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29er or 27.5 - A small wheel first-timers experience

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

by Ken Fung (IG: @kenchifung)


The reverse mullet collage with @ukeethebordercollie


As a follow up to my bike check last month. I wanted to share my experience of being on a 29er and 275; and how the wheel sizes feel for me.


I'll start by saying that the Warden is my first 275 bike. Yes, I'm behind on the 275 wheel size "trend". I converted from a 26er to a 29er and stuck with the larger wheels size for the last 10 years and over 4 bikes.


These are my 7 weeks of untainted thoughts about the two different wheel sizes and I will be comparing the Fugitive versus the new Warden.


Note: my builds are similar between the two bikes in size Medium.

  • Suspension: 150mm Pike + 55mm stroke DPX2 (Fugitive), 160mm Lyrik + 60mm stroke DPX2 (Warden)

  • Tires: 2.5 Assegai + 2.3 Aggressor (Fugitive), 2.6 Assegai + 2.5 Dissector (Warden)

  • Wheels: i9 System 270 (Fugitive), i9 hubs + weareone Agent rims (Warden)

  • Drivetrain: X01 Eagle + carbon X01 crank (Fugitive), GX Eagle + Raceface NEXT R Carbon crank (Warden)

  • Brakes: CODE RSC (Fugitive), CODE R (Warden)

Both bikes have been ridden and compared in the Metro Vancouver area on the North Shore and Tricities. Rides have been on the same trails during the July-August COVID season in hero dirt, summer slop post-rain, and also in dry conditions.



Climbing

The 29er wins hands down in terms of speed to get to the top - if that's your thing.

As the sporty rider in the office and the sicko that likes climbs, I find the 29er a very competent climber if you're KOM hunting. And predictably, the 29er rolls over roots and rock with ease, but not much more than the 275.

Now if you're a diesel engine and just want to get up to the top without being rushed, I actually found the 275 very grippy, even more so than the 29er; Going up D'yer Maker at the upper rooty section or the Baby Doll heads on Burke Mountain. I was very surprised at how capable and confident the 275 was. There is something to be said to be closer to the ground too. I found that the lower center of gravity was enabling me to pick and chose climbing lines better.


But again if you're riding with a bunch of friends and they are chasing that Strava badge go with the 29er. If your frequent riders are cracking open a beer at the top of every climb and being last isn't a bad thing, go with the 275.



Tech Trail

Depending on how you like to ride your tech trail and what your definition is of "tech" is.

With low to mid speed North Shore-style trails like Fat Bastard, Bean, Nescafe, Seventh, Corkscrew and Boogie Man, I found the Warden has a slight edge because of the sharp corners after technical drops or rolls. The smaller wheels and the lower center of gravity also enabled me to stall/balance the bike at the top of techy features and have the time to look and assess before dropping in; with a 29er, I would come to a feature sometimes a bit too hot and either fumble my way through it or just monster truck it. With the 275, there joy in riding tech features at a slow pace with total control.


But by far, the lower center of gravity (the Warden already has a really low stack height) versus the 29er gives a sense of groundedness that make you feel confident in slow speed features like woodwork, steep slabs, and old school trail.