27.5″ mountain bikes. Where do they fit?

How this in-betweener size going to slide into companys' quivers

The first day of Interbike is a bit of information overload. All of the “latest and greatest” in componentry is hurled toward you at once, with no escaping it or the scorching desert sun.

I was charged with one task, and that was to speak with the leaders in 27.5 inch mountain bikes and figure out where the industry is steering this in-betweener size.

As of now, the industry is still reeling so much that the brand managers of various companies cannot even decide on a blanket term, though retailers will likely stand behind the “27.5” moniker as it’s the easiest to explain to new customers.

Jamis refers to the wheel size as “650b,” Scott USA is saying “27,” and David Turner is using “27.5.”

Tech FAQ: What’s the big deal with 650b? >>

“650b bikes will most certainly replace 26″ for everything except entry level,” was Jamis mountain bike product manager, Sal Crochia’s take opening sentence when I pulled out my recorder.

Crochia went on to say, “We have a five-inch travel 650b bike and two hardtails, an aluminum and a steel option. We have a lot of other bikes in development and its an awesome all-around wheel size. Jamis is having a lot of success with the hardtail 650b bikes. We are getting a lot of requests for short travel 650b bikes.”

Scott USA made some of the most headway in the 27.5 market this summer with Nino Schurter winning the World Cup overall and the world championships on a 650b Scott Scale. Scott USA Marketing Director, Adrian Montgomery said, “After people saw Nino Schurter racing on his 27 hardtail, people expected to see it used as a race setup, but instead we’re applying it to the largest bandwidth of users, trail riders.”

“There is still a place for 26″ bikes in our lineup in the form of free-ride bikes, but when I look into the crystal-ball for next year I guarantee you there will be some downhill World Cup teams racing on 27 bikes.”

When asked if there was a possibility of using frame size-specific wheels in the same model bikes (such as a small being a 26, medium 27.5, and large using 29″ wheel), I received a variety of answers. Crochiola of Jamis just said no because of the headache it creates in production and sales, which it certainly does.

In response to my size-specific question, Montgomery of Scott said, “Children get 12, 16, 20, and 24-inch bikes to choose from and they come in all shapes and sizes. So why don’t us, as adults have multiple wheel sizes to choose from. We at Scott have had the conversations, but at the moment we do not have plans to offer the same model in a variety of wheel sizes.”

Turner bikes is a bit ahead of the game as far as sizing goes. Their Sultan 29er goes down to a Medium. By not even offering a small or an extra small, they are pushing their smaller buyers toward the 27.5 Burner. With a line-up of three trail bikes and all three in different wheel sizes, Turner seems to have found the best fit and the 27.5 Burner is a blast to ride.

“In a few years it will be the most popular wheel size,” commented David Turner, owner of Turner Bikes, “and (27.5) will pull duty in everything from downhill to cross-country, but on a bell-curve scale. It will see it most use in the trail bike market and less on the other ends.”

Turner joins the rise of the 650b >>

I was able to get out on the Turner Burner 27.5 and I was definitely impressed. Coming from a big-wheel background and having ridden very few 26-inch bikes in my life, with the exception of my dirt jumper, I felt that the 27.5 handled like a 26, but with increased roll-over ability, which is precisely why companies are getting behind the size.

The 27.5 size makes sense and with a good amount of steam behind the engine, the bikes will stick around.

The wheel sizes is ideal for the smaller buyer looking for bigger wheels without sacrificing fit, or for the trail rider who wants that in-between feel.

Technical FAQ: Setting up an authentic vintage 650b >>

Read also:

Jeremiah Bishop’s Go Big or Go Bigger: Where will mountain bike racing go from here? >>

Interbike tech: Kappius hubs eliminate ‘black hole’ >>

For updates on endurance mountain biking, follow Singletrack_com on Twitter and like us on Facebook
Catch the week’s best stories by signing up for The Dirt newsletter