I went riding with munimag yesterday at a place I had never ridden before (http://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/schaeffer-farms.html A bit more technical than I am used to with a lot of rooty hills. I took my KH29.
I had a pretty bad day. I consider myself a decent unicyclist, maybe intermediate. I felt defeated. Granted it was wet, a bit humid and I hadn’t ridden muni in 3 months or so I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad.
The downhills were OK. I felt in control, using my brake quite a bit, but I just couldn’t seem to make it up many hills. I just kept losing momentum and I got very tired fast. Of course I was riding with munimag, who is a hell of a rider.
Anyway, I love my 29er, it’s a blast on road and off, but it seemed like a lot of wheel. I grew up riding 20 and 24s, but don’t have a 24 muni. It got me curious about how some of the more technical trails would be on a 24. I am a pretty small guy, 5’7", 150lbs. I ride on 150mm cranks on my KH29 and have found them to actually be better uphill than the 165s. For me, there’s too much of a dead spot with the longer cranks.
Of course the cut-off between when most folks will use a smaller wheel offroad is not scientific. The trend, though, seems to be using larger wheels, but I wonder how technical a trail has to be before those of you who ride 24s and 29s pick the smaller wheel. And does body size/weight factor in?
It’s also possible, I suppose, that the bigger wheel can be better, since you can get more momentum leading up to hills, but I just can’t help feeling that it’s a big wheel to push up when there are a lot of hills with little breaks.
I’m beginning to think that for me, the 29er is good for surprisingly rough trails, but not too rough. When the trails are all hills, with little cross-country I might be better off on a smaller wheel. And I suppose with lots of practice, one can get real good on a 29 on rough trails, but the reality is that I can’t get out every weekend, with a growing family of small kids and all…(who we can only hope will also be unicyclists someday)