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Cycling and Mountain bike riding for all tastes (XC, Freeride, Enduro and Downhill)

650B RIP?

Being piggy-in-the-middle is rarely something to aspire to. In the case of mountain bike wheel sizes it seems the inevitable has happened to the kid we’d all like to love, 650B, as one his few mainstream champions, Haro Bicycles, pulls the plug on 650B bike production.

A comparison of MTB wheel sizes: 26 inches vs 650B vs 29 inches

Photo: GearInches.com

Billed from the outset as combining the best qualities of the established 26 and 29 inch wheel sizes, 650B (or 27.5 inches) has failed to ignite a bike industry feeding frenzy. As it turns out, in the opinion of Guitar Ted, the 650B wheel was never really the alternative it claimed to be.

On paper, 650B looked like a panacea, a way of getting the rolling and traction advantages of 29er wheels and the lightness and strength of 26ers. It claimed to be more compatible with full suspension designs than 29ers too, but we’ve subsequently seen some very successful 29er platforms and this year Specialized are pushing 29er Stumpjumpers and Epics so the industry seems to have that one nailed.

I’ve always quite liked the idea of 650B, being a niche within a niche that I could relate to. Fortunately I was saved from backing myself into a corner by the unavailability of 650B bikes in the UK. As Guitar Ted points out, not many retailers wanted to cater for yet another wheel size and from a manufacturer viewpoint it wasn’t necessary for a consumer to buy a new frame as is the case with 29ers. Just convert your existing 26er. Not exactly a compelling case for industry support is it?

So maybe this is the end of 650B? I don’t know and I’m not going to close the book on this one just yet but certainly it seems without widespread manufacturer support the idea is yet another cul-de-sac on mountain biking’s Trail of Life.

Now, over to you…

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7 comments on 650B RIP?

  1. LordOnOne says:

    I agree with Ted! I don’t support or have any interest in 650B specific bikes…but the wheels size seems like a good upgrade for 26ers with the space for them.

    Even if 650B does take off, I’ll be sticking to 29ers.

  2. tony says:

    650B is already gone and Dave hasn’t even had a chance to get into this niche. What hope was there for us 26inch traditionalists.

  3. Dave says:

    I feel no loss at this!

    Still Tony, plenty of opportunity for you to enjoy the 650C.

  4. Neil Marsh says:

    Just read the MBA Wheels test, and at 5ft 6ins, think I’m too short for a 29er. So…is my Forme Stag, Azonic AZ7 or Proflex 756 – I think it a 756 full-sus – able to take 650 wheels/forks? Thanks…

  5. Joe says:

    Matt, 650b is certainly not dead. But where it thrives is not on the XC arena of Leatherhead. It is in the growing Enduro scene which has little presence in Surrey Hills. For those who want to jump or go very fast down hill but still ride back up it is becoming the de facto, an improvement on 26. It is taking the interest of some who moved to 29er and cherish fun more than ultimate XC pace. The ability to have long travel without long chain stays, will relegate the 29er to XC only and leave 650 as the fun XC bike.

    • Matt says:

      It’s funny isn’t it Joe? When I wrote this back in 2010 it really seemed like 650B had died a death thanks to manufacturer apathy. Now, as you correctly point out, it’s an ever growing segment and has managed to pretty much kill off the 26er. In less that four years!

      That’s pretty amazing when you think about it and now the same guy I link to in this article – Guitar Ted – whose opinion I think is pretty reliable has recently come out and said that 650b is the way to go. Admittedly he’s pushing for wide rims and the B+ sized tyres that give the wheel circumference a rough equivalent of a 29er but even so…

      Fat bikes, 29+ wheels/tyres/frames, semi-fat options like the B+ three inch tyres, fat rims in general show this whole wheel thing is moving rapidly at the moment. I don’t know where it will settle, we’ll have to wait and see…

    • Colin says:

      [The ability to have long travel without long chain stays, will relegate the 29er to XC only and leave 650 as the fun XC bike]

      Hi Joe. You need to ride a Canfield Nimble 9. Its a hoot – short stays with wagon wheels !

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