26er vs. 29er... help!

I currently ride a 26 Road Uni. It has a Semcycle 26" frame, a 26 Nirve BadAss tire on a RhinoLite rim laced to a Suz hub. My cranks are 127mm and my saddle is a Torker/KH. Over all, I really like the performance of the Uni on the roads and some XC. I really want to put a brake on it, or get a frame that accepts brakes, but before I do I thought I would come here and ask about 29ers.

I have never rode a 29er. The vast majority of my riding is on the street. How big a difference is there between a 26er and a 29er? I’m wondering in terms of speed, maneuverability, and climbing ability.

I know the simple answers are:
It’s faster
It’s less maneuverable
It doesn’t climb as well (on the same length cranks)

But I want to know a little more then that.

I have a 20, 24, and the 26. Putting it in terms of…“It’s a bigger difference then movig from the 24 to the 26” would be nice.

If I do get a 29er it will be after a MUni, unless I see a crasy deal. Like the 26er I have now I got (slightly) used for $70.

If I do go with the 29er, I assume I would need brakes. My normal rides include some very hilly sections. What uni would you guys suggest? I’d like to have it at least as good quality as my sem.



this will take you to posts I’ve been involved with that concern my 29-er experiments.

‘last straw, goodbye 110’s’ is the low point, and ‘29-er update’ is a recent and more positive report on my 29-ing.

Many of the threads cover my feelings on the difference between the 29-er and my 24x3 muni; remember that a 24x3 is effectively very close to the diameter of a 26" wheel.

Another thing I mention often is the extreme hilliness of Sheffield where I ride, the hills are an issue with a 29-er, but i’ve never been tempted to fit brakes on my 29-er. As a general rule I never ride down anything that I can’t ride up.

The fact that you’re currently using 127s on your 26" is going to make the transition to 29" much easier; i initailly went from the 24x3 with 150s, to 29"with 125’s, later on I rode with 125s on the 24x3 and that helped when iwent back to the 29-er.

A search on Mikefule’s posts will yield riches in the area of wheel size/crank length experiments.

I like the 29 a lot, i find it takes more concentration than a muni but love the speed and grace of it.

A 29 is 3 inches bigger than a 26.

A 6 is 3 inches bigger than a 3.

A 6 is twice as big as a 3.

A 29 is 11% bigger than a 26.

The point being that with larger wheel sizes, the proportional difference of a small change in diameter is less significant. Put simply, all other things being equal, a 29 will be 11% ( about a ninth) faster than a 26. So if you do 9 mph on your 26, you will do 10 mph on your 29.

But there are smoothness issues, comfort issues and control issues. The bigger wheel will be smoother over a rough surface, and you will therefore be more comfortable. On the other hand, you will find the bigger wheel that bit more difficult to control.

2 important variables: the weight of the wheel/tyre combination, and the length of the cranks.

All other things being equal, the tyre of a 29 will be about 11% heavier, and 11% further from the centre of the hub, so changing the speed of the wheel will be about 24% (say a quarter) harder to speed up or slow down. I say “all other things being equal”, but this is a little artificial as it assumes similar rim sections and tyre sections. The principle is true, but the percentage will vary.

The fact that the wheel is harder to accelerate or decelerate means that you will ride distances better, more smoothly, a little faster, and be less worried by uneven surfaces. You can get away with quite short cranks. I find 110 mm ideal on a 28. I’d perhaps go for 125 mm on a 29.

A Coker is also an option, if speed and distance is your thing.

I went from a 24 to a 26 and hardly noticed the difference. When I jumped up to the 29er the difference was noticable. Freemounting for me was a whole different process. On the 24 I gave a shove forward, on the 29 I start with the pedal higher and compensate for a little rollback. Also the crank length (125s) made a difference as well - faster but harder for me to maneuver (still fun though). Anyway now I mostly ride the coker and the 29 is just gathering…

Re: 26er vs. 29er… help!

Hi Daniel,

I think the 29’er is a great UNi for riding medium distances- say, 30-60min riding. I find that anything longer than half an hour is really slow on a 26’. If you want to go serious distance (over an hour) then take look at a Coker. There is definitely a noticeable speed jump going from a 26 to a 29’er though.

I’m not sure that you will necessarily need brakes on a 29’er once you get used to it. And in terms of climbing- you’ll find that a lightweight 29’er with a Nanoraptor tyre or something similar might actually climb better than a 26’ with heavy MUNi tyre.


On the same uni, I went from 26x2.2x150* to 26x2.2x110 (ie I put on shorter cranks), then to 29x2.1x110 (replaced the rim/spokes/tyre). In terms of feel, shortening the cranks made a much bigger difference than upsizing the wheel. I guess that’s not surprising given the relative changes (~27% vs ~11%).

While the 29er is noticably faster than the comparable 26er, I didn’t find it to be a life changing experience. By comparison, going from a 2.1 to a 3.0 tyre on a muni is huge.

I don’t find the 29er much harder to handle than a 26er. I don’t have a brake. While it’s not easy to stop fast, I find I can use short sharp turns to decelerate without knee effort. I avoid swarms of pedestrians, but it’s no problem to follow a few at 2-3 mph waiting for an opportunity to overtake.

*Revolting to mix units, isn’t it?

I’ve got both. It’s not a massive difference, enough to be worth bothering with if you’re building your first road unicycle, but probably not enough to bother changing unicycles.

For road riding, I’d stick with the 26 with fat slick if I were you and buy a set of 110 cranks for a bit of extra speed. 29ers are nice on road, but not that much nicer than a 26.

Another possible upgrade is the tyre, I really really like the Big Apple tyre for road riding, it comes in 26x2.3 size, although I don’t know if it’s any better than your cruiser tyre.

I like the 29er most for fast offroad riding because it soaks up unexpected bumps well.

I think a lot of people percieve much more of a difference between the two sizes because of how they set them up, they have 26" with fat offroad tyre and longish cranks and 29er with a slick tyre and short cranks. You’ve obviously already got short cranks and a slick tyre, so you’re most of the way to having a similar unicycle to most 29er riders.