Not long ago, there was just one standard mountain bike wheel size: 26”. Then, the 29” wheel was introduced and eventually also the 27.5” wheel size. And while most companies have been phasing out their 26” wheeled bike, cyclists continue to have plenty of bike choices between bikes with wheels that are either 27.5” or 29”. Which is best for you? The answer is that it depends.
29” Wheel Advantages
Great rollover is what makes many mountain bikers fall in love with 29” wheels. Rocks and roots just seem smaller and thus easier to roll over when you have a wheel with a relatively larger diameter. If you regularly ride technical terrain, 29” wheels will help you cruise over it with conspicuously less effort.
29” wheels often feel smoother to ride due to the higher air volume in their larger tires. The extra air volume acts as additional suspension – some say that it feels like having an extra inch of travel to ride the bigger wheels.
29” wheels also have a larger contact patch, which means more and better traction whether you’re climbing, cornering or braking
For each pedal revolution in a given gear, a 29” wheel will cover more distance due to the wheel’s larger circumference. This is why a particular gear will feel “bigger” on a 29” wheel vs. a 26” wheel. Those who switch to a 29” wheel may want to also switch to a cassette with more teeth on its largest cost or to a smaller front chainring so they feel like they are still pedaling a similar gear in terms of effort and cadence.
Rollover and gearing effects of 29” wheels make pedalling on roads feel easier, which can be an advantage for those who mountain bike on gravel or paved roads only or for the purpose of connecting their singletrack.
Last but not least, many riders experience a more stable feeling when riding 29ers – as if they are less likely to endo. This is because of how bike designers must alter a bike’s geometry to accommodate 29” wheels.
27.5” Wheel Advantages
Smaller riders may not fit on a bike with 29” wheels either because they can’t get enough standover clearance and/or because it is difficult to lower the cockpit of the bike enough for them to feel comfortable. Different bike companies have different theories on what height is too short for riding 29ers so it’s always best to test ride bikes of both wheel sizes and see what fits and rides best.
The geometry of bikes with 27.5” wheels typically makes them better at handling tight, twisty terrain. Due to their smaller size, the smaller wheels will steer and accelerate more quickly, making a bike feel more responsive and easier to maneuver on the trail.
Because they are smaller and physically require less material to manufacture, 27.5” wheels are lighter. This means your bike will weigh less overall for a given rim width, or you can ride wider wheels on a 27.5” than you can with a 29” wheel of the same weight. This can make 27.5” bikes a better candidate for those who love Plus-size tires.
Last but not least, the geometry of 27.5” bikes leaves more room for greater amounts of suspension, which makes them a favorite among riders who like to have a lot of travel.
There’s no better way to decide what wheel size suits you best than to test ride 27.5” and 29” wheeled demo bikes. Ride as many as you can and see which ones you enjoy the most!
Worried that your QX1 chainring has gotten shunned by components from other brands? Here’s a little love story about component compatibility:
(or “Is Mountain Biking Harder Than Road Cycling?”)
To be good at anything you do, you have to have a clear purpose, therefore training has to have purpose. In mountain biking, that purpose is to improve your ability to power through and recover from the frequent hard efforts required by riding off-road. Training with a power meter will enable you to become stronger, faster, and fitter, which – when combined with superior technical skills, will make you an almost lethal mountain biker. Having a tool to measure, analyze, monitor and manage your training and racing will prepare you for known challenges and even ones that are unexpected, like wet sand and mud.
Like they say in the video, every mountain biker wants to get fitter, ride faster, and to make it easier. But the truth is, it’s never going to get easier, but if you follow the four steps listed below, you just get better.
Measure – most power meters are designed to calculate power and cadence, which are indicators of your fitness. Many power meters also measure pedal smoothness and torque effectiveness, which indicate how efficiently you pedal or, put another way, how much energy you are wasting if your pedal stroke isn’t optimized. The data that’s collected by a power meter is then exported to a .fit file, which can be read by a variety of applications specifically intended to crunch sport-performance data*. Or, you can simply email your .fit file to your coach, who can interpret your data to help you reach and hold you accountable to your goals.
Analyze – Once you’ve measured your performance – or collected data, you can analyze your data to see where your strengths and weaknesses are with respect to you as a rider, your bike, and influential circumstances (environmental, physical, technical, tactical, and psychological).
Monitor – You can leverage your data to track – or monitor – your performance, which is subject to training intensity, pacing, stress, nutrition, overtraining, and fatigue.
Manage – Your accumulated data tells you how to monitor your performance in the moment; now you can set long-term goals and manage your performance to achieve those goals.
“Training with a power meter is like having an onboard coach and test lab that gives you constant diagnostic feedback with which to make adjustments to your biomechanics on the bike, and to prevent injuries,” said Hicham Mar, elite cycling coach at the American Sport Training Center. “Your data is an honest account of your output, no matter if it’s windy, hot, or steep, and of your energy levels – how many calories you are burning and how many you need to consume to maintain your pace. This is especially important in mountain biking because riding terrain varies so dramatically from one area to another, that the only way to control the variables is to know how much power you’re capable of sustaining.”
Perception and “riding by feel” are not accurate indicators of sport performance and, while technical prowess can be a temporary substitute for fitness in mountain biking, improved output is the ultimate advantage to outperforming your rivals but more importantly, yourself. To be a better rider than you were yesterday, or the day before, understanding how you can improve will help you become a smarter cyclist.
*ROTOR has partnered with TrainingPeaks.com, which has provided a 4-week training plan plus 30 days of TrainingPeaks Premium to owners of INpower and 2INpower, (home.trainingpeaks.com/ROTOR)
Switching from using round chainrings to ROTOR’s Q-Rings is easy, but it does require some initial setup followed by a transition period for full adaptation.
Optimum Chainring Position (OCP) is what allows you to vary the rotational position of a Q-Ring, thereby enabling you to adjust it to the precise point where you deliver maximum power during a single pedal rotation.
ROTOR suggests the following initial OCP setups by discipline:
- Road: Position 3
- Triathlon and TT: Position 4
- MTB: Position 3
Because Q-Rings use leg muscles differently than round chainrings, your muscles will need time to adapt to the new, more efficient way of pedalling. Adaptation is a gradual process covering four stages with each stage taking between one day and one week. Most riders will require at least 10 hours of pedalling time to make the full transition.
In stage 1, you will learn to pedal more efficiently. Pedalling may initially feel different, and you may find yourself turning the pedals at a faster or slower rate than your usual cadence. Don’t worry about any initial jerkiness – it will smooth out over time.
You will start to feel more capable and more powerful in stage 2, and your spin will improve on climbs. Many who suffer knee pain will start to notice it less – assuming their OCP is correctly adjusted.
Stage 3 + 4
Stage 3 will bring improved biomechanical efficiency, which produces a smoother pedal stroke due to fuller activation of muscle groups. You will be creating more power than with round chainrings. If you experience no issues during this stage, you have correctly set your OCP and are onto Stage 4 of adaptation. Those encountering issues should read on for further OCP setting instructions.
If you experience the following symptoms, you are arriving at the max chainring diameter too late because your OCP number is too big, and you should reduce your OCP by one setting:
- You accelerate and sprint easily, but have difficulty maintaining speed.
- You feel pedalling resistance too late in your pedal stroke and/or you are hyperextending your ankle.
- You need a lower cadence to be comfortable.
- Your sit further forward than usual to pedal comfortably.
- You are comfortable pedalling while standing, but not while seated.
- You have new pain at the back of your leg behind your knee.
On the other hand, if your OCP is set too low, you will find yourself arriving at the max chainring diameter too soon during your pedal stroke. You should increase your OCP setting by one if you experience the following:
- You find it easy to maintain a steady speed but have difficulty accelerating and sprinting.
- You feel pedalling resistance too early in your pedal stroke and/or you are hyperflexing your ankle.
- You need a higher cadence to be comfortable.
- You sit further back than usual to pedal comfortably.
- You are comfortable pedalling while seated, but not while standing.
- You have a new pain at the front of your knee.
Once you’ve got your OCP correctly adjusted, it’s time for stage 4 and final adaptation, which comes naturally with more cumulative pedalling time using Q-Rings.
A few final setup notes
Different bikes may need different OCPs – don’t assume you will use the same position on each of your bikes.
Adjacent chainrings in multi-ring setups may require different OCP’s.
Road Q-Rings and QXL have five OCP points while MTB Q-Rings have three OCP points.
If you are using a Micro Adjust Spider (MAS), your number of OCP points is effectively doubled because it reduces the angle between OCP points by 2.5 degrees, thereby offering micro adjustments. In this case, you should adjust your OCP in 1/2-step increments.
Introducing the new RHawk & RRaptor modular cranksets for enduro mountain bike use
ROTOR is pleased to introduce two new cranksets to its mountain bike product offerings: both the RHawk and the RRaptor are specially designed for enduro use.
The two cranksets feature extra protection to withstand abuse due to the rock strikes that are more common in enduro riding and racing. While some cranks come with molded rubber bumpers around their ends where the pedals attach, the RHawk and RRaptor also feature a large rubber bumper farther up the crankarm to protect them better against bigger rock impacts.
Though both the RHawk and the RRaptor come in a standard black anodized finish with laser etched graphics, riders get to pick from seven different colors for the crankarm protectors, ranging from an understated black to bright neon yellow, orange, red, pink, blue and green.
Like ROTOR’s cross-country mountain bike-oriented REX cranks, the RHawk and RRaptor are machined for maximal strength and low weight. Both sets of cranks are available in 165, 170 and 175mm length options.
In addition to being light and rigid, the RHawk and RRaptor cranks were designed to be modular so that they can be easily adapted to current and future spacing standards. Both have a 30mm spindle size that is compatible with a variety of bottom brackets such as BBright, BB30, PF30 and BSA, but they use a separate axle which can be swapped out to accommodate bikes used for various disciplines.
Current available axle lengths include standard mountain spacing with a 164mm Q-factor and 51mm chainline; Boost spacing with a 170mm Q and 54mm chainline, or downhill spacing with a 179mm Q-factor.
The modular design also extends to chainrings, which are available separately. At this time, the RHawk and RRaptor single ring-compatible spiders work with ROTOR’s new direct mount oval QX1 rings in sizes from 26T to 34T. Featuring ROTOR’s patented Optimum Chainring Position tech, the rings are easily swapped using just one tool: an 8mm allen wrench. A preload adjuster on the non-driveside crank fastens the cranks in place.
ROTOR also offers direct mount rings for SRAM GXP®, BB30 and Race Face Cinch in 30T, 32T and 34T sizes – all for a standard chainline.
Of the two cranksets, the 100% CNC-machined RHawk is lighter due to its material and to more CNC machining during the manufacturing process. RHawk features ROTOR’s signature Trinity Drilling System, which is a process that drills three full-depth holes along the axis of the crank. The 175mm RHawk crankset weighs 665g with a standard axle and 30T Q-Ring.
The slightly heavier RRaptor does not have the longitudinal bore hole, but instead is crafted from a different aluminum alloy and has single-width, post machined recesses on the insides of each crankarm. The 175mm Raptor crankset weighs 715g with a standard axle and 30T Q-Ring.
Carlos Coloma and David Valero will take part in the Rio Olympics using ROTOR components. José Antonio Hermida will be the third Spanish rider in Brazil.
Carlos Coloma (Logroño, 1981) is part of the MMR Factory team. The rider will compete for the third time in the Olympics after Beijing 2008 (he finished 28th) and London 2012. Coloma got a sixth position in the British capital.
David Valero (Granada, 1988) is also part of the MMR Factory team. This rider is the youngest in the Spanish national team. David debuts in the Olympics.
After knowing that he will take part in the Rio Olympics David Valero said: “I am very happy. Right now the level in Spain is extremely high, to be among the three selected riders is quite difficult. Well, after my last results I had hoped to be able to participate in the Olympics, but you can never be sure. The season has been great with two top 10 finishes in the World Cup and World Championship. Right now I am 15th in the UCI ranking and the first Spaniard. We have worked very hard doing a lot of training. Many days at high altitude and taking care of every detail: nutrition, periods of rest… All adds up to achieve the best performance during the race. The support from the MMR team is vital, I can concentrate in my training knowing that everything else is taken care off: mechanics, travel logistics, everything. You have no worries, your mind is just focused in doing your best on the bike.”
Both riders will use ROTOR Q-Rings on their bikes, so they will benefit from a much better pedalling stroke. They also have been training with Rotor 2INpower, a data acquisition device that helps to improve the performance on the bike.