There’s a lot to consider when choosing a new mountain bike. A few of our previous articles are helpful to new riders, including How to Choose a Mountain Bike and Hardtail vs. Full Suspension Mountain Bikes. But besides those topics, two of the most common questions mountain bikers ask these days is, “what’s the difference between 27.5 vs 29 inch mountain bike wheels and how do I choose a wheel size that’s best for me?” We’ve all been there.
Before we examine the differences, let’s point out the similarities. First off, both wheel sizes are great for South Florida mountain biking. They’re both fast. The 27.5″ wheel size accelerates fast and the 29er rolls fast (once you get up to speed). Whether you’re riding at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Markham Park, or anywhere in between – there’s an argument to be made that either wheel size would perform well. Ask your MTB friends which wheel size they prefer and you’ll see that there are die-hard fans on both sides of the argument.
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Main Differences: 27.5 inch Mountain Bike Wheels
If you haven’t caught on by now, 27.5 is the diameter of the wheel in inches which makes it obviously smaller than a 29er wheel. The change in wheel size makes a noticeable difference in how the bike rides, handles, and more.
The 27.5 wheel is notorious for being a great compromise between agility and speed. Since the 27.5 wheel is smaller than a 29, but larger than a 26, this makes the bike easier to maneuver, accelerate, and corner. Not that you can’t do any of this on a 29er, but it’s genuinely easier to do with a smaller wheel size. Bikes built around the 27.5 wheel take advantage of the traits of this size by reducing the chain stay length, designing it around a shorter stem, and optimizing the rear suspension for responsiveness.
Please note, many bikes are designed to be compatible with either wheel size. It’s important to check with Bikes Palm Beach to make that determination and subsequent conversion.
Main Differences: 29 inch Mountain Bike Wheels
After reading the last paragraph, you might be thinking, “why would I want anything if 27.5 is truly the best?” That’s where the 29er comes in to upend your paradigm. Some riders have the most fun whipping the bike and popping wheelies, but for for riders who value speed above all else, the 29er is where it’s at.
Because of the larger diameter of the wheel, the 29er creates a larger contact patch with the ground. The 29er also rolls quite faster when up to speed. Even though it accelerates slower than a 27.5 wheel, 29ers can maintain their speed because of their advanced rollover capabilities compared to a smaller wheel size. This trait is also beneficial to tackling technical terrain because of the greater contact patch with the ground. Accumulated, all of these benefits turn out to make one fast mountain bike. Whether you’re racing XC or enduro, the options are a plenty.
Recommended 29er Mountain Bikes
Please note, many bikes are designed to be compatible with either wheel size. It’s important to check with the manufacturer or your local bike shop to make that determination.
So… Which bike wheel size is best for you?
27.5” mountain bike wheels are best for:
- Prefers riding mainly flow trails with some technical segments
- Not willing to sacrifice handling capabilities for more speed/rollover
- Non racers
- Occasional DH and bike park riders
29er mountain bike wheels are best for:
- The rider who enjoys speed and aims to go fast on the downhills
- Likes to ride technical and flow terrain
- Willing to sacrifice some handling capabilities for more speed/rollover
- XC racers
- Enduro racers
- Serious DH/bike park riders
The best advice on how to choose a wheel size that’s best for you is to try them both to determine between 27.5 vs 29 inch mountain bike wheels. Whichever wheel size you select, you’re going to be so stoked on your new bike!