Thursday, May 17, 2012


This message brought to you by the Hopeful Bicycle Manufacturers Association

 It has been interesting watching the 650b spin machine getting warmed up again as 2013 nears and the rush to the market with the 'tweener' wheel size begins in earnest.  At Sea Otter '12 I asked many industry wonks (off the record...if that is ever truly a reality) as to their thoughts on the movement to a third choice.  Now, it is always hard to tell just who is playing the cards very close to the vest (like some big company that starts with a red S) and who is really telling it like it is, but there seemed to be a few main points I heard over and over again and one I listed that I never heard even once.  Guess which one I never heard?
  1. We had a few prototypes of our 650b ________  (insert tires, rims, forks here as needed) that were shelved due to lack of interest, now we have orders for 2013 and we are filling those orders.
  2. We are not sure where it is going or if it will be received by John Q. Public, but we are keeping an eye on it.
  3. What we see is a 'push' by manufacturers to the marketplace for 650b rather than a 'pull' from the marketplace by the consumer.
  4. It really is not "perfectly in between" sizes and is much closer to a 26er than a 29er.
  5.  We are completely sold out on the 650b concept and believe that it is the best wheel size for the majority or riders and applications.  We are so stoked to be offering that new wheel size to the future!
So, my perhaps snidely (word?) responses:

  1. Money talks and we will sell anything to anyone that has a valid checking account tied to it.  Companies are in the biz to make biz.
  2. Well any large bike company has to be at least 2 years ahead of the game in R&D or they will have no bikes to sell.  So if this is 2012, then the 2013 models have been finalized and are being built now and the 2014s are well along the drawing board.  Parts are ordered, sales forecast, marketing in place, etc.  Believe me, all the big players have been riding 650b test mules or I will eat my hat.  No one wants to be off the back and miss the boat like many did for 29ers, but will it be a row boat or a naval destroyer?   Will all of them jump in with both feet?  So far I hear that Scott has bet big.  We shall see if that is right.
  3. I agree.  650b is waaay more push than pull.  "Who can we sell a new bike to now?"  "What will entice the happy owner of a very adequate bike to plop down the credit card for the latest thing?"  
  4. Seems like that to me too.
  5. No, I never heard that one, but then I hardly asked everyone.
A local to me dirt based rag has been thrashing a 650b FS lately and I ride with those guys pretty often.  I heard a gathered group of riders asking about the new 650b scoot at one rest stop in excited tones..."I heard that it is the perfect in between size!"  "I heard that it has the best of both worlds!"  "My buddy says that it will kill 29ers...waaay better."  So the reply from the magazine wonk was kinda funny and telling too.  To paraphase a bit...Well it is a great bike, very fun and it has the best of both wheel sizes.  But it feels a lot like a 26" wheel though.  Oh snap! 

I suppose that, in the early days of my journey to 29er-ness, that I may have waxed on a bit about the bennies of big wheels to anyone that was a skeptic, but then skeptics were the norm then, not the exception.  Now, not so much.  Now I don't talk about it as much and I never get into the silly debates of why this wheel size is faster or scientifically proven (leave that to the Germans) or 'better'.  I don't really care.  I know that I like it and that is enough for me.  It is not blessed of God or the end all of bike designs and there are things that will always bug me about 29ers that will never change due to the realities of things.  But I like them and so do a lot of buyers with cash in hand.  They are truly different in a dramatic, easily perceptible way.  You may not like it, but you can tell right away they are not a 26er.

I may even end up liking 650b more than I do now, which so far has been just like going back to a 26" wheel to me.  Fun, sporty, etc, but hardly earth shattering.  Maybe I will be converted over time.  Likely not, but I have no axe to grind.  I want to ride what works best for me and what I like the most, regardless of label or dimensions and I have no desire to whack others with a big stick about it either way.  Of course I have an investment in seeing 29ers do well as twentynineinches& is a long url.  But really, there is room for everyone to play and ride happy without being so divisive.

It is odd how personal many make it on the forums like on MTBR.  On both sides of the fence, it gets kinda nasty like it really matters who 'wins'.  Sometimes the personal attacks on character against someone like GT by a poster who has never met him, sat down with him, ridden with him, or has any clue about him as a person are so transparently ugly it amazes me.  Shame on them.

I do plan on getting on some really good 'tweener' bikes in the future though, as opportunities arise.  Until then, I will watch with a mix of amusement and disgust as the market forces and the internet cowboys have the 'see who can spin the fastest' contest.  Meanwhile, I suggest this as an ad poster for 650b benefits.  You are getting sleepy...sleeeepy.  Or nauseous if you spin too much.

No comments: