Yesterday I got my first chance to ride a 29er mountain bike over at Roswell Bikes and I thought I’d share what I learned from my (brief) test drive. The bike was a hard tail Cannondale 29er 4 and despite the awkward name it seemed well constructed, especially compared by my 1999 model Trek 😉

Although I was only able to take the bike for a spin in the parking lot, I got a real sense for the speed and power in the larger 29″ wheels. Cornering seemed just slightly more difficult but I suspect part of that could just be my own comfort and experience with the larger wheels. Getting the bike up to speed seemed easy and I really didn’t notice any of the drawbacks of big wheel inertia I’ve read about in other 29er reviews. But again – parking lot riding is a bit different from trail riding so I’ll withhold my final judgment.

Back in the shop I got the low down on 29ers from some of the guys, one of whom recently made the switch to 29ers and says he’ll never go back. He claimed that the 29er was actually better at cornering and that his tech skills jumped the moment he started riding the new bike. I was also told that buyers will generally go down a frame size when transitioning to a 29er mountain bike due to the higher stand over height afforded by the bigger wheels.

One interesting note about the Cannondale 29er 4 in particular that you may find surprising: the components don’t match. The shifters are SRAM X-5 Triggers but the front derailleur is Shimano Deore. Apparently this is fairly common these days but it seems a little strange to me. I was told that the SRAM shifters are only compatible with SRAM rear derailleurs but that they can be used with Shimano front derailleurs. This got me wondering: Is Cannondale just trying to save a few bucks or do the SRAM front derailleurs suck that much?

Anyway, now I’m convinced that I need a 29er but the question is, which brand? Hard tail or FS? Single speed or regular? So many choices…

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