Update: August 20
650b continues to gain momentum as component manufacturers and small and medium bike companies announce their 650b offerings. Asked why we think 650b is going to succeed: Mtbr responds “The world now realizes that big wheels really work. But 29ers don’t work that well on 150-160mm travel bikes because of long stays, long wheelbases and heavy wheel inertia. That’s where 650b will make its mark. Then it will spread and chip away at the 26er market.”
PJ Hunton of Norco explains the science behind 650b and the other wheel sizes.
Update: July 10
Scott announces the Genius 700. It’s a carbon fiber 650b with 150mm of travel.
May 25, 2012
’650b’ is now the number two searched term in mtbr, flanked only by ’29er’. A year ago, it was barely breaking in the top 50 search terms but a few key events have catapulted it near the top. 650b is a new wheeel size standard that falls somewhere in between 26er and 29ers.The graphic below shows the three wheel sizes, 26er – 650b – 29er. Note that 650b is not half way between the size of a 26er and 29er but 39% of the way.
What is 650b and how did this growth happen? How is it all of a sudden experiencing hockey stick growth when it has been struggling for momentum since 2007? Looking at the historical timeline, there are a few bolts of lightning that have energized the movement.
Feb 2007 – Kirk Pacenti introduces a Kent Eriksen-built 650b hardtail with hand-stitched WTB tires
1977 – Tom Ritchey builds 650b mountain bike for British client to explore farm roads and trails.
July 2007 – The Pacenti Neo Moto 2.3″ tire is produced
Nov 2007 – Velocity Blunt 650b rims are produced
2008 – Pacenti Quasi Moto 2.0 and Neo Moto 2.1 tires are made available
Mid 2008 – Sun Ringle 650b rims are produced
Sept 2008 – White Brothers ships the Fluid 130 mm fork to Craig Hoyt of Jamis for the Dakar
Early 2009 -Stans 650b rims are introduced
2009 – Haro, KHS, Jamis produce full suspension 650b bikes
2011 – 29ers take over the majority of sales and pave the way for new wheel sizes
Jan 2012 – Fox, Rockshox and Xfusion all announce long travel 650b suspension forks
March 2012 – Nino Schurter wins World Cup XC #1 using a 650b Scott bike.
So that’s a simplified version of the launch of 650b. The availabiliy and the announcement of the forks by the key players opened up the floodgates of interest for the new wheel size. And the after the World Cup win by Nino Schurter, all hell broke loose. A win in the #1 race in the world validates the concept and minimizes risk. Regardless of whether the 650 wheel size helped Nino go faster or not, consumers and dealers saw this as the tipping point to validate their decision or purchase. “I sold 1400 rims the Tuesday after Nino won.” Kirk Pacenti told us. Both Kirk and Paul Aieta of White Brothers said they have shipped a ton of 650b product to bike designers of many prominent bike brands.
Now in May, 2012 there is tornado of activity as companies scramble to offer product for this year or 2013. Virtually every suspension fork manufacturer has announced support for 650b and many tire companies are jumping in to the standard. R&D labs are scrambling to test and ride their 650b prototypes products.
Why 650b? Mtbr is developing an in-depth FAQ on this but in a nutshell, 650b is better than 26er in many respects, particularly in traction and bump roll-over ability. Over a 29er, it has an edge when it comes to agility, weight and fun. And when it comes to 6 inch travel bikes and beyond, 650b doesn’t have the room and wheelbase constraints that can harm a 29er frame design.
So how do consumers ride a 650b full suspension bike now? There are two common options:
1) Buy a complete bike like the Jamis Dakar Sixfifty B Pro with 130 mm travel or the KHS SixFifty656 XC bike with 120 mm of travel.
2) Convert a 26er bike and fit a 650 front and rear wheel in it. Tire clearance is a big issue so the rider has to make sure it clears even when the suspension is under full compression. Often, smaller tires have to be used and mud clearance is compromised. The big issue the bike will get taller and the bottom bracket will rise by about .5 inch when the wheel size is increased from 26er to 650b. Here is a list and discussion of 650b Compatible 26ers.
The 650b Conversion of the Santa Cruz Blur TRc
Disclaimer: The Santa Cruz bike and Fox fork you see in the photos were not made for the 650b wheel so these are not approved configurations. This will void your warranty so proceed at your own risk. The Ibis Mojo HD and the XFusion Velvet fork are approved for 650b use as of press time.
The Santa Cruz Blur TRc is one of the finest all mountain bikes available today. We reviewed the bike here and were so pleased with it that we purchased the bike for our stable. The frame is only 4.77 lbs but it is strong. It has ample big tire mud clearance with 16.9 inch stays and the head angle is a slack 68 degrees with a steep 72.5 seat angle.
And the key is it has a very low BB height at 13.1 inches unsagged. That means that putting 650b wheels on it will raise the BB to 13.6 inches. 13.6 inches actually brings this ‘west coast’ geometry style up to the norm and may make it more useable in very rocky and rooty areas like Arizona, Moab and the East Coast.
Photo: They Tioga Psycho K 26er, the Pacenti Mega Moto 650b and the Panaracer Driver Pro 29er. Note that the 650b tire looks halfway in size since the Pacenti Mega Moto 2.4 is so big.
Kirk Pacenti supplied us wheels for the test with Chris King hubs laced to his TL28 650b rims. These wheels have an outside rim width of 28 mm and 23 inside and they weigh in at 420 grams. These rims are tubeless compatible and they feature eyelets in the nipple holes for strength.
The tires are Pacenti Neo Moto 2.3 in the rear and Pacenti Mega Moto 2.4 in the front. The Mega Moto is a prototype tire and it is the biggest 650b tire produced to date. The tire is very tall and measures 27 7/8 inches or 708 mm in outside diameter. It features blocky, widely spaced knobs and very strong side knobs that extend half way down the sidewall.