29er vs 26" (for remote touring)

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29er vs 26" (for remote touring)

Postby Moocar » Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:25 pm

I'm going on my first tour in July and it's going to be 4 months through the interior. I've already started a topic for the trip so if you feel like adding general information, please do so on the topic: Tour Rookie planning to venture into the outback. I'll try and keep this discussion on wheels and tires only, so that others can benefit in the future.

Essentially I'm tossing up between a Salsa Fargo (29" wheels), or a Surly Long Haul Trucker (54cm frame, 26" wheels). I'll be on roads ranging from sealed to singletrack trails. The majority however will be on unsealed road, with a high likelihood of pretty bad corrugations. The trip is essentially a rough road trip, however I'm keen to use the bike on future tours, where I'd want to max out some speed on sealed roads. Having said that, I know I'm asking for two completely different things, so I'm willing to put a higher priority on a bike that can handle the outback, rather than a bike that can do it all but possibly crap out on me in the desert.

So essentially, most of the trip will be riding in a straight line, but the road conditions are my biggest issue.

So far, I've found the following general consensus for pros and cons of the two wheel sizes. This is purely based on internet research and advice from a few bike shops, so I'm not claiming any actual knowledge here!

29er Pros
- Excellent rolling over obstacles
- Feels more solid on corners
- Larger surface area (with deflation) cushions better against bumps

29er Cons
- Heavier
- Longer spokes means wheel isn't as strong
- Hard to find wheels/tires/tubes outside of developed countries.
- 29er bikes often have a minimum tire width. E.g. Salsa Fargo doesn't recommend less than a 40mm tire.

26er Pros
- Faster acceleration
- Parts aren't a problem in most countries
- Stronger wheel due to shorter spokes.
- Generally more options for tire widths and styles

26er Cons
- Twitchy on corners
- Feel more road "noise"

So what are people's thoughts on the two sizes?
Last edited by Moocar on Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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by BNA » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:31 pm

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Postby Outback » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:31 pm

G'day
I'am a 26 inch fan.I own a Thorn Sherpa 26inch wheels and Soma Groove 26 inch MTB.Both bikes i have toured in the Outback with and had no problems.Handbuilt rims are better too.
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Postby il padrone » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:00 pm

I ride a 26" MTB for touring, but also a 700C bike for commuting and some lighter touring. Thhe 700C feels faster, but I'm not so sure. I'd go for 26" for any bushbashing and remoter area tours, for their more secure footprint on the road and the wider range and availability of tyres. If you want speed fit some Geax Streetrunner 26 X 1.25 100psi tyres and fly along. I often ride with people on narrrower tyred 700C tourers and my MTB (with 1.75 road tyres) keeps pace nicely :D .

If 29ers don't take smaller than 40mm tyres that's a pretty big negative for road touring too.
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Postby hartleymartin » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:24 pm

Many people recommend 26" as spare tubes, tyres, rims, spokes, etc can all be found for this size across the world. If something goes wrong with 29" wheels, you had better be prepared to deal with it yourself.
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Postby HappyHumber » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:23 pm

I am slowly building up my Surly Cross-check as a 700c touring machine. I purchased some 36hole Ultegra Hubs and some Mavic A719 rims. I chose these based upon a number of reports of them being used as touring and even 29er MTB wheels. Mavic list their recommended width range for these as 28 to 47mm. I will probably run ~35 when I finally get around to building them up, with a view to starting with modest hard-surface tours.

With the 36 hole combo, and triple butted DT spokes - I don't think strength will be a problem :D

I guess if you're purchasing a complete Bike, with minimal customisations from the get-go you may be a little limited. Or if you're building from scratch you've got more options. Me - I'm sort of halfway inbetween - I am repurposing one of my existing bikes.
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Postby Kalgrm » Tue Mar 17, 2009 8:36 am

Sorry moocar, but I've had to move this over to the appropriate section of the forum (Buying a Bike/Parts). I changed the title slightly to reflect your needs.

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Postby kukamunga » Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:30 am

This 29" category is confusing. They're just wide '700C' (622) wheels aren't they? Plenty of hybrid/flatbar/cross bikes and getting around with 700 x 38C plus tyres on them....

My biggest concern with larger wheels (unless you're a 6' / 183 cm plus tall person on a larger frame) would be toe overlap on the front wheel, especially with the type of riding you're talking about, with potential front and rear luggage

This is where Surly have really thought out their LongHaulTrucker frame/bikes well - the smaller frames are designed around 26" (559) wheels, the larger frames 700C (622) wheels
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Re: 29er vs 26" (for remote touring)

Postby fooch » Tue Mar 17, 2009 6:16 pm

Hi there, your problem is one I kinda share at the moment, as I am thinking I need to get rid of a bike... I have a 29er with sliding drops and 2x26ers with track dropouts, one SS one with a 7 speed nexus internal gear hub, which I want to reduce to 2. The 29er and the nexus bike are my commuting/utility bikes, so really its down to these 2.

I'm not sure why one cannot use narrower tyres with 29ers. I have run 28mm touring tyres on my Voodoo Dambala with no problems, although it rides much nicer with fat slicks. Also, the wheels have much more momentum than 26" when riding along.

And isn't the Long Haul Trucker a 700c (29") touring bike?

I have toured with 26" before, including off-road, but that was before the 29er. I reckon 29er is better. Wheel strength is not that much weaker, just get 36 spoke wheels if you feel its a prob, certainly everyone can fix cup and cone shimano hubs, not so with cartridge bearings. Grip is much better and the bike generally is more forgiving, which is good for long days in the saddle. Toe overlap may be a problem, but choosing the correct fork helps.

With regards to tyre availability and wheel size, there are no gurantees. Certianly in Europe, 29er road tyres are plentiful, which they call 28". I tend to take a couple of spare folding tyres anyway. In Southeast Asia, they seem to run on about 4 standards, including 26" and 28/9", but also 27", so the shops just carry them all.

And I agree with kukamunga - if you're shortish (under 5'10") don't get a 29er.
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Re: 29er vs 26" (for remote touring)

Postby il padrone » Tue Mar 17, 2009 6:31 pm

fooch wrote:And isn't the Long Haul Trucker a 700c (29") touring bike?

Frames of 56cm and below are 26"

fooch wrote:I have toured with 26" before, including off-road, but that was before the 29er. I reckon 29er is better. Wheel strength is not that much weaker, just get 36 spoke wheels if you feel its a prob, certainly everyone can fix cup and cone shimano hubs, not so with cartridge bearings. Grip is much better and the bike generally is more forgiving,

Neither wheel bearings nor grip have anything to do with wheel diameter :? . 26' x 2.125 will give you heaps more grip than a 29er X 40mm. If you don't like sealed bearings don't buy sealed bearing hubs

fooch wrote:With regards to tyre availability and wheel size, there are no gurantees. Certianly in Europe, 29er road tyres are plentiful, which they call 28". I tend to take a couple of spare folding tyres anyway. In Southeast Asia, they seem to run on about 4 standards, including 26" and 28/9", but also 27", so the shops just carry them all.

Thinking of remote area touring in Australia. I doubt you've much chance of a 29er tyre at the bike shop in Deniliquin or Broome :roll:
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Re: 29er vs 26" (for remote touring)

Postby alchemist » Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:21 pm

fooch wrote:I'm not sure why one cannot use narrower tyres with 29ers.


Depends on rim size.

fooch wrote:And I agree with kukamunga - if you're shortish (under 5'10") don't get a 29er.


Other than they look silly why? I'm 5'7" and have ridden several 29ers and haven't had any problem due to wheel size. The main problem with most 29ers is their riders - they are the Mormons of the MTB world (they're even worse than single speeders)
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Re: 29er vs 26" (for remote touring)

Postby Kalgrm » Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:34 pm

alchemist wrote:.... they are the Mormons of the MTB world (they're even worse than single speeders)

They often are the single speeders, turning them into the Scientologists of the MTB world! :lol:

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Postby alchemist » Tue Mar 17, 2009 9:40 pm

I thought 'bent riders were the scientologists... :P
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Re: 29er vs 26" (for remote touring)

Postby kukamunga » Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:15 pm

alchemist wrote:
fooch wrote:I'm not sure why one cannot use narrower tyres with 29ers.


Depends on rim size.


How wide a 700C / 29" / 622 rim are we talkin' here?

I reckon, from looking at Sheldon's chart, you could get away with fitting common 700 x 40C (~1.6") wide 'hybrid' tyres to 30 mm wide (26 mm inside) '29er' rims

Why not just go a touring bike? 30% off 2009 Fuji roadbikes at Goldcross stores at the moment = ~$980 for the 'Tourer'..... :roll:
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Postby Mulger bill » Wed Mar 18, 2009 12:34 am

Ummm, OP is looking at a tourer Kuka. First post mentioned a Salsa and a Surly.

Tyre availability in the backblocks would be the clincher (no pun) for mine.

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Postby Kalgrm » Wed Mar 18, 2009 7:55 am

alchemist wrote:I thought 'bent riders were the scientologists... :P

Nup, we're the Buddhists of cycling - all laid back and spaced out.

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Postby fooch » Wed Mar 18, 2009 8:06 am

Firstly, being a newbie to this forum, I've been impressed with the quality of the discussion, which is nice change to some other forums!

Il Padrone - Re: 29" tyre availability in the outback: in hindsight, I agree. After reading your reply to my post, I also remembered how difficult it used to be to get 29" inner tubes!

Re: bearings. I wasn't very clear... Yes, nothing to do with wheel diameter, just thinking about which type of hub is more easily fixed, hence cup and cone rather than cartridge, as not every bike shop would have a crank puller, but most would have cone spanners (also more compact if one wants to pack it in the panniers).

Re: grip & contact patch. If one has the same width tyre (say 2") on both types of rims, then the 29" wheel would have a longer contact patch than the 26" one, therefore better grip, all other things being equal. Which they never are of course.

Alchemist - Re: rim vs tyre width: I seem to remember the issue was that if the rim was too narrow (like a road rim), fat mtb tyres had more of a tendency to roll off the rim, so its more not being able to use wider tyres on narrow rims. I'm running slightly wider 29" velocity dyads (22mm) and with fat tyres is fine

Re: 29" and height. Seems to work for some and not others. Doesn't seem to be anything conclusive as yet, but in different conversations with frame builders Daren Baum and Ewen Gellie, they seem to think that trying to accommodate shorter statures to 29" wheels without toe overlap and still have reasonable geometry is difficult.

Re: Mormons - should I be offended? ;-) I must be one of those 'bent scientologist mormons!

I was going suggest that Moocar could get the salsa fargo frame and run 26" wheels (and disk brakes) on them, but that would add the unnecessary layer of complexity of disk brakes, not to mention lowering the BB by up to 1.5"......

So to try and sum up, unless you want to carry a heap of 29" & disk brake spares on the bike, it seems like for this particular case, 26" is the go, as its more versatile and forgiving in terms of getting spares in remote outback Australia.
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Postby kukamunga » Wed Mar 18, 2009 8:42 am

Ummm, OP is looking at a tourer Kuka. First post mentioned a Salsa and a Surly.

Yeh...ok. I guess it's a tourer.....
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I was thinking more along these traditional lines v ^
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Salsa website wrote:Run pavement friendly 700c x 35mm rubber, or throw on some big 29 x 2.4" meat

I really can't see there being any problem in getting 700 x 35 or 40C rubber anywhere in the world. Is this the major concern? I've lost track..... :roll:
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Postby BikingMarco » Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:17 am

Having a look at the Pro and Con in the first post the question arises if one of those 'cons' could be a dealbreaker. E.g. if a 29" wheel is just not stable enough for rocky outback roads and corrogation then all it's 'pros' won't help.
When I started touring some years ago I only had a 29" bike for it, admittedly not of the highest quality (around $850). After every tour with luggage on it (on fairly good roads in Europe) in average two or three spokes of the back wheel broke. Those tours where never longer than 10 days.
Getting my new touring bike with 26" wheels (admittedly of much better quality) I haven't had one broken spoke on it ever (on around 3000km touring with luggage). Thats on the fairly good roads in Europe as well as unsealed roads in Australia.
Also in undeveloped countries the bikeshops (if there are any) are looking much different from the shops here. You rarely find high quality bikes or brands because there is no market for them. And you rarely find 29" bikes or tyres or tubes for them. Same goes for the valves: you will hardly find anything with French valves around.
So I guess a good quality 26" wheel with good quality rim and spokes and set up for car valves would make it the most versatile setup for a touring bike intended to go off the sealed road or through less developed countries.
You can find many great bikes classified as 'Touring Bikes' and still they are very different bikes, as different as a bike tour can be. Its questionable if some of them would survive an outback tour on corrogation with heavy luggage on it.
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Postby Kalgrm » Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:31 am

BikingMarco wrote:Having a look at the Pro and Con in the first post the question arises if one of those 'cons' could be a dealbreaker. E.g. if a 29" wheel is just not stable enough for rocky outback roads and corrogation then all it's 'pros' won't help.
When I started touring some years ago I only had a 29" bike for it, admittedly not of the highest quality (around $850). After every tour with luggage on it (on fairly good roads in Europe) in average two or three spokes of the back wheel broke. Those tours where never longer than 10 days.

<snip>

So I guess a good quality 26" wheel with good quality rim and spokes and set up for car valves would make it the most versatile setup for a touring bike intended to go off the sealed road or through less developed countries.

<snip>

That's not terribly fair - you admit your first 29er was of low quality and then go on to say a high quality 26" wheel should do the job. Surely a high quality 29" wheel would also do the job?

29ers have come a long way in the last few years. There are plenty of MTBs using this wheel size now, so high quality hubs, rims, spokes and tyres can be obtained.

As for tubes, either run the tyres tubeless (my preference) or just get 700c tubes in broader sizes - they are the same diameter wheels. Can't find Presta valves? Drill your rims out to suit Schraeder valves. It's only snobbery that makes people use Presta valves anyway for this application.

If you're worried about obtaining supplies in remote places, stock up before you leave home and leave the parts with a friend who can mail them to your location. Any item you forgot to get can be purchased online by your friend and sent to your location. No different to living in the city anyway: nobody stocks good stuff. How many times have you been told by your LBS "Sorry mate, we don't have that in stock, but I can get it in for you."?

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Postby il padrone » Wed Mar 18, 2009 1:56 pm

kukamunga wrote:I really can't see there being any problem in getting 700 x 35 or 40C rubber anywhere in the world. Is this the major concern? I've lost track..... :roll:

Aaaaaahh! You guys have been doing my head in.... all these different tyre sizes :roll:

Of course 29" is 700C. For the love of deities, why don't we just call it 700C? And even though it is labelled 28 X x.x on the sidewall, they're smaller than 27" :? !! Go figure :roll:
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Postby Moocar » Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:32 pm

il padrone wrote:Of course 29" is 700C. For the love of deities, why don't we just call it 700C?


Yeah man, I'm in agreeance! The fargo is a 700C rim but made for the 29er tires. All that means is that the longest distance on the tire from one side to the other is 29 inches. And that means it's using fat fat MTB tires.

In the beginning pros and cons I mentioned that 29er bikes usually have a large minimum tire width. I should clarify that I was actually referring to the Fargo. The Salsa team recommend a minimum tire width of 40mm to keep the bottom bracket from getting too low (TwentyNineInches.com).

More info bout me + trip. I'm 5ft 8". trip is very remote. To be honest, I very much doubt I'll be able to find ANY bike parts outside Mt. Isa and Alice since these are the only two "large" towns I'll be passing through in the 3 months I'm on the road. So I'll certainly be taking an above average size bunch of repair stuff with me (which I'll be learning to use over the next few months). Map of my proposed route can be found here.

You guys have been great with information, but there's one simple question I haven't managed to find answer to. And I realise that in some respects it's a somewhat impossible question to answer without bias, but I'll ask it anyway, accepting any answer that comes my way.

For riding in a straight line on an unsealed road for the same time and distance, which would be more efficient. Salsa Fargo 29" with 2" tires, or Surly LHT 26" with 2" tires?

Fearfully awaits answer :oops:
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Postby Moocar » Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:42 pm

Oh also, just while I remember. The Salsa Fargo won't be arriving in store (Cheeky Transport, Newtown) until early May, which is not good since I want to leave late June.

Also, I've never ever seen a photo of this bike fully loaded, so I can't say how well it handles 40kg of pannier weight (the weight of my gear including 28kg of water) or how good the toe clearance is once all panniers are loaded.

Just clarifying that!
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Postby Mulger bill » Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:55 pm

Moocar wrote:For riding in a straight line on an unsealed road for the same time and distance, which would be more efficient. Salsa Fargo 29" with 2" tires, or Surly LHT 26" with 2" tires?

Fearfully awaits answer :oops:


Less turns of a 29er wheel per km ridden, less battering from corrugations too from what I've heard and read.

I'd go the Fargo if the load carrying is OK Moocar, Cable discs aren't a maintenance issue, spare pads'd prolly be lighter than the Canti equivalent, smaller too.

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Postby Kalgrm » Wed Mar 18, 2009 11:52 pm

A 29er will be smoother and suffer less rolling resistance. The bigger wheel diameter straddles small bumps more effectively, so you spend less effort dropping into and climbing out of little holes.

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Postby hartleymartin » Thu Mar 19, 2009 8:17 am

It's really up to you which wheel size you go for. 29" has certain advantages, and 26" has other advantages. It's up to you which are most important. If you are going with 29" wheels, I think you ought to carry spare spokes, a spoke wrench and learn how to replace broken spokes and true up buckled wheels. (Really wheel adjustment is not the mystical black art people make it out to be - it just takes some time and patience)

Do some homework - find out if there are any bicycle shops in the towns you are passing and whether or not they carry spares for 29". This is perhaps where the 26" comes into it's own - you can get spare bits everywhere for 26".

My Malvern Star Skidstar has 27" x 1 1/4" wheels and tyres on it, but if I ever take it overseas I'll be swapping these for 26" x 1 3/8" wheels and tyres, just because the 1" loss in diameter means squat performance differences (BB will be 1/2" closer to the turf), and at least I know that size is available everywhere you go. Heck, if it really gets bad I could stick some MTB wheels and tyres in until I find more suitable replacements!
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