Call me a sucker for fads but the lure of a short travel 29ers was simply too hard to resist. There’s more than pure fashion in my pick though. Unlike the rest of the Dirt office I’m London based, this means I’m away from the burly mountains of south Wales and more familiar with the short, sharp undulations of South East England.
I wanted something that could chew up the ground beneath me while still providing chuckable singletrack thrills. I first rode 29ers a few years ago and found them to be floppy and dull, partly because I wasn’t riding the good ones, but the recent renaissance drew me back in.
The Boost hub standard has benefitted many short travel 29ers now including the Norco Optic, Transition Smuggler, Trek Fuel and Unno TR. There’s also a school of thought that suggests the 29 inch wheels offer an equivalent feel to an extra few mm travel, making these comparable to the 650b mid-travel steeds I was used to.
I worried though that this short travel fad (in either 27.5 or 29) was an excuse more than anything – you get beaten by your friend on a descent: “well if I had a bit more travel it would have been different”. Do they also offer that bogus “purity” that hardtail riders bang on about? That idea that shorter travel leaves you relying on your skills more than the bike’s travel? Or was it simply going to beat me to shit not too dissimilar to a hardtail?
Watching the Soho TV Bike Park Wales episode was the deciding factor – Rowan Sorrell, owner of Bikepark Wales, went only five seconds slower down Fifty Shades of Black at his Merthyr venue on his short travel 29er than his full enduro bike… sold.