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Old 03-02-14, 04:26 PM   #1
MAK
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700c v. 26"

I'm considering a LHT. I'll be riding in the US so availability of tubes and tire should be no problem. I'm just wondering about the ride. I'll be on paved roads primarily (as much as possible), but could also find myself on hard gravel and dirt. Nothing too "off-road". Since I'd be the engine for both, how does the ride compare, does one take more effort, is one more stable under load, does one climb better, is there a perceptible speed difference, etc...? Any other considerations?

If it matters, I'm a big guy (+/- 200 lbs). I have been riding road bikes with 700c 23's for years and haven't had a problem.

You're the guys and gals who would know.

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Old 03-02-14, 07:13 PM   #2
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This my take on wheel size. I have 5 bikes 4 with 700c wheels and 1 Long Haul Trucker that I built up last fall. I purposely went 26" because I wanted the ability for wider tires, I run 26"x2", also when we go overseas again my thinking was 26" is more readily available.
As for feeling a difference? I really like the 26"x2" ride! It is quite comfy and though it may be a bit slower I have not found it to be much of a difference.
My wife and I, I built her one also, leave for our cross country tour in about 5 weeksand I know we will be on some rough roads and I am not at all worried!
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Old 03-02-14, 07:32 PM   #3
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I run both sizes on the same bike, and for off-road, prefer 26" wider tires, and on road, skinnier 700c tires. No significant difference in handling, but climbing is easier with lighter overall weight of the 700c wheels with light tires and tubes. On dirt, the wider tires allow me to ride faster, because it is less jarring. Pretty much confirms what everyone believes.
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Old 03-02-14, 08:00 PM   #4
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I'm considering a LHT. I'll be riding in the US so availability of tubes and tire should be no problem. I'm just wondering about the ride. I'll be on paved roads primarily (as much as possible), but could also find myself on hard gravel and dirt. Nothing too "off-road". Since I'd be the engine for both, how does the ride compare, does one take more effort, is one more stable under load, does one climb better, is there a perceptible speed difference, etc...? Any other considerations?

If it matters, I'm a big guy (+/- 200 lbs). I have been riding road bikes with 700c 23's for years and haven't had a problem.

You're the guys and gals who would know.

Thank you.
It doesn't make a huge difference but a 26" wheel is slightly stronger and stiffer than a 700C wheel. The shorter spokes make for a wheel that resist bending a little better. Bending results in fatigue of the spoke head and, ultimately, failure. Many 29er mountain bikes (really 700C mountain bikes) have problems with flexing wheels. You can get away with fewer spokes with a 26" wheel (32 vs 36 or 40) as well due to the shorter stronger spokes.

Another advantage is a lower low gear with a 26" wheel. A 24 tooth chainwheel combined with a 34 tooth cog will give a 19 gear inch low. The same combination with a 26" wheel will give a 17" low.
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Old 03-02-14, 09:00 PM   #5
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I"ve recently been testing 700c wheels vs 26" wheels. The bikes, wheels and tires are different between the two sizes so it's not a true Apples-to-Apples comparison but I think I've gotten a good feel for each size.

My perception is that 26" wheels accelerate faster and make the bike more nimble in tight quarters. They allow wider tires which really smooths out the ride.... a LOT. My perception has been that 26" wheels feel more stable but after riding a 26" Long Haul Trucker with < 40mm tires, I decided that stability was due to the wide tires. The 26" LHT with thinner tires felt twitchy to me.

My perception on 700c wheels is that they hold their momentum better. They are also lighter, which decreases perceived effort for a given speed.

I've ridden 700c wheels exclusively since 1995 and I've decided for my personal riding style, 26" wheels are better. If I was going to do day-long rides I would probably choose 700c wheels.
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Old 03-02-14, 09:16 PM   #6
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Since you will mostly be on pavement and gravel, I see no reason not to go with 700c wheels. They roll a little better but more importantly, it is much easier to find road oriented tires in 700c than 26". The quality of parts out right now makes worrying about durability differences between the two sizes a moot point since both can be built to be much stronger than you will ever need.
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Old 03-03-14, 12:20 AM   #7
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Back when it was challenging to find quality off-road tires for 700C, it made sense to go with 26" wheels for touring (although I always rode 700C on my singles and 26" on my tandems). Now that 29ers and cyclocross have become popular, you can get any width/tread tire you want for 700C, so there's no compelling reason to go 26" unless you are going to be riding in places where you can't get tires in other sizes or you are a long-legged, short-torsoed, short person (also known as a typical female). An added advantage of 700C/29ers is they smooth out the rough spots on the road a bit better than 26" wheels.

I wouldn't worry about the slightly longer spoke lengths of 700C. A properly built wheel shouldn't have spokes failing for too many miles/years to be an issue, and I say this as someone who has often toured with very heavy loads, including my own 190 pound carcass, with lots of off-road miles.
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Old 03-03-14, 05:34 AM   #8
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Either/Or... I have both and ride paved roads and packed gravel trails with both. FWIW my 26" wheeled bike is currently running 1.75" tires, my 700c 35's.

I am not a fast rider, my average speeds over the same route is about the same with both bikes. It is a tour.

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Old 03-03-14, 06:22 AM   #9
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+1 to B. Carfree's post above.

Stagecoaches used big diameter wheels for a reason. 700's may be less nimble on a single track but they may smooth out washboard a little better. If you travel a lot of gravel roads they may be a better choice.

One one trip I arrived in Crested Butte CO via Schofield Pass on my touring rig with 700x35's and set up camp about 8 miles out of town on a rather washboarded gravel road. I stayed for 2 weeks for their annual "Fat Tire Bike Week". After several days of cruising in and out of town on the 700's at full speed I rented a 26er mt bike with 2" knobbies (pre-suspension) for the Fat Tire Week. Suddenly the washboarded road was a jarring kidney shaker despite the wider tires. I suppose this could have been due to my more flexible touring frame but I suspect it was the wheels.

With the popularity of "29er" mt bikes fat 700's are now widely available. Make sure your rims and frame will take the extra width.

Last edited by BobG; 03-03-14 at 07:51 AM. Reason: typos
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Old 03-03-14, 07:56 AM   #10
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Stagecoaches used big diameter wheels for a reason. 700's may be less nimble on a single track but they may smooth out washboard a little better. If you travel a lot of gravel roads they may be a better choice.

One one trip I arrived in Crested Butte CO via Scofield Pass on my touring rig with 700x35's and set up camp about 8 miles out of town on a rather washboarded gravel road. I stayed for 2 weeks for their annual "Fat Tire Bike Week". After several days of cruising in and out of town on the 700's at full speed I rented a 26er mt bike with 2" knobbies (pre-suspension) for the Fat Tire Week. Suddenly the washboarded road was a jarring kidney shaker despite the wider tires. I suppose this could have been due to my more flexible touring frame but I suspect it was the wheels.

With the popularity of "29er" mt bikes fat 700's are now widely available. Make sure your rims and frame will take the extra width.
Sorry but I'm not buying. Scofield Pass is one of the most rugged of Colorado's passes and would be difficult to negotiate on a mountain bike with 2" tires without flatting tires or breaking rims. 35mm (1 3/8") tires just wouldn't be up to the job...especially if you were carrying camping gear.

Secondly, I've ridden washboard roads on both 26" wheels and 700C wheels. There's no real difference in their ability to handle washboards nor in the way that the bikes ride. If anything, the 2" tire (if inflated properly) adds cushion that the 1 3/8" tire can't without pinch flatting the smaller volume tire.
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Old 03-03-14, 08:52 AM   #11
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Sorry but I'm not buying.
Well, here's a picture then! Some of us were doing this before mt bikes were invented, It was called "rough stuff".

Slide is dated 1989. This is the rubbly Jeep road section on the way up from Marble. Above there I came across a lingering snowfield where I had to take panniers off, carry them over and come back for the bike. From the top of the pass down to Crested Butte it was a lot smoother, just a lot of wash board. As I recall tires were Avocet Cross 700x35, no flats from Canada to NM including travel around CB..........


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Old 03-03-14, 08:56 AM   #12
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Sorry but I'm not buying. Scofield Pass is one of the most rugged of Colorado's passes and would be difficult to negotiate on a mountain bike with 2" tires without flatting tires or breaking rims. 35mm (1 3/8") tires just wouldn't be up to the job...especially if you were carrying camping gear.

Secondly, I've ridden washboard roads on both 26" wheels and 700C wheels. There's no real difference in their ability to handle washboards nor in the way that the bikes ride. If anything, the 2" tire (if inflated properly) adds cushion that the 1 3/8" tire can't without pinch flatting the smaller volume tire.
You would be surprised what can be done on skinny tires. I went an entire year only using my cross bike on singletrack. I fairly regularly take it down trails in town people even shuttle with downhill bikes (to be fair, in my opinion a full on DH bike is overkill on this trail) It takes fineness but it is no where near as bad as people think if you have a background riding technical, rocky singletrack.
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Old 03-03-14, 09:29 AM   #13
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What kind of touring do you plan to do? Loaded with camping gear, lightweight credit card touring (staying in motels, B&Bs and hostels) or are you not touring on it? You are a heavy rider, the touring gear weight therefore is an important issue, that is why I think it important that you tell us your plans for the bike.

Also, you did not say if you are looking at a big or small frame size. If toe overlap is a big issue to you, the 26 inch wheels would be a benefit but toe overlap usually not a big concern to most riders.
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Old 03-03-14, 10:51 AM   #14
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the MTB has made such a world wide sales are such, that ,
... 26" tires can be found in village bike shops in the southern continents
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Old 03-03-14, 11:40 AM   #15
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What kind of touring do you plan to do? Loaded with camping gear, lightweight credit card touring (staying in motels, B&Bs and hostels) or are you not touring on it? You are a heavy rider, the touring gear weight therefore is an important issue, that is why I think it important that you tell us your plans for the bike.

Also, you did not say if you are looking at a big or small frame size. If toe overlap is a big issue to you, the 26 inch wheels would be a benefit but toe overlap usually not a big concern to most riders.
My plans are to do some inn to inn riding and then some weekend to week long self-sufficient touring. My road bikes are 56's so I'd likely be in that range for the touring bike. I will most certainly test ride everything and right now the Surly LHT, Trek 520, Novara Randonee and Raleigh Sojourn are available locally to test (if it ever stops snowing). Not too crazy about the Raleigh because of the gearing and spoke count, but I'll test it anyway. I trust the shops I deal with and know that fit and comfort are paramount. As usual, I'm probably doing too much research.
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Old 03-03-14, 02:21 PM   #16
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My plans are to do some inn to inn riding and then some weekend to week long self-sufficient touring. My road bikes are 56's so I'd likely be in that range for the touring bike. I will most certainly test ride everything and right now the Surly LHT, Trek 520, Novara Randonee and Raleigh Sojourn are available locally to test (if it ever stops snowing). Not too crazy about the Raleigh because of the gearing and spoke count, but I'll test it anyway. I trust the shops I deal with and know that fit and comfort are paramount. As usual, I'm probably doing too much research.
The biggest difference between the 26" LHT and the 700c LHT in 56cm is handling not generic differences in the size of wheels. Your criteria of "effort", "stability" and "climbing" are essentially the same. The 700c is slow handling and to my preferences awkward in tight quarters. The 26" version is surprisingly quick handling and responsive, when loaded down it still feels precise. Effort and climbing are primarily hp/wt issues. The LHT is a good mondo load carrier, if you don't see that as a capability you'll need for most of your riding and you want a nice handling general use road bike the 520 is a good choice. I had a 56cm 700c LHT, now have a 56cm cm 26" LHT.
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Old 03-04-14, 09:26 AM   #17
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Well, here's a picture then! Some of us were doing this before mt bikes were invented, It was called "rough stuff".

Slide is dated 1989. This is the rubbly Jeep road section on the way up from Marble. Above there I came across a lingering snowfield where I had to take panniers off, carry them over and come back for the bike. From the top of the pass down to Crested Butte it was a lot smoother, just a lot of wash board. As I recall tires were Avocet Cross 700x35, no flats from Canada to NM including travel around CB..........
First, I apologize for the ham handed way that I posted. It was wrong and I regretted it as soon as I hit post. I still disagree with you on the way that 700c wheels handle washboard vs 26" wheels handle it. I've done enough of both to know that the difference isn't as great as you make it out to be.

That said, you are certifiable! There are other easier way of getting from Carbondale to Crested Butte on a touring bike. Scofield Pass isn't "rough stuff", it's insane stuff on a road bike.
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Old 03-04-14, 10:47 AM   #18
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There are other easier way of getting from Carbondale to Crested Butte on a touring bike. Scofield Pass isn't "rough stuff", it's insane stuff on a road bike.
Yes, I know Kebler Pass is easier but I was a young 41 year old in good shape and felt like tackling it as I was headed for a USFS campground on the Schofield Pass Road. On the climb up I was just going too slow to hit any rocks with enough impact to do any damage and the bag weight provided traction. The eastbound descent is a 2 wheel drive gravel/dirt road, no problem.

On a subsequent trip I came into CB from the east over Cottonwood and Cumberland Passes on the same bike with 700's. Also up in ID the 700's have been over Lemhi, Wolf Creek and Nez Perce Passes and over Gibbons Pass in MT. The recent addition of cross top brake levers make the downhills more doable. I use more of a hybrid touring/mountain bike now that takes fat 700's up to 45 width, a BG Rock'n Road.

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