2014 Giant 'Recreation' range - 27.5" wheels are here!
Giant have recently released their 2014 'Recreation' range (broadly speaking, bikes up to $1600), and one of the more eye catching features of the new range is a number of 27.5” (or 650b) wheeled mountain bikes. While there have been a number of spy photos and rumours on the net of various 27.5 full suspension models, bikes in this range were a surprise. (As yet there are no confirmed details of the new 'Performance' range, but it would seem almost certain now that we will see 27.5 wheeled versions of the popular XtC, Anthem and Trance platforms, with rumours of a new longer travel 'Enduro' style model as well).
Much of the range is relatively unchanged, with the popular Defy road bikes, Seek and Cross City commuters largely the same but sporting new colour ways. Youth and kids bikes are also fairly similar, although the price on many models has actually dropped. A couple of highlights include the new Simple men's and women's urban cruisers, the internally geared Seek 1, and the striking new colour schemes on the Via.
But the big changes have come in the mountain bikes, where 27.5 wheels are most certainly in. There are still two Talon 29ers, but the Talon range has expanded greatly to include four 27.5 models. Prices for these start at $719 for the hydraulic disc brake equipped Talon 27.5 5, which is going to be very hard to beat value for money wise. The equivalent women's specific model is now called the Tempt, and interestingly there are now no women's specific 29ers in the 'Recreation' line-up. Meanwhile the entry level Boulder range has been reduced to 2 models, along with the women's equivalent Enchant, while last year's Boulder 29er has disappeared.
So far, Giant are the first of the so called 'big' manufacturers (eg. Specialized, Trek, Merida) to jump on board with the 27.5 size, so what is the deal? Is it just all hype and a way for manufacturers to generate more sales, or is there something in it? 27.5 wheels are said to offer a great combination of the characteristics of both 26 and 29 wheels. The great advantage of 29ers are the speed at which they roll, and the way they maintain their momentum. The downsides are that due to the larger wheel they tend to be slower to accelerate, are less maneuverable in certain situations, and the wheels are heavier.
However 27.5 wheels accelerate much like a 26, yet they roll over obstacles and maintain their speed and momentum much like a 29er, due to a very similar angle of attack. They also offer a similar sized contact patch as a 29er, giving increased traction and control compared to a 26. Larger wheels require a larger frame, which can result in unwanted frame flex, so the smaller frame dimensions required for 27.5 wheels give a frame less prone to flexing, meaning better acceleration and control. The smaller frame and wheels will also make for a lighter and more maneuverable bike – overall 27.5 bike weights are much closer to that of 26 rather than a 29er. (Giant claim that a 27.5 wheel is only 5% heavier than a comparable 26, while a 29er wheel is 12% heavier).
Which is all well and good, but what do we really think? The Pushbikes take is as follows:
- We think this is an exciting new development, and are pleased to see Giant taking the leap and offering a range of options - it is great to work with an innovative company that is looking to push the boundaries of bicycle design.
- We suspect that each of the wheel sizes will find it's own 'niche' – 29 in cross-country, 27.5 in longer travel trail/enduro/all-mountain, and 26 in downhill. (Noting that there will be cross-overs, eg. we suspect there will be both 27.5 and 29 options in the XtC, Anthem and Trance line-ups for the coming season, and that some downhill teams are already testing with 27.5).
- We think that depending on your riding style/what you are looking to get out of your riding, this will indicate whether 27.5 is for you - eg. do you want flat out speed, or greater maneuverability, acceleration, and the ability to bounce off bigger obstacles.
- And we think that 27.5 could be a great option for shorter/smaller riders, by giving a lighter bike that is easier to maneuver.