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Are 26 Inch Mountain Bikes Obsolete? – Not Yet!

Written by James Jordan

Modern trends in the MTB industry are tending toward bigger bikes. As if that wasn’t enough, they have discontinued support for high-end components for 26” mountain bikes. Many 26ers across the planet are getting concerned about it, and have started to switch.

Today, we’ll focus on one of the most commonly asked questions in the MTB community – “are 26-Inch mountain bikes becoming obsolete?” Well, let’s find out what’s happening and why.

What happened?

The MTB industry has switched from mountain bikes with 26″ wheels to bigger wheels. That is why it has been difficult to find a 26″ MTB that has up-to-date progressive geometry. However, some brands still manufacture 26” mountain bikes and their parts and accessories; but the number is decreasing day by day.

Once the newer and bigger 27.5″ and 29″ wheels were introduced to the market, most of the manufacturers began focusing on producing optimal parts and bikes for the bigger wheels. As the trend in the market shifted, the support for 26” MTBs was ignored.

wheel size

As a result, 26ers couldn’t get the latest upgrades for components and frame geometry. This is the main reason some think they are going obsolete. However, they’re not completely out of the market yet.

Are 26-Inch Mountain Bikes Obsolete?

Not yet. With the increasing trend in bigger wheels, it has been difficult to find right-sized components for 26” mountain bikes. However, they’re not out of the market yet. Some brands still make great 26” MTBs and components.

The lack of support is the main reason many people are switching to bigger MTBs. Most 26ers are feeling a shortage of high-end components and replacement parts. As a result, maintaining a 26” MTB is becoming increasingly tough.

However, the 26” tires are not going away soon. The main reason behind that is 26: tires are still being used in children’s bikes, touring rigs, dirt jumpers, and commuters. The other parts like the forks, frames, and rims are becoming harder to find as more and more people are switching to bigger wheels.

Why Should You Switch?

If you have a working 26” MTB and you have no trouble maintaining it, that’s amazing. But many of us are not so lucky. I switched to a 29” MTB last summer, and I’m pretty satisfied with the result. Here’s what you’ll get once you switch to a bigger wheel:

Overcoming obstacles easily

Bigger wheels can easily overcome small obstacles, without even having to rely much on the suspension. The cases where you need to lift your front wheel will be reduced. Bigger wheels will give you better maneuverability on the trail.

This will increase the overall speed of the bike and make the riding more controllable. You have to be prepared for any road condition once you are on a trail, and bigger wheels can make your job surprisingly easy.

Bigger wheels can be faster

Bigger wheels offer greater circumference. If you spin the paddle at a constant RPM and use the same gear ratio, the bike with bigger wheels will cover more distance, hence the bigger wheel is a bit faster.

On average, a 29” wheel can give you 5-9% more speed depending on the gear ratio.

What’s the future?

If you’re a 26er, you’ll most likely have a hard time finding high-end components and replacement parts, because the industry is not going back to incentivize the 26” support.

You can still use your 26” MTB. It’ll be easier to find cheap parts. You’ll find components for a while, but if you want high performance from your 26” MTB, your options will be limited.

FAQs

1. What is progressive geometry?

Ans: A progressive geometry consists of:

  • A slacker head tube angle
  • Shorter chainstays
  • Full-suspension
  • A steeper seat tube angle
  • A taller head tube
  • Longer forks with extra travel

2. How can I “modernize” my old 26″ bike?

Ans: You can start by changing some parts with newer parts. Here are some ways you can modernize your old 26” MTB:

  • Install a dropper post
  • Get wider rims and tires
  • Buy a higher-end fork with more travel (what your frame can support)
  • Shorten the stem
  • Install larger disc brake rotors
  • Get hydraulic disc brakes
  • Switch to a 2x or 1x drivetrain

3. Can adults use 26” bikes?

Ans: Yes, of course. 26” bikes work well for children and adults. If you’re within 5-6 feet tall, a 26” bike will work for you just fine. However, taller people can ride a 26” MTB as well. The best way to find out your optimal bike is to try it out yourself.

4. Why do street bikes still use 26″ wheels?

Ans: Mainly because of the maneuverability. 26: wheels also make the execution of technical tricks easier. 26” bikes are usually tougher if you use identical rims, spokes, and hubs on both wheels. Additionally, street bikes don’t need the roll-over-ability bigger wheels offer.

About the author

James Jordan

As a kid I inherited the love for mountain bikes from my father who used to ride for weeks through the Colorado trail in the city of Denver. He had his gang, and I followed pretty much the same track.

Later on, my interest in biking grew more after joining the Enduro race back in 2013. My buddies and I also participated in the Downhill racing for the third consecutive year, and it’s been an amazing experience.

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