650b vs 29 – The Better Option

The right wheel size for your bike depends on bike performance and the terrain you expect to ride on. Which between the 650b and the 29-inch wheel is the better option?

The size of wheels was not a big consideration for most riders since mountain bikes have long been designed to feature 26-inch wheels.

However, this all changed when the 29ers made their debut and a few years later things evolved again with the introduction of the 650b wheels.

I have had the privilege of testing out these two wheelsets several times on my Deluxe Pro 2 mountain bike. My riding experiences on either wheel have aided me in writing about these two in comparison.

Let’s get into their unique differences and benefits.

What is the difference between 650b and 29?

Wheel Size
650b
29
Acceleration
Fast
Slow
Traction
Average
Better
Attack angle
Average
Better
Weight
Light
Heavy
Frame Flex
Better
Average
Fit
Shorter riders
Taller riders
Availability

650b vs 29 – A Comparison Overview

Acceleration

When riding on 650b wheels, you will accelerate faster than 29ers which are more efficient for long rides. 

Larger wheels accelerate slower than smaller wheels largely because the weight of the wheel will be distributed differently.

This slower acceleration is caused by the high rotational mass that is a result of the weight of the rims, spokes, tires, and tubes being placed farther from the center of the wheel.

The key to a faster wheel is to cut down on the rotational mass for it to operate with more ease.

650b wheels are appreciated by riders because of the quick responsive feeling that they provide.

For the 29ers, they are bigger and thus accelerate much slower which gives them an unresponsive experience.

However, at top speed, they are better suited for long-distance rides because they do not need much effort to keep them going.

Traction 

29ers have better traction compared to the 650b wheels because they have a bigger surface area that comes into contact with the ground. 

A contact patch is the surface of the wheel which meets the ground. The bigger the wheel is, the bigger its contact patch is and the better the traction attained.

29ers have a contact patch measuring 9cm while the 650b has one measuring 8cm. while this s just a small margin, the effects of riding are undeniable.

This is why 29ers make for excellent climbers over roots and rocks even in wet weather.

Attack Angle 

650b wheels have deep attack angles that make it hard for them to roll over 

The angle created when the wheel touches a square surface is referred to as the angle of attack. Shallow angles are preferred because then bikes roll over objects much easier.

650b wheels have a deep attack angle making them less capable of rolling over objects smoothly. If you are riding through smooth trails, there should be no problem.

29ers have a shallower attack angle than the 650b which makes them super smooth in rolling over rocks, roots, and logs you may come across in your trail.

Weight

650b wheels are lighter than 29-inch wheels.

Extra wheel material and tire rubber make for a heavier wheel. The 29-inch wheels tend to be about 2 pounds heavier than the 650b wheels.

For casual riders, the weight of the wheel may not be as important as the traction and attack angle discussed above.

If you are a long-distance or cross-country rider, the weight of the wheel will be a large factor to consider. Choosing tubeless wheels will be your best option because they will allow you to accelerate faster.

This is possible because lighter wheels have a lower rotational mass and tire pressure which helps to create better wheel traction.

Best Fitted 

Based on your riding priorities, the 29-inch wheels are better fitted for taller riders when compared to the 650b wheels. 

650b wheels are stiffer than the 29-inch wheels, sport modern geometry, and advanced technology which make them fun to ride.

They are mostly fitted in compact frames and are designed with the shorter and lighter riders in mind.

Riders shorter than 5’6” will struggle to handle the 29-inch wheeled bikes because the geometry is significantly affected because of the larger wheels.

29ers are designed for riders over 6 feet tall. However, the 650b wheels also work well with tall riders but it is only based on their expectations in terms of traction, acceleration, weight, and attack angle.

650b vs 29 comparison overview

650b Review  

Also known as the 27.5-inch wheels, these rims strike a balance in performance between the 29er and the 26-inch wheels.

This is because it possesses benefits related to both the 29-inch and 26-inch wheels. You can rely on the 650b wheels to get you smoothly over some medium to rough terrain with more ease as compared to the 26-inch wheel.

While riding on the 650b wheels, you will find it easier to maneuver through tight twists and turns as compared to the 29-inch wheel.

An added benefit of the 650b wheel is that it is lightweight which makes it great for long-distance or racing cyclists.

Pros 

  • Wide circumference
  • Flexible wheelbase
  • Lightweight
  • Ideal for both tall and short riders

Cons

  • Poor rollover capability

29 Review 

29ers can roll over objects easier and smoother because of their tires’ higher air volume. For every revolution, they are capable of covering more distance.

They have a larger contact patch because of their large diameter which creates a feeling of more travel than you would expect.

In rocky and root-filled terrain, 29-inch wheels can be trusted to cruise through without much challenge.

These wheels possess a longer wheelbase which makes them less flexible and harder to turn in tight or sharp corners.

Tall riders will appreciate the feel of a 29-inch wheeled bike because they impact the bike’s overall geometry making it a better fit for them.

Pros

  • Easier to roll over rough terrain
  • Covers more distance per revolution
  • Smooth ride
  • Good traction

Cons 

  • Weighty
  • Harder to maneuver
  • Not suitable for short riders

Conclusion 

If you plan on going racing through some single-track trails, the 650b wheels will serve you best and they can be comfortably used by individuals with different proportions.

The 29-inch wheels are ideal for plowing through extremely rough terrain and they can be trusted to conquer long distances. However, they are limited in use to tall riders.

Verdict: So, which is better – 650b or 29?

650bwheels are better than the 29-inch wheels. This is because they offer the benefits of the 29-inch wheels and they provide a more flexible and manageable riding experience for both tall and short riders.

FAQ

How do I know the best wheel size for me?

To be sure about the ideal wheel size for your bike, consider your body type and the conditions you will be riding over. 

Are 650b and 29 wheels interchangeable?

Yes, they are. All you need is to get a 27.5+ tire and the 27.5 rims and use standard hubs to build up your wheels. The bad news is that you will not be able to use your 29er spokes but the good news is that switching back to 29er wheels is easily done.