650b Wheel Size Test – Celti Tour
The title of this story explains most things, except which type of bike it is. Well it seems at the moment getting hold of a 650B all mountain bike is virtually impossible, hardly anyone has made one and there are virtually no complete component set-ups truly made for 650B, like forks, aggressive tyres, wheels and shock units.
GasVentinove, however have produced a 650B frame in the cross country format, which for the moment will have to do. Our main aim is to tell everyone what riding a 650B wheel size is like. We did this by riding 80 KM on the Celti tour near Bologna the last few days. We rode a mix of single trail, climbs, road, grass, everything.
We had never ridden a 650B bike before. We have tried a 29er etc and are accustomed to their abilities and what you can and cant do with them. This though is the new size bike that everyone wants to know about so here are our initial thoughts and ideas.
First impression – When getting on board this wheel size, it instantly feels very similar to a 26″ wheel physically.
Pedaling – Riding this wheel size honestly feels very little different to riding a 26″. There is no greater inertia feeling to overcome like when you pedal a 29er and the power you put in when pedaling up a climb feels definitely slightly easier on offroad surfaces than a 26″. The 650B wheel rolls more easily over the ground.
Manoeuvrability – It is well know for fast single track the 29er feels slower and takes corners wider etc. The 650B feels very close to a 26″ with bar inputs and bike movements almost mimicking that of a 26in but with the rolling ability feeling a bit smoother. The bike with this wheel size was easy to get used to and seemed like for all mountain (AM) use, that bike designers in general are onto something here, we generally are not fans of 29ers for enduro but this might change the game somewhat. We would say there is a very slightly less nimble feeling, but not enough to reduce the speed and fun that you can have on a 26″ bike when comparing fun factor.
Sizing – The bike didn’t feel over tall or strange or anything out of the ordinary. It was easy to ride and you didn’t feel like you were sat on top of the wheels. Geometry although XC in style was actually very similar to the 26″ bike of this size with small adjustments for the new wheel size. In all honesty it seems that people that find the 29er too big would be completely at home on this wheel size.
Okay so what we need is an all mountain 650B bike with at least 150mm of travel maybe even 160mm, with good tyres that are like what we can find for the 26″ wheel size and a fork that has been made for 650B wheel sizes. Once we have these components we think that this bike wheel size will allow for better pedaling in uphill sections and for enduro style riding while still maintaining the quick speed needed in technical close to DH standard tracks that we like to ride. We wouldn’t call it a revolution but for sure it allows easier pedaling and better rolling. With a 650B AM bike we would like to do timed runs on a course including climbing and see how it feels, we think it will definitely allow some marginal gains in time. Until that is proved though we will just have to say bring on this wheel size, lets have some more bikes in the market like this to try and give us more choice as we fine tune our riding and equipment.
Apart from trying the bike we spent the rest of the time enjoying the tour. The trails we rode took in around 500 metres of height change and were quite easy going with road transfers and interesting tourist points as stop offs. We also managed to find spots to play in and numerous nice views to look at. This is just a brief taster with the full article coming out in 365 magazine soon.
The tour started in Loiano and we progressed slowly through to Grizzana Morandi, with an over night stop we then continued on to the Baccione di Brasimone, another overnight stop and then onwards returning back to Loiano. All in all a very nice tour, plenty of climbing and plenty of trials to keep riders interested with stunning views.
One of our playgrounds… undiscovered and ripe for some freeride.
Another one of the stunning views that peppered our journey along a ride line all the way.
We stopped off in Giorgio Morandi’s painting studio, for those who don’t know he was one of the greatest still life painters from Italy in the 20th century and he had his country side house in a nice bike area.
We were riding with Baffo, the legendary MTB tester from 365 MTB magazine. He has ridden and tested more than 1000 bikes in the last 25 years and at 60 years old is fitter than you would expect and to be honest left us behind!
Arriving at the Baccione di Brasimone we could see the nuclear power station that never was as Italians voted to abandon nuclear power in the 1980’s just before this power station was switched on, so it was never switched on and lies dormant. The lake now is used for hydroelectric power.
Despite this slightly cloudy view behind us towards Bologna, it was still 32 degrees and the rain cloud was chasing us, but we managed to avoid any rain as we dropped down the mountain in the other direction.
We also managed to visit a few Etruscan ruins which were really impressive. Here we were at the temple altar where they sacrificed animals. The city was impressive with the foundations remaining and it was possible to see the streets were aligned exactly north and south and east and west, with pavements, drainage and shops all clearer marked out in an ancient but ordered pre Roman society. We also had the chance to visit the Monte Sole park area, which has a difficult history and we will reserve for another article all about it as it was so important a visit to make on a tour.