By Steve Medcroft
Gary Fisher introduced its first 29-inch wheeled mountain bikes in 2002. The concept had just started to gain popularity throughout the industry. In an article titled ‘The Effects of Mountain Bike Wheel Size on Performance in Uphill and Cross-Country Cycling’ by J.T. Herr and Holden S-H. MacRae of the Department of Sports Medicine at Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA (found on the Bontrager Web site at www.bontrager.com), the case is made that two-niners roll better over smaller obstacles, are more efficient for sustained climbing and take nothing away from a rider’s efficiency on neutral or technical terrain. The authors propose that there’s a four percent increase in efficiency to be had just by switching to a 29-inch wheeled bike.
The format is even approved for UCI cross-country competition - so why doesn’t everyone do it? Probably for the same reason so many of use one company's computer operating systems: 26-inch tyres are deeply entrenched, there are fewer two-niner bikes and components choices and it’s not seen as the commonly-acceptable style of bike.
But Fisher, among other manufacturers, is solidly behind two-niners. To help promote its line, Fisher opened up a couple of sponsorship spots just for two-niner riders. In 2005, one of those riders, Cameron Chambers of Great Bend, Kansas, rode his Sugar 292 to victory in the NORBA Solo 24-Hours National Championship.
Chambers has two choices of two-niners when he races. The full-suspension Sugar 292 is his standard bike but for special occasions, or for a course that suits it, he can pull out the Pearl Purple Rig Two-Niner Singlespeed.