Ask Jimmy Mac: Finding The Perfect Mountain Bike Match

I receive unsolicited queries and I try to answer them all. I’m retired, for Pete’s sake. I’ve got the time. And I’m honored my opinion still matters to some riders. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner, but why not share the Q&A on Jimmy Mac On Two Wheels? So here you go, my first Ask Jimmy Mac.

LOVE AT FIRST RIDE
How long does it take to get used to a 29er? I am 5’11” and weigh about 215 pounds. I currently ride a large Devinci Django with 27.5-inch wheels and love it. I race occasionally, and was thinking about adding a shorter travel 29er full suspension to use for this.

I am lucky enough to have a sales rep in my area and he let me take a large 29er he has in his fleet out for a spin on my local trails. It was actually a new Django 29er built for a similar style of riding as mine, just with bigger wheels. While a beautiful bike and properly adjusted for me, I couldn’t get comfortable on it at all. It felt very unstable, uncomfortable, weird, and I just plain didn’t really like it. I made out fine on my trails, but it was not really enjoyable.

As you have ridden lots of different bikes, in lots of different wheel sizes, I am left wondering how long it normally takes for an average rider to get comfortable on a 29er?
Stephen

My Answer: I was not a big fan of 29ers in the beginning. The wheels were heavy, the bikes handled weird and you didn’t have a big selection of tires. Bike companies dialed in the 29ers with better geometry and lighter tires/wheels. These second and third generation 29ers became my favorite for trail riding/cross-country and 26ers were better for gravity-oriented riding.

Then 27.5 came along and they didn’t feel right. Just like the early 29ers, there was a limited selection of tires and wheels and things like chainstay length, headtube angles and bottom bracket heights still needed to be dialed. Then I rode a prototype Turner Flux 27.5 on trails in Park City, Utah, and that bike was amazing. The bike seemed to blend the best of 26 and 29 without any downside. In both examples, I didn’t have to “get used to” either wheel size. The bikes and wheels and tires got better until the bikes felt good from the first ride.

So here is the point. I can say positively, if you don’t like the way a bike feels when you first ride it, IT WILL NOT GET BETTER OVER TIME. You may get used to it and you may adapt your riding style to it, but the things you didn’t like about it will still be there. I would never commit to a bike thinking I’d get used to it. That’s too much of a gamble.

The Pivot I ride today will last me the rest of my life, but I still like to see what’s out there. I try to go to demo days just to keep my toe in the water. I recommend you do the same (if demo days ever happen again). If you don’t like a bike, don’t force yourself to like it. Keep trying other bikes. I believe in love at first ride.

One final tip for demo days: Only ride bikes in or below your budget. Don’t demo a $10,000 bike if you have a $3,500 budget. Stick to bikes you can afford (and believe me, everybody will try to get you to buy more expensive models, including magazines, websites, bike shops and your buds).

Mountain bikers are very fortunate that most brands offer demo days. This is a great way to sample different wheels, tires and suspension designs to find out what works for you. I strongly suggest attending demo days as long as you follow one important tip.

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