chance. But they're perfectly adequate for expedition / rough trekking bikes, in my opinion.

    (I am using Schwalbe Mow Joe 20x2.0 when off-roading)

    The 406mm wheel has proven to me to be perfectly adequate for novice - intermediate cross country riding. Avoid the technical stuff.

    I think that in my opinion, i'd continue to use the 20" wheel for my purposes quite readily. The largest difficulty is in finding good tires for heavy trekking. For example, from my favourite tire manufacturer in the 26" wheel, there are a bunch of good rough trekking tires - Schwalbe Marathon Extreme, Plus Tour, XR, Cross.

    The closest 20" offering is the standard Marathon. Although there are several comments on the Schwalbe website from people wanting a 20" heavy trekking tire, and there seems to be some interest. One can only hope!

    Its too bad the snow came back, I was wanting more rides on the little beast
    Last edited by Abneycat; 03-27-09 at 01:02 AM.

  21. #21
    小型自転車マニアック \(^o^)y
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    'Large's prolly pretty pointless for lots of us here in the fodl'n bike frorum,
    where we just might be a little biased towards liking, or finding things to like, bout things a bit more towards 'small'..

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    Senior Member bhkyte's Avatar
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    I would simply state that I find the limited advantagers in some circumstances of larger wheels beyound 20" are not great enought to justify a bike that is not multi- modual transportable. I found that my 20" downtube set up as a roadie was quick enought to make buying a road bike unnessary.

    JUdging from my experience ,and the Moulton evidence , for road use it least, the debate of wheel size is only worthwhile for competitive cycling. Other than than its a matter of market forces and personel preference.

    As for a mountian biking I feel a simular experience would occur with a 20" wheel specialist bike or a converted BMX bike that could fit in to cars easier.

    How do FS downtube owners or jetstream owners find the bikes compaire for non preformance riding compaired to their mountian bikes ?

  23. #23
    jur
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    Bacciagalupe: I have re-read the post that I debated some of your points and I am afraid I came across like an idiot. Sorry mate. With all respect.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Jur: No sweat. Feel free to edit your post if needed, I'll stick to mechanics & clarifications etc.


    Quote Originally Posted by jur View Post
    This is incorrect. Comfort is utterly dominated by the tyre. Wheels flexing simply do not have any impact at all. If they flex at all, it is lateral flexing which is bad for pedalling efficiency.
    Although I accept that tire properties are significant, I'm not sure why you make this claim.

    For example, it's widely accepted that smaller wheels are stronger than larger wheels; e.g. 26" are more common on MTB's because of the increased strength. This in turn makes the smaller wheel stiffer. Since you're using the same materials, increased stiffness also increases transmission of vibrations -- as does the lower mass of the wheel, assuming the materials are of the same type. In this respect, "flex is flex" - it doesn't matter which direction the material moves, what matters is how efficiently the "wheel system" dampens vibrations.

    Similarly, wheels with fewer spokes also tend to be harsher. The rims need to be stiffer, lacing patterns are different, there are fewer spokes to absorb shock, tension needs to be higher, and so forth.

    Separately, the smaller diameter results in a harsher response to bumps, divots and holes in the road. I hope it's quite clear that a sufficiently large enough wheel can cruise over certain sized holes, while a smaller wheel would dip into the same size hole. The angle of attack of a given hole is also harsher, and that may make a difference.

    Changing the rim composition has the same effect as changing the frame composition. If you switch to a carbon rim, that material will absorb more vibrations.

    If we were dealing with a small change in tire size (e.g. 650c to 700c) and keeping all other properties identical (i.e. same rim composition, same spoke type and count, same lacing pattern etc), I'd agree that alterations in tire properties will overwhelm structural properties. However 700c to 406 is a much bigger change, therefore structure takes on a much larger role.

    Or to put it another way: why isn't the mechanical suspension on a Moulton, a Pacific Reach, a Dahon Speed Pro, an Air Friday, or a Birdy utterly superfluous? These are all essentially road bikes, a category which in 700c almost never has mechanical suspension. Why don't 26"/700c folders like the Dahon Jack, the Pacific iF, the Montague CF "Comfort" use suspension? Or from the opposite tack: Why add suspension to ANY non-MTB bike, if all you need to do is lower the PSI of the tire?

    Something just doesn't add up about the "it's only the tires" theory.


    Quote Originally Posted by jur
    Well first, you simply can't pump a "wide" tyre to the same PSI as a 700cx23; and even if you pumped said tyre to it's maximum rated value, the pneumatic response dominates. Yours is simply a subjective experience of an entire bike but you fail to appreciate that and blame the wheel size alone. Spurious.
    Not really following you here. There are quite a few tire widths that are in the 100psi range for 406. E.g. Stelvios are narrow, Marathon Slicks were a tad wider, Marathon K's are much wider, all are around the same PSI range. With 700c, tire sizes can easily range from 21c to 28c for the same tire and PSI. AFAIK the PSI range doesn't change based on tire size, either.

    Also, I'm quite aware that "comfort" will be based on not just wheel size, but the overall design of the bike. One thing that reinforces my experience in that respect is riding a Dahon for about a year or so. That bike in particular had a steel frame (good dampening properties), no top tube (more flex), a long seat post (more flex), a long handle post (yet more flex) a few hinges (even more flex) and a substantial heft (28 lbs). Despite all these structures and properties, the Dahon had a bumpier and harsher ride than several 700c steel road bikes, especially on cobblestones, gravel and dirt roads -- even when comparing 65 PSI tires to 100 PSI 700 x 28c's. I'm not sure what can account for this, other than wheel properties.

    You can disregard my subjective experiences -- in which case, all such subjective claims need to be tossed....


    Quote Originally Posted by jur
    The argument by numbers. Yes, so many people can't be wrong, right? Well they can if that's all that they can buy. Ever tried buying a tri bike with little wheels? Ever seen one even? Market forces dude.
    You may have misunderstood my point here. I am not saying "more people ride 700c, therefore it's better." I'm pointing out that makeinu is inappropriately disparaging the legitimate cycling purposes, preferences and enjoyment of millions of people solely because he doesn't engage in those activites.

  25. #25
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jur View Post
    Because since the day Moultons were shown to have an unfair advantage over big-wheeled bikes, the UCI has declared them and all other bikes that are not roadies, illegal for sanctioned races. In the HPV arena, small wheels dominate for whatever reason, at least demonstrating the fact that wheel size is negligible in performance.
    Is this definitively true?! Hadn't heard that before

    Assuming it's true, I still don't get why the UCI would ban legitimate improvements to the sport. Why don't they ban carbon wheels, or lighter frames or stiffer bottom brackets, or electronic shifting?

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