A 29er refers to the fact that the outer diameter of its wheels is 29 inches as opposed to the more typical 26 inch alternatives. There are obvious benefits to using larger wheels, the first being that you can employ lower tyre pressures and thus use them to lessen the impact you receive when you take big hits following jumps or while travelling across rougher terrain. On the other hand the larger wheel is unavoidably heavier than the 26 inch alternative, which means acceleration and speed are affected.
In general you might choose a 29er mountain bike when you are tackling a trail course, perhaps choosing it in place of a full suspension 26-inch wheel bike. The latter will be able to give you the advantage on particularly rough descents, but the 29er is undoubtedly the more stable option if you are going to be facing a broad selection of technical sections which require precision and confidence. Taller riders who choose larger frames might benefit from using a 29er as opposed to a 26er for obvious reasons and there are even some riders who choose to blend both types of wheels on their bike, with a 29 inch option at the front and a 26er at the rear, although this is a rather specialised and unusual setup not suitable for everyone.
29er Mountain Bikes
There are a number of 29er mountain bikes on the market and the Scott Spark 29 Team is a good option if you want to combine performance with an affordable price point. The 2012 edition of this full suspension 29er comes with 100mm of travel for the first time and features a customised alloy frame, a DT Swiss M210 Air rear shock and a Rockshox Recon Silver 29 RL coil spring fork. The suspension is rebound adjustable and the fork has motion control lockout to make sure that it is adaptable to your environment and riding style.
Those looking for a hardtail 29er in roughly the same league as the Scott Spark 29 Team might select the Specialized Carve. The Carve Pro has a stiff, fully manipulated aluminium frame, a Rockshox Recon Gold 29 SL fork with 80mm of travel and the ability to adjust the rebound externally. Shimano Deore Servo Wave hydraulic disc brakes on the front and rear wheels give it plenty of anchoring power and the hard tail setup means it will be more stable and swift than the Scott bike during climbs.
If you are looking for an affordable 29er then the Trek Marlin 29 mountain bike should fit the bill. The Alpha Gold alloy frame is one of Trek’s best budget options and the SR Suntour XCM fork is paired with it to deliver 100mm of travel and a mechanical lockout system. The larger wheels are controlled by Tektro’s Novela mechanical disc brakes while the tyres and rims are from Bontrager’s range. This bike shows that the smaller frames of women’s bikes can still work well in conjunction with 29 inch wheels.