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.
Back when I test rode a Trek Stache 8, I was impressed with how much fun that bike was. It was my favorite hard tail 29er with gears that I had yet ridden. The combo of a dropper post, 120mm fork, slack 68.6* HT angle with 51mm offset fork and moderate length (17.5") chainstays were a great combo.
And it got me thinking about having a bike like that in my quiver, but I did not need a complete bike, just a frame. However, Trek was not offering a frame only deal for 2013/14. So I began to look for options to the Stache that had the same vibe and combo of geometry. I pretty much struck out. Custom Ti or steel was more than I wanted to spend. Production stuff was either a miss in geometry or sizing and the one bike I did find that ticked all the boxes was a Euro model and expensive to try to get a hold of.
Well that sucks.
But it did get me thinking about a trail bike hardtail 29er that was more about fun than fast and I realized that if I opened my eyes a bit wider I could include some of the All Mountain rated frames out there. Canfield Nimble 9, Kona Honzo, etc...short chain stays and slack HT angles rated for up to a 140mm travel fork. They were not the Stache, though. Heavier for sure, these were all pretty burly frames. Super short rear centers are not very good on faster, rougher trails as you give up some 'rear trail' and a longer rear end keeps things pointed ahead and tracking well. A combo of a 140mm fork, short stem, wide bar, and short CS length can be a nightmare if you are climbing up some steep, narrow trail as the front of the bike will wander and waggle. So the more open, less technical nature of our trails here and my tendency to be more of a trail rider never seemed to be worth it to accept the extra bike weight and burly attitude of this type of bike.
But I was curious about the whole 'short back/long-slack front' hard tail deal. It was just not a priority and I dismissed the thought.
Then I rode a Niner ROS9 at Interbike and it was quite interesting. The cockpit setup was a bit close and wide for my world and the frame was on the small size for my body dimensions. But even with burly wheels/tires and a 130mm fork, I was having a LOT of fun. It got me thinking again about my dilemma with wanting a more trail capable hard tail 29er. I wondered if that, with a slightly lesser fork, say 120mm, a longer, lower stem and a slightly narrower bar, full 2x10 gears, a dropper post and a great set of wheels...well I might be in a happy place with something like a Yelli Screamy or this ROS9.
So I read and thought and read and wondered and pondered and studied geo charts and considered it all. Till today.
That is when I ordered this.
Just the frame of course (and mine will have gears), but a ROS-9 in a Large size, Grey color. The sizing for me was a bit of a tweener deal but in this bike, even with the moderate fork/build I will be running, it seemed better to 'size down' a bit. We shall see.
The frame is a bit more in cost then many in this genre, like a Kona Honzo, but is less than something like a Chromag Surface. The weight will be over 6 lbs for the LG frame and that is pretty beefy, but it is also what all the others are for the most part. There are some things I like on this frame that swayed me over. First of all, but not the most important thing, it is good looking. Some of them, like a Nimble 9 are kinda ugly. I hate ugly bikes. Function be damned. It has to please the eye. The EBB allowed for a lower CG and a 17" CS length. I did not want to be under that length. 1/4 inch may not seem like much but it matters. 17" was already pushing it IMO. No sliders. Yeah, I know that the EBB that Niner uses had teething issues in Gen 1, but this Gen 2 has been solid for folks so far and sliders are warts on a prom queen (besides shortening tubing lengths...a bit of a ride killer although this bike may not care). It's steel. I like steel bikes. The frame is well thought out with Stealth dropper ports, nice block-off plates, and clean routing of cables.
And another thing...it says Niner on it. Yeah, I know...who cares? But hey...these guys are really into big wheels so why not celebrate that? This is not a bone tossed to the circus wheel crowd by some company looking for a slice of the market. For Niner Bikes, it is the main meal, the buffet, the whole enchilada. I kind of resonate with that.
The build will be what I have laying around, but will be nice, solid parts:
Shimano SLX group with 2x10 24/38x36 gearing. Shadow Plus rear der.
SLX brakes with 180F/160R rotors.
White Brothers Loop fork. 120mm at first, but it can go 130mm or 140mm depending on what feels right to me.
I need to stretch the cockpit a bit so 100mm stem flipped to get weight a bit forward and down. Maybe a 90mm if I can.
740mm carbon bar from Answer Products.
Reverb Dropper post.
WTB Pure V saddle.
Options here, but I am thinking a set of American Classic Wide Lightning wheels.
Specialized Ground Control 2.3 rear/Purgatory 2.3 front tubeless.
That ought to be an interesting blend of parts and I am hoping for a trail bike vibe with a tilt towards fun and agility. I think this bike will be good, even on epics, as long as I am not looking to KOM all the climbs. I am hoping for a 28lb build. We shall see.
My first instincts about this type of bike may have been right and I may have just made a mistake, but it will be a fun journey in the finding out.
We shall see. C'mon, big, brown, santa. There is stuff out there that needs riding over.