650b/27.5″ Mountain Bike Round Up

27.5 All Mountain Trail Enduro

Update: Oct. 1

We just came back from Interbike and 650b was the highlight of the show. It is by far the most exciting category of the industry as companies scrambled to get prototypes and rideable samples for the Outdoor Demo. 650b will be the growth category of the sport  in 2013 as users again find a reason to upgrade their bikes and components to try a new wheel platform.

The good news is the unbridled excitement seems to have substance behind it as 650b attacks the core of the ‘All Mountain’ bike market. In 5-6 inch travel bikes, the 650b wheels which are 40% of the way to the 29er wheel size really demonstrate an advantage in technical terrain such as the Dirt Demo Bootleg Canyon trails of Nevada. Most bike testers came away impressed as they had better traction and rollover ability. An the bikes were still agile  and playful as most of them shared very similar chainstay and wheelbase lengths as 26er bikes.

Mtbr got to try many of the products and our coverage is here:

Scott Genius 700

Ellsworth Epiphany 275

Norco Range and Sight 650b

KHS DH 650b Race Bike

Litespeed 650b Bikes

Jamis 650b Line

Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 650b

Turner Burner 650b

Intense Carbine 275

 

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • John G. says:

    Been running 650b front/26″ rear for the past two years. Couldn’t get me to put a 26″ on the front again for love nor money. Fun factor is off the charts. Only wish Stan would make a 650b Raven. Don’t really understand why all the 650b products are geared to AM rather than XC since this tire size shines in both? JG

  • Izzy says:

    Awesome. Just the article I was waiting for. And to think I just got my Neo-Motos 2.1 today to replace my worn out Quasi on the back.

  • jazzanova says:

    Good Article. I am 5’9 and ride a Tallboy, which I like. I have tested the new Tallboy LT and also wished for a lower handlebar.
    650b looks like a very good option for me. I only hope there will be more 650b specific frames, wheels and tires on the market soon.
    As for Santa Cruz, converted TRc might be a good compromise. I only hope that SC is not going to be late to the party again, how they were with the 29ers…
    Do not let us wait too long :)

  • John G. says:

    G.B. on Facebook- put the 26″ back on the rear and enjoy the ride.

  • Ray (derby) says:

    Hail…Hail Rock & Roll… Join in. ‘b good! To-night!

    650b… It feels right, looks right …so what took so long!

    It’s an easy progression to 650b for advanced riders long used to the handling feel of 26″ wheels on compact bike frames.

    Production frame designers going forward will be wise to design new frames to fit both 650b and 26″ wheels, maintaining compact chain-stays lengths under 17 inches except as needed for long travel. Allow the 650b option to have the higher BB height for improved clearance while pedaling rough and off-camber tail, the conditions where 650b excels over 26″ wheels. On a bike designed with a low BB for 26″ wheels, with 650b clearance, is not a stability or cornering grip problem when swapping to 650b, the bigger wheels increase stability and traction.

    RS

  • Mr. K says:

    I bought a 2012 Blur LT 2.2 with 650b
    wheels. After demo-ing so many bikes,
    the Blur and the 650b just felt right for
    me. Being on the East Coast, 29′ers
    don’t work as well as the 650b.

    • Francis says:

      Great feedback Mr. K. We have a friend in Arizona and he said his Blur TRc 650b dominates his Carbon Nomad 26er on his local trails.

    • rudaripu says:

      Has anyone tried 650b tires on a Blur LTc 2009? i saw Mr K did it on a 2012, mine has a Fox 36 Talas front…

      • THB says:

        Yes, it will work. I think in 2006 they changed the rear triangle to fit larger size tires, and since that point the rear end will support a 27.5. As for the front, you should have no problems with the F36.

    • Josh says:

      I have to disagree with this since the majority of riders/racers are on 29ers..more so than out west where AM and DH are more prominent due to the terrain. That statement doesn’t speak for everyone for sure..and definitely the majority of the racers that contradict that statement.

  • stratosrally says:

    I’ve had a 2010 Haro Beasley 650b 1x9er rigid for almost 2 years. I’m 5′ 7″ and it suits me much better than the 29ers I tested. Looking forward to more tire & rim selections!

  • Mr. K says:

    Rudaripu, my Blur has the 36 Talas as well. Thanx, Francis. I have Stan’s Flow 650b rims with Kenda Nevegal tires. 2.3 in front. 2.1 in back. I love it! It has transformed my riding style.

  • blorp says:

    I like 650B but a few points:

    1. 650B isn’t a “new” standard (nitpick)

    2. Larger diameter tires don’t really provide more theoretical traction (see http://www.precisiontandems.com/artbillwheelsize.htm) although I do feel like for mountain tires, they do tend to put a few more knobs on the ground in practical use (esp. in climbing situations combined with the rollover)

    2. 650B being less than halfway to 29″ means rollover improvement is only marginal (4%?). Over a long ride or for racing though it should still be useful and better rolling resistance is an added bonus.

  • Josh says:

    I think another thing that is key to this being a successful 650b conversion was along with the axle path, the steep 72.5deg ST angle doesn’t put the saddle too far behind the BB. This definitely makes more room for suspension travel.

    As an absolute..Riders win races, not bikes. Nino Schurter could have won on a 26″ or 29er.

  • Francis says:

    >>As an absolute..Riders win races, not bikes. Nino Schurter could have won on a 26″ or 29er.

    I think it’s 95% rider. 5% equipment. To say that it’s all rider is just plain false. Given that Nino is just winning by a few seconds, I would say that his bike is helping him. I think it is a distinct disadvantage now to be racing XC with a hardtail 26er.

  • cynic says:

    Blah blah blah blah blah. Make a new sized wheel, get the best rider in the world the win the championship in it, and every gullible idiot will think it’s going to make them awesome. Make a new wheel size between 26 and 650 and Schurter will win again, and all of a sudden that wheel size is the new standard.

    • Stephen says:

      Agreed,
      He could even win on a 20″ wheel

    • Bikethrasher says:

      Niño asked Scott to make him a 650b bike not the other way around. Just for the record most manufactures do their best to build what their riders want because if their riders see a benifit to a product their customers probably will as well. We all owe riders like Niño a big thanks for making our next bike better. To all you haters don’t knock it until you try it.

  • Sharpix says:

    Thats all BS. To be honest, being a great rider, with a good hradtail you can win anything. The acceleration gives a great advantage over bigger wheels. This is only hype, without any scientific or quantitative proof.
    As in car’s wheels, the bigger wheels, the more energy needs to roll the wheels. That means slower acceleration….
    29rs and 650b are not the holy grail, period.

    • WT Smith says:

      Acceleration of the wheel itself is only a VERY, VERY, VERY small part of accelerating the non-rotating parts of the bike (rider, frame, etc..). Yes, increasing the radius of a wheel increases it’s moment of inertia. But in the grand scheme, it’s still a VERY, VERY, VERY small part of the picture. I have HEAVY 29er wheels and I spin them up to 12MPH with a flick of my pinky finger. This argument has been propagated since the beginning of 29ers and it’s as ignorant as claiming that the earth is flat.

      There is a difference in effective gear inches when you increase the wheel size. This is likely the “sluggishness” that some people have claimed they have experienced. This problem can be dealt with by smaller chainrings and larger cassettes, which are now abundantly available.

      The players are pretty much set and here is what it looks like:
      29er: Hardtails, SS/Rigid, short-travel
      650B: Long travel/Downhill
      26er: As far as new product goes. I think these are destined to their original function … kids bikes. I can still by Schwinn 27″ tires and I see no reason why good 26″ rubber won’t be available indefinitely even if almost all complete mountain bikes go all 29er or 650B.

  • GJ, CO says:

    I’ve been riding a SC Nomad for ~5 years in steep rocky terrain in western CO, where 30lb+, 6″ trailbikes are the norm. I just built a SC TRc with Velocity P35 650b wheels, 2.35 Nevegals, and a Fox 36 fork lowered to 145mm travel. The 650b TRc performs better than the Nomad all around especially in rough stuff. I’ve also ridden a 29er in the past but I gave it up because it was too different and harder to control than 26″. 650b does not have the same issues for me and feels more similar to 26″ than to 29″. From first hand experience, my 4.5″ travel TRc with 650b-size wheels performs significantly better in more everyday situations than my 6′ travel heavy-duty Nomad with 26″ wheels.

    I would like to see a 650b-dedicated, dual-link, all mountain rig with 5″ travel, 142x12mm rear axle spacing, 650b-dedicated large stanchion forks with 20mm axle, and real UST rims and 2.3+ size tires. Anyone listening??

  • Doug says:

    LOL, totally laughing about the “650b” craze sweeping the MTB world now. Hey suckers, just after the bike & parts industrial complex got you to buy into 29er now they’re switching the script, putting the whole propaganda machine behind 650b. But wait, I thought 29er was far superior because of the larger contact patch? I thought it rolled over obstacles better with the bigger wheel…now why would aly of you who subscribed to those theories step back to a smaller, 650b wheel? Just goes to show that wheel size plays little role and that the smaller 26″ wheel was just fine. But the bike and part manufacturers thank you for your needless spending over the past 5 years…and I thank all of you for devaluing the choice 26″ parts for me.

    • Rider from MA says:

      I don’t think you’ll see all the 29r crew stepping back to a 650b but there are many 26r holdouts including myself who have simply never felt the love for the 29r for many reasons even though I can see the advantages. I think the 650b move will convert some of us remaining 26r holdouts over time and if so that means sales for the bike world which is never a bad thing. I wouldn’t expect to see 29r bikes go away, in fact some are now looking at 36r MTB, to me that’s ludicrous but I’m sure if they build it someone will buy it. There are still many trails where a 26r has the advantage but the opposite is true as well.

    • Morpheous says:

      Doug, manufacturers didnt drive 650b. Riders did. Try them and you may understand.

  • Lebikerboy says:

    One of the basic marketing tenents…
    “In order to grow, you either change your product
    or change your market.”

  • Jason Urbanek says:

    I absolutely disagree with 650b. Though, I am not against a “29er”.

    The introduction of the 650b IMO is the product of exactly what Lebikerboy said, “…change your product, or change your market.”. The idea was attempted and then caught attention simply because it was a “new and different thing”.

    Being a fast, technical rider, I am more worried about strength than anything. Side loads, lateral pull.. things that cannot be ignored. The larger the wheel diameter, the less strong it becomes, period. Riding a 140mm 29er was the scariest experience I ever had on a bike. Complete lack of stiffness left zero confidence on the trail. Carving and shredding single track went from bliss to terror.

    On the other side of this coin is the 29ers ability to roll over obstacles with greater ease than a 26er. This is undeniable fact and unarguable. Introducing a wheel size that is only slightly larger, under half the size of the 26-9 span, does not deduce a reason for purchasing a 650b over a 26″ wheel. If one believes moving to a slightly larger wheel size “makes them a better rider”, then one should strive to become a better rider in the first place. Learn how to poke and stab in single track, lightening the bike where necessary and dialing in suspension settings.

    Re-engineering the wheel (ha ha ha) isnt helping anyone. Its marketing and it simply makes companies more money who are focused on only making money, not ones who love the sport of mountain biking and all it has to offer.

  • dan sloan says:

    I can only see 2 advantages, lighter weight and better for smaller riders, by the time 650b gets established ( if ever) the technology will be better for 29ers making them lighter , theyve already come a long way since they started. they may never be big hit bikes, but for xc and all mtn. I dont see any dissadvantages. Does a 26 or 650b turn quicker? sure, so does a 20 or 24″ wheel but the advantages of a 29 wheel make it my ride of choice. seems like its a little better than a 26 wheel and alot less than a 29″ wheel

  • Brent says:

    I am posting MTBR a new Eriksen ti 650b that retailed for almost 6K Kent Eriksen but badged by Pacenti

  • Matt says:

    Good…Lord. If you really want to take all the bumps out of your favorite trail just get a road bike and ride on the road! What separates mountain biking from road biking anyway? Well…how about the importance of developing technical skill in order to clear difficult terrain. If there is a particularly challenging section in your favorite loop, instead of heading out to the bike store to pick up the latest cycle designed to nullify challenging sketch, why not ride it over and over again until you’ve nailed the essentials of weight transfer and pedal stroke timing? Why not then solidify those skills to the point where the “right line” practically shines through just about any fear-inducing tech section? Isn’t that mountain biking?

  • professed says:

    so many experts on the interweb. Its comical at times – @ sharpix, @ blorp with statements such as no ‘theoretical’ improvement in traction and ‘the bigger the wheel the more energy required roll the wheel’.

    It would be so much more helpfull to the readers if you could just hold back your amazing scientific knowledge a little to allow for a more meaningfull discussion.

  • TBest says:

    I’ve put some time on 650bs in the past couple of years and I like it. I personally think it’s the ultimately compromise…then again I never quite adjusted my riding style to what I consider to be 29er pitfalls.

    Glad this is starting to pick up more and more momentum…I now cherish my 650b belt drive singlespeed more after reading this :)

  • Fiver says:

    Just to point out, it was not a ‘Championship’ that was won on a 650b bike, it was the opening round of the XC world cup in S Africa. Every other rider in the field was on a 29er. The second race of the series (Belgium) was won on a 26er HT and the third round was won by Schurter again on a 650b Scott, so no wins for 29er on the mens World Cup circuit this year, and no wins for full suspension.
    Product managers and marketeers in bike HQs must be furious.
    Do you think Specialized might have been a bit quick to kill of the 26 Stumpjumper?

  • Mo says:

    First of all – its a very interesting and important review I enjoyed reading.
    Last December I traded my 26″ Trek 4300 for a 29er Rumblefish and couldn’t be happier. 29ers have made a huge step over the last two years and now there are lots excellent 4-5″(100-120mm) 29ers from Giant, Trek, Specialized, Niner, Santa Cruz etc, so I’m pretty sure that 29ers are here to stay!
    As of 650b – after reading this review, I asume that during 2013-2014 were gonna see more and more of them, that will eventually take the 26″ plece.
    If I May guess – by 2016-2018 were gonna say goodbye to 26″ wheel, and find only 650b and 29ers at the LBS.

  • michael white says:

    I’ve been riding a new Jamis Nemesis for a few weeks. I wish I could say I like it. The geometry and steering is nice, I’ll grant you that. I have a Trek Fuel EX 9.8 that is so much faster, more comforable, and therefore more fun, it’s ridiculous. I don’t find the wheel size as big of a deal as the internet thinks it is. Wheel size is a very, very subtle difference compared to technology.

    • MJ says:

      I’m trying to figure out why you’re comparing a 5″ travel Full suspension Trek to a hard tail with a 4″ fork the Jamis Nemesis. I’m sure the Trek is more comfortable. Not really sure the wheel size has anything to do with your comaprison.

  • Brian Beattie says:

    OK, here’s how it should go down!! We will all gather (please no cry babies) in the Pisgah National Forest in western NC., @ the Laurel Mtn. trail head. There we shall begin the end of the heated debate in real action; using only well thought out and designed bikes from top notched builders. The bikes will consist of 3 hard-tails and 3 full-suspension,(around 5” of travel) using 26, 650 and 29. The rout will run up Laurel down Pilot Rock back up Pilot Rock and back down Laurel. Upon completion of the test, the final results will be broadcast World Wide, and then we can all carry on with our lives and enjoy this gift we all agree upon.

  • BDizzle says:

    No one can deny that different wheel sizes work better on different terrain. Long, smooth uphill, give me a 29′er. Tight, twisty, decent, give me a 26′er. More than 5″ of travel, 26. Hardtail, 29. This whole argument is so played out. Neither size is going away, and all the options are getting more and more people into the sport, which is great for the industry. The only opinion I have, is that you shouldn’t worry about what size your wheel is (let your wife worry about that), and get out there and ride. It’s all about the experience. See you on the trail, if you can keep up :-)

  • Mr. K says:

    I ride on northeast type trails in N.Y. I find that the 26″ wheel size is perfect for the cross country/trail conditions for tight, twisty, rocky, and rooty conditions. Yet, sometimes the 26″ wheel can get eaten up on certain parts of the trail. I know this may sound absurd but while testing/demo-ing 29′ers I endo’d a couple of times. The 29″ wheel would also get hung up on certain parts of the trail. I tested a 650b and it just felt right! Isn’t this the whole point of riding any of these bikes? It all depends on where you ride! Location. Location. Location.

  • Ken says:

    Come on everyone… 650b is the “Happy Medium” choice! lol. I ride a 26″ Enduro Pro and GT 29er – I believe the 650b will eliminate me from having two bikes :D

  • Johny says:

    Bikes are like surfboards. It’s good to have a quiver. Different bikes for different types of trails, riding style etc. There is no perfect one. It’s fun to experiment. That’s how the whole sport of mountain biking got started, right? Cheers!

  • MHS says:

    Nice comment Johny. I’m still on a steel hard tail 26″ that was custom made for me by Chas Roberts in the early 90′s. I didn’t go 29 before. Now I’m looking for a new carbon frame and am ammussing to find the 650b argument…..

    Surely it’s like skis or even gear ratios. The one you’re on could always be slightly larger or smaller, one minute it’s perfect, the next, the terrain changes and it’s not ?????

  • Sean says:

    If I ever have to relent to stop riding, maybe I’ll jump on the bandwagon and begin to argue which size wheel is ‘better’ on a bicycle. I believe that a bike, no matter what size wheel that you’re rolling, is, what you make of it. Good luck deciding for yourself, the conclusion of this argument composed of statistics and other trivial matters. Just get out there and ride.

  • jared says:

    All I got out of these comments is, bikes are good, I have an opinion on what I ride and you should ride what I think is good too, and you are all stupid but I still love you.

    Everyone is going to have different views; based on experiences, riding style, location…

    Companies promote what they want/can sell, new ideas make life interesting and the proverbial “wheel rolling”.

    So I’m excited about bikes and new ideas, keep ‘em coming.

  • Yang says:

    I’m looking forward to getting in my SC Blur XCc, and to fit the 650, 27.5″ wheels. From my research it looks like 26″ will stay for small bikes and riders under 5’5″, 27,5″ for 5’6 to 5’10, and 29er for 5’11 up. This will best address the geometry issues, but I haven’t seen how the travel issues will be sorted for the 29er’s.
    So, anyone with experience of the 27.5 option for the SC Blur XCc???

  • MJ says:

    I think it’s great we’re even having such robust conversation about 650b bikes. I’ve been riding my 650b2 Jamis since the first of the year and I still love everything it does better for me. At 5’9″ this bike is perfect! 5″ of travel, light, easy rollover, conquers tight single track with ease. My friends say I’m a better rider now. I say it’s the bike. For everyone looking for info. on whether their current bike could be converted try this site… http://650bpalace.blogspot.com/ It’s nice to see 650b getting it’s due.

  • jmk says:

    It´s a win-win situation.
    Are companies trying to push sales in tough times by marketing 29er and 27.5s? You bet.
    Is it good for bikers and MB to have so many options? Absolutely.

  • Izzy says:

    When will you test the RM Altitude 7X0 bikes???

  • scott Beaulieu says:

    When its all said and done, with history repeating itself,as it ALWAYS does and has…..We will see once again that a 100mm travel front suspended hardtail 26er as the “choice” ride just as soon as the immediate and “new” profits are collected on the 650B stuff. @9er will aways be around just because of the 6′ 4″ riders out there. Trust me on this, in the end….26ers will be the final choice of most.

  • Mike Billgren says:

    Ride what you want and have fun – no need for argument!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mike Billgren says:

    And, I agree with John, – I have 12 surfboards and each one is meant for different ocean conditions.

    If I could have 12 bikes, I would – more the merrier!!!!

  • Mzungu says:

    Why settle for a 29er? I heard that they have the 31er in the pipeline.

  • Michael says:

    I’m 5’10″ and absolutely love my Tallboy here in Utah, which has all kinds of trails and terrain. The tallboy handles very, very well. I first bought the Blur TRc and it cracked on me, so I replaced it with the Tallboy. Between those two bikes the Tallboy climbs better, rolls over the technical stuff so much easier and is so much faster. However, on the down hill, the 26 inch wheel was a lot of fun and simply cannot be replaced.. All that being said if the 650b really does have a little bit of both sizes it could be the ideal bike here in Utah where we have a lot of climbing, technical terrain, and downhill on almost every single trail. I break it down like this…

    Flat regions with XC and light trail = 4 inch 29ers all the way, no brainer

    Mountainous region trail or all mountain riders = 5 or 6 inch 650b

    Hardcore Downhillers = 26 inch

  • jack says:

    Scott Genius is amazing, but very needed remote lockout. You could not just ride this bike, you are constantly on the lockout bike and forth (depending on the trail).

  • Wout says:

    Still love my 26er Moots with V brakes. I can fly with it, what more do I need? I did get a 29er carbon fiber everything even the wheels (great btw) and it is super light and I love it too but the Moots is still my baby and now feels even more fun. The only thing I don’t like are the avid brakes wish I had XT instead. Then again V brakes rock!

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