These are some of the reasons we’ve heard so far being stated as to why 29in wheels shouldn’t be allowed in Downhill racing.
NB: These aren’t our opinions! They’re just stuff we’ve heard being said on the internet and in The Real World.
1. Everyone should be using the same wheel size
Apparently this makes everything closer to a level playing field. Big wheels may not be good for very short riders either. (The counter-argument being that taller riders have been unduly penalised by having to run smaller size wheels up until now but hey!)
2. It’s not fair on privateers to have to buy new bikes (again)
This is one of the more stronger arguments. A lot of privateer racers will have only just paid off the finance deal after switching from 26″ to 27.5″ a couple of years ago. Then again, racers aren’t exactly shy about – or unused to – shelling out on new kit each and every season are they?
3. 29ers aren’t as much fun as 27.5
You’d think that racers have the most fun when they’re posting faster times than their rivals. The fun factor is hardly something to use in an argument regarding time trial racing.
4. If everyone goes to 29in wheels, the winning margins will be just as close as 27.5in, but faster
This is an argument you can put against any bike development. You may as well argue against using suspension and going back to fully rigid bikes. The margins would be just as fast on fully rigid, but the winning times would be slower.
5. Race tracks will get more boring
It’s arguably the gradual move towards all-out faster and faster tracks over the past few seasons that has birthed the whole Downhill 29er movement in the first place. This argument does involve a whole load of ill-informed prejudice that 29ers can’t do steep and/or twisty stuff.
6. Racers don’t want it
This may well be actually true. But why don’t they want it? That’s more of an emotional argument than a rational one.
7. Enduro is stealing the ‘spirit of mountain biking’
International-level downhill has lost some of its hardcore fan support to the Enduro World Series. The tracks and riding (and riders) in the EWS feel to be more akin to the Average Joe. The tracks look more like the sort of stuff they ride. They look fun and techy and ‘natural’ and awkward in a cool sorta way. They aren’t some groomed mountainside motorway.
Interestingly there aren’t as many EWS racers on 29ers as you might expect. To some MTB fans, enduro looks like one of the last bastions of 27.5″. Having said that, Greg Callaghan has just won the Madeira EWS on a 29er so…
8. Wheel size changes stop the development in other areas of the bike
This is a slightly obscure argument but we have spotted it in certain circles; namely the circles obsessed with how ‘inappropriate’ current bike geometry is. There is a strong Venn diagram overlap of this clique with commenters who pine for the death of the rear derailleur and the removal of drivetrain forces from suspension performance. It’s easier to introduce a new (currently existing) wheelsize into the scene than it is to properly deal with the problem of drivetrains’ effect on suspension or the education of people as to why their bike might be totally the wrong size and shape.
9. Image is more important than performance
We have been here before. Remember the use of skinsuits in DH racing a few years ago? Although proven to be quicker than wearing baggier apparel, the UCI banned skinsuits. There was some sort of quasi-safety explanation for it (it’s safer to crash in looser garments as they allow some slide blah-blah) but the real reason was that the aesthetic wasn’t sellable.
You’d think that Downhill racing was pure and simply about laying down the fastest time from the start gate to the finish line. The real world is more complicated and compromised. Downhill sells itself on its image. Currently 29ers don’t fit this image. That’s arguably the main problem that people have with 29ers in Downhill.
Add your 29p
Leave a comment below if there’s an anti-29er argument that we’ve not mentioned.