How did it ride?
It handles like a 26er and goes over obstacles like 29er. Cute summary huh :)? Well that is what the 650b brochure said!
First, there’s the issue of fit. I’m 5’8″ and I’ve ridden the medium Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc. The bars are a bit high and the bike feels a bit big for me. On the other hand, the medium Blur TRc with 650b feels perfectly proportioned for me. The bars are just the right height with room for adjustment both higher and lower. The bottom bracket height feels very normal.
I rode the Blur TRc 650b at Waterdog Lake in Belmont, CA and El Corte de Madera trail both near Woodside, CA. Climbing was good and it felt like the tires had more climbing grip than before. Acceleration and getting up to speed felt pretty normal.
On the tight twisty trails, the bike felt agile once again. Getting around switchbacks and tight places was a non-event. The bike descended more like my 26ers than my 29ers but it was a bit more stable and had more traction than the 26ers.
In the air the bike was a lot of fun. It was easy to jump and I felt like I could throw the bike around a bit in mid-air. The predominant feeling is the bike felt more like a 26er than a 29er when it came to jumping and throwing the bike around.
And finally, the bike tackled ruts obstacles better than the 26er. It ate them up well while holding its line.. It wasn’t quite the rut and bump eating machine that the Tallboy LTc 29er was but the TRc 650b was a couple steps in that direction. The key observation for me was the difference in rollover ability was noticeable from a 26er.
When I get a 29er, I have a tendency to lighten up the wheels and the tires. I put carbon wheels, tubeless and light tires. I often end up shrinking the outside diameter a bit to get a 29er to be agile and responsive. On a 650b, I feel that am free to to explore a bigger tire with more volume and height. It seems like I’m free get as a big a tire as I want to help an all mountain bike be more capable and more playful.
Comparing the Blur TRc 650b to the Tallboy LTc
I am one of the lucky folks that got to try the Tallboy LTc 29er with 140 mm of front and rear travel. That bike was much more plush and capable than the regular Tallboy. The bike would eat rocks and ruts and it would air it out nicely. When I cased a landing or got in some choppy stuff, the bike was like a pillow that would cushion the blow. The bike felt big and high though for my 5’8″ stature. The big heavy Maxxis Ardents that suit this bike well slowed this bike down a bit on climbs and slow, technical corners.
The Blur TRc 650b was really halfway to the Tallboy LTc in terms of bump and rut eating ability. It was better than a 26er TRc but not quite to the abilities of the Tallboy LTc. Accelerating was easier and faster on the TRc 650b. The tires had great traction and the bike felt nimble when stopping and starting. It was easier to get around corners too. And finally, I felt that the TRc 650b was more fun and playful in the air. It was easier to point and flick around while descending or launching small jumps.
The TRc 650b handled more like a 26er because it was a 26er frame after all. The chainstays were 26er short and the wheelbase was the same as a 26er. The contact patch was longer now so traction was superior to the 26er.
It will be interesting to ride a full 650b bike designed for this wheels size to see if the handling is much slower that what I experienced with the TRc 650b. Jamis is sending their their 130 mm travel SixFifty B2 next week so stay tuned.
The biggest downside is all this is experimental and very leading edge. The bike and fork are not approved for this use and there’s very few choices when it comes to wheels and tires at the moment. There’s a few five inch 650b stock bikes at the moment but they’re not at the caliber of the great carbon bikes from Santa Cruz, Specialized, Yeti, Trek and others. But the good news is the cavalry is coming. Amazing forks, tires and frames are in the pipeline and they are likely to blow us away.
Another downside is it’s not quite a 29er. 29er full suspension development has come a long, long way and there are many, many bikes that are just amazing when it comes to five inch travel bikes. Couple that with tubeless carbon wheels and good tires and you have a bike that is a true rut eating, jumping machine.
Given what we see with our 650b experiment, the future of 650b is bright when it comes to all mountain full suspension bikes. There is a noticeable advantage indeed and the promise of premier suspension forks and high end tires will allow the category to grow.
650b will also gain traction in the hardtail market. It won’t be as promising as the full suspension area because 29ers actually fit ok on hardtails with some creative use of materials. But sizing is always an issue as shorter riders need their clearance and ideal riding position with big wheeled bikes.
2012 will be the year of discovery and exploration for 650b but products will quickly become scarce as component manufacturers did not anticipate this much interest this soon. 2013 will see introduction of many 650b products and bikes but the exciting all mountain bikes will be limited to small and agile companies that can introduce a completely new bike to the market in months. Eurobike and Interbike are only three months away and that’s where most 2013 product is revealed. We believe that 2014 will witness the full fury of 650b as bigger companies with long lead times are able to play in this growth market.
Please tell us what you in the comments below or jump in the Mtbr 650b Discussion Forum