So, still working on build ideas for my new rig. My problem is that on paper 29" wheels make a ton of sense, but ive ridden a fisher rig and a niner (for short rides) and they just didnt feel very maneuverable... Granted ive ridden my rigid 1x1 for 3 years and am totally used to the 26" wheel. So my main question to you dudes is are they as maneuverable once you get used to the wheel, or does the larger wheel just not move around in technical terrain like the smaller 26"?
Your center of gravity is higher on a 29er, so I suppose that would make it feel less stable (or "maneuverable") at lower speeds. I would imagine it's just a matter of getting used to the larger wheel.
at low speeds it may seem less manueverable, but at high speeds this translates into more controllable. take one out for a nice LONNGG ride, and by the end you will get it.
i was a 26" hold out claiming there was not a big difference, 29ers must handle like a truck blah blah blah, but now that i have one MY GOD they are so much faster downhill. the better angle of approach of the larger wheel keeps you speed up given the same bumps, and the additional momentum i feel helps on the climbs. traditionally people say smaller wheels climb better, for the road maybe, but in the dirt where there are large bumps (26" bikes) the bigger wheel is king.
just hope you're tall enough!
Just like any bike, the frame design is huge in terms of how a bike handles. You can get a 26" bike that doesn't maneuver very well and you can get a 29er that handles great. I've got a 26" single speed and a 29er single speed and got back and forth between them all the time, ride them in the same situations and don't find any issues with maneuverability.
Both of those bikes you tried have long top tubes, so if that isn't a set up you like or are used to then that might effect your perception. I have a Kelly and love the way it handles, feels like they got everything right. For that big I like the longer top tube since I run Jones H-bars and can use a normal size stem. The numbers on the Kelly are actually very close to the Niner FWIW.