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Bigger is better

By:
Christoph Sauser
Published:
April 05, 2012, 17:02 BST,
Updated:
April 05, 2012, 18:10 BST
Race:
Cape Epic

Cape Epic winner says 29-inch wheels are superior to 650b

Christoph Sauser of 36One-Songo-Specialized sprays the champagne in celebration after winning the 2012 Cape Epic with Burry Stander

Christoph Sauser of 36One-Songo-Specialized sprays the champagne in celebration after winning the 2012 Cape Epic with Burry Stander

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Millions of rocks, thousands of corners and climbing twice as many feet as Mount Everest is tall! This is the annual Absa Cape Epic mountain bike stage race every year for thousand of riders. It draws riders like you and me and women, former rugby players, pros, wannabes, 100kg guys, flyweights, Formula One drivers, Africans, Europeans, Asians... The whole world meets to ride and race bikes.

Some things have always been and always remain the same. Tires are black and round.

But what has changed dramatically over the last two years is wheel size.

2012 marked the first time ever that every UCI-registered Cape Epic rider raced on a 29er, and I guess that was true of most of the amateur racers who had bikes not older than one year.

It must be confusing for some riders to see the new 650B wheel size now becoming available and under discussion. Not to mention what will bike shop owners think if they have to start stocking three standards of frames, shocks, tires, wheels and forks. How can you still recommend a bike and not confuse your customer?

In that case, I would focus totally on a concept bike shop with only 29ers because I totally believe in the biggest wheel size. I think it would work for 95 percent of bike shop customers just as it works for myself.

Would you like to drive a Formula One car when going shopping and going to work?

In cross country racing, it is all about accelerations, stiffness and having the lightest bike. I even race cross country events with one chainring (34-tooth) only.

So yes, that kind of racing might call for the creation of very different bikes, but tires are still black and round.

Luckily we Specialized racers are fortunate that our bikes' geometry is perfectly adapted for the big (29er) wheels. All of us - even a small Burry Stander - can ride stock frames and still find the perfect position. Plus our bikes fly around tight corners. We wouldn't want to give up the great rollover ability of the big wheels, their stability at speed or their extra traction. Even in cross country racing.

Every smaller wheel size is compromise.

Author
Christoph Sauser

In 2008, Christoph Sauser fulfilled a long-time dream when he became the mountain bike cross country World Champion. The 35-year-old Swiss rider of the Specialized Racing Team is part of a talented crop of Swiss cross country racers.  He races for Team Specialized. Sauser has won more than a dozen UCI World Cups and has twice been the World Cup overall champion - in 2004 & 2005. He can go fast over long distances, too. Sauser won the mountain bike marathon World Championships in 2007 and 2011 and finished as the runner-up in 2008.  He is also a multi-time winner of the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race. Follow Sauser's adventures around the globe as he races the World Cup cross country circuit and marathon and stage races throughout 2012.

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