26" wheels: the ultimate criterium size?

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Dion Dock

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Apr 13, 1992, 8:16:05 PM4/13/92
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I saw an add for a Paramount with 26" wheels and I got to thinking: this would
be the ultimate crit setup. Here's my reasoning

a) the wheels are lighter than 700c and therefore accelerate better (important
for crits)

b) they have greater rolling resistance than 700c wheels. As far as I know,
rolling resistance only matters when you are going slower than 15mph.
That might matter for hills but not for criteriums. Also, doesn't this
imply that you will be able to corner better due to the wheel gripping
the road more?

just checking...
--
Dion Dock __ __
/ ) / ) /
do...@fog.cs.orst.edu / / o ______ / / _____. /_
/__/_<_(_) / <_ /__/_(_) (__/ <_

Tom Reingold

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Apr 14, 1992, 4:09:27 PM4/14/92
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do...@fog.CS.ORST.EDU (Dion Dock) writes:

$ I saw an add for a Paramount with 26" wheels and I got to thinking: this would
$ be the ultimate crit setup. Here's my reasoning

$ a) the wheels are lighter than 700c and therefore accelerate better (important
$ for crits)

$ b) they have greater rolling resistance than 700c wheels. As far as I know,
$ rolling resistance only matters when you are going slower than 15mph.
$ That might matter for hills but not for criteriums. Also, doesn't this
$ imply that you will be able to corner better due to the wheel gripping
$ the road more?

This -- along with other topics -- reappears with increasing
frequency. I think we should include it in the FAQ (if it's not
already there) under "determining ideal wheel size" or something like
that.

I saved an article on the topic that Jobst Brandt submitted. It is
enclosed below. In summary, we ideally would want to ride as large a
wheel as we physically can, despite what your intuition tells you.

-Tom
---- Begin enclosed article ----
From: jobst_brandt%0...@hp1900.desk.hp.com
Date: 27 Nov 91 23:31:00 GMT
Subject: Re: 26" wheels on a road bike

Chris Moll writes:

> I'm getting a custom frame built and wondered what
> people thought of using 26 inch road wheels. Smaller
> wheels ought to be lighter and stronger.

and goes on to list advantages and disadvantages, most of which are less
that important in deciding what size to use. What in fact brought us
the wheel size (700 or 27") that we have is better understood by the
women riders who have a hard time fitting these wheels into their small
bicycle frames. Wheels would be larger than they are if they would fit
the average riders bike, but they don't. So the compromise size is what
we are riding today.

> It seems to me that the most obvious reason for using 27"
> wheels is tradition, but I'm not sure the advantages make
> it worth trying to swim upstream. What do you think?

This line of thought is consistent with the "cost be damned" approach
in bicycling today. The big bucks are spent by people who want the best
or even better than their peers. The more special the better. Riders
consistently spend nearly twice the money for wheels and get worse rims
when they choose anodized ones, whether there is merit to this finish
is of no interest. They cost more so they must be better. How "custom"
can you get than to have wheels no one else on the block has (maybe 25"?).

If enough riders ask for 24", 25" and 26" wheels, manufacturers will up
the price as their product lines multiply and the total sales remain
constant. Tires and spokes will follow as a whole range of sizes that
were not previously stocked become part of the inventory. Meanwhile,
bike frames will come in different configurations to take advantage of
the special wheel sizes. SIzes whose advantages are imperceptibly small
but are touted by riders who talk of seconds saved in their last club TT
or while riding to work.

A larger wheel rides better on average roads and always corners better
because it brings a longer contact patch to the road. A longer contact
averages traction over more pavement and avoids slip outs for lack of
local traction. Visualize crossing a one inch wide glossy paint stripe
with a 27" wheel and an 18" wheel when banked over in a wet turn.

I see this subject arise now and then and it reminds me of the concept of
splitting wreck.bike into several newsgroups. The perpetrators bring the
matter up for many of the wrong reasons.

Ride bike, don't re-invent what has been discarded.

jobst_...@hplabs.hp.com

---- End enclosed article ----
--
Tom Reingold
t...@samadams.princeton.edu OR ...!princeton!samadams!tr
"Warning: Do not drive with Auto-Shade in place. Remove
from windshield before starting ignition."

Ken_Goodrich

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Apr 16, 1992, 11:09:14 AM4/16/92
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Not to beat a dead horse if this a frequently discussed issued, but why did
mountain bikers go back to 26" wheels if roadies have found 27/700 wheels to be
the best compromise between fit and performance. I can see that MB frames are
typically smaller than RB frames, increasing fit problems, but it also seems
that the ability of a large wheel to roll over obstructions more easily than a
small wheel would favor the use of large wheels on MB's, at least in larger
frame sizes. So what compelling arguments are there for 26" off-road wheels --
strength?, aesthetics?-They do make the bike look like a cute little
motorcycle. Could a racer gain a (small) edge by using 700c wheels, assuming
appropriate tires and frame were available.

Ken_Goodrich


In article <tr.703282167@samadams> t...@samadams.princeton.edu (Tom Reingold)
writes:

Mark Chandler

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Apr 16, 1992, 12:33:37 PM4/16/92
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In article <1992Apr16.1...@news.larc.nasa.gov> Ken_Go...@gcdmacs.larc.nasa.gov (Ken_Goodrich) writes:
>Not to beat a dead horse if this a frequently discussed issued, but why did
>mountain bikers go back to 26" wheels if roadies have found 27/700 wheels to be
>the best compromise between fit and performance. I can see that MB frames are

Mountain bikers never "went back" to 26" tires. They chose 26" wheels because
early bombers/clunkers/ballooners used 26" wheels. Besides, fat 700C tires
were pretty hard (if not impossible) to find 15 years ago. There were some
builders who did experiment with 650B tires though.

>typically smaller than RB frames, increasing fit problems, but it also seems
>that the ability of a large wheel to roll over obstructions more easily than a
>small wheel would favor the use of large wheels on MB's, at least in larger
>frame sizes. So what compelling arguments are there for 26" off-road wheels --
>strength?, aesthetics?-They do make the bike look like a cute little
>motorcycle. Could a racer gain a (small) edge by using 700c wheels, assuming
>appropriate tires and frame were available.

In one of Bianchi's ads (and their catalogue), there's a "testimonial" by
an MTB racer named Joe Blanco; he says that other racers refer to his 700C
wheeled "mtb" as a "cheater bike." They (Bianchi) list some reasons why
700C wheels are superior for off-road use (larger contact patch, shallower
angles between wheel and obstacle, etc.).

Contrary to popular opinion, 700C wheels perform as well, if not better
than 26" wheels off-road. Take a look at a stage coach; it has enormous
wheels (in addition to suspension) for shock absorption.

As far as "appropriate tires and frames," there are some. Specialized,
Bianchi, IRC, Continental, and Panaracer all produce 700C tires wider
than 40mm. Unfortunately, very few frames can handle tires this wide
(due to a stupid import tariff). Bianchi and Diamond Back both have
several 700C-wheeled "mountain bikes" in their line-ups.

After riding 700C wheels off-road for some time now, I see no reason
(for me) to go back to 26" wheels. I'm in the process of building up
a lightweight ( < 25lbs) "mountain bike" that uses 700C wheels, and has
clearance for 45mm tires (and lots of mud room).

If anyone finds all this interesting, I'll be reviewing/testing fat tire
(700C) capable bikes by Bruce Gordon and Diamond Back in future issues
of _crosswords_. There will also be an article on 700C tires wider than
40mm. E-mail me for more info.

>Ken_Goodrich


--
Mark Chandler Novell, Inc. 510/975-4522
chan...@wc.novell.com Walnut Creek, CA 510/938-2562 FAX
==================================================================
The opinions expressed above are mine, not my employer's.

John Unger

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Apr 16, 1992, 1:08:23 PM4/16/92
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>Not to beat a dead horse if this a frequently discussed issued, but why did
>mountain bikers go back to 26" wheels if roadies have found 27/700 wheels to be
>the best compromise between fit and performance. I can see that MB frames are
>...

>motorcycle. Could a racer gain a (small) edge by using 700c wheels, assuming
>appropriate tires and frame were available.
>
>Ken_Goodrich
>
Within the last week or so I saw an ad in one of the bicycling rags that
I subscribe to where someone was riding a MB (Bianchi???, I can't
remember the builder) specifically made for 700 wheels. The point of the
ad was that this guy was winning all sorts of races just becasue his MB
had 700 wheel size rather than 26". I wasn't convinced...

cheers -- John
jun...@mtn.er.usgs.gov

Dan B. Kasha

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Apr 16, 1992, 2:29:43 PM4/16/92
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History, thats why. They were using old one speed bikes which had 26"
wheels on them. Then someone made more agressive versions of the bikes
and tires ............

Sam Henry

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Apr 16, 1992, 3:13:20 PM4/16/92
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In article <1992Apr16.1...@news.larc.nasa.gov>
Ken_Go...@gcdmacs.larc.nasa.gov (Ken_Goodrich) quests for
historical fact:

>... but why did >mountain bikers go back to 26" wheels if roadies
>have found 27/700 wheels to be the best compromise ...

actually, I don't think it was a question of "back". Remember going
to the Firestone dealer (yes, the tire place) or the Schwinn bicycle
store for a 26" bike? One of the signs you were growing up--a rite of
passage like finally getting to play real little league ball rather
than that pee wee stuff. You can laugh about the Firestone stuff if
you want. Just remember what Bridgestone's primary business is.

Anyway, the 26" was not the scientific measurement of the distance
from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the top tube. It
referred to the diameter of the wheels on the bike. And they were
bomb-proof wheels, too. My brother and I were never able to destroy
one--well, by brother did when he laid his bike down in front of a
garbage truck. He lost only a wheel (Jobst renowned lateral forces),
no damage to the frame. So the frames were stout, too. I suppose if
S. Texas had had hills, my brother might have invented Mt Biking back
in the mid-50s or early 60s.

Legend has it that a bunch of bored surfers gathered at the top of Mt.
Tamalapalapalapa, the sacred birth place of MTBing, looking for
dryland, cheap thrills. They took a bunch of these bikes with them and
started bombing down the sides of Mt. Tam. That's the bikes they had
to start with, and that was the basis of the MTB "design". A real
engineering design feat.

They had a lot of fun. They piddled and piddled with the bikes,
lacing freewheels into the 26" rims, etc. Now MTBing is no longer a
cheap thirll.

>So what compelling arguments are there for 26" off-road wheels -- ...

tradition?
then again, maybe there really is an engineering answer.

>Ken_Goodrich

see what you get for seeking truth in this forum!


--
sam henry <she...@rice.edu>
Wanna ride?

Mike Mccallum

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Apr 16, 1992, 3:20:58 PM4/16/92
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In article <1992Apr16.1...@rsg1.er.usgs.gov> jun...@rsg1.er.usgs.gov (John Unger) writes:
>Within the last week or so I saw an ad in one of the bicycling rags that
>I subscribe to where someone was riding a MB (Bianchi???, I can't
>remember the builder) specifically made for 700 wheels. The point of the
>ad was that this guy was winning all sorts of races just becasue his MB
>had 700 wheel size rather than 26". I wasn't convinced...

I race in the same area as Joe Blanco. He is a good rider, and
gets good results. BUT he didn't suddenly start getting results
just because he started riding this magic 700C Bianchi.

He had been using the basic 26" wheels, at least until the beginning of
last season, and he was still doing very well. I think it is very naive
to think that the 700C wheels are the reason for his wins, and it
is also insulting to him (IMHO). From what I have seen, he would
do well on a Huffy (assuming that it didn't break during the race).

Of course, I am not saying that I think people necessarily belive this
ad campaign, eh?


>
> cheers -- John
> jun...@mtn.er.usgs.gov

-Mike

Rodney James

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Apr 16, 1992, 3:32:15 PM4/16/92
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Within the last week or so I saw an ad in one of the bicycling rags that
I subscribe to where someone was riding a MB (Bianchi???, I can't
remember the builder) specifically made for 700 wheels. The point of the
ad was that this guy was winning all sorts of races just becasue his MB
had 700 wheel size rather than 26". I wasn't convinced...

I saw the ad and I think the guy in the ad at the Lemurian Classic a couple
weeks ago. He was on a 700c Bianchi and he wasn't even close to winning
the race...

--

Rodney James (rod...@math.orst.edu)

Sam Henry

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Apr 16, 1992, 3:43:31 PM4/16/92
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Eric Praetzel

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Apr 16, 1992, 4:35:39 PM4/16/92
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In article <1992Apr16.1...@news.larc.nasa.gov> Ken_Go...@gcdmacs.larc.nasa.gov (Ken_Goodrich) writes:
>Not to beat a dead horse if this a frequently discussed issued, but why did
>mountain bikers go back to 26" wheels if roadies have found 27/700 wheels to be
>the best compromise between fit and performance. I can see that MB frames are
Beats me. I don't even know if the 26" size was common before the advent of
MTB's. Most likely it was used and then became a defacto standard. A few
MTB's (Moulton ... ie foldables or strange geometry suspension types) use 16"
and 20" wheels. These bikes do have problems because of the smaller wheel
size getting "stuck" before sharp rises but the suspensions probably help.

>motorcycle. Could a racer gain a (small) edge by using 700c wheels, assuming
>appropriate tires and frame were available.

I doubt it. MTB wheels have a fair bit of rolling resistance and once you
hit any soft material the losses are phenomonial (try 2" of snow some time,
its like going up a 3% grade). The 700c ones would be slightly weaker due
to longer spokes and the wheel would be a lot taller so it would not fit
"standard" frames. As it is right now a 700c is about the same height as a
26" with a 2" tire so the wheels would be interchangable on a MTB (braking
would be a problem and this is why I broke my colar bone a few years ago).
- Eric

Kevin P O'Neill

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Apr 17, 1992, 10:43:00 AM4/17/92
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In article <1992Apr16.1...@rice.edu>, she...@cs.rice.edu (Sam Henry) writes

Text deleted in the interest of brevity

>
>Legend has it that a bunch of bored surfers gathered at the top of Mt.
>Tamalapalapalapa, the sacred birth place of MTBing, looking for
>dryland, cheap thrills.

Bored surfers? A not too subtle slam at California? First of all,
not all Californians surf, and secondly, the early NoCal mtn. bikers were
roadies (not surfers) looking for something to do besides riding pavement, and
thirdly, surfing is not boring.


>They took a bunch of these bikes with them and started bombing down the sides
>of Mt. Tam. That's the bikes they had to start with, and that was the basis
of the MTB "design". A real engineering design feat.

I don't believe any of the early NoCal mtn. bikers considered what
they did "a real engineering design feat". They just got tired of real heavy
bikes and had Joe Breeze build them a cro-mo frame. Design feat no, using
availiable technology yes.


>They had a lot of fun.

They still do.

>They piddled and piddled with the bikes, lacing freewheels into the 26" rims,

>etc. Now MTBing is no longer a cheap thrill.

Compared to what? Road biking? Downhill skiing? Ski diving? Scuba
diving? Besides, considering how much time those guys spent scouring the
countryside looking for replacement parts, and the time they spent maintaining
and repairing their bikes (remember, repack hill got the name because after
riding down it, the rearhub needed to be repacked with grease because the hubs
became so hot that the grease ran out), I really don't consider early mtn.
biking a cheap thrill. As far as I'm concerned my time is expensive, and I
don't like spending it working on my bike. I rather ride my bike. Also,
considering that a decent mtn. bike (not a top of the line racing model) costs
less than 400 dollars, I don't consider it an expensive sport.


Cars generally suck,

Kevin

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