Posted by Editoress on 05/15/12
Athlete Blog: Kabush Opens up about his move to 29" wheels
The month of April just passed and the race season is definitely starting to heat up. I just finished three exciting and very different weekends of racing; the very intense Houffalize World Cup (11th), the historic and hectic Sea Otter Classic (1st XC, 3rd STXC), and a fun and relaxed grassroots Whiskey 50 weekend (1st Fat Tire Crit, 1st 50 miler). April was a great month, I have a couple victories under my belt, and it feels like everything and everybody on the SCOTT-3 Rox Racing program is starting to click. It has been an exciting year for me with lots of changes and the move to SCOTT-3Rox Racing.
Geoff at Pietermaritzburg MTB World Cup in March
One of the changes that has caused quite a bit of conversation has been my bike choice. Yes, it’s true, I have been racing on some bigger 29in wheels this year; the very sexy Scale 29 and Spark 29. People have been saying whoa, what, hold on, I thought he said he would never race big wheels? The truth is it was the over the top evangelists and 29er propaganda that I have had quite a distaste for and not the actual bicycle wheel size. The fact that the "church of 29er" tribe is overly sensitive also made them quite fun to mess and joke around with. I have a mechanical engineering degree, I am a man of science, and when people feed me bull@#$% facts and bend the truth I take offence.
Geoff at Houffalize MTB World Cup in April
I've certainly seen a lot of propaganda regarding 29ers. Team statements "Our riders all choose to race their 29ers" when they don't have a choice or the truth is their 26in bikes were 2lbs heavier than their custom 29er frames. A lot of people try claiming 29ers are just as light as their 26ers; the truth is unfortunately due to physics 26in equipment will always be lighter. I also hear 29ers are great for everyone; even tiny so-and-so is riding one. I feel that compromises are made with position when trying to fit some people onto big wheels; my vertically challenged mechanic would need a near zero head-tube to get his position correct. The thing that drives me most nuts though is people preaching and lecturing other people about why they should ride big wheels. At the first World Cup this year someone came up and started lecturing a Canadian friend about how she could be so much better on big wheels; the friend happened to be Catherine Pendrel and she was wearing the World Champion rainbow stripes. I'm not sure she needed any tips.
Geoff at Nove Mesto MTB World Cup in May
All said I’ve never actually had a competitive 29er option to test or until this year. I was actually pretty interested to finally have a chance to see what all of the buzz was about. One of the exciting things about joining the SCOTT family is their top-notch options in race bikes. I knew coming into the year I wasn't going to be compromising a thing because their bikes are top of the line in any wheels size I wanted. This year I have been testing both 26in and 29in Scale and Sparks.
Switching to a 29er there is immediately a different sensation and some of the benefits are certainly tangible. I won't get into detailed analysis but I think one of the underrated benefits is higher rear axle for climbing; it shifts the weight balance, keeps the front wheel down, and allows you to keep a more relaxed position. I was concerned that it would be harder to whip, scrub, and aggressively maneuver the big wheels on trail. I'm happy to report this is not a problem. Luckily I am also big enough I don't have to fight the geometry of a 29er; I don't have to run a ridiculous negative stem, reduce suspension travel, and I am still able to run a riser bar; a nice 700mm wide Syncros bar at the moment.
Are big wheels for everyone? Depending on your size I'm not sure. I can say after some testing and comparison I will be racing the Scale 29 and Spark 29 this season. I think the equipment has evolved to a point where the small weight penalty is outweighed by the benefits. I am also lucky SCOTT-3Rox Racing can put together such a competitive package in any wheel size and allow me to choose what I think works best. Hopefully I'll see you at the races and with some luck near the top of the podium.
Get out and ride. Cheers,
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