12/1/20 Canyon.com

Which mountain bike wheel size is right for you?

12/1/20 Canyon.com

First-time rider or grizzled veteran, each of us faces the same question: Which wheelsize is right for me? That’s because mountain bikes generally wear either 27.5” or 29” wheels. A growing few also sport the combo 29/27.5 “Mullet” option. So, which size should you choose? Here’s a quick guide to mountain bike wheelsizes.

Which mountain bike wheel size is right for you? Which mountain bike wheel size is best for you?
The History

For decades almost every mountain bike sported 26-inch wheels. In the early 2000s, bikes shod with bigger 29-inch wheels gained momentum. The larger hoops were not as nimble as the smaller hoops, but they rolled more easily over rocks and roots, and picked up a serious rider following. Then, around 2014, companies rolled out bikes shod with 27.5” (a.k.a. “650b”) wheels that were a sort of “tweener” wheelsize choice. Suddenly, we all had a hell of a lot of options to choose from.

Today, 29-inch wheels dominate the market—particularly on size Medium and larger hardtail and full-suspension mountain bikes. Each wheelsize, however, has its merits.

27.5" or 29er?
27.5" or 29er?
27.5" or 29er?
27.5" or 29er?
27.5" or 29er?

The Pros and Cons of 29” wheels

  • 29ers roll over rocks and roots like a champ
  • 29” wheels add traction and stability to your ride

There’s a reason monster trucks wear gargantuan wheels—big wheels help them crush everything in their path. Same holds true for 29” wheels. As the biggest wheelsize out there, 29” wheels give you a better angle of attack, making it easier to roll up and over rocks and roots, making them popular for cross-country, trail riders, or enduro racing on the Canyon Strive. This also helps 29er wheels maintain their momentum and speed in all conditions.

Those are the pros.

Here are the cons—all things being equal, it takes fractionally more energy to accelerate a bigger wheel than a smaller wheel. Since bigger wheels require longer spokes and more rim material, a 29er wheel built with the exact same spoke and rim materials will weigh a bit more than its 27.5” equivalent. That said, there are plenty of lightweight 29-inch wheels out there, so going 29er doesn’t restrict you to heavy wheels.

27.5" or 29er? Spectral 29er

The Pros and Cons of 27.5” wheels

  • Can add a nimble ride quality to a bike
  • Can be lighter/stiffer than equivalent 29er wheels
  • Great for smaller riders

27.5” wheels have their upsides too. They offer quick acceleration and can help designers create bikes with shorter wheelbases, which make it easier to maneuver through tight and twisty trails, perfect for bikes like the Spectral 27.5. Some riders also prefer 27.5 wheels for jumping or park riding, since the smaller wheels can make it easier to manipulate the bike once you get it airborne.

All things being equal, a 27.5” wheel will be lighter and stiffer than a 29” wheel built from the exact same spoke and rim materials simply because its spokes are shorter and the smaller diameter rim uses less material.

Finally, smaller riders are often better suited to 27.5” wheelsets, which simply fit well within small frame sizes.

27.5" or 29er? Descend technical trails on 27.5” wheels
What’s a Mullet Bike?

Last but not least, there’s the increasingly popular “mullet” wheelsize to consider. Much like its namesake hairstyle, the mullet is a “business in the front, party in the back” proposition. The bigger 29” front wheel handles business by improving your ability to roll over rocks and roots, while the smaller 27.5” rear wheel lends the bike a more nimble and playful “party” kind of ride quality.

The mullet trend is still fairly new but is catching on—particularly on longer-travel bikes where the smaller rear wheel also allows riders tackle steep downhills to shift their weight way back with less likelihood of the rear tire buzzing their butt. Rear tire-to-butt clearance can be, admittedly, a bit sparse when you are riding a bigger 29” rear wheel. This is particularly true for shorter riders.]

Our Spectral:ON comes with a mullet bike setup as standard. We also offer mullet versions of the Spectral, Spectral:ON, Torque, and Sender CFR (for the Sender, in sizes S and M).

27.5" or 29er? Mullet bike configuration on our Spectral:ON
The Verdict

If you’re looking for maximum speed and control, 29ers are an excellent choice

If you ride a size Small bike, and prioritize maneuverability and/or catching air, it’s worth considering 27.5.

Looking to blend a bit of both worlds? Check out the mullet offerings.

By subscribing to our newsletter, you are agreeing to our Data Protection Statement .

Related articles

  • The great debate: Hardtail vs. Full Suspension

    Everyone shopping for a new mountain bike will inevitably face the choice between selecting a full-suspension bike or a hardtail ride. But the configuration that's right for you depends on different factors, such as weight, terrain, maintenance and cost. There are many things that come into play when deciding on your ideal setup.


  • Comparing Canyon’s Spectral, Strive, and Torque ranges.

    With the incredible growth in Trail and Enduro riding, we've designed three specific ranges to tackle the varied terrain. Here's the crème de la crème of Canyon's 2021 offerings.


  • Fabio Wibmer’s Video Game bike check

    At the start of November, Fabio Wibmer released his latest film Video Game. We take an in-depth look at his bike setups that appear in the video.


  • THIS RIDER: Sam Gaze

    Discover how this New Zealander found his way into the World Championship jersey after a 4-year battle with his health.


Content is loading