First things first, confessions……in the past I “may” have been guilty of doubting and perhaps even calling 29ers and/or the “big wheels are better” trend, exactly that, a trend or a fad to soon die. However, I have been warming up to the idea over the years after hear positive reviews from close friends and seeing great results at World Cup level.
This year I finally took the plunge and built up a set of Stan’s No Tubes ZTR Crest 650b wheels for my Cannondale Scalpel. And after the first ride I was very glad that I took the plunge. Initially I was curious whether or not I would actually notice a difference since there is only an inch and a half difference between wheel sizes. However, just rolling out of my driveway for my first test ride I could tell the bike sat higher. I was amazed that ¾ inch change in height would be so noticeable. (I should mention that this is my second session on this bike so I have a seasoned fell for the bike). Noticing the higher riding position I was curious how this would change the handling of the bike and to my astonishment the bike still handled great in tight turns and technical section, albeit the high center of gravity.
So once I hit the dirt that is when I noticed the greatest change in ride quality. The trail I ride near my house can be rough due to early spring traffic when conditions are wet. Therefore, the sections on which the difference in wheel sizes was most notable were sections that had experienced lots of foot traffic and then dried. The wheels rolled easier and the ride was noticeably smoother.
After multiple rides on the wheels I am very excited about the wheel size and would strongly recommend it for anyone that is looking to move to a bigger wheel but may not want to buy an entire bike (Head into Biker’s Edge to get a set). However, do your research to ensure that 650bs will work on your rig. MTBR.com’s forum is a great resource for this. And if you have a Cannondale Scalpel with 26in wheels, in my mind, definitely make the change.
I look forward to do some races on these wheels, especially longer endurance races. I believe this is where the larger wheel sizes really shine. I am also excited to try a wheel size combo 26in in the rear and 650b in the front. Perhaps, I’ll have an update on the combo setup soon.
WHEEL BUILD SPECS
Rims: Stan’s No Tubes ZTR Crest 650b
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition (Too cheap to do aerolites)
Nipples: DT Swiss ProLock Alloy
Rear Hub: DT Swiss 240
Front Hub: Cannondale Lefty
Tires: Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo 27.5×2.25