I'm starting this thread to announce that there was a head-to-head 26'er vs. 29'er test done in the June issue of MBAction that I just downloaded.
Overall the 26'er won, but the 29'er had it's high points:
Both bikes were identical with the exception of the wheel size and fork size. For the 29" bike, they used a Gary Fisher Paragon 29'er and for it's competition built a same spec 26'er Paragon, using the HKEK frame which is the same only built around the 26" geometry. They tested them side-by-side.
Weight-26.6 lbs---25.6 lbs
Mud-26'er-Winner (29'er slower rotation packs up faster)
Overall Feel-Slower, but in a fun way---Quick, whippy, and responsive
Bumps--29'er winner by a long shot ---------
Quick/ tight Turning-- 26'er-winner (29'er cuts larger arcs)
Accelerating -Slow and Sluggish--- Winner hands down
Sprinting - Winner (already moving fast, feels natural) --- Quirky/lagging
Seated climbing - Can't get over the wheel weight --- Winner
Standing Climb -29'er has 1" longer stays / can't get weight over rear ---26'er wins
Braking - 29'er Winner ----------
Jumping - 29'er Winner more stable in the air/more control/feels more fun)
1/10mi accel. - 28.7sec --- 26.8sec
1/4mi hill climb - 31sec --- 26.6sec
1-1/4mi XC - 9min 16sec --- 8min 57sec
1/10mi DH coast - 29.6 --- 29.8
Overall for XC, the 26'er was their preference. They liked the 29er for rough terrain, obviously. They also liked it for very tall people or purist types who hate suspension bikes.
"The 29'er makes you feel invincible over bumps & walks all over the 26'er at speed. The Paragon 29'er will never climb or accelerate as well as the 'Paragon 26'er'. Mountain bike races are won on hills. (usually climbing them)"