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  1. #1
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    700 vs. 27 why the switch?

    ok, the roadie section has no interest in this...

    Man, I can't believe I want through all that registration for one silly question, but this has been bothering me. Does anyone know why road bikes switched from 27" to 700c? Anyone that works as a mechanic long enough accidentally grabs a 27 and when installation is attempted one finds that it is significantly larger than a 700c.
    With all this hoopla about 29ers and bigger being better, why not the 27? Was it due to the quicker acceleration of the smaller wheel? Some kind of industry induced standard? The rest of the world snubbing the U.S. for its rejection of the metric system?

  2. #2
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    I don't think it's a silly question, but I doubt there's really a simple, clearcut answer. I think hook edged clincher rims probably had a lot to do with it. True racing bikes always used 700c, in the form of tubulars, even in America. And in America, if you weren't running tubulars, you were usually running 27" clinchers on road bikes. In Europe, 700c was common regardless.

    Once hook edge rims became common by the early to mid '80's, and the performance gap between tubular and clincher tires was narrowed because clinchers could run at significantly higher pressures than before because of the hook edge design, the 700c size began to show up on clincher wheels in America. There was a certain racy stylishness in running 700c's, even if you weren't running tubulars. That's my theory, anyway.

    The tire and rim manufacturers were probably behind it because it made things simpler for them. I don't think the reasoning had anything to do with any performance difference, one way or the other, based on the 8mm difference in diameter.
    Last edited by well biked; 11-19-07 at 04:12 PM.

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    This question gets asked a lot in the "Vintage" forum. "Well Biked" has answered the question about as well as anyone.

    There are still lots of "27" inch wheels around...I have two or three bikes that use them. If you are riding through most tiny villages in America, a hardware store is likely to have a few "27" inch tires on the wall, and so will the local K-Mart. And, outside of a "real" bike shop, finding a 700c tire can be impossible.

    So, if I lived in "North Moose, South Dakota", I'd be hanging on to my 27 inch wheels for a bit longer.

  4. #4
    Senior Member edp773's Avatar
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    Do you think it is because the rest of the world uses the metric system and and bicycle componets are made overseas?
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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edp773 View Post
    Do you think it is because the rest of the world uses the metric system and and bicycle componets are made overseas?
    This is probably the best answer. If you only have one market in the world that uses a goofy measurement, why make tires to fit their arcane measurement system? Especially when they don't buy that many bikes, per capita, to begin with.

    Mountain bike, on the other hand, started under our goofy measurement system and spread to the rest of the world. And we bought more of them in the early years than the rest of the world so they stuck with that measurement system.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I agree with the other posters. I suspect it also may have been fueled by the fact that there are/were more bikes per capita in the Europe (read metric) than in the US especially in the 700c size. As far as the 29'ers are concerned, IMHO it is nothing but marketing hype.

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  7. #7
    Senior Member deraltekluge's Avatar
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    Think about automobile tires...the common sizing system today is to give the tire width in millimeters, and the wheel diameter in inches. Are bicycle tire sizes any weirder?

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    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    This is probably the best answer. If you only have one market in the world that uses a goofy measurement, why make tires to fit their arcane measurement system? Especially when they don't buy that many bikes, per capita, to begin with.
    So what size headsets are they using? How about pedal spindles?

  9. #9
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Here's a link to some of the 1984 Schwinn catalog specs:

    http://www.trfindley.com/flschwinn_1...984Ltwt18.html

    Scroll down to the rim and tire specs, and you can see that among Schwinn's three "competition" bikes that year, the top-line Peloton came with tubulars, the Super Sport came with high pressure 700 x 25c clinchers, and the Tempo came with high pressure 27's. Each year, the 700c clinchers "trickled down" further and further into the line. I don't think it was necessarily metric vs. English, just more of a performance-image kind of thing. The hook edged high pressure 700c's, presta valves, etc. were emulating the racing tubulars. As often happens, the trickle down effect eventually meant pretty much all road bikes made the switch, and 27's were phased out.
    Last edited by well biked; 11-20-07 at 10:57 AM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    I don't see too many 26x1 3/8ths tires or rims anymore.
    Anyone using 26x1 3/8ths?
    They are not compatible with 26x2.125, as the 26 inch measurement is the *outside* diameter.

  11. #11
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotbike View Post
    I don't see too many 26x1 3/8ths tires or rims anymore.
    Anyone using 26x1 3/8ths?
    They are not compatible with 26x2.125, as the 26 inch measurement is the *outside* diameter.
    That is the old 590mm rim size that only American bicycle companies used. The newer, MTB derived 26" rim is 559mm, and became the new standard for MTBs, comfort, and cruisers bikes.
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  12. #12
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    In the 70's even top of the line touring bikes used 27". And they were designed so that you could swap out to 700c just by moving the brake pads down. You could also put either centerpulls or Campy sidepulls on the same bike. It was the invention of the short reach brake that screwed everything up. With the brake bridge and fork crown moved down and clearances around the tire minimized so that only small tires fit; not only was the 27" rim size dead but all notions of decent size tires and/or fenders were no longer thinkable on a road bike.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    As far as the 29'ers are concerned, IMHO it is nothing but marketing hype.

    Aaron
    In fact, 700C rims and 29'ers are exactly the same rim bead diameter, 622mm. A wide 700C rim intended for road touring is likely to be the same as a mountain bike 29'er rim.

    Much of the confusion today stems from the archaic system of considering the rim and tire to be a single system and using the outside diameter of the tire as the size designation, exactly the opposite of actual current practice where rims sizes are relatively standardized and you buy the size and style of tire by width for your specific purpose. Thus in the old days, a narrow, low-profile tire might have the same outside diameter as a fat high profile tire which means the narrow, low-profile tire would require a larger diameter rim but both might be refered to by the same outside diameter designation even though they were not interchangeable.
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  14. #14
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DieselDan View Post
    That is the old 590mm rim size that only American bicycle companies used.
    And Raleigh and all the other English 26" 3 speeds bikes.

  15. #15
    I like bikes dr.raleigh's Avatar
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    I think its because most other countries already used the 700c size.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    And Raleigh and all the other English 26" 3 speeds bikes.
    Why am I replying to an ancient thread?

    37-590 (1-3/8x26) are a British size. AFAIK no American made bicycle had them. Of course a lot of department store imports had them. Schwinn also had a 1-3/8x26 tire but it fit on a 597mm rim not the 590mm rim of the British. I am aware of this because I just put some cheap new 37-590 tires on my 3-speed. Strangely they are actually only about 30mm in cross-section and just barely fit on the enrich rims, I would think they would be too narrow to use on a westricks (the drop center rim used on Raleigh Sports). However, they were very cheap, and are only intended to be used until I build the alloy rim wheels.

    For what it is worth the Brits & Scandinavians used one set of tire sizes, the French and Italians used another, and we Americans used yet a different set of sizes. Everyone making serious tubular tired bikes seemed to use 700 sized tires (I almost said rims, but that is wrong it would be 622 rims) though.

    150 years later we are still influenced by terminology from the days of high wheel bicycles where the diameter of the tire controlled how fast you could go.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edp773 View Post
    Do you think it is because the rest of the world uses the metric system and and bicycle componets are made overseas?
    If that were true then explain the logic of steerer tube and headset sizing.

  18. #18
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DieselDan View Post
    That is the old 590mm rim size that only American bicycle companies used. The newer, MTB derived 26" rim is 559mm, and became the new standard for MTBs, comfort, and cruisers bikes.
    I was going to say something , but I-like-to-bike corrected you.

    The 26 by one-and-three-eighths was found on all those three speed "English Racers", as we Americans called them.

    Also , My first ten speed was a 1976 Columbia with the 26x1 3/8ths tires.

  19. #19
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    I'd almost bet that material cost has something to do with it as well. It takes X amount less material to manufacture a rim or a tire 4mm smaller in radius, so for the sales volume, every Y wheel or tire is free from a manufacturing standpoint.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    I think a better question is--- why did we ever use 27" tires? Quality bikes here, and in Europe used 700 tires, why did 27s ever get used in the first place?
    Not too much to say here

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    slow as I ever was Ex Pres's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    I think a better question is--- why did we ever use 27" tires? Quality bikes here, and in Europe used 700 tires, why did 27s ever get used in the first place?

    Because the English and the French (and the rest of Europe for that matter) don't see eye-to-eye; and out of spite the English adopted 27", and we followed in their footsteps.


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  22. #22
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotbike View Post
    I don't see too many 26x1 3/8ths tires or rims anymore.
    I disagree. Any number of 26 X 1 3/8 tires or rims is way too many.

  23. #23
    "Purgatory Central" Wino Ryder's Avatar
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    The way I understand it, 27-in wheels started with the american 'bike boom' era in the mid 70's. American consumers were confused by the metric designation 700c and the japanese bike manufacturers, veying to fill the american demand, created the next closest size in American Standard of 27 inch for the adult bikes. This faired well all through the 80's and was even spec'd on some of the high end japanese bikes of the time. Europe on the other hand, was very reluctant to go to 27-in because most of their sales were domestic, and saw no need to change or add 27 inch tooling to the tried and true 700c measure, which they loved and embraced for over 50 years.

    European road racers for years and years rode on european bikes with their standard 700c metric designation and were'nt about to change. Because of this 'bullheadedness' of sticking to their guns, and the continuous wins in european racing, it eventually sealed the fate for the 27 inchers, and by the early 90's they were phased out.

    but then again, I could be wrong.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wino Ryder View Post
    American consumers were confused by the metric designation 700c and the japanese bike manufacturers, veying to fill the american demand, created the next closest size in American Standard of 27 inch for the adult bikes. Europe on the other hand, was very reluctant to go to 27-in because most of their sales were domestic, and saw no need to change or add 27 inch tooling to the tried and true 700c measure,
    Might be true but doesn't sound logical to me. My first derailleur equipped bike was a Raleigh Grand Prix (67 model maybe?) that had a sticker saying it was made in Worksop England. It had 27" wheels.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Barker View Post
    Because the English and the French (and the rest of Europe for that matter) don't see eye-to-eye; and out of spite the English adopted 27", and we followed in their footsteps.


    (Pure speculation but it sounds logical to me - now someone shoot holes in it with the truth )
    Fairly close. In reality Dunlop developed the 27" wheel size to try to keep other European tyre manufacturers from competing in Britain. It then spread to America and other former colonies, before eventually dying out.

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