Are 26 inch Mountain Bikes Obsolete?

The wheel is a simple paradigm of the longevity of phases in life. It denotes that nothing is stable in life, and everything is temporary, be it extreme sorrow or even eternal happiness.

Mountain biking is a sport that is purely deemed as fun, thrill, and adventure. It often includes off-road biking with the specifically designed best mountain bikes over rough terrains and trails.

These mountain bikes are somewhat similar to road or leisure bikes. Still, they differ in engineered geometry, components, and features that intend to make the biker feel highly comfortable while exploring rough paths and even the peak of the mountains.

Although mountain bikes are a representation of speed all set up over a structure of two wheels, these two wheels are prominently the epitome of speed, modulation, victory, freedom, and heights.

With these two wheels, an individual leaves behind all the deep stresses and anxieties and embarks on the journey of self-love and self-belief.

Hence, it sounds much pleasing to state that the eternal beauty lies in the fact that a mountain bike to a mountain biker is a source of enlightenment, peace, tranquility, and all that he desires from the depth of nature.


Since 1978, mountain bikes have taken the world by storm with a revolution in the bike industry. Initially, the mountain bikes were all equipped with the 26” wheel size. Hence, the 26-inch mountain bikes were deemed as the standard size for mountain bikes for many years.

But with changing trends and biker’s demands, there has been an extensive introduction of several options in designs, frames, geometry, components, and even wheel sizes.

Since 2010, post 26-inch mountain bikes, the 29ers were introduced in the markets. Just with the launch, the 29 inch mountain bikes became extremely popular amongst most of the biker’s groups because of their sturdy properties and suitability to taller riders.

But it was then in 2013 when 27.5-inch mountain bikes also became the talk of the town. They emerged out as a popular alternative and a balanced version of both the 26” and the 29ers.

On the significantly less complicated ground earlier, the mountain bikes had 26-inch wheels. The basic 26-inch mountain bikes were mainly the 26” beach cruiser bikes that were very popular during the initial phases.

But when the 29-inch mountain bikes were introduced, they proved to be a much better choice than the traditional 26-inch mountain bikes from all aspects.

Initially, the 29ers were seen as the perfect ones until there evolved certain limitations and restrictions with the characteristics of the 29-inch mountain bikes. Therefore, the need for an alternative of both of these wheel sizes was considered.

Hence, the 27.5” wheel size or 650b was seen as an intermediate solution. The new 27.5-inch mountain bikes proved to be better in fit, handling, durability, riding styles, and much more. Thus, the 27.5” wheels pushed the traditional 26-inch mountain bike towards being obsolete.

Hence, it can be stated as per the facts that 26-inch mountain bikes had got a seriously tough competition in the form of 29ers and 27.5-inch mountain bikes.

But is that honestly authentic to state that are 26 inch mountain bikes obsolete? Let me roll on towards the further sections of this article to more and much about this controversial topic.

26 inch Mountain Bike Wheels: From Heights To Darkness

“The one that awakens has to rest somewhere, but it becomes the glory if the sun rises back the next morning.”

Precisely, the 26-inch mountain bike wheels are all good but indeed are overshadowed by the modern versions of themselves. The 26″ wheels are still seen around in the markets as they are strong, lightweight, and make an exquisite mountain bike.

Having said that, the latest markets do not see an overwhelming amount of 26-inch mountain bikes being sold currently. Besides, many existing 26” wheels, forks, and bikes manufacture cheaper spare parts conveniently available on various second-hand sites online or in stores.

That can be stated that although the 26” wheels are solid and stiff, the use of 26-inch mountain bike wheels is somewhat limited or restricted. They are still seen at the repair shops or the old bike stores, where they are sold in some lightweight bikes, specifically freeride bikes, dirt jump bikes, or the kid’s mountain bikes.

That depicts that the manufacturers are getting the kids to have the feeling of adult bikes but in a compact version of them. Hence, it is a total degradation of the 26-inch mountain bike wheels from an extreme height to the sheer depth of darkness.

29 inch Mountain Bike Wheels Or 29ers: A Revolution Continued With Correction

Several studies and researches have shown that 29-inch mountain bike wheels are the most efficient and considerable choice for the maximum groups of bikers around. They offer a great range of speed, safety, variations, and rollover capabilities during aggressive mountain biking.

The 29ers are usually versatile bikes that support various biking styles and can generally fit above basic or exceptionally taller riders with excellent efficiency.

The 29ers eminently offer better traction and grip while gliding over the rocky patchy terrains, keeping the biker safe and comfortable at the same time. Besides, it is extremely easy to maintain balance on these bikes as the 29-inch wheels are wide enough to remain in constant touch with the surface even at the steepest of hills or mountains.

Even in the case of descends, the 29ers play efficiently and jumps over the low spots or puddles without getting stuck and affected, unlike the comparatively smaller wheel size.

The 29-inch mountain bike wheels are generally larger and heavy in weight. It requires a lot of strength to move and pedal these 29ers.

But with constant improvements and technical advancements, these problems have been varied or fixed. But again, the fact remains the bulkiness and heavyweight of the 29-inch mountain bike wheels.

Since the 29ers are hard to get going, they are not that quick and smooth, thus affecting the speed and momentum while off-road biking. That eventually makes them comparatively slower.

Besides, because of their property of being a little low on suspension power, these 29ers are not compatible with freeride bikes or downhill ranges of biking.

Hence, it can be stated eventually that although the 29-inch mountain bike wheels are better than the standard 26-inch mountain bike wheel size, these 29ers still have certain limitations and drawbacks.

27.5 inch Mountain Bike Wheels: The Dark Horse In The Race

It can be stated that the specific limited properties of the 29ers gave rise to the 27.5-inch mountain bike wheel industry with a bang. There were speculations that after 26” wheel size, the market needs a prominently improved version of the standard wheel size.

But then 29ers were introduced, followed by the ultimate third wheel size 27.5”, which was already accepted by the market.

The 27.5-inch mountain bike wheels, or the 650b, are originally somewhat closer to 27” and not completely 27.5”. Hence this makes them far better in terms of performance, speed, and acceleration than the traditional 26” wheels.

It is convenient to roll over terrains much better than the typical 29er. The 27.5” wheels are more efficient, balanced, and equally responsive. Hence, these 27.5-inch mountain bike wheels emerged as the improvised version and the adequate balance of both the other wheel sizes.

The 27.5-inch mountain bike wheels or the 650b are deemed a perfect balance between the 26” wheels and the 29ers because they are slightly more significant than the 26-inch wheels and a little smaller than the 29-inch wheels.

But on equal contradictory grounds, that can also be mentioned that these 27.5-inch mountain bike wheels have some drawbacks as well. These may be better than the traditional 26-inch mountain bike wheels but lack specific points compared to the 29-inch mountain bike wheels.

To elaborate, the 27.5-inch mountain bike wheels may hold expertise in gliding over challenging trails and handling the obstacles well, but they may not be as smooth as the 29” mountain bikes are in the same travel.

Are 26 inch Mountain Bikes Obsolete?

That could be the most controversial kind of statement to be made in reply to this question. According to the above-stated comparisons and discussions regarding all three different mountain bike wheel sizes, viz., 26-inch mountain bike wheels, 29-inch mountain bike wheels, and 29-inch mountain bike wheels, it becomes quite a contradictory outcome.

In terms of 26-inch mountain bike wheels, the answer lies in the fact that these wheel sizes are still present in the market and are not yet extinct. They might have overshadowed due to the advancements in the other wheel sizes, but they still serve the needs of smooth, lightweight, durable bikes.

They are currently not achieving that hype that they used to celebrate in the 70s or 80s, and so they may be deemed out of fashion, but again old always remain gold.

Since this is a topic of serious contradiction, let me segregate the discussion into two specific groups and move further ahead with all possible explanations.

On The Basis Of Geometry

The geometry of the 26-inch mountain bikes could be seen as outdated, as the need of the hour is a progressive and advanced geometry. By the time the basic 26-inch wheels were widespread, their geometry was also considered the best.

But with time and technology, due to the lack in trend, the 26-inch wheel size is seen as obsolete by a particular group of individuals. However, a different group still believes that it is all about the usage and preference of the bike and its type that decides whether the product is outdated or still in demand.

Hence it could be stated that on one part, 26-inch mountain bike wheels are obsolete, but contradictorily, on the other side of the discussion, they are not.

On The Basis Of Advanced Quality Components

Alongside the geometry of the 26-inch mountain bike wheels, the discussion also takes us towards the fact regarding the advancement in quality components.

There are certain people who still prefer keeping their old 26-inch mountain bikes as they have a special affection for them, or perhaps they still find them comfortable and fulfilling enough.

But in case anyone would have ample advanced quality components that are much more superior, there is no point in still pushing out the old 26” mountain bike unnecessarily.

On The Basis Of Personal Preference

For some individuals, the statement that the 26-inch mountain bike wheels are entirely obsolete would sound somewhat unacceptable. It is neither based on the geometry of the mountain bike nor based on the availability of the premium or advanced quality components, but that ultimately depends on their personal preference or choice. 

As per today’s scenario, people are often attracted toward the plush and premium range of the latest hi-tech models equipped with either 29” or 27.5” mountain bike wheels, but there are indeed a group of individuals who are not tempted with this section of modernization. Instead, they give more preference to the pleasure and joy of riding their vintage 26-inch mountain bike.

They equally intend to put in extra care regarding not pushing their 26-inch bike much harder and trying their best to maintain it well.

It is simply like the fact that if an individual prefers keeping his old vintage Fiat car adorning his garage, he would not be pleased or tempted with the plush oozed out by the exclusive Ferrari.

But that comes with certain limitations regarding the expeditions over challenging trails despite the older geometry or old school components. Hence, it thoroughly over your stage of preferences and choices.

The Final Face-Off: 26” Vs. 27.5” Vs. 29”

This final face-off would be based on the comparison made between the 26-inch, 27.5-inch, and 29-inch mountain bike wheels on similar ground.

The comparisons would be made on the basis of features, advancements, performance, flexibility, rolling capacity, safety measures, and the extensive pros and cons.

So let’s get started.

The 26 inch mountain bike wheels

The 26-inch mountain bike usually seems like a mini bike or a very compact, lightweight version of an adult bike. This bike is exceptionally convenient to pedal and straddle and has a nice fork.

This 26” MTB is extremely well while steep climbing and gives effortless acceleration despite challenging trails and terrains. It features strong, powerful brakes and suspension.

Thus, this bike is a very responsive and lightweight bike that keeps the rider safe and comfortable throughout the biking session. 

Besides, the drawbacks of the 26-inch mountain bike lie in its inferior descending gliding compared to that of 27.5” and 29er. This 26” mountain bike requires more pedal power and a constant stiff riding position to handle the bike well.

Hence, the rider is needed to stay in the attacking position for the maximum time, which would eventually make him tired and uncomfortable on longer rides.

Here are the best 26 inch mountain bikes.

The 29-inch mountain bike wheels

The 29-inch mountain bike is exceptionally suitable for taller or oversized riders. It makes the rider feel the most comfortable while seated. The crank rotations and the pedal power would make you feel that all the forces are working well without you getting tired.

The wide 29” mountain wheels are extremely powerful and make the ride comfortable. As compared to the 26-inch wheels, the 29er would make you feel gliding smooth and swift.

These 29ers are very reliable as they provide maximum traction and glides over rough, rooty terrains. The best part of the 29ers is that it holds the maximum momentum and giving the biker overall an excellent biking experience.

Despite the pros and considerable points, some inevitable drawbacks are associated with the 29-inch mountain bikes. These bikes require effort and more power while getting back to cruising speed. Besides, steep climbing and, lately, getting back to the actual speed is quite challenging.

The 29-inch mountain wheels being more oversized and bulky, requires more power and effort. Also, the 29-inch mountain bike does not display that acceleration power as compared to that of the 26” wheels and the 27.5” wheels. Eventually, the braking power was also not as expected from this worthy 29er.

The 27.5-inch mountain bike wheels

The 27.5-inch mountain bike is very comfortable as it is much better than a 26-inch mountain bike in terms of sitting position. This bike has an agile speed and gives a perfect feeling of being between the 26-inch and the 29er.

However, it keeps the rider at ease and does not let him pedal hard to keep rolling. The rider doesn’t require to be in the attacking position; instead, he could be seated neutral.

This bike lets uphill climbing and downhill gliding be the best experiences for the rider with utmost comfort. The 27.5-inch mountain wheels remain sturdy and in touch with the surface without making it bumpy for the rider.

Besides the pros, the 27.5-inch mountain bikes simply show a minor drawback of not being as smooth as the 29-inch wheels over rough terrains.

But honestly, that is a mere fact to be overlooked. Rest there is no major drawback in the 27.5-inch mountain bikes as compared to the 26-inch mountain wheels and the 29-inch mountain wheels.


On the basis of all the above discussions and the face-off amongst the three mountain bike wheel sizes, viz., the 26 inch mountain bike wheels, 29 inch mountain bike wheels, and the 27.5 inch mountain bike wheels, I have reached to my final verdict.

Although the 26 inch mountain bikes are the lightest in the group, they are proved to be much better in terms of acceleration, uphill riding, and downhill gliding along with rolling down the trails. Hence, the 26-inch wheels become highly suitable for trail biking, wheelie, and freestyle biking.

Therefore, on the apparent basis of these facts and clarifications, it shows that however 26 inch mountain bikes lack behind in terms of various attributes, they can’t be termed obsolete.

You can read more about this at Quora for discussion on are 26 inch mountain bikes obsolete.

But on the equal ground of advancement and technology, regular upgrades are always required and much needed. And for one to rise and shine, the other has to be overshadowed.

With this, it eventually becomes a contradictory output to be, with regards to the topic of discussion, that are 26 inch mountain bikes obsolete?

The 26 inch mountain bikes are yet old-fashioned but not on the verge of extinction; however, they are constantly deemed obsolete.

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