650B wheel swap test
Update on the 650b conversion. I got a decent night where I could ride both wheel sizes 26 and 650b on the same bike on the same trail back to back. It was quite interesting for sure and I learned a lot of things while doing it. First let me note that this summer has been miserable for biking in the Milwaukee/Chicago area. We haven’t gone 2 days all summer without substantial rain. There is standing water on almost all of the trails around here and if you stop on the trail too long you run the risk of losing a pint of blood to mosquitoes. That being said I still try to get out and ride as much as I can.
So I started the ride on the 26ers for two reasons. The trails were muddy and on the 26 inch wheels I have Maxxis High Rollers mounted. If you have ever used High Rollers you know how good they are in mixed wet dry conditions. In the dry they can hold on very well, but if the trail gets muddy they can shed dirt quickly to keep the treads clear. They are my go to tire if I can only pick one tire to run in all conditions. The second reason to run the 26” wheel first is I wanted to ride the trail I know well on the wheels I know well first. This would give me a good baseline for comparison.
First lap around on the 26” wheels and I have to say I wasn’t expecting all the mud that was slinging around. Half way around the trail and I was picking mud from my teeth. I can’t really comment on the ride of the bike here because it rode the way I expected it to. The handling was sharp and crisp, but the ride is a bit harsh on the aluminum Avalanche. It did seem like pedaling effort was a little high, but I am going to attribute that to the mud buildup on the tires. Otherwise nothing really special to report here.
After the first 3 miles I got back to the truck and swaped out for the bigger wheels. As background, both sets of wheels weigh exactly the same. They have the same cassette on them for gears and tires weigh in about the same. So really the only difference when swaping over wheels is the bottom bracket height comes up about .75 inches. This is truly a test of wheel size not bike or geometry.
Right away it felt like the bike had less rolling resistance and it was easier to pedal. Not sure if the was having mud free tires, but that is what jumped out at me. Once I hit the trail the bike felt softer and more compliant. It no longer had that harsh ride I am used to. Don’t get me wrong it was still stiff on the hard tail, but it was more tolerable now. As I got settled on the trail obstacles were a little easier to get over and the rock gardens were not as bad. Half way through the loop I had a nice build up of mud on the tires, but it still felt like it was rolling a bit better. I was having to stay a gear down from where I was on the 26ers, but you could expect that with a final drive ratio increase. It did feel like an improvement over the smaller wheels. The only place I missed them was at the end of the trail where it gets really tight and twisty. The 650bs took a bit more effort to swing around some tight corners. Otherwise I really liked it.
I did have Strava running for both runs and the times on the 650bs were better by a few seconds. That is within the margin of error, but more importantly I had more fun in the muddy conditions on the bigger wheel size. I think that is what is most important. The ultimate conclusion is I am keeping those wheels on that bike long term. I am really happy with how the conversion turned out.