29er mountain bikes have become increasingly popular in the latest three years. Skeptically regarded at their debut on mountain biking scene, these bikes quickly made their way to success, which can be measured in sales figures. In Europe, for example, according to a survey released in the summer of 2011, 29er bikes had an increase of 158% compared to 2009. This is quite remarkable, given the fact that only the electric bikes segment managed to achieve such a spectacular growth.
Briefly, we will restate the advantages of 29er bikes. A larger wheel passes over obstacles more easily, provides better stability thanks to the increased contact patch and offers a higher running speed. A 29er uses a 28-inch rim and the difference up to 29 inches is made by the tire.
Even if in their beginnings 29er bikes were more expensive as they used tires and suspension forks built on purpose for their new size, the good sales figures finally led to lower prices, and today they are only slighter more expensive than some of bikes with 26 inch wheels. Components also became a lot easier to find.
Returning to the advantages of 29er bikes, they are very suitable for tall riders. Cyclists taller than 1.80 m feel better on such large wheels bike, and they’re likely to better fit to the proportions of the frame. Passing over obstacles also becomes much easier. Imagine having to cross a ditch, first with a smaller wheel and then with the large one. Due to their size, 29er wheels will easily leave obstacles behind. As for disadvantages, 29er bikes are less agile than those with 26-inch wheels. This means that they will not be as fast on twisty trails and they also weigh more, due to components. However, after you get accustomed to a 29er, you will tend to ignore all these shortcomings and develop your own style of controlling this bike.
So, how to choose a 29er mountain bike? Best is to try it out before spending your money. For example, an 18 inch frame size does not correspond to the same measure of 26 inches wheels bike, as it is even larger, so testing in advance is essential.
We took a look at some entry-level models offered by several manufacturers and we’re ready to introduce them to you in this article. For most manufacturers, prices for entry-level bikes start with 600 euro and stop at 800 euros. If you feel ready to make the big step, make sure you have your inspiration with you, and choose your favorite brand!
Bergamont Revox 2.2 29er 2012
REVOX comes with quite decent equipment for its price: a Shimano Deore (non-Shadow) derailleur, a 29 XCM fork with 100 mm lever and Tektro Draco hydraulic disc brakes with a 180 mm front rotor and 160 mm rear rotor. Weight is 14.6 kg and the recommended selling price is 600 euro.
Full information on bergamont.de.
Cube Analog 29 2012 (very good quality/price ratio)
The German manufacturer has no less than 10 models in his 2012 range of 29er bikes. Analog 29, the entry-level model, is equipped with a Suntour XCM 29 fork (100 mm travel), Shimano Deore Shadow rear derailleur and surprisingly, a middle range front derailleur, Shimano SLX. Shimano M445 brakes have decent performance to offer, but the 160-mm front wheel rotor may be undersized. A weight of 13.9 kg is quite good for this segment, and so is the recommended selling price of 650 euro.
Full information on cube.eu.
Focus Black Forest 29r 3.0 2012 (superior components, low weight)
The 29er offered by Focus is the most expensive bike presented in our guide. It features a Shimano Deore driving gear, Tektro Draco brakes and a fork that sets it apart from competition, and explains the bigger price: Shox XC 28 TK RL. The Continental Race King tires are also worth being mentioned in our short description of this 13.2 kg mountain-bike, available for 800 euro.
Complete information on focus-bikes.com.
Fuji Nevada 29 2.0 2012 (the heaviest)
Fuji’s 29er comes at a decent price, but unfortunately it weighs quite a lot: 15.11 kg. It is equipped with a Suntour XCM V3 100 mm travel fork, a Shimano Alivio triple crankset, and a Deore rear derailleur. Brakes are Tektro Draco with 160 mm rotors both front and rear and the suggested retail price is 750 euro.
Full information is available on fujibikes.com.
Giant Talon 2 29er 2012 (the worst equipped)
Known as the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world, Giant offers the Talon with several versions of equipment. The Talon 2 costs 600 euro and is equipped with a Suntour XCT 100 mm travel fork, a Sram X.3 rear derailleur working on a 7 speed cassette and Tektro IOX mechanical brakes with 160 mm rotors. Mechanical brakes and a 7 gear cassette are rather surprising, but this approach is often taken by the premium manufacturers, relying rather on the quality of the frame and not on a scrupulous choice of components. Weight is 14.4 kg.
Full information available on giant-bicycles.com.
Kellys TNT 9.1 29er 2012
Kellys too takes into account the market demands and offers three 29er bikes for 2012. They all boast the sporty look Kellys has accustomed us with lately. TNT 9.1 comes with a Suntour XCR 29 100 mm travel fork, a drive gear featuring Shimano Alivio and Deore derailleurs and Tektro Draco brakes with 160-mm rotors. Tires fitted to this model come from Schwalbe, Rapid Bob, to be more specific. This bike weights 14.5 kg and retailers sell it for 730 euro.
Full information is available on kellysbike.com.
Merida Big.Nine TFS 100-D
Same as the Germans from Cube, Merida offers a wide range of 29er bikes for 2012. The entry level model is Big.Nine TFS 100-D, equipped with a Suntour XCM fork, 9 gear cassette, Shimano Deore (Non Shadow) rear derailleur and Tektro Draco brakes, with 180 mm front rotor. Tires come from Maxxis, namely 2.1 Cross Mark. Weight is 14.6 kg and the recommended price is 600 euro.
Full information is available on merida-bikes.com.
Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc 29er 2012
Specialized comes with an interesting approach. The Hardrock 29er has a sporty, slightly aggressive look, but the components fitted on the bike are as follows: 80 mm travel Suntour XCM fork, so a shorter travel than the competition, Sram X4 8 gear cassette, and Avid BB5 brakes. Although mechanical, the brakes chosen by Specialized are among the best brakes in their segment. Weight revolves around 14.6 kg and the price is 600 euro.
Full information is available on specialized.com.
Trek Marlin 29er 2012 (cheapest bike in single speed version)
Trek benefits from Gary Fisher’ experience with 29er bikes and offers a full range of models, from low cost mountain bike to the most expensive ones. For 600 euro you get a 29er equipped with a 100 mm travel Suntour XCM fork, Sram X.4 rear derailleur, 8 speed cassette (and not 9 speed as the main competitors choose to offer) and Tektro Novela mechanical disc brakes. It is also worth mentioning that the same main competitors equipped their bikes with hydraulic disc brakes. Total bike’s weight is 14.6 kg, and it is available for 600 euro. However, you may enjoy the singlespeed version, sold with 550 euro, the lowest price for a 29er bikes in this buyer’s guide.
Full information is available on trekbikes.com.
Univega Alpina HT-29.3 2012 (lightest and the best equipped)
For 800 euro, Univega offers the best equipped entry-level model of all 29er bikes presented in this article. Alpine features Shimano SLX rear derailleur, a Rock Shox XC fork and Schwalbe’s Fast Bob tires. Brakes come from Tektro and are equipped with a 180-mm front rotor brakes and a 160 mm rear rotor. Last but not least, this bike is the lightest of all the models presented in this guide: 12.95 kg.
Full information is available on univega.com.
This article is by no means a review. However, it presents you the most important advantages of the 29er bikes offered by a few big players in the industry. The basic rule stays the same as for other types of bikes: premium manufacturers offer high quality and great finishes for the frames, with rebate to the range of components, while others rely more on equipment than on their brand’s notoriety.
Therefore, after going through this article, the best decision is in your hands. Of course, it is almost inconceivable that some manufacturers still equip their 29er bikes with 7 gear cassettes but the “pricing vs. equipment” policy is quite different from one manufacturer to another, and this decision can not be challenged as long as they see to it to provide other benefits (brand awareness, quality finishes, quality services etc.).