29er questions (targeted at use in third world touring)
I've looked around locally (Philippines), and the only bikes I can find in my size suitable for touring of any sort, are 29ers. There are exactly 2 large (size 19) bikes in town (metro area of 1 million people), and 1 size 21 frame. One of those 19s is a downhill 26" bike, everything else seems to be 29.
One of the problems is that out in the country, 29" tires, wheels and so on are not available. The other is cost, only 2 shops in town carry tires and so on, and I will pay double to 4 times what a similar quality 26" will cost.
So, could I swap in 26" wheels without a huge penalty? I will be doing more gravel roads and trails used by Honda Cub motorcycles (which can get rough, but not terribly technical) than single track, and also a lot of longer distances, 100 to 200 km a day.
Then there is the fork question. How much would I affect the handling by substituting a 26 fork for a 29er? The reasoning is that if I don't get on with the MTB, I will convert it / reuse components in a recumbent. I have been riding recumbents for 8 years: my preferred choice, but not available here unless I build it myself.
I have thought about it. A few issues with that, including customs duties and taxes, and the poor reputation customs have here for being difficult and expensive to deal with. Plus shipping into the Philippines from overseas can be prohibitive unless the seller can be creative: most big stores aren't.
The other thing is that I will be using the bike more for touring on paved and unpaved roads as well as around town utility riding, than for trail work. If I was importing, then I would just go for something more comfortable. and load / long distance capable, like the Azub Max recumbent.
The 29ers are the only thing available locally in my size, unfortunately.