27.5 vs. 29er: Which Mountain Bike is Right for Me?

If you are trying to find the right mountain bike for your trail rides, you have a lot to consider. When it comes to choosing the right mountain bike size, you may have already narrowed it down to the 27.5 vs. the 29er. 

Both sizes can work well, but you may find that one is more suitable for you. Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to choose the right mountain bike wheel size.

Traction

If you are looking for the mountain bikes that have the most traction, you will want to choose the 29-inch option. Mountain bikers who prefer better traction on trails will want a thicker wheel size. 

Wheel sizes can vary, so it’s important to consider how they affect traction. If traction isn’t a priority for you, you will want to consider other factors when picking the right wheel size. 

Keep in mind that smaller wheels, like 27.5-inch wheels, are considered the “fun-sized” wheel size and can provide better acceleration and a sleeker appearance. 

Larger wheels may do better on local trails and areas where it is slippery or you need better traction for a more forgiving ride. Wider tires will have better traction but at the expense of other features.

Acceleration

When it comes to riding, obviously, acceleration is important. This is especially true if you are enduro racing. 

Your bike wheel size plays a role in the acceleration, and when it comes to choosing the right mountain bike wheel size, remember that the 27.5-inch wheels will accelerate faster than the larger wheels. The 29-inch wheels can still accelerate quickly, but depending on your riding style, it may be a better option to choose the thinner tire width. 

The 29-inch rims can take longer to get to your desired speed and may be harder to control around trail obstacles. Smaller tires can be more responsive and require less effort to achieve the desired speed as well as maintain speed. 

Many riders prefer the ride characteristics of thinner tires.

Angle of Attack

The attack angle is the angle formed when the wheels connect with a square obstacle. The more shallow the angle, the easier it is for the bike to ride over the obstacle and the easier it is on the bike frame and rider. 

This is true with both adult and kids bikes. In this case, the 27.5-inch tires won’t have the better angle and may have a harder time riding over obstacles. 

They can still clear most obstacles, but will not do so as smoothly as the 29-inch wheels. Riders may feel the hit of the obstacle when riding over it with 27.5-inch wheels and will probably feel more stable with the 29-inch wheels. 

The bike industry designs mountain bikes to handle obstacles, but many bike companies do not consider the attack angle when suggesting small wheels, such as the 27.5-inch option. If you are planning to get a new mountain bike, try to ride over something on your test ride to see how each size handles the twisty trails and obstacle setups. 

You may not be able to take longer rides during the test ride, but you will be able to decide if you like the smaller or larger wheel size better.

Weight

The weight of the rider may also affect the wheel size you need. Some bike brands only offer 29er mountain bikes in larger sizes and suggest them for heavier people. 

This will help ensure the rear suspension is able to support the rider and the bike is safe. With smaller tires, the lower tire pressure may not be enough to give a tall rider the same comfort as a short rider. 

Many bikes with suspension travel limits also have a higher rollover capability when a heavier or larger rider is on them. The wheels help provide support and stability but only when they are the right size for riders. 

Smaller riders may be able to handle both the small and large wheels, and short riders may still prefer the smaller wheels so they are able to pedal and touch the ground more easily.

Frame Flex

The frame flex can help improve the comfort of the ride during mountain biking. 

Taller riders tend to put more pressure on the frame and can cause it to pull more against the wheels. Smaller mountain biking wheels may not be able to handle the extra weight or pull. 

The thicker wheels will offer more stability for taller and shorter riders and make their biking experience safer. The suspension fork will also be able to flex more easily so the front wheel won’t have to take all the movement and pressure. 

This will allow riders to put in less effort to steer the bikes or keep them balanced. Generally speaking, increased traction provides better flex and can help new riders get a better feel for their bike while participating in XC racing or even when just riding for fun.

Fit

When it comes to choosing mountain bikes, fit is important. Taller riders may prefer the larger wheel, while shorter riders may prefer the smaller wheel size. 

Wheel sizes aren’t meant for one sized person; it is important to consider the fit. 

Tall riders will likely have longer legs that can touch the ground with taller bikes and may also weigh more and need plus-sized tires to help support them. They may also prefer a larger contact patch to help them stay balanced. 

Most mountain bikers will want to sit on the bike and see how it fits before they decide to buy one and take it cross-country. Taking a test ride on the bike with both size tires on it can help you find the right fit before you spend your well-earned cash.

Comfort

The next bike you choose should be comfortable and feel good when you ride it. Seat angles play a big role in comfort and the wheel size can determine how your seat can be angled. 

It can also determine how high the handlebars sit and how far down the pedals reach. Bikes with larger tires and wheels tend to sit higher. 

Bikes with thinner or smaller wheels can ride lower. The same can be said for e-bikes. 

You should feel like your bike rides smoothly when you are on it, and it should glide across the terrain and not feel like it is bouncing or struggling to get speed and momentum. It’s a good idea to rather try out both types of wheel sizes when you’re at the bike shop to see if you notice a difference in comfort.

Safety

It’s also important to consider how the size of the wheels can impact your safety. You want to make sure safety is a priority no matter what bike you choose or what type of mountain biking you do. 

Never ride a bike that doesn’t feel right to you or doesn’t seem safe. If the tires feel too big or too small, rather switch bikes. 

Biking takes a lot of focus and energy, and if you aren’t comfortable on your bike or don’t feel safe, you won’t be able to put in the right amount of effort and stay focussed. Plus, your performance will be way less impressive.

What Type of Riding Will You Do?

When you are trying to decide if you need more traction, better acceleration, or a different fit, think about the different mountain bike set ups and how they will affect your experience. Whether you are planning to race in the World Cup or want to take your bike on the trails for casual rides will influence what size wheels you need. 

Thinner wheels may be better for racing and thicker wheels may be better for trail riding. 

Where to Find the Right Size Tires

If you already have a mountain bike, such as a Santa Cruz Chameleon, you will need to find tires that fit. You may find that some bikes can be used with many different sized wheels and others only work with one size. 

Once you find wheels that fit the Santa Cruz or any other frame you have, you will want to think about the features and benefits of each wheel size and how they will affect your riding. If you need to test the bike with different sized wheels, you will probably have to order them from a local bike shop. 

This will allow you to look at the wheels on the bike and even ride the bike to see which size you prefer. If you already know what size wheels you want, then you can just order them online.

Conclusion

If you are a mountain biker and are thinking about getting a new bike or updating the wheels on your current bike, you have a tough choice ahead of you. 

When choosing between the bigger wheels or the smaller wheels, keep in mind that both size wheels have pros and cons, and, in the end, it comes down to a matter of personal preference, size, and safety. Don’t just base your wheel selection on looks or price, think about how each size will affect your riding. 

Choosing the right size bike wheels will make all the difference in how you perform, so choose carefully.