Transition Wheel Size Philosophy

12/02/13 (by Kevin Menard)  

During the last 30 years, our sport has seen countless innovations that change the way we ride. At this point, mountain bikes have gone through major technological advancements in virtually all areas of manufacturing and componentry. Consider brakes alone; what began with the U-brake changed to the cantilever, then to V's and hydraulic rim brakes, with the dust settling on the ubiquitous disc design. Some changes the test of time, others don't. Take bio-pace chainrings for example, or the 1.5 steer tube, or - dare I say it - the 9mm QR? For ages, wheel sizes had remained relatively untouched throughout all of this. The 26" wheel size has been the default standard for mountain bikes and there wasn't really a need to mess with the status quo. Given mountain biking's relative youth as a sport, it makes sense that the wheel size debate has only really taken off in the last 5 years or so. It seems that only now have we gotten to a place where we can focus on other ways to enhance peoples enjoyment on a mountain bike. Enter the wheel size debate.

There are a few different approaches manufacturers are taking right now. Some manufacturers jumped on the 29" wheel bandwagon early and really pushed product lines in that wheel size. Others were late to that game. Those that adopted 29" early seem to be taking longer getting ramped up for 27.5. Too much investment to just jump ship so quickly. The latecomers to 29" seem to have entered that market begrudgingly or without full commitment, possibly because they didn't really want to get pushed into a new wheel size that didn't make sense to least not at that time. Fast forward a few years and most manufacturers have 29" wheels in their lineup. The big wheel has found its place in the market with a strong presence in the XC/Race and Trail segments, and a few fringe products in the longer travel/more aggressive categories. We've learned over time where 29" excels and where it doesn't. For some though, the 29er was just never going to be accepted. 27.5" wheels are an easier pill to swallow and have really given the 29er late-adopters a new song to sing ("See, 29 wasn't right! 27.5 was what we all should have done all along"). The European market has really grabbed hold of this mentality as they in were largely late on the up-take of 29ers.

What's most interesting to us is how quickly many manufacturers have drawn a line in the sand and abandoned 26" wheels for this new 27.5" standard. Sure, 27.5 offers advantages over both 29 and 26 wheel sizes...but really it's a battle of compromises. Does it combine the best of both worlds, or is it a jack of all trades but master of none? Some people are touting 27.5 as the holy grail of middle ground compromise between bike geo, ability to roll over obstacles, and cornering/handling. 

At Transition Bikes we have a more balanced approach to the wheel size philosophical debate. For us, we are in the business of selling fun. Your bike has one simple goal, make you feel confident while riding which will make you have more fun. To that end we look at each wheel size for every type of bike we make and determine what is the ideal wheel size or sizes that will make you have the most fun on the bike. We feel all three wheel sizes have their benefits and none are inherently better than the other. While there are some "technical benefits/drawbacks" with each wheel size, we really believe that ultimately each wheel size adds up to a "different kind of fun". If we had unlimited resources, we would offer every one of our bike models in three different wheel sizes so the end consumer has the full gamut of choices no matter what style of riding they do. Unfortunately, like many other bike companies it is not possible due to limited resources (or limited amount of customers for these niches) so you have to focus on which wheel sizes make the most sense for each bike. Some of our bikes will have 3 wheel options, Some will have 2, and others will only have one. In the end we have tried to offer our bikes so that they are configured in the way that will give the rider the most enjoyment and confidence. As a rider owned and operated company we feel you can have confidence about our approach to not trying to follow trends but to simply create bikes that help you get more out of your riding.

So, whatever your choice, 26", 27.5" (which is really more like 27"), or 29", make sure you are having FUN.


- Kyle Young (Owner)