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26" versus 29er for Commuting

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26" versus 29er for Commuting

Old 05-26-10, 08:38 PM
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PCMC
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26" versus 29er for Commuting

Hi everyone, first post. Did quite a bit of searching and still found myself needing a few questions asked. I want to start commuting to work, it's about 10 miles roundtrip, fairly hilly trip including a 2 mile gradual climb on the ride home.

I purchased a 26" last week, and find myself regretting not checking out a 29er first (to be honest I didn't know about 29ers for urban use until after I purchased the bike). I've always ridden single-speeds and fixie's, and this is my first segue into 26". Frankly, I find myself missing the roll of 700c on the two rides I've taken it on, but I do like how nimble the smaller wheels are. The reason I chose a mountain frame/wheelset over 700c is because the streets are so bad here, but I didn't know about 29ers which take the beating almost as well. I haven't found any 29ers with internal hubs, so I suppose I'd have to buy a single-speed 29er and have a wheel built with the Alfine or SRAM hub.

Anyway, the shop has offered to accept a return, so I figured I'd ask around before I decide to keep it. 26" does climb extremely well, but I suppose that I have a bit of buyer's remorse and need to be reassured or convinced to seek another bike. 26" versus 29" seems to be sort of like a Mac versus PC debate, so would love to hear from daily riders on the road.

So anyway, anyone out there riding 29ers for commuting, and if so, what do think about the 29er versus 26" debate on the road? All of the topics I've found on the web seem to tout the merits of rolling over tree roots and whatnot with the 29er -- totally not applicable in the city.

Thanks in advance.

Last edited by PCMC; 05-28-10 at 10:48 PM.
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Old 05-26-10, 09:18 PM
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29" gets you instant cool points.
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Old 05-26-10, 09:43 PM
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A "29er wheel" is a 700c rim that takes a wider/larger tire. A "29er frame" and fork have sufficient clearance for the larger tire and the geometry is adjusted to account for the larger wheels/tires. What you need to look at is the type of tires, wheels and bike you want based on the conditions you ride in.

Since I have many routes to choose from for my commute depending on weather conditions and my mood, I use a 26" disc wheels with 1.5" slicks for mixed use riding (dirt trail/paved MUP/road). I also have studded 26" tires for winter riding. On the same bike, I run Mavic Speedcity 700c disc wheels with narrow road tires (23/25mm) for "all road" commuting. The weight savings of the lighter road tires and innertubes of about 800 grams and lower rolling resistance provides a small increase in speed (around 1-2 mph).

The 700c wheels with road tires are almost the same overall size as the 26" wheels with slicks, so there is no problem changing wheels. Of course, this only applies since they are both disc wheels. Rim brake wheels are more difficult to swap out given that the braking surfaces are in different locations on a 700c vs. 26".

I have no desire to use heavier 29er wheels with heavier 29er tires. One area I don't want extra weight is in the wheels. Look at the specs and add up all of the weights (wheels, tires, innertubes) and you will see that there is a significant weight penalty in the 29er wheels. Personally, I think 29ers for commuting are slower and less efficient, but for some reason they are becoming increasingly popular.

I'd like to hear from 29er commuters to see if they have a benefit I am unaware of, other than just "they look better" or "they seem to roll faster."
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Old 05-26-10, 09:51 PM
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they roll over urban obstacles better and yes, they are faster than 26". simple fact.
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Old 05-26-10, 09:55 PM
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I like mine a lot. Never rode a '26er' on the road, so I can't compare.

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Old 05-26-10, 10:00 PM
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Before anyone suggests I change the gearing for the roads, don't waste your time. I use this off-road as well (duh!).
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Old 05-26-10, 10:01 PM
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I would rather have the 26" wheels here myself, it seems like a whole lot of tire to push to be honest. I love 700c rims, but I dont like pushing more than 28mm with them, they start to feel sluggish after that. I do like the look of 29rs and would like to have a mtb with them, but it wouldnt see the road very often.

EDIT: Mijome's ride looks suuuuper fun though
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Old 05-26-10, 10:13 PM
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Thanks. It's my 1st 29er and I'm having a lot of fun. I used to commute on an aluminum frame/steel fork/w/ 30mm tires 'cross bike, so I'll comment. That bike was rigid and unforgiving on my hands & wrists. It was faster because of the 1x9 setup.

Now the 29er has a steel frame/fork running (stock) 2.1 tires and is super comfy (on & off road). The tires roll well on the road @ 70 PSI and about 30 PSI off road. No more wrist, hand pain. I think adding the short/shallow drops helped that too.
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Old 05-26-10, 11:12 PM
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My winter commuter is a 29er, but I've gotta say I'm not sure it's better than 26" for commuting. The stop and start pace of commuting favors 26" wheels, and the extra weight of the 29er vs. a 700c tire is more noticeable in these settings too. Wide 26" tires soak up the rough pavement well enough.
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Old 05-26-10, 11:26 PM
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I always remember a comment I read at the vintagebmx.com forums: "Bigger wheels are for when you've admitted to yourself that you're old."
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Old 05-27-10, 05:56 AM
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[sarcasm]your life will never be the same once you switch to 29[/sarcasm]

IMO it doesn't matter what size
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Old 05-27-10, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
The stop and start pace of commuting favors 26" wheels, and the extra weight of the 29er vs. a 700c tire is more noticeable in these settings too.
IMO, this is the most relivent information in this thread. I ride neither 26 nor 29, but I've been doing a lot of research about the subject because I am in the market for a better commuter than on 700x23c (which I've put in waaay more places than I should be). From what I've read heard people talk about, the acceleration and effort from a dead stop is night and day with 26" vs 29". Another negative that I find for 29er is the extremely limited tire choices, availability, and cost. You can go to any Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, etc 24/hrs store and pickup a 26" spare... you can not for a 29".
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Old 05-27-10, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by mijome07 View Post
I like mine a lot. Never rode a '26er' on the road, so I can't compare.
Cool bike. What frame is that?
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Old 05-27-10, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Greyryder View Post
I always remember a comment I read at the vintagebmx.com forums: "Bigger wheels are for when you've admitted to yourself that you're old."
Yup, I'll never be as young as when I was riding that bike with the 12" wheels. I was 5 at the time, I think.
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Old 05-27-10, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by KrautFed View Post
Another negative that I find for 29er is the extremely limited tire choices, availability, and cost.
Last time I checked, there is a lot of 700c slicks to choose from. That is of course you're using it for commuting. If you're having to go to Mal-Wart to replace a tire, then maybe you should of bought quality tires from the get go. Or just carry a spare (folding bead).

Originally Posted by PCMC View Post
Cool bike. What frame is that?
2010 Dawes Dead Eye. It's disc ready (front/rear), but the hubs aren't. I had to replace the cheap @$$ stock wheels with some hand built from BWW. Sold some parts and replaced with better stuff.
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Old 05-27-10, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by mijome07 View Post
Last time I checked, there is a lot of 700c slicks to choose from.
Sure, there are plenty of 700c tires to choose from, but how many of them are wide enough that you'd consider them a 29er. This may seem like a matter of semantics, but if you're buying a 29er because of the way it rolls over rough pavement, you probably want a wide tire. Of course, there are still a number of good choices for a 29er, but that number is probably around 10.

Anyway, if you are interested in a tire that rolls comfortably over rough pavement, it seems to me that a fat, slick 26 inch tire does that better than a relatively skinny 700c tire. And if you're after a nice mix of comfort and quick acceleration, I think a 26x2.0 Marathon Supreme may be a better choice than a 700x32 Marathon Supreme.
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Old 05-27-10, 12:58 PM
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My daily commuter has 26x2" tires. I had a 29er,commuted on it a few times,and didn't like having to spin those big wheels up in stop and go traffic.

In my experience,if you want to roll tires wider than 32mm,you're better off going with 26" wheels.
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Old 05-27-10, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by KrautFed View Post
Another negative that I find for 29er is the extremely limited tire choices, availability, and cost. You can go to any Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, etc 24/hrs store and pickup a 26" spare... you can not for a 29".
schwalbe alone makes over 10 models that are appropriate for urban/hybrid riding. then you have other makers like bontrager, continental, and more after them as well. i'm not sure buying a tire at a CVS is the best idea anyways. better off keeping a spare in your garage if you really feel it necessary.
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Old 05-28-10, 05:31 PM
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I test-rode a 29er today and have to say I think I'm sold. Didn't notice any problem pushing the wheels around (city-ride tires), and the roll was great and felt much more confident to me. Think I'm going to go this route, thanks everyone for the feedback and advice.
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Old 05-28-10, 06:43 PM
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I just made the plunge in the past week to a 29er. I was commuting a few days a week on my road bike (aluminum frame, carbon fork, 700 x 28 C tires) and was tired of getting abused by the road conditions and suffering a high number of flats. My commute is a little over 8 miles over poor road conditions and substantial elevation changes (300+ ft elevation, 10% grades). I have a 26" MTB, but using it for the commute is out of the question simply because it does not climb well at all. I picked up a 29er with a front shock (and lockout) to tame the ride and a beefier frame to handle some light XC duties my MTB would be used for.

After a week of riding, I don't regret it a bit. The 29er does have a bit more weight than my road bike and, combined with the wider and more treaded tires, is about 10 - 15% more difficult to climb. The 29er also loses speed faster due to increased rolling friction. Surprisingly, though, the 29er's gearing really does quite well at handling the steep climbs and the long, fast downhills. Again, I do have to gear down a bit further on the 29er to keep the pace but it really isn't as much as I anticipated. Given the relatively modest shortcomings, the 29er more than makes up for the difference in ride comfort. The ride is a ton more comfortable and I find the cockpit ergonomics well suited to the fast open road and the tight downtown traffic. It's a great all-rounder for 90% of the riding I do, and it offers me the versatility to tailor it a bit to a specific use without changing the bike.

In the end, it is a trade-off but you have to look at what is most important to you. If you're willing to sacrifice a bit of weight and low-speed agility for a more comfortable ride and better high-speed stability, the 29er may be what you're looking for.
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Old 05-28-10, 07:32 PM
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It sounds like you made your choice PCMC. Because the only suggestion I could come up with was to ride a 29'r and see how you like it. Hopefully you tested it over the same or similar conditions as your 26" bike.
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Old 05-28-10, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mijome07 View Post
I like mine a lot. Never rode a '26er' on the road, so I can't compare.

love it!
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Old 05-28-10, 11:31 PM
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OP, as long as you enjoy the bike, you made the right decision. I would be interested in your impressions of using a 29er as a commuter after you have ridden it for a while.
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Old 05-29-10, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
OP, as long as you enjoy the bike, you made the right decision. I would be interested in your impressions of using a 29er as a commuter after you have ridden it for a while.
Thanks, now I'm just deciding which route to go. I rode a Marin Hamilton, Kona SS 29er and a Surly and they all actually felt great and natural (although I'm trying to figure out how the Hamilton is so damn cheap -- they must have cut costs somewhere). Here are the possible combinations I'm considering:

Marin Hamilton with 3-speed SRAM
PROS: cheap (as in inexpensive), won't worry about locking it up, lighter than 8-speed
CONS: no rear disc tabs, cheap (as in cheap), only 3 speeds (can't really justify an 8-speed at this price point)
PRICE: $367 from REI + $200 for new rear wheel with hub

Custom build Surly Karate Monkey frameset with 8-speed Alfine
PROS: high quality, durable, flexible setup
CONS: EXPENSIVE, attractive to thieves, heavy, would kill myself if stolen
PRICE: $1300-1500

Redline Monocog Flight with 8-speed Alfine
PROS: cheaper than Surly but still high quality
CONS: more than I'd like to spend, attractive to thieves, heavy
PRICE: $700 + $400 for new high qual wheelset with Alfine

Any input would be great, although I hate to say I'm leaning towards the Hamilton just b/c it's so damn cheap, it's set up like I want it to be with city tires and better gearing, and I've heard it's a great value. I dream of the Surly.

Last edited by PCMC; 05-29-10 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 05-30-10, 08:22 AM
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I would check out the Marin Muirwoods which is similar to the Hamilton, but with gears and disc brakes. Also, it would be less expensive than the Hamilton with a new rear wheel.
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