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700C vs. 26"

Old 09-05-09, 04:07 PM
  #1  
frpax
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700C vs. 26"

This has to have been covered many times before, but I am lousy at searching.

Anyway, I am curious as to what the differences are between 26" wheels & 700C, in a touring context; and why some of you prefer one over the other.

Again, sorry if this is an over repetitive topic.
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Old 09-05-09, 04:24 PM
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As long as it's a fatter tire I don't really care about the 700C versus 26" difference HOWEVER because I have a shorter inseam I feel like a bike created for 26" or 650B has better geometry for someone my size versus a taller wheel with a really small frame.
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Old 09-05-09, 04:35 PM
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Note: 700c and 29" is the same size. 29" is what mountain bikers call the 700c wheel/tire size.

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/forum...age=1&nested=0
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Old 09-05-09, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by matchy99 View Post
Note: 700c and 29" is the same size. 29" is what mountain bikers call the 700c wheel/tire size.
I am aware of that. I was asking about 26 (twenty six) inch.
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Old 09-05-09, 05:09 PM
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This article should answer most of your questions:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touring_bicycle
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Old 09-05-09, 05:15 PM
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26 is better. That`s because the other bikes in my storage shed have 26 inch non disc wheels with 8-speed cassettes, so I can easilly mix and match tires or wheels. Of course, if I already had a bunch of bikes with 700 or 27 in wheels....
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Old 09-05-09, 06:26 PM
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I'll add since nobody else did, 26" wheels and components are universally available. That's their most important attraction for touring cyclist.
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Old 09-05-09, 07:22 PM
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Yeah, availability is why some folks go with 26 over 700. Also, the smaller diameter, the stronger the wheel will be, all else equal. With modern spokes and rims, that really isn`t an issue unless you`re carrying a HUGE load. The advantage of 700 or 27 inch is that the bigger the diameter the better it will roll. Again, it`s a pretty minor difference. Wheel size wouldn`t be a deal breaker for me unless it was some kind of oddball size, though some people are more passionate about it than I am. In the US (and apparently Canada and western Europe too), mtb 26" (559) and 700c (622) rims and tires are available fairly easilly in a wide variety. Less so with 27 inch (630), but they`re around too. Any of those sizes will work just fine in US, Canada and Europe.
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Old 09-05-09, 08:03 PM
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In general, 26" wheeled bikes have the ability to fit larger tires, since 26" is traditionally seen as "mountain bike" size. So, larger tires are useful in a touring context because they allow for more offroad touring, and more air = more suspension and cushioning, which is more comfort. Larger tires also help to prevent pinch flats. Another one of the big reasons for going with 26" is that it's what you'll find in most other countries, particularly out-of-the-way places like South America, Africa etc. Also, as others have mentioned, with all else being equal, a 26" will be stronger than the equivalent 700C. And last but not least, for smaller sized frames, 26" makes better sense as a wheel size since it allows the frame to be built without having to make compromises in order to shoehorn in the larger wheel size. That can have impact in areas like toe overlap with the front wheel, for example.

That said, a lot of people prefer 700C size wheels. Some of this is tradition, since "road" bikes have had this size (or close to it) for decades. The larger size gives a smoother ride due to the larger circumference. Some people maintain that 700C wheels feel faster on the road, though others vociferously reject that notion. You'll see lots of deep discussions about that go into physics and all sorts of theories. On the downside, 700C wheels often won't take as beefy tires as 26", so that as well tends to relegate them to "mostly" road use, with some offroad possible if your bike has been designed to take the larger sizes, e.g. 700x50.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that if you're planning a road tour in a first world country like America or Europe, then you can really use either 26" or 700C, but a purpose-built 700C road touring bike may be a little more efficient for a road tour than a 26" expedition touring bike. However if you're going to places like South America, Asia, Africa etc, then 26" is usually advised, mainly because you simply won't find any 700C components there (tires, tubes etc); also the roads can be very rough, so the stronger 26" wheels and huge tires make a lot of sense too.

For reference, the Ribbon of Road guys rode their 700C Co-Motion Americano touring bikes down to the tip of South America, and they had a number of wheel issues even though they were being (I think) directly supported and sponsored by Co-Motion:

http://www.ribbonofroad.com/journal.html

Read down quite a bit for the section titled "What´s left of my gear?" - here's the bit on the wheel:

"Rear Rim - Cracked the first time in British Columbia, replaced in Seattle, cracked again in Mexico, replaced in Guatemala. Cracked again in the Bolivian desert, replaced in Argentina. Current status of rim 4 - cracked on the Carretera Austral in Chile, glued and duct-taped together. Keepin´ my fingers crossed! Thank you Co-Motion Cycles for sending replacements!"

That's quite a lot of wheel replacements, really. It may have something to do with the 700C wheel size not being big enough to mount really big tires, I don't know, or it may have had other issues related to the wheel build itself.

This leads on to the final wrinkle, which is the 29er size. This is exciting (particularly to me, since I just bought a 29er Salsa Fargo). I knew little about this until recently, but basically 29er is what might happen if a 26" and a 700C wheel mated and had children. It's 700C in diameter, but wider, able to take huge, MTB-like tires. My Fargo can take up to 2.3" tires (with fenders! without, it'll take just about anything on the market). So this ameliorates some of the 700C "issues", such as not being able to support the rim from damage with large tires as you can with 26". You get the advantages of 700C (smoother rolling) and 26" (big tires). Ok, so the equivalent 26" wheel will technically be stronger because it's smaller and the spokes are shorter, but a well built, stress-relieved wheel should not have any issues to be honest. The only downside of the 29er size is the availability of tires, rims and tubes - it's a new thing, so not that many places have it. Problably even less than 700C. So it's something to consider, but if you're going into the back of beyond, then take your spares with you.

On this issue of "replaceability": In a recent thread on crazyguyonabike, someone made what seemed to me to be a pretty good point. Basically, loads of people tour on motorcycles all over the world. A motorcycle is a much more complex machine than a bicycle, with much, much more that can potentially go wrong. And yet, loads of people still go touring on their motorcycles to the back of beyond. Same with bicycles. I used to obsess about what might go wrong, "what if" this or that, but really as long as you have well maintained equipment, and reasonable spares for consumables (i.e. spare tires if you're going very far, spare tubes for sure, tools etc) then you should be fine. Everything breaks eventually. When it happens, it's almost always some little thing you didn't think of.

Although I can't immediately find any direct reference to what he's been using, I think someone else mentioned somewhere that Jeff Kruys has been touring on either 700C or 29er wheels for the last few years or so down in South America, and he seems to be doing quite ok:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/jk

So I think it's probably possible to overthink these things (I know I do, but I'm trying to moderate myself). For a long time I was wanting to get myself a 26" expedition tourer. But really, wheel size is probably secondary to getting the right bike that fits you well, has the necessary attributes to handle whatever you want to do with it, and (most important) makes you want to go out and ride it. For me, I'm excited about the Salsa Fargo, it's a nice fun bike to ride, and it's made for carrying a touring load on or off-road, so that's what did it for me. I decided to put my cogitations on 26" availability etc on the back burner and just go with the bike that spoke to me.

Neil

Last edited by NeilGunton; 09-05-09 at 08:11 PM.
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Old 09-05-09, 10:49 PM
  #10  
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Nearly forty years ago my first touring bike was 700c with clearance for a 28mm tire. This was good for most touring but I longed to take more off pavement routes. In the early 1980's I started touring on a mountain bike with 26 inch rims and 2.0 tires. Off pavement routes opened completely to me in Alaska,Western Canada, Mexico, Norway and South America. Great except I felt that I was missing something. On smoother fire roads and on pavement I felt like a slug. Changing tires did not help nor did a custom Ritchey team Comp with steeper road like angles.

In 1989 I ordered a Bruce Gordon RNR with 700x45 wheels. I had regained what had been missing- the ability to roll over obstacles and accelerate yet have protective air volume.

This 28er tire volume provided the suspension and float that I needed off pavement at Crested Butte, Moab, Baja, BC and on the Divide Ride despite intense skepticism and criticism from traditionalists on either the 26 inch or 700c road sides of the debate. I was told repeatedly that the wheels were not strong enough and the tires were too narrow or too wide for single track with or without my touring load. Only by dropping these critics on their own turf on a ride or tour would they begrudgingly accept this new idea of a 28er capable of going almost anywhere my skills would allow.

I am a clydesdale and yet I used my normal 700c wheelset for the Divide Ride and they did not even need truing afterward and I am still using them. Maybe I am just lucky! So when I hear disaster predictions for 700c wheels I remember that the legions of round the world bike tourists in the 20th century used 700c wheels and managed quite well considering their tire width limitations. 28ers and 29ers offer some useful touring tools that should be carefully considered as an option. I am very glad that I did not follow the herd 20 years ago. I found what I was looking for in the RNR.

Last edited by arctos; 09-05-09 at 10:50 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 09-05-09, 11:49 PM
  #11  
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If you plan on being mostly on the pavement, there wouldn't be much of a difference between 26" and 700c wheels.

If you plan on going to 3rd world countries, 26" wheels/tires are more available but if you had a 700c bike, that wouldn't be a deal killer. 26" expedition touring bikes are a relatively new thing so people had no choice but to cover the globe on 700c and 27" wheels and of course still are.

If you plan on touring on non-paved surfaces, 29er/700c would be the way to go. Check out the Gary Fisher site. He does a great job of explaining the benefits of larger hoops, or at lest he used to. Most XC MTBers, if they had a choice, would prefer a 29er hard tail over a 26er any day of the week.

A few years ago, I thought I bought my dream tourer which has 26" wheels. I am now finding myself touring more on some excellent rails to trails (non paved) in my area. I now really wished my bike had bigger wheels to smooth things out. But that just means another bike is in the horizon.

Consider what type of touring you will do which will narrow it down for you. Also, if you are really tall or the opposite, the choice might be made for you depending on what bike you go with ie LHT, Saga.

Last edited by aroundoz; 09-05-09 at 11:57 PM. Reason: Because I am forgetful
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Old 09-05-09, 11:51 PM
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Originally Posted by frpax View Post
This has to have been covered many times before, but I am lousy at searching.

Anyway, I am curious as to what the differences are between 26" wheels & 700C, in a touring context; and why some of you prefer one over the other.

Again, sorry if this is an over repetitive topic.
Wider is better. Up to a point.
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Old 09-06-09, 12:39 PM
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The third tire size, 650B lends itself superbly for loaded touring. Wide tires can roll as fast as narrow ones and if you want to use fenders with a touring bike, it may be just about the only option.
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Old 09-06-09, 01:16 PM
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Although I can't immediately find any direct reference to what he's been using, I think someone else mentioned somewhere that Jeff Kruys has been touring on either 700C or 29er wheels for the last few years or so down in South America, and he seems to be doing quite ok:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/jk
That's true, except that Jeff seems to have experienced the downside of touring with such of setup. In his journal you can read about how he had to stay put in a city for a long time waiting for new rims to be shipped at a cost of $500 (just for the shipping).

To me, the advantages of 26'' would be the replaceability of rims. Rims do crack, i've read many accounts of it happening. And if that happens you might be thousands of miles from the nearest 700c rim or a long wait and an exorbitant shipping charge away. The main disadvantage is that 29er wheels would "roll better over bumps".
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Old 09-06-09, 01:22 PM
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I guess Jeff's rim issue may have been caused by wear and tear from the rim brakes? On this page:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?page_id=68441

"I believe my front rim is slowly being sanded away by the excessive braking I've been doing in Colombia and Ecuador on the long descents. I'm doubtful that this rim will survive the whole trip."

So I guess that might be an argument in favor of disk brakes...

Neil
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Old 09-07-09, 12:27 AM
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My preference for 26" wheel is that for a 1.5" sized tire the entire wheel is noticably lighter than a similar 700x37mm sized tire which is nice for unladen riding.
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Old 09-07-09, 03:32 AM
  #17  
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Originally Posted by NormanF View Post
The third tire size, 650B lends itself superbly for loaded touring. Wide tires can roll as fast as narrow ones and if you want to use fenders with a touring bike, it may be just about the only option.
??? You can fit mudguards to 26" wheels and 700c wheels with narrow or wide tyres.
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Old 09-07-09, 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by NeilGunton View Post
I guess Jeff's rim issue may have been caused by wear and tear from the rim brakes? On this page:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?page_id=68441

"I believe my front rim is slowly being sanded away by the excessive braking I've been doing in Colombia and Ecuador on the long descents. I'm doubtful that this rim will survive the whole trip."

So I guess that might be an argument in favor of disk brakes...

Neil
Disk brakes are the solution to prolonging 700c wheel durability. Here is another example of a 700c wheel failure after 14,000 kms due to rim failure caused by rim brakes. David Holmes is currently in Central America after having ridden in South America for 9 months.

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p...id=117019&v=75

Both Jeff and David are using 700x35c Schwalbe Marathon tires. Apart from asphalt, they have ridden over some pretty difficult terrain which is a testament of how strong a 700c wheel can be. If durability is paramount, one could always use a larger Schwalbe Marathon tire in size 700x50c or a 29er tire if the frame can accommodate.

Last edited by matchy99; 09-07-09 at 04:37 AM.
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Old 09-07-09, 04:32 AM
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Originally Posted by norcalhiker View Post
That's true, except that Jeff seems to have experienced the downside of touring with such of setup. In his journal you can read about how he had to stay put in a city for a long time waiting for new rims to be shipped at a cost of $500 (just for the shipping).

To me, the advantages of 26'' would be the replaceability of rims. Rims do crack, i've read many accounts of it happening. And if that happens you might be thousands of miles from the nearest 700c rim or a long wait and an exorbitant shipping charge away. The main disadvantage is that 29er wheels would "roll better over bumps".
This is another reason why disc brakes are the way to go if using 700c. If 700c rims are not available, you could always swap both 700c rims out for 26" rims and ride with those until you reach a location with a supply of 700c rims.

Last edited by matchy99; 09-07-09 at 04:39 AM.
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Old 09-08-09, 05:40 PM
  #20  
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48 spoke 700c wheels

I have found that a 48 spoke 700c wheel with a good hub can and will take as much or more abuse as a mountian 26" wheel. I am in the process of building what I feel will be a bomb proof tour bike.
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Old 09-08-09, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by matchy99 View Post

Both Jeff and David are using 700x35c Schwalbe Marathon tires. Apart from asphalt, they have ridden over some pretty difficult terrain which is a testament of how strong a 700c wheel can be. If durability is paramount, one could always use a larger Schwalbe Marathon tire in size 700x50c or a 29er tire if the frame can accommodate.
I am also using 700x35c Swalbe Marathon Plus and now have about 16,000 km on my bike - very heavily loaded. I broke a spoke up in Panama, but we replaced that and the wheel seems to be fine. I'm not sure these wheels will get me all the way down to Patagonia, but they might!

If I had it to do over again, I would try to get 26" - only for availability. It is a bit nervewracking knowing that I cannot replace anything here without having it shipped in. However - those blasted bike makers in the USA don't seem to understand that some of us want big touring bikes with 26" wheels!
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Old 04-29-11, 10:28 PM
  #22  
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Figured I would update this thread with my thoughts on the 26" vs 700c issue now that we've finished our journey. Long story short, I will never leave the US with 700c again. Here is the whole story: http://familyonbikes.org/blog/?p=1783
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Old 04-30-11, 02:03 PM
  #23  
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To hell with either. I'm running 27" on my "now vintage" Touring bike.
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Old 04-30-11, 10:39 PM
  #24  
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One thing that rarely gets mentioned is toe overlap on some frames with 700's. That may or may not bother you but I had a friend who based his purchase of a 26" wheeled touring bike on this alone.
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Old 04-30-11, 10:57 PM
  #25  
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Ok touring.. where? touring bike as a thing you just ride it around ,
in places to have a wide options of spares, like tires
.. or as a vehicle to get you far and wide?

world wide , reportedly 559 tires are #1, ..the mountain bike has penetrated the rural world.
406 are #2. all those kids and BMX bikes , 622 23 for road-sport riding,
700c 32 + touring tires re way down in sourcing .. wherever..
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