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Thread: 26" VS. 700C

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    26" VS. 700C

    I know this has been covered a lot. I think I know all the arguments. I used to comute on a 26" montain bike with slicks, as good as it is, I don't think it ever rolled half as well as my touring bike, with 37mm tires even.

    I am contemplating building a custom frame, since I don't fit perfectly off the rack. I am struck with how many tire choices there are for 26" wheels, even for touring. They weigh less, spares are easier to pack. I have some very racy Bontrager rims 36H for 26" a custom deal back in the early days of MTBs, never used. I like the fact one can get gear lower on a 26" frame, I like the extra space for bottles.

    I was contemplating making a 26" rear vs 700c front, but the tire spare requirements are holding me back. The lower 26" gearing is right up my alley.

    My only reservations are rolling resistance and the rougher ride. I saw some Panaracer kevlar armoured tires 26'x1.25, and they look just right, but would they roll with proper inflation, and would they shake my teeth out pound for pound of pressure versus the 700C?

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    Given the same inflation pressure, tyre model/width, and number of spokes, the 26" wheel will be the faster one.
    The main reason road bikes have larger wheels is gearing and tradition.
    The top gear of a 26" wheel vs a 700C, is 6% lower, given identical gearing.

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    I'm Carbon Curious 531phile's Avatar
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    I don't want to hijack this tread, but I interested in finding a lightweight road bike that uses 26" wheels. I know there's the surly LHT in smaller models, but it's heavy. Anyone know of a make and model. Anyone make them during the 80s 90s?

    Quote Originally Posted by avner View Post
    I loled. Twice. Then I cried. Then I rubbed one out and cried again, but thanks for sharing.

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    Thorn make some good models at sjscycles.com

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    I wouldn't buy a Thorn after the way i was spoken to by Robin.

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    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    I avoid Panaracer tires after too many flats with kevlar Paselas. Maybe it was just a string of bad luck, but the problem ceased after going back to Contis.

    I know for a fact that Fuji made small 26" wheeled road bikes in the 80's as I bought and resold one recently.

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    So halfspeed, what was your impresion of the rolling resistance issue, and what tires would you buy for 26 specifically?

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    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1
    So halfspeed, what was your impresion of the rolling resistance issue, and what tires would you buy for 26 specifically?
    I used the Panarcers on 27" and 700c wheels. I don't put enough mileage on 26" wheels to have anything intelligent to add to that part of the discussion.

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    Older I get, Better I was velonomad's Avatar
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    I ride both and have so for over 15 years. IMO when all things are equal, (tire contruction, profile and pressure) the difference is equal to the width of a gnats's azz. I use 26" for touring these days because the wheels are slightly stronger and strong 26" rims are cheaper than 700c.
    If the hypothectical situation of being stuck in BFE with a torn up tire occurs, A 26" tire can be found at many hardware stores , K-Mart or the evil "W". On the other hand a 700c tire can be fedex-ed overnight.
    My advice is go with your gut feeling, and since this is going to be a custom frame your frame builder is going to have his opinions also
    Last edited by velonomad; 01-29-06 at 01:16 PM.

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    All well said, above. I can only add to the chorus.

    The advantages of 26" are: slightly stronger wheels (all other things being equal), and easier to find tires in the boonies. I've used Specialized Fat Boys (26x1.25) at 100psi for almost 20 years on tours. They're slicks, they're "fast". And very few flats. Of course, if you use knobbies, you're gonna get rolling resistance.

    If 700c wheels are "faster" than 26", it's simply because there's lower friction in the hubs. You can calculate it, it's a 4% or less difference in angular speed. However, the friction in good quality hubs is certainly less than 1% of the forces you overcome in pedaling. (Of course, "all things being equal" -- different tires&wheels would affect wind and rolling resistance, etc.) I can't imagine how you could notice the difference.

    I'm a die-hard 26" fan for touring. Part of that is from happy experience, part is because I need fewer parts to maintain my stable of bikes. Also, I'm not a big guy, 5'9", so the geometry works for me. Bike geometry for taller people might be the deciding factor for 700c.

    -- Mark

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    I'm taller, and I intend to build the exact same geometry into the larger bike, except I will make fitting related changes I would make if I was building a 700C. I did run into the tire resupply problem last fall, but that isn't the motivating factor in this case. I'm just trying to come up with the best combination. I find my current bike just rolls out better than most other bikes I end up next to on a hill, regardless of how trick, and even if they are running 700s, for that mater. It may just indicate there is an advantage to new components. Maybe changing out bearings is worthwhile, before each trip.

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    I just have to say here, regarding Thorn cycles, that Robin Thorn has an astonishingly good reputation for personal service. This is the first negative comment I've ever heard about him. Thorn makes several extremely high-quality touring bicycles and frames, and they make a strong case for the 26-inch wheel.

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    The Thorn Nomad is my dream bike. I dream of someday being able to get one. Maybe even just a frame. I have a full suspension mountain bike that I do not use anymore so I could use the parts from it on the frame of my Nomad. Some day...

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    The Schwalbe Marathon Slick is a nice compromise in an urban-style puncture resistant tire that still gives you good speed. Compared to the Specialized Nimbus EX Armadillo, which is a more armored tire, the ride is smoother, even though the Schwalbe tire is a 35, compared to the Armadillo 38.

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    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    The Specialized Nimbus EX (now simply called "Nimbus") and Nimbus Armadillo are two different tires, Armadillo being the heavier one. I use the Nimbus EX in 700/32c and I'm satisfied.
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

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    So many different opinions... I prefer bigger wheels since they tend to smooth out the road better. I use 700c wheels on my mountain bike for that reason (or 29" as they are called in that area).

    In regards to Panaracer tires, I have had great luck with Panaracer Tserv tires. Very grippy and very few flats.

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    What is the actual diameter of a 26" wheel with a touring tire on it like the Schwalbe 35?

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    I am in the process of getting a custom frame built. The torch should hit the metal any day now. I agonized for months, even before talking to the builder, about which size of wheel to build the bike around.

    The debate about which wheel is more efficient seems to always revolve (pun intended) around rolling resistence and such. I cant see that that is a huge issue. To me, what seems to be over looked is the circumference of the two wheels. Look at Sheldons gear calculator chart and select "meters development" this gives the number of meters a given wheel will travel for each revolution of the crank. With the same drivetrain selection and cadence enter the two wheel sizes with the typical tire you would put on each. For me it would be a 26x1.5 and 700x37. The way I read it, and anyone can correct me, is that you are going to go further on a 700 wheel that on a 26 for the same amount of energy expended. Roughly about 6-8%. Doesnt sound like much but when we talk about increasing our car's fuel efficiency by 6-8% it is a big deal.

    In the end, after much fretting and sleepless nights, for my size (5'6") I chose a 26" wheel. Partly because of general sizing and standover and partly because of looks, its more proportional. I do think it will be a bit more of a slug over the 700 but that is the choice I made.

    My 2cents.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1
    What is the actual diameter of a 26" wheel with a touring tire on it like the Schwalbe 35?
    A 26x1.5 is about 25", a 700x32 is about 27"

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    Quote Originally Posted by sth
    The debate about which wheel is more efficient seems to always revolve (pun intended) around rolling resistence and such. I cant see that that is a huge issue. To me, what seems to be over looked is the circumference of the two wheels. Look at Sheldons gear calculator chart and select "meters development" this gives the number of meters a given wheel will travel for each revolution of the crank. With the same drivetrain selection and cadence enter the two wheel sizes with the typical tire you would put on each. For me it would be a 26x1.5 and 700x37. The way I read it, and anyone can correct me, is that you are going to go further on a 700 wheel that on a 26 for the same amount of energy expended. Roughly about 6-8%. Doesnt sound like much but when we talk about increasing our car's fuel efficiency by 6-8% it is a big deal.
    You go further on the 700cc wheel *per revolution of the crank*, but your effort is proportionally higher, since you are effectively in a slightly higher gear. To create equal *energy expenditure* you would have to run in a slightly lower gear on the 700cc bikke, then the speeds would again equal out. So it really does boil down almost entirely to the difference in rolling resistance, where 26" have commonly used fatter, softer tires and are, hence, slower. One could argue slightly higher bearing friction due to the slightly faster rotation of the 26" wheel, but that is miniscule and less significant than the amount of grease in the bearings.

    In the end, after much fretting and sleepless nights, for my size (5'6") I chose a 26" wheel. Partly because of general sizing and standover and partly because of looks, its more proportional. I do think it will be a bit more of a slug over the 700 but that is the choice I made. My 2cents.
    Nope, if you find good tires, it will be almost the same performance, and you gain several advantages with 26", so you made a fine choice.
    Specialized Roubaix SL4 Disc, Cannondale T2000 (touring), Stumpjumper M5 (Mtn - hardtail), Cannondale Rize4 (Mtn - full susp)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1
    What is the actual diameter of a 26" wheel with a touring tire on it like the Schwalbe 35?
    With a Continental Town and Country 26 x 1.9 (a fairly beefy street tire, with inverted tread), it is 26".
    Specialized Roubaix SL4 Disc, Cannondale T2000 (touring), Stumpjumper M5 (Mtn - hardtail), Cannondale Rize4 (Mtn - full susp)

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    Quote Originally Posted by sth
    The way I read it, and anyone can correct me, is that you are going to go further on a 700 wheel that on a 26 for the same amount of energy expended. Roughly about 6-8%. Doesnt sound like much but when we talk about increasing our car's fuel efficiency by 6-8% it is a big deal.
    Incorrect, I'm afraid. If only it were that simple. We'd be riding around on wheels 50-100 in in diameter...
    The size of the wheel only affects speed indirectly, through rolling resistance (depends on tyre design/materials, tyre pressure and road surface) and drag (mainly number, length and shapes of spokes, but also total wheel-tyre surface area and tread pattern).
    The fact that one revolution of a larger tyre takes you slightly farther doesn't matter. The power required has nothing to do with the number of revolutions per second. If you want to go 6-8% faster, you have to work harder - simply getting a larger wheel doesn't help at all (and in some cases, it can actually slow you down).

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    I have something similar on my mountain bike, but I don't have the tiny tires on them, and that is where my info falls off, but it sounds as though 25" might not be too far off. I need this measurement to start designing the frame. I think my recumbent has small schwalbes on it and my 700 has schwalbes on it so I should be able to get pretty close.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CdCf
    The fact that one revolution of a larger tyre takes you slightly farther doesn't matter. The power required has nothing to do with the number of revolutions per second. If you want to go 6-8% faster, you have to work harder - simply getting a larger wheel doesn't help at all (and in some cases, it can actually slow you down).
    I respectfully disagree.
    And, to not belabor the point at others expense, this will be my last post on it.
    Ive commuted different distances through the years and on different bikes. My
    commute last year was 14 in and 14 back every day. The 700x28 bike was
    noticably faster and more energy efficient riding in a brisk but not hard manner.
    The MTB didnt have a computer on it but by using the clock in my front office I
    would arrive anywhere from 5-8 minutes sooner on the big wheeled bike. Every time.
    I am riding the MTB now due to not wanting to beat the 'good' bike up. I am
    reminded every day how much more ponderous the MTB is. You can feel energy
    being sucked into the road and dying on every pedal stroke. This is with high
    pressure, low rolling resistant road tires, not knobs. There simply is no comparison
    between a 700c equiped bike and a 26'er. If 26'ers where faster, racers would
    be using them.

    Be safe.
    -ADVOCACY-☜ Radical VC = Car people on bikes. Just say "NO"

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    Quote Originally Posted by -=£em in Pa=-
    I respectfully disagree.
    . . . . .
    The 700x28 bike was noticably faster and more energy efficient riding in a brisk but not hard manner.
    Well, what does this tell us? Nothing! We know nothing about the two bikes except that they don't use the same diameter wheels. The fact that your 700 bike is faster could be caused by a number of factors. If your MTB is heavier, then that will make you slightly slower on it. If it doesn't fit you as well as the larger bike, that affects how you feel the bike handles and how efficient it is. If the MTB places you in a less aerodynamically efficient position, that can drastically slow you down. The tyre, unless identical in every way except for bead diameter, could be slower as well.

    The size of the wheel simply doesn't make a difference in favour of the larger wheel, given identical design. The reverse is true in this case.

    Quote Originally Posted by -=£em in Pa=-
    If 26'ers where faster, racers would be using them.
    No, they wouldn't, and they don't. For very good reasons.
    1. 700C-size wheels are available in lighter and more aerodynamic versions - a major factor for an elite racer.
    2. The size of the wheels is one of the factors determining the gearing of a bike. The larger the wheel, the higher the top gear is, for any given chain ring/sprocket combination. For pro racers, the top gear might be 53-11 or higher, and they're still able to push that at reasonable cadences. For equal tyre widths, the 700C wheel will provide a 6-7% higher top gear - giving them that extra bit of speed before they spin outside of their optimum cadence.
    3. The longer spokes offer slightly more cushioning. (I'm not sure about this one, but it seems reasonable... Do correct me if this isn't the case.)

    On the other hand, if we look at the fastest bikes ever, they typically have very small wheels.
    That's because they're not subject to UCI rules and regulations, limited team budgets, sponsoring parts manufacturers' requirements and many other factors...

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