Author Topic: 650B at the Olympics  (Read 344 times)

Svend

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650B at the Olympics
« on: August 13, 2012, 05:13:07 pm »
I'm sure that several of you, like me, watched the men's and women's mountain bike races this past weekend with great interest.  Being a bit of a gearhead, I was looking closely at the bikes the racers were on.  For the men, I was struck by the variety of wheel sizes -- some 26 inch, and many 29ers, and the winning bike ridden by Kulhavy appeared to be a Specialized full suspension 29er. 

But what I found most fascinating was the bike ridden by Schurter, who took the silver medal just 1 second behind Kulhavy.  This year Schurter and his Swiss teammates have been racing, and winning, on a Scott Scale 650B hardtail.  Schurter won a world cup this year on this same bike.

http://www.mbr.co.uk/news/olympic-preview-the-contenders-men/
http://www.bikeradar.com/news/article/nino-schurter-wins-world-cup-1-on-650b-wheels-33467/

I am quite excited about this development, as it seems only a matter of time until this trickles down and is widely adopted by manufacturers for the consumer market, and we start seeing more and more high performance 650B models in the shops.  I've mentioned this before, but I think the 650B size makes total sense for a wide range of riders, and of all sizes and shapes.  From the field tests I've read, it seems to offer the best of both 26" and 29", with almost none of the drawbacks of either.  Quick, agile handling and responsive acceleration like a 26er; fast rolling and good terrain absorption like a 29er.  The fact that the Swiss team is racing on these wheels and doing so well should be all the kick this needs to get some momentum going.  A number of manufacturers have prototypes in test at the moment -- Norco, a Canadian brand, has at least 4 models in beta, including a version in the all-mountain Fluid series.  My father-in-law on Vancouver Island has a Norco Fluid 26er, which I have spent many hours on.  It is a great bike, and would be a killer in 650 size.  Super versatile.

Personally, I am sold on the 29er size, as it fits so well for a guy of my stature and works well for the open flowy trails here.  But every now and then I hit a patch of forest with some really tight twisty singletrack, and wish I had a more maneuverable bike.  Luckily, this happens maybe one ride in ten, so no need to switch.  But for my wife, who is about the same size as Schurter (who is 5'8"), a fast, light snappy 650B hardtail would be brilliant.  She is not one to switch gear easily -- once she likes something, there is almost nothing I can do to wrest it from her fingers...and she loves her little XC 26er race hardtail.  But....the 650B bikes actually have her interest tweaked, so she might make the jump sooner than later.  Cool.  8)

Back to the Olympics.....I felt so bad for Fontana when he lost his saddle with only a 1/2 lap left to go and then fell way back from the leaders.  He was having a fantastic race, and could easily have been first or second.  But then I **** up laughing when he crossed the finish line squatting on his top tube, knees splayed and bobbing in the air.  Good on him for making light of some bad luck.

On the women's side, our top rider, Catherine Pendrel, who is reigning world champion and was expecting at least a bronze, had a bad start and lost her gusto trying to catch the lead pack.  Our other main contender, Emily Batty, broke her collar bone and a rib in training just a couple of days before the race, but ran anyway.  A credit to her tenacity, she finished the race, if well back in the pack.  Must have been a painful 90 minutes.  Georgia Gould had a great race though, taking third.  Well done.

« Last Edit: August 13, 2012, 05:26:13 pm by Svend »


jim-ratliff

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2012, 07:04:31 pm »
Svend: Thanks for posting, it's been quiet here. I'm going to point out Pendrel to Lynn. She seems to feel that a broken pelvis means she can't ride a bike. There is bound to be a way to push the pedal with her crutches.
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bushwacka

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2012, 08:20:42 pm »
first IMO wheel size had nothing to do with who did wheel in the olympics. The course was a mix of extremely non technical machine built trails with spurt of semi technical but fast sections.

29er do well when IMo when there is a bunch of jagged rock, roots on relatively flowing trails with no so steep ups, and with out tight turn leading to long straight aways. This course would have suited a smaller wheel despite what the results say. The czech is bigger and produces more power over an 1.5 hour than the next guy and had an awesome move on the last chance to pass.

With that said a set of 29er carbon tubular wheels only weighs about 1300 grams so that is only about 100 grams of rotating weight over a similar 26er or 650b setup.

When there is a olympic race course that is actually technically the entire way though will truly the death of the 26er, IMO this
course should have been won on a 26er all else being equal.

I do not feel bad for fontana at all. He choose to save weight by running stupid light weight parts just like everyone else. these things are not durable, he made the choice to risk breaking his seat post, it was still quite funny though. :)

 





Svend

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2012, 08:33:39 pm »
Josh, my post had nothing to do with wheel size in relation to who did well in the race.  Simply that it was interesting to see such a variety of bikes in use, and in particular that the 650B wheel size was used in a such a race.  As far as I know, 2012 is the first year that this wheel size has been used in World Cup / Olympics.  I find that to be a good thing, and I'm looking forward to seeing more 650B models on the market, esp. XC hardtails.   And that's all.....

« Last Edit: August 13, 2012, 08:46:08 pm by Svend »

Svend

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2012, 09:51:49 pm »
But I do agree with you that the Hadleigh Farm course was not overly technical.  I watched some of the race again later with my daughters, and we all agreed that other than the two big rock gardens, there was nothing on that course that they couldn't handle.  And that at an intermediate skill level....on 26er hardtails..... ;)  The younger one (13 years old), said it would be a piece of cake, and felt she could do at least one of the rock gardens (but not the tight gnarly one).

« Last Edit: August 13, 2012, 09:54:30 pm by Svend »

bushwacka

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2012, 05:36:46 am »
Josh, my post had nothing to do with wheel size in relation to who did well in the race.  Simply that it was interesting to see such a variety of bikes in use, and in particular that the 650B wheel size was used in a such a race.  As far as I know, 2012 is the first year that this wheel size has been used in World Cup / Olympics.  I find that to be a good thing, and I'm looking forward to seeing more 650B models on the market, esp. XC hardtails.   And that's all.....

Scott will be your bike company, they are the only ones making true XC hardtails next year in 650B, in fact scotts only 26inch bike next year will be DH bikes and Dirt jumpers.

650b is mostly going to be used in the 140mm-160mm travel range. Basically trying to get a bigger wheels on a bigger travel bike.


Svend

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2012, 06:11:33 am »
That makes total sense -- a bigger wheel on a full suspension all-mountain bike made for rugged terrain.  But not so big that you lose handling agility, or is disproportionate for smaller riders.  If Norco builds the Fluid 650B, it should be a big seller for them. 

Overall, if the bike industry in general runs with this, and can get over the inertia of having invested years into 26ers and then 29ers, I would guess that this will be one of the most significant advances in mtn. bike technology of the past decade, or more.  At least one that makes far more sense than many of the other "developments" of questionable value (I won't start an argument around that comment, but will keep those opinions to myself  ::)).

Re. Scott bikes -- I like their build quality and handling.  I test rode a 26er hardtail a few years ago and was really impressed.  Super-responsive, agile, quick, great handling.  They seem durable too -- the shop owner had just raced one across Costa Rica (one of those multi-day epic events), and had no problems with it at all.  If they had made a 29er at the time, I would have bought one.


« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 06:16:24 am by Svend »

epic

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2012, 06:54:37 am »
Rocky MOuntain is also going big on 650B next year. Have you seen the video of their "fro-riders" riding XC bikes. Apparently, they destroy 29ers in less than a day, but want bigger wheels and the 650bs don't fall apart under them.

Maybe in 10 years I'll be ready to drink the 650 Kool-Aid, it's been 10 tears since 29ers became mainstream and tire and wheel selections are still limited.

Svend

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2012, 10:04:32 pm »
Rocky MOuntain is also going big on 650B next year. Have you seen the video of their "fro-riders" riding XC bikes. Apparently, they destroy 29ers in less than a day, but want bigger wheels and the 650bs don't fall apart under them.

Maybe in 10 years I'll be ready to drink the 650 Kool-Aid, it's been 10 tears since 29ers became mainstream and tire and wheel selections are still limited.

Really? Wow, that's at least 5 years longer than up here.  When I bought my 29er in Toronto in the fall of 2009, only a handful of stores carried them (and there are literally dozens of bike shops within an hour of my house).  And those that did, had only a single model to choose from.  Mainstream three years ago? Not so much....  But a lot has changed since then, and I would guess that more than half the bikes in the local races are now 29ers. 

So if this late adoption is any indicator, it might be a long time until 650B takes a foothold here.  OTOH, if Norco and Rocky, two Canadian brands, are getting into these in a bigger way, perhaps they will catch on more quickly than 29ers did.  Perhaps the opposite trend will occur -- early adoption in Canada; later in the US.....  We'll see.....

But, like you, it'll be a while before anyone in our family jumps on a 650B bike.  We're all happy with our rides, so no need to trade in our wheels just yet.  But when the time comes, I'm looking forward to having some nice 650B's to choose from.

« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 10:07:40 pm by Svend »

epic

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2012, 06:50:43 am »
Yeah, I guess it's all how you want to define mainstream, but Fisher was big with 29" at least 10 years ago. I sold Bianchi and Diamondback 29ers in 1994 or so, but they called them 700c.

I think this time manufacturers don't want to be late to the party. Also, 29ers do have some big challenges that 650bs don't have. It's just easier to build good bikes for 650b wheels.

Svend

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Re: 650B at the Olympics
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2012, 07:37:45 am »
Well, I'm not too up on the history of the 29er, but I do know that they got a solid foothold with riders in the US long before Canadians started getting into them.  Part of that slower adoption may have been rooted in the Canadian bike industry, which tends to be centered around the Vancouver North Shore scene and Whistler (think All-Mtn.,, DH and Trail bikes).  I can imagine product developers for, say, Norco, Rocky, Brodie, etc., who are all headquartered there, looking southward at 29ers and then swiveling their heads to look at the trails out their back door, and saying "Nope. Not going to work here."  That attitude may have then been transferred to the dealer networks through local reps across the rest of the country.  Who knows.....that's just conjecture.

Also, 29ers do have some big challenges that 650bs don't have. It's just easier to build good bikes for 650b wheels.

Agreed.  That's why I think this is a really great development.  Looking forward 5 or 10 years, I can see 650 bikes supplanting 26ers almost entirely, and pulling 29er riders into the fold as well, who are looking for a more rugged frame/wheel or better handling.  It may well become the new standard, much like 26" has been since the 80's.