At the surface, the list of 29er Bikes Pros and Cons comes down to the tradeoff between maneuverability and speed. The larger size tire allows for a smoother ride, but the size and weight of a 29-inch tire comes with certain drawbacks.
In this article we dive a little deeper into the advantages of 29er Mountain Bikes and some of the myths that surround this popular tire size – bringing you The Ultimate List of 29er Bikes Pros and Cons.
29er Bike Pros
There are many advantages of 29er bikes, hence their recent popularity in the sport of Mountain Biking.
Aside from the obvious, here is a list of the Pros of 29er Mountain Bikes – more reasons to consider an upgrade.
1. Better Momentum
Once they start rolling, 29er Mountain Bikes tend to carry more speed and momentum.
This is one of the first things you will notice when you upgrade to 29-inch wheels. The additional rotating mass and reduced friction allows you to get up to a faster speed and maintain that speed for longer distances.
You will also notice how much easier it seems to pedal.
2. Higher "Attack Angle"
29-inch wheels have a higher “attack angle” when it comes to rolling over rocks and obstacles.
The higher approach angle allows you to keep more speed over obstacles, but also reduces the overall impact of anything you encounter.
This reduced impact preserves your energy and makes for a smoother ride all around.
3. Extra Grip and Traction
29er bikes have larger and wider tires, putting more surface area in contact with the ground. As well, larger tires allow you to run lower tire pressures.
These two factors give you a significant boost in grip and traction when you’re out on the trail.
4. Added Grip and Balance in Corners
The lower tire pressures allow more surface area contact with the ground on corners.
Though you may feel higher up on the bike, the additional grip in corners will give you confidence to take them at faster speeds.
5. Comfortable Ride
Lower tire pressures, reduced impact over obstacles, and the added cushion of a larger tire makes for one of the best advantages of 29er bikes – A Comfortable Ride.
Starting out on a 26er, it was a big change when I upgraded to a 29er. The first thing I noticed was the “bounce” of the bike compared to my 26er. It almost felt like I had a little bit of suspension.
This translated to a playful and smooth ride on the trail, leaving me a lot less worn out after a full day of riding.
6. Extra Pinch Flat Resistance
Even with the lower psi, 29er bikes hold more air in the tires than your average Mountain Bike.
This allows the tires to conform to bigger objects, without contacting the rim.
Coupled with the high attack angle when rolling over objects, 29-inch wheels tend to be more resistant to Pinch-flats.
7. Added Stability on Climbs and Descents
I was a little intimidated when I upgraded to a 29-inch Mountain Bike.
Even with my seat properly adjusted to my height, I felt a lot taller on the bike than I did on my old 26er. This quickly wore off once I hit my first climb on my local trail. Not only did I speed up the section in record time, I felt more stable on the bike the whole way up. In that same day, I confidently sped down two of the fastest sections of the trail with absolute confidence.
The larger tires and adjusted geometry of the bike gives you a more solid feeling on the bike, making it harder to tip and easier to balance.
8. More Ground Clearance
Naturally, larger tires will give you more clearance and less resistance when climbing over large obstacles.
Stealing a bit from the point above, 29er bike frames must also be adjusted for the larger wheel size. Since the hub of the wheel is higher, the bottom bracket has more ground clearance than the average bike.
9. Great For Taller Riders
29er bikes have frame sizes to accommodate riders of any height, however, they are usually a great fit for taller riders.
With the size of the 29-inch wheel, engineers have adjusted frames to accommodate such a drastic change.
Believe it or not, the adjustments made make for a natural feel on the bike, especially for larger riders.
10. Less Tire Wear
For those of you who live for efficiency, these next two points are for you. For everyone else, this is something you may never notice.
Essentially, 29-inch tire last longer than their smaller counterparts.
Due to mechanics, 29-inch wheels take less revolutions than a smaller tire to accomplish the same distance. Naturally, 29-inch tires will last longer.
11. Less Bearing Wear and Resistance
Using the point above as a reference, you will experience less bearing wear and resistance on any moving parts, as the revolutions taking by a 29er bike are less than smaller tire sizes.
Again, this change is so minimal that it’s not really worth measuring.
REI does a great job of summarizing the advantages of 29er Mountain Bikes in their article on the subject.
29er Bike Cons
Even with all the advantages of 29er bikes, there are still some situations where you would prefer a smaller wheel.
As well, our Ultimate List of 29er Bikes Pros and Cons would not be complete without at least a few negative aspects to 29er bikes.
While they may be suited for some of us, there are plenty of reasons to stick to your current wheel size. Here are the 9 disadvantages of 29er bikes
1. Heavier Wheels
One of the most obvious disadvantages of 29er bikes, and 29-inch wheels in general, is that they are typically heavier than 26 and 27.5-inch wheels.
Just the fact that they have longer spokes, bigger rims, and larger tires makes this inevitable.
While there has been plenty of research into making lightweight wheels, expect 29er bikes to be little heavier than the average Mountain Bike.
For more information on the weight of Mountain Bikes, check out our article on “the average weight of a Mountain Bike“.
2. Weaker Wheels
Given the point above, you may think those 29-inch wheels can take a beating.
And while it is true that 29er bikes are tough, you may be surprised to find that 29-inch wheels are a lot weaker than you think.
With factors like longer spokes and the decreased angle between the hub flange and rim, 29-inch wheels can have a certain flex under the right stress.
But don’t be alarmed, they wouldn’t be in production if they weren’t safe. Chances are, you will never encounter this issue.
3. Slower Acceleration
Once you get up to speed, you will definitely see the difference between 29er bikes and the rest.
Unfortunately, 29er bikes do take a little more effort to get up to that speed. The increased wheel weight and rotating mass can be an adjustment if you’re used to 26ers.
Again, this is something you may not notice after you start riding. But if you’re looking for a bike to whip around on short sprints, you may need something a little lighter.
4. More Effort to Brake
Developing further on the fact that 29er bikes are heavier, the law of inertia plays a role when it comes to braking.
Heavier spokes, rims and tires will take a little more effort to stop. Likewise, you may be worried that you’ll run through brake pads a lot faster.
While this may be the case, this will most likely be a negligible amount.
5. More Effort to Turn
Our list of 29er bikes Pros and Cons would not be fair if we didn’t mention some of the negligible items on each side.
Coming in first for the Cons list, 29er bikes take a little more effort to turn.
Since you have more tire surface in contact with the ground, and just the overall additional weight and size, 29-inch wheels don’t turn as easily as a 26er.
6. Laborious Tight Turns
Borrowing from the point above, 29er bikes are not the best bike for those tight turns.
In fact, some bikers refer to it as “laborious” when hitting tight turns and switchbacks. This again is due to the size and extra force needed to turn.
7. Can Feel Too Tall
Now I know I mentioned how natural a 29er bike feels once you’re adjusted, however, this does not go for everyone.
Even with a perfect fit, you may feel like you’re a lot higher on the bike if you’re making the change from a smaller tire size.
While this may seem alarming, considering you plan to speed through forest trails on this thing, you will most likely adjust to the bike quickly.
8. Limited Compatibility
This Con is getting to the point where it is less and less applicable. I’m talking about compatibility.
At the time that the 29er was introduced, Mountain Biking was still catering mostly to the smaller wheel sizes. This means, it was harder to find the tires, rims, and forks that were compatible with the 29-inch wheel.
Fortunately, this is no longer the case and you can find plenty of options for 29er bikes. Still, the market caters to the smaller tire sizes the most.
9. Taller Gearing
29er bikes have “Taller” gearing than 26ers and 27.5 bikes. This basically means that you have to pedal a little harder for every pedal revolution.
The ease of maintaining speed helps balance this out, but 29er bikes are nowhere near as nimble as 26ers.
What is a 29er Bike Good for?
Given all the advantages of 29er bikes, we can now see where they accel and what they are good for.
29er bikes are great for long distance rides, rides full of obstacles, and even just everyday trail riding. You may be particularly happy with a 29er if you’re taller than 5’6”, as they provide a really natural fit for taller riders.
Unless you plan on riding through a lot of tight turns and switchbacks, a 29er Mountain Bike may be a good choice for your primary bike.
Are 29er Mountain Bikes Better?
Since this is a list of 29er bikes Pros and Cons, I am sure you’re wondering if 29er Mountain Bikes are better.
The answer really depends on your needs and where you plan to ride, as there is no bike above all others. What I can say though, is that they are definitely worth the try if you’re considering making the change.
For tall riders, you may prefer 29er bikes for the natural fit they offer for your body.
If you plan on riding XC, consider 29er bikes for their ability to maintain speed and their assistance in getting over obstacles quickly.
Who Can Ride a 29er?
Today, there are plenty of manufacturers offering 29er bikes for men and women. With frame sizes from small to XXL, anyone can ride a 29er if they fit.
Just make sure you are making the change for a good reason and are willing to accept the tradeoffs that 29-inch tires present.
In conclusion, 29er bikes have plenty of Pros and Cons, just like any other Mountain Bike on the market.
Use this list as a reference to decide if a 29er bike is for you. At the very least, they are worth the shot to rent or borrow.