02.19.2008 - Bike Radar
650B takes hold
By James Huang in Portland, OR
Previous shows have been awash with
29"-wheeled mountain bikes whose lesser-used size format was a natural
fit for the hand built industry's niche clientele. Fast forward a
couple of years, though, and the old 'in between' 650B wheel format
resurrected and championed by Kirk Pacenti looks to be well on its way
to supplanting 29ers, at least in this crowd.
Pacenti is a
long-time frame builder who dedicates most of his time now to Pacenti
Cycle Design, which he intends to be a 'one stop shop' of products and
design services catering for other builders. As a designer, the
ramifications of building frames around 29" wheels weren't lost on him
and he introduced his 650B concept at last year's show as a viable
Arguments about yet another wheel size format aside,
the idea seems to hold merit: 650B neatly splits the difference between
the two current frontrunners at a rough outside diameter of about 27.5"
and at least in theory, offers up a good compromise between the
steamrolling ability of 29" rubber and the lighter weight of 26" hoops.
More applicably to Pacenti, though, is the fact that 650B wheels are
easier to design a frame around, particularly for riders of smaller
stature. Full-suspension makers have also caught on to the fact that
650B doesn't require as many radial geometry modifications to their
designs. Ventana showed off at least two samples at the show.
so, Pacenti probably couldn't have predicted how quickly 650B has been
adopted, especially given the sometimes painful uphill struggle that
29" proponents suffered in their early days. Multiple builders had
examples on display and the supporting players have stepped up to the
plate. Velocity already offers two high-performance 650B rims,
SUNringlé and Stan's NoTubes supposedly have models coming out later
this spring, Weinmann might be board as well and Cane Creek has toyed
with the idea with a handful of prototypes. On the tire side,
IRD/Panaracer is already in production, Kenda has committed to three
tire models and Schwalbe and CST are strongly considering tossing their
hats into the ring, too.
650B bikes were relatively big at NAHBS
(pardon the pun) but it's already clear to us that the idea isn't
limited to the cottage industry. We can't say who it is, but we do know
of at least one prominent full-suspension maker who has a 650B version
in the works.