This may sound good in theory, but in reality, it is
more like work than fun. Mountain bikes were not
invented for riding laps. Still, there is no arguing that a
back-to-back comparison like this—fun or not—can
generate conclusive results. Here is how the wheels
26-incher: As you might imagine, the 26er fits smaller
than the other two models. The top tube is shorter and
the front end is lower. While this puts you in a more
upright position on the bike, the weight distribution is
biased forward thanks to the smaller wheels. The handlebars on all three models were somewhat narrow, but we
were glad to have a consistent size between the three
27.5-inch: The 656xc is truly the middle-of-the-road
option in terms of fit. The position is more stretched out
than the 26er’s but more compact than the 29er’s.
Crewers consistently noted that the position and weight
distribution were the most balanced of the three bikes.
29-incher: The Flagstaff fit is large for a “medium”
production frame. A rider needs to at
least consider moving down a size if
going to this 29er. The front end is the tallest
of the three, and while the cockpit is longer, the
rider’s weight felt farther back than on the other
praised the XC604
for its nimble
handling characteristics, calling
When it comes
from corner to
corner, it is hard
to beat the accel-
Rock bulldozer: The Flagstaff’s frame has a sort of understated elegance to it. The suspension was outfitted by RockShox all around.
A FORGOTTEN FORMAT GETS NEW LIFE
WHAT DOES “650b” MEAN?
wheels. The 26er felt the least connected to the trail
through corners. Aside from the smaller tire contact
patch, the frame features a straight head tube rather
than a stiffer tapered head tube, leaving some stiffness
points on the table. The lateral flex was noticeable
when cornering hard.
Blame it on the French. The number “650”
came from the measurement of the outside
diameter of the tire, not the rim, in millimeters.
The letter following the number was a nod to the
tire’s width. The 650c wheel was used on cruiser
bikes in the past, but time-trial roadies and
triathletes commonly use this wheel size with
narrow road tires.
The 650b wheel was all the rage for touring
bikes (loaded to the hilt with gear) and tandems
(loaded with two people) until mountain bikers
became interested in applying the size to their