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Neko Mulally tests a modified 29 inch Scott Gambler

Bit of a gamble?

Murmurs of 29 inch downhill bikes are always floating around the bike world, but Neko Mulally has gone the whole hog and decided to build up his World Champs frame as a 29er.

He needed to make a few modifications, such as milling the fork arch for clearance and fitting a shorter shock with offset bushings to preserve the geometry but, in essence, here is a 29er downhill bike. Of course, it’s not perfect (just look how far forward the seat is slammed) but it’s definitely an interesting experiment.

Built this thing up with a few mods to the bike I've been riding all year. Started by fitting 29" wheels to the frame I raced at world champs. To get the BB low enough with the larger wheels I switched from a 240mm shock (9.5×3) to a 222mm shock (8.75×2.75). The difference in shock size was more than I was looking for, so I put offset bushings in both ends of the new shock to make it less of a change. The shorter shock made the bike too slack, so I put in a +1 degree headset. The front wheel fit into my standard 27.5 fork, but had very little clearance so I milled out the fork arch a few extra mm for a smooth fit. The rear wheel fit with plenty of clearance and has room away from the seat tube at bottom out. I had to run my seat post a little higher than normal and push my seat all the way forward on the rails. Other than that everything else fit perfectly. The BB height is 340mm, head angle about 62.5 degrees, the wheelbase about 1260mm. My first impression is that it makes all bumps feel smaller. The shorter shock cut off the top of my stroke so it feels less supple than riding my normal set up. Turning is not too bad, but feels kind of 2 dimensional. If you get late into a turn you really need to commit or you get stood up. It definitely is not as nimble with the big wheels, but when you ride smooth it's great. Then switching back to the 27.5 the front wheel seemed small after riding this thing! For a bike that I was able to build into another wheel size with all stock parts (aside from the linkage I've been using all year) it feels pretty good. I'm not sure better or worse yet, but it certainly has its sections and I'm excited to ride it more. I think there is huge potential for a downhill bike designed from the ground up around 29" wheels. It could be a great tool for certain tracks, maybe more than you would think.

A photo posted by nekomulally (@nekomulally) on

There’s quite a lot to take in from the caption but the bottom line is about how it rides. Neko said: “My first impression is that it makes all bumps feel smaller. The shorter shock cut off the top of my stroke so it feels less supple than riding my normal set up. Turning is not too bad, but feels kind of two dimensional.

“If you get late into a turn you really need to commit or you get stood up. It definitely is not as nimble with the big wheels, but when you ride smooth it’s great. Then switching back to the 27.5 the front wheel seemed small after riding this thing!”

Of course, we can’t know if it’s quicker or not until it’s put up against the clock, but the fact he’s even trying it is telling. Could it be long before we see ghetto customisations like this on more pedally World Cups, or even complete 29 inch frames? Neko said: “I’m not sure better or worse yet, but it certainly has its sections and I’m excited to ride it more.”

Have a scroll through the comments on this one too as Neko is taking questions about the bike. Including talking about the bar height (no different apparently) and the tyres (Schwalbe Super Gravity Magic Mary).

For more thoughts on 29er downhill bikes check out our discussion on them here.

Neko’s Full Description

“Built this thing up with a few mods to the bike I’ve been riding all year. Started by fitting 29” wheels to the frame I raced at world champs.

“To get the BB low enough with the larger wheels I switched from a 240mm shock (9.5×3) to a 222mm shock (8.75×2.75).

“The difference in shock size was more than I was looking for, so I put offset bushings in both ends of the new shock to make it less of a change. The shorter shock made the bike too slack, so I put in a +1 degree headset.

“The front wheel fit into my standard 27.5 fork, but had very little clearance so I milled out the fork arch a few extra mm for a smooth fit. The rear wheel fit with plenty of clearance and has room away from the seat tube at bottom out.

“I had to run my seat post a little higher than normal and push my seat all the way forward on the rails. Other than that everything else fit perfectly. The BB height is 340mm, head angle about 62.5 degrees, the wheelbase about 1260mm.

“My first impression is that it makes all bumps feel smaller. The shorter shock cut off the top of my stroke so it feels less supple than riding my normal set up. Turning is not too bad, but feels kind of 2 dimensional. If you get late into a turn you really need to commit or you get stood up.

“It definitely is not as nimble with the big wheels, but when you ride smooth it’s great. Then switching back to the 27.5 the front wheel seemed small after riding this thing!

“For a bike that I was able to build into another wheel size with all stock parts (aside from the linkage I’ve been using all year) it feels pretty good. I’m not sure better or worse yet, but it certainly has its sections and I’m excited to ride it more.

“I think there is huge potential for a downhill bike designed from the ground up around 29″ wheels. It could be a great tool for certain tracks, maybe more than you would think.”

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