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Why 650b

Old 03-23-16, 10:17 PM
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Why 650b

Why do many of the long distance riders use bikes fitted with 650b wheels over 700c or even 27?
What is the history behind this choice?


As a side question; why are there no wide tires for 27" or 630 ERTO.
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Old 03-23-16, 10:23 PM
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It's an old French thing. Same outer overall diameter but with fatter tires = similar handling, but cushier but equally fast ride. Also you can fit fatter tires on older frames that were designed for skinny 700s or 27s. There are not many fat 27" tires, because most frames can't fit them: not enough clearance.
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Old 03-23-16, 11:35 PM
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I bought a modern bike last year, in which the smaller sizes came equipped with 650b wheels & larger frames came with 700c wheels. For me, riding a 50cm frame there is potential for more toe overlap with a larger wheel size. Of course I'd only have actual issues going very slowly and turning sharply. I also like the wider cushy tires.
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Old 03-23-16, 11:45 PM
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That about sums it up, I'd say.

I don't think I need anything bigger than the 700c x 35 I have on my C-dale tourer (they seem awfully big), but never say never
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Old 03-23-16, 11:49 PM
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Fatter tires, and the ability to run fatter tires with proper fender clearance is the main reason.

There's no reason why you couldn't build a 700c bike and design it for fatter tires and proper fenders, but I can think of Rivendell as the only source. Start noodling around with frame geometry, you'll find that toeclip overlap can be an issue with fat 700c tires, but many believe that to be an overrated issue. If you clip in to your shoes and do lots of low speed riding, it can be. Platform pedal users learn to just "choke up" on shoe placement when starting out.

For me, the biggest bang for your buck is the ability to convert a vintage, steel frameset with 650b, add back most of the diameter with, say a supple 42mm tire, add fenders with proper clearance, and now you've got a great riding bike. You definately need longer reach brakes, but there are plenty of modern and vintage choices out there, so that's not an issue.
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Old 03-23-16, 11:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Velocivixen
For me, riding a 50cm frame there is potential for more toe overlap with a larger wheel size.
This is a big part of why builders use 650b wheels.

To totally avoid toe overlap with a 700c wheel on a small frame, there are different approaches that can be taken.
If you lengthen the downtube and top tube so that the cyclist sits farther away from the front, you wind up with huge reach. If you avoid the reach problem by only lengthening the downtube, the seat tube winds up really steep and you can end up with leg posture issues.
If you use a less steep head tube angle (and/or lots of fork rake) so the fork holds the wheel farther away, it can affect steering.

650b avoids all such sillyness.
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Old 03-24-16, 12:55 AM
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I got into 650b wheelsets because they make for really versatile city bikes. I've had like, five of them so far.

And while I've made a couple of local weekend forays on mine, if I were going to ride a properly loaded, long-distance tour (or in a foreign country), I'd go with a 700c or 26" frame since it'd be far easier to support in the field than a bike with an obscure French wheel size.

Originally Posted by gugie
There's no reason why you couldn't build a 700c bike and design it for fatter tires and proper fenders, but I can think of Rivendell as the only source.
With all due apologies, Gugie, I'm not exactly following your point here... are you talking parts or frames? There are several excellent 'off-the-rack' 650b frames on the market right now by makers other than Rivendell (Breadwinner; Rawland; Velo Orange; Soma; Grand Bois; Surly; etc.).

Of course, any 700c frame designed for disc brakes will work just fine with a 650b wheelset since the brake-reach becomes irrelevant.

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Old 03-24-16, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by bwilli88
Why do many of the long distance riders use bikes fitted with 650b wheels over 700c or even 27?
What is the history behind this choice?


As a side question; why are there no wide tires for 27" or 630 ERTO.

I understand that using smaller wheels, you can get much bigger tires to fit in a space designed for bigger wheels- I just, for whatever reason, like the bigger wheels.

I don't know why I have such an aversion to 26" tires. Knowing that bikes like Rivendell's Atlantis comes only as a 26" bike in my size is a turn off. For whatever reason, 700c/27" wheels just look more "right" than smaller wheels.

For what I seem to have adopted as my style of riding, 27 x 1 1/4" Pasela TourGuard/Protection Technology seem to be my favorites- I do like the slightly bigger Sand Canyon tires and may switch to them as my Paselas wear out, but I do like the Paselas. IMO- there's a big difference between the 27 x 1 1/8" and 1 1/4" tires- I don't feel like I get that same level of effect going from the 1 1/4" to the 1 3/8" tires. I'm also very intrigued to try the Compass/Grand Bois tires- but most of my bikes are 27" wheeled...

As far as 27" tires- this is my post from the 27" tire thread:

Originally Posted by The Golden Boy
And for the 27" tire thread- these are a couple of my posts from another thread about tires



[/URL]


I have the tires mounted on some Super Champion (I assume Modele 58) rims- and for comparison porpoises, a Pasela PT or TG or whatever on a Wolber Model 58:

[/URL]
[/URL]
[/URL]
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Old 03-24-16, 06:56 AM
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Was not aware of those 27x 1 3/8" tires, might be good on the paramount tandem.
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Old 03-24-16, 07:31 AM
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Old 03-24-16, 07:39 AM
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A couple of years ago I built up a pair of 650B wheels after reading an old Rivendell reader. I had some frames without wheels, so I chose 650 just to see if I'd like them; and I found out that I do.

I like wide 650B's because: I can fit bigger tires and fenders on a 21" frame; bigger tires allow me to ride comfortably on dirt, gravel, bad roads etc.; they also look right on a smaller frame; and the wider tires are more stable if I hit a hole or a crack in the road.

As to the question "Why aren't there wide tires for 630 ERTO rims? I think it is probably a marketing decision. Maybe you can do something like the French fans of 650B did; form an organization to ask a tire manufacturer to make such a tire. See Confrérie des 650 | Le blog de l'association and read about how they kept the 650B size alive in France.

There are people such as Lennard Zinn who think tire size should increase with the rider's size. But for me at 5'7"", 650B is just right.
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Old 03-24-16, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by gugie
There's no reason why you couldn't build a 700c bike and design it for fatter tires and proper fenders, but I can think of Rivendell as the only source.
Yeah, I'm gonna disagree with you on that one, [MENTION=381793]gugie[/MENTION]. The whole gravel bike industry that's cropped up in the last couple of years is built around running large cyclocross tires. I run my Handsome with 32s and full fenders, but it could easily fit 35s with them or 42s without.

All-City, Surly, Soma, Black Mountain Cycles all have models that can run up to 700x42c, but of course most of them use cantilever or disc brakes. But I have a couple of buddies with an All-City Mr. Pink, their pure road bike frame, and it can 700x32c.
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Old 03-24-16, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by DIMcyclist
I got into 650b wheelsets because they make for really versatile city bikes. I've had like, five of them so far.

And while I've made a couple of local weekend forays on mine, if I were going to ride a properly loaded, long-distance tour (or in a foreign country), I'd go with a 700c or 26" frame since it'd be far easier to support in the field than a bike with an obscure French wheel size.



With all due apologies, Gugie, I'm not exactly following your point here... are you talking parts or frames? There are several excellent 'off-the-rack' 650b frames on the market right now by makers other than Rivendell (Breadwinner; Rawland; Velo Orange; Soma; Grand Bois; Surly; etc.).

Of course, any 700c frame designed for disc brakes will work just fine with a 650b wheelset since the brake-reach becomes irrelevant.
VO dropped their only 650b frame, the Polyvalent. The rest are 700c or 26. They mention that they may bring it back as a disc brake model. It seems that the days of the 650b rim brake wheelset are fading despite the efforts of Jan Heine and Grant Peterson. The choices are very few and fairly pricey. Meanwhile, 650b disc wheelsets are proliferating because of the 27.5 revolution on the mountain bike side. I think 650b disc brake bikes like the Surly Straggler are the future for 650b road bikes.
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Old 03-24-16, 07:59 AM
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VO says they are redesigning the Polyvalent, with a shorter top tube and possibly disc brakes.
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Old 03-24-16, 08:10 AM
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I have been riding some 700c x 42 on my city bike/hybrid. They are Continental Tour Guard Plus tires and wear like iron and have only flatted once. I also have been using them on my SS MTB but recently changed to some Schwalbe Big Apples 700c x 50 which are really supple and fast. I like the larger tire and it's capability to roll over small bumps and the suppleness that absorbs other bumps and ripple.
My Road bike is running the Continental Tour Guard 700c x 38 on the front and need a 35 for the rear I can't put fenders on it. I am hoping to modify one or both of my 78/77 Raleigh SuperCourses to possibly fit some big 700c tires and some fenders with some Cantis. I like the 700c size because over here in Cambodia I can't get any good 650b.

I would like to get some of Bruce Gordon's Rock and Roads and try them here.
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Old 03-24-16, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by DIMcyclist
I got into 650b wheelsets because they make for really versatile city bikes. I've had like, five of them so far.

And while I've made a couple of local weekend forays on mine, if I were going to ride a properly loaded, long-distance tour (or in a foreign country), I'd go with a 700c or 26" frame since it'd be far easier to support in the field than a bike with an obscure French wheel size.
+1, the common denominator worldwide seems to be 26" for the rare few that decide on an African safari, South America, or cross-Asia tour. Or if you'd just like to have the one bike that you could ride anywhere and worry the least about spare tires

Originally Posted by DIMcyclist
With all due apologies, Gugie, I'm not exactly following your point here... are you talking parts or frames? There are several excellent 'off-the-rack' 650b frames on the market right now by makers other than Rivendell (Breadwinner; Rawland; Velo Orange; Soma; Grand Bois; Surly; etc.).
Specifically I noted 700c fat tires with fenders, should have stated that I consider fat tires to start at 42mm and beyond The only frames I could think of at the time were Rivendell. Surly was an obvious choice I missed - and you can easily find a quote by Grant P. where he implies that they're doing it as well.
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Old 03-24-16, 09:00 AM
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I wish I had either measured or taken pictures of my 78 Supercourse with the 700c x 37 tires. I think that I could fit a bit larger, maybe 42mm, but might not be able to fit fenders.
I think that my 73 could fit 42s with fenders.
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Old 03-24-16, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Paramount1973
VO dropped their only 650b frame, the Polyvalent. The rest are 700c or 26. They mention that they may bring it back as a disc brake model. It seems that the days of the 650b rim brake wheelset are fading despite the efforts of Jan Heine and Grant Peterson. The choices are very few and fairly pricey. Meanwhile, 650b disc wheelsets are proliferating because of the 27.5 revolution on the mountain bike side. I think 650b disc brake bikes like the Surly Straggler are the future for 650b road bikes.
??? Seems to me that just the opposite is occuring. There are more 650b road tires and "rim brake" rims than ever before.

Perhaps designing to 700c on larger frames, and 26" on smaller frames is the smart choice. But, reminding everyone that this is the C&V forum, putting 26" wheels on a vintage frame designed for 700c is a pedal strike disaster waiting to happen, and pretty much forces you to braze on either forces you to braze on cantilever or centerpull posts. Going from 700c to 650b there are several long reach brake choices that don't require altering the frame.
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Old 03-24-16, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by icepick_trotsky
Yeah, I'm gonna disagree with you on that one, @gugie. The whole gravel bike industry that's cropped up in the last couple of years is built around running large cyclocross tires. I run my Handsome with 32s and full fenders, but it could easily fit 35s with them or 42s without.

All-City, Surly, Soma, Black Mountain Cycles all have models that can run up to 700x42c, but of course most of them use cantilever or disc brakes. But I have a couple of buddies with an All-City Mr. Pink, their pure road bike frame, and it can 700x32c.
Hey, you're not disagreeing with me. Riv was the only one I could think of at the time, so you're just thinking more!
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Old 03-24-16, 09:40 AM
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I've ridden narrow 700c, wide 700c, 650x38b, and various widths of 26" (559). My gofast bike is 700x23c. My everyday/rain/commute/rando bike is 650x38c.If I had to chose one, it'd be 650b. Why?
  1. 650b's spin up noticeably faster than comparable-width 700c’s. They may not be lighter but to me they FEEL lighter.
  2. 38mm tires at appropriate pressures (60-70psi for me) have a sublime ride quality and don’t feel “squishy” IMO.
  3. They handle bad pavement, gravel, etc with great aplomb
  4. A high quality, high performance 650x38b (Soma B-Side, Panaracer Pari-Moto) rolls just as well as a comparable 700x23c, IME
  5. You can (usually) fit 650x38b’s AND FENDERS on a bike built for 700x25c’s. I live in Oregon. It rains here. I use fenders.

  6. (Overlap’s not an issue for me: I ride a 62-66cm frame, but still love 650b’s)
  7. 559’s are OK, but don’t work well with existing road frames and don’t have as many roadworthy tire options as 650b.
Don’t get me wrong – I dearly love my 700x23c gofast bike and would hate to have to give it up, but if it came down to it I could live happily with only 650x38b’s.

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Old 03-24-16, 09:52 AM
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Aside from the reasons above, 650B can be used for smaller bikes. Georgena Terry has two good videos on building smaller bikes and why 650B can be a better choice. The second video is the one that gets into wheel size.

Part 1
Part 2

She specializes in bikes for women, but I think a lot of the design choices work for shorter people in general.
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Old 03-24-16, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by gugie
Hey, you're not disagreeing with me. Riv was the only one I could think of at the time, so you're just thinking more!
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Old 03-24-16, 11:20 AM
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I just reread this thread, and all the reasons for 650B are good, but I see that the OP asks why long distance riders use 650B, and I think one reason is the influence of Bicycle Quarterly and Jan Heine. His journal and blog have helped popularize randonneuring and 650B bikes in general. there is a lot of interesting material in his magazine, but personally I don't see the attraction of sleep deprivation or riding for 24hours straight. Maybe there is more on the longdistance forum.
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Old 03-24-16, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by gugie
??? Seems to me that just the opposite is occuring. There are more 650b road tires and "rim brake" rims than ever before.

Perhaps designing to 700c on larger frames, and 26" on smaller frames is the smart choice. But, reminding everyone that this is the C&V forum, putting 26" wheels on a vintage frame designed for 700c is a pedal strike disaster waiting to happen, and pretty much forces you to braze on either forces you to braze on cantilever or centerpull posts. Going from 700c to 650b there are several long reach brake choices that don't require altering the frame.
Actually, it looks like the market is moving away from 650b rim brake wheels. VO is down to one rim offering in 650b and has introduced two rims in 26 size to go with their new frames. Velocity has two choices but they are about $70 to $100 a rim. It doesn't look like Sun offers the CR18 in 650b any more. Complete 650b rim brake wheelsets are going to set you back about $400. Harris doesn't have any of their $280 Velocity wheelsets in stock and haven't for months. The tire selection is better but I think you are seeing the effect of 27.5 mountain bikers that want to run slicks on their bikes for commuting. I can find more 27" rim offerings than I can 650b rim brake versions.
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Old 03-24-16, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Paramount1973
Actually, it looks like the market is moving away from 650b rim brake wheels. VO is down to one rim offering in 650b and has introduced two rims in 26 size to go with their new frames. Velocity has two choices but they are about $70 to $100 a rim. It doesn't look like Sun offers the CR18 in 650b any more. Complete 650b rim brake wheelsets are going to set you back about $400. Harris doesn't have any of their $280 Velocity wheelsets in stock and haven't for months. The tire selection is better but I think you are seeing the effect of 27.5 mountain bikers that want to run slicks on their bikes for commuting. I can find more 27" rim offerings than I can 650b rim brake versions.
I see a few more options in rim-brake 650B rims: Velocity actually lists five 650B rim models on their website, all of which look to be rim brake compatible. Compass sells Grand Bois rims. xxcycle.com in France sells the Ambrosia Keba rim (though it's listed as not currently available; it has been in the past).
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