I was riding with KT the Man and we were talking about this new 27.5 wheel size thing. He and I were both on 29er FS bikes so we are big wheel type guys. But neither of us have an axe to grind either and he feels like I do…that one should ride the biggest wheel size that works best for them, whatever 'best' is.
He drives a demo van for a bike company and lately they have been besieged by people asking if they have any 27.5 bikes to ride on the demo visits. The question most asked him used to be "do you have any 29ers?". Times change. Now that is fine and all, as the company he works for does make a 27.5 bike(s) but they are pretty heavy duty models and really not what would suit most trail riders in most areas of the country.
However people are buying them anyway, just because they are the latest wheel size. Regardless of the obvious fact (to anyone looking at the situation with a cool and critical eye) that this person would be better suited to another bike in the line-up, wheel size regardless…or another brand's 27.5 in a more moderate build…they are buying them anyway. It makes no sense really, but there it is. And KT was shaking his head in a mix of amusement and wonder at the entire deal. Why would you buy the wrong bike, and a very expensive one too, just to have a 27.5" wheel?
And it got me thinking that the same thing happened with 29ers. There were a lot of them sold to people who got caught up in the newest thing that 'everyone' was rushing to have. However, many did not end up with a bike that was best for them. Even though that big wheel does some really cool things to the dynamic of a ride, it is not the end all be all for everyone.
This new 27.5 wheel size is certainly going to replace the 26" wheel for nearly any MTB model of bike shop quality (and Wallmart will have 'em too, if they don't already). It really is, as one industry wag noted, "A better 26" wheel". But that does not justify buying the wrong bike just to have the new hoop-hype working for you.
It will be interesting to see how this all pans out for the consumer. It is giving any 26" wheel holdout/29er nay sayers a reason to buy a new bike that appears to be an improvement over their old bike and yet maintain their disdain for the really big wheeled bikes. Not only does their pride remain intact, they get a new bike and make the bike industry money, which it surely needs. A win win, so it seems. 29ers sure did that for the industry the last few years but now, as 29ers become more and more 'just a bike', they need to do something to get folks excited about filling up the credit card. 27.5, good, better or best, will do just fine for that purpose.
And I have no problem with that. However, buy the right one for the right reasons. Whatever the wheel size, it does not transcend common sense.