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What Is a 29er Bike?

What is a 29er bike

An Introduction to 29er Bikes

If you’re looking to find out more about 29er mountain bikes, you’ve come to the right place. 

29ers, the newly emerging breed of mountain bikes, have become the new norm in many MTB disciplines. But what are the advantages of 29″ wheels on a mountain bike? What are the benefits of using a 29er vs a 27.5 MTB, and most importantly, what is a 29er mountain bike? 

If you’ve got 29er questions, we’ve got the answers. Ready to become a 29er expert?

Let’s get it. 

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    What is a 29er Bike?

    Before we look into the benefits of 29er mountain bikes, it’s important that you understand what a 29er bike is and the features that make them unique from other mountain bikes.

    Mountain biking is a highly competitive sport, there are no two ways about it. As a result, competitors and manufacturers are constantly on the prowl, searching for ways to up their game and increase the performance of their bikes.

    29er bikes also referred to as two-niners and 29″ MTBs, are mountain bikes with 29-inch wheels. The “29” refers to the diameter of the wheels these bikes use (with a tire mounted). 29″ MTB wheels are also the same diameter as a 700c road bike wheel.

    The original 26-inch mountain bikes have been overtaken by not just 29ers but also 27.5-inch mountain bikes.

    What features do these bikes possess, and how do they compare? Find out below.

    29er vs 27.5" Mountain Bikes

    29er MTBs 27.5 MTBs
    Better for enduro & XC races Faster acceleration
    Larger tyre size provides increased traction Better for bike park riders
    Better on technical trails with rock gardens More suited for flow trails than technical trails
    Better suited to tall riders Better handling and control
    Good for downhill riders who want to go fast Less suitable for long intense races
    Faster top speed More suited for shorter riders
    Increased attack angle for crossing large obstacles Lighter and more manoeuvrable

    What is a 29er Bike Used For?

    29ers are used in both recreational and competitive mountain biking disciplines and competitions.

    29-inch mountain bikes are one of the most popular classes of mountain bikes, and are steadily becoming the go-to choice for many professional MTB riders. 

    Whilst 29ers are ideal for intense competitive cycling, amateur riders and newcomers to mountain biking can benefit from their increased traction and stability.

    29ers are also incredibly versatile. You’d be hard pushed to find terrain that a 29er couldn’t handle, making them a great choice for cyclists wishing to ride a range of MTB disciplines. 

    But surely 29ers must have their downsides, right? Keep reading, and I’ll let you in on the pros and cons of riding a 29er.

    History of 29er Bikes

    After starting out as a fringe sporting activity in the 1970s, mountain biking rapidly gained worldwide popularity. In 1996 MTB was introduced to the Olympic Games in Atlanta[2], with cross-country events for both men and women.

    At this stage, mountain bikes weren’t nearly as advanced as they are now. 26″ hardtail MTBs were the norm, and it wasn’t until 1999 that Wilderness Trail Bikes manufactured the first true 29er. 

    French mountain biker Julien Absalon made big news in the sport when he was one of the early MTB pros to switch to 29-inch wheels on more challenging courses early in the 2010s.

    29ers and 27.5 bikes now dominate all major competitions and mountain bike events around the world. 

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    What Competitions/Events are 29er Bikes Used In?

    What MTB Competitions are 29ers used in?

    • UCI Mountain Bike World Cup
    • UCI Mountain Bike World Championships
    • Olympic Mountain Biking 
    • Enduro World Series (EWS)
    • Megavalanche Alpe d’Huez
    • Red Bull Rampage
    • Crankworx Competitions

    What MTB disciplines are 29ers used in?

    • Downhill MTB
    • Cross Country (XC) MTB
    • Enduro

    29er MTB Pros & Cons

    So you now know the history of 29er MTBs and the competitions and events that 29ers are used in, but what are the benefits of a 29″ mountain bike?

    Pros Cons
    Great for plowing through rough terrain Harder to jump with and manoeuvre in the air
    Less bucky and better flow on technical terrain Slower acceleration compared to 27.5" MTB
    Increased traction and grip due to larger tire contact Bigger wheels tend to be heavier
    Outperform smaller-wheeled MTBs when riding inclines Harder to ride around super tight corners

    Who Should Use a 29er Bike?

    As you’ve learnt above, 29er mountain bikes provide a range of benefits that make them suitable for complete beginners and MTB pros. 

    The smoother, less jerky ride a 29er provides makes them a good option for those who wish to ride less intense trails. 

    On the other hand, if you’re looking to hit bi air on extreme downhill trails, a 29er will serve you well and lap up the big impact landings. 

    As I’ve made clear, 29ers are perfect all-rounders and will allow you to build confidence before progressing onto more technical trails and rides.

    If you’re looking for a mountain bike that can do it all, a full-suspension 29er is your best bet.

    Are 29ers Only For Tall People?

    Due to their increased wheel diameter and higher riding position of a 29er, many shorter MTB riders are often left wondering how tall you need to be to comfortably ride a 29″ MTB.

    How Tall Do You Have to Be to Ride a 29er?

    So for those of you wanting to know exactly how tall you need to be to ride a 29er, the answer will depend upon the bike you’re looking at.

    Riders from the EWS such as Dimitri Tordo (4th Overall EWS 2019 – Canyon Collective) have proven that 29ers aren’t only for tall people.

    Generally speaking, however, if you’re shorter than 5’6″, a 27.5 or 26-inch may be more comfortable to ride.

    If you’re 5’6″ or taller, you’ll be able to find a 29er bike that fits you well.

    So to answer your question, mountain bikers looking to ride a 29er bike should be at least 5’6″ tall. As always, remember to test ride several bikes before choosing the best fit for your height.

    29er Bike FAQs

    It is completely possible to replace the 29 inch wheels on your 29er mtb with 27.5 inch wheels, however it’s not a good idea.

    By reducing the size of your wheels, your bottom bracket will be positioned lower to the ground, increasing the likelihood of your pedals catching when riding trails with sharp corners or whilst pedalling. 

    You’ll also have a much longer wheelbase than a standard 27.5″ mountain bike, which negates many of the benefits of making the switchover in the first place!

    Putting a 29er wheelset on a 26 inch bike is totally possible and can provide several noticeable benefits. Depending on the geometry of your 26″ bike, you may have to use thinner tires to increase clearance. 

    One issue you’ll want to be careful of when replacing 26″ wheels with a 29er wheelset is toe overlap with your front wheel. 

    When your crank is at the 3 o’clock position and you steer sharply, your toes may catch on the front wheel. You’ll get used to this over time, but go slow and steady to begin with and make sure to adjust your feet for sharp turns.

    When using CO2 to inflate your 29er bike tires, you’ll want to use 25g cartridges. 16g CO2 cartridges may be capable of inflating some 29er wheels, however if you misfire or use chunkier tires, you might not have enough gas left to fill the tire to the correct psi. 

    If you want to use 16g cartridges with your 29er it’s a good idea to carry two, otherwise a single 25g cartridge will suffice.

    Does a 29er Bike Require Anything to Keep Functioning?

    As with all off-road riding, your 29er will get bumped and battered with use. Therefore, you’ll want to regularly inspect and maintain your bike’s components to ensure it remains in working order.

    Inspect and clean your suspension systems, chains, brakes and tires each time before riding and routinely wash your bike after hitting dirty trails. 

    If you’re unable to complete any of these tasks, your local bike shop will be able to help.

    Environmental impact of using a 29er Bike

    29er mountain bikes should only be used on designated trails. Using a mountain bike outside of designated areas can be harmful to local wildlife and flora.

    If you also use your 29er to commute, you are getting the added environmental benefit of reducing your carbon footprint!

    What to Wear When Riding a 29er Bike

    Taking a 29er bike through a mountain course can be a rough ride in the elements. Therefore, you’ll want to wear the right clothing and safety gear to keep yourself protected and comfortable at the same time.

    Weather conditions can also affect what you wear while riding a 29er. Riding in the colder months or higher altitudes may require layering of clothes for maximum comfort throughout the day.

    29er mountain bike on dusty trail

    Some items of clothing you may want to invest in include: 

    • Shorts or pants with pads or padded liners
    • Biking jersey that wicks moisture
    • Thermal layers
    • Pedal-compatible footwear
    • Gloves (fingerless or full)

    What Accessories are Recommended When Using a 29er Bike?

    Aside from helmets and other protective gear (covered below), there are many accessories available for 29er mountain bikes. 

    These include:

    • Bike repair kits
    • Portable tire pumps
    • GPS trackers and fitness monitors
    • Saddlebags
    • Lights & reflective clothing
    • Hydration bladders
    • Backpacks
    • Bike locks

    For protective gear, there are a considerable number of options you may want to consider. One safety accessory you should never forget is a helmet. Other options include:

    • Full face helmets
    • Chest and back armour & bracing
    • Elbow & knee pads
    • Protective UV glasses/goggles
    • First aid kits

    You should consider your helmet as a detachable component of your bike. The same should be said for bike locks.

    If you value your bike and don’t want it ending up in the wrong hands, you’ll want to use a top-quality bike lock.

    Conclusion - What Is a 29er Bike?

    You should now have a better understanding of the benefits a 29″ mountain bike can provide. 

    I hope I’ve managed to answer all of your 29er related questions. If not, leave me a comment below, and I’ll get back to you right away. 

    In case you missed it earlier, a 29er mountain bike is a type of mountain bike that uses 29″ wheels!

    man using a 29er mountain bike

    As always, remember to use a good quality bike lock to secure your bike. Why not check out my review of the best cheap bike locks?

    Otherwise, lock it or lose it!

    Ciao for now.

    Author of This Post:
    Picture of James Grear (Lead Editor)
    James Grear (Lead Editor)

    Understanding how devastating it is to have a bike stolen, I've researched & immersed myself in the world of bicycle security since 2013.

    I then built BikeLockWiki in 2019 to share everything I'd learned with the worldwide cycling community so that cyclists can improve their bike security skills and make informed decisions when purchasing new products and services.

    Learn More about Me & BikeLockWiki here.

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