Tuesday, July 03, 2012

650b - where's the love?

So I've been chatting with a potential customer about a 650b full suspension bike recently, and 650b is very much in the news lately with Nino Schurter absolutely killing people on his Scott 650b (and yes, yes, I know as well as you do that it's the rider an not the bike) - but I'm confused a bit, for a couple of reasons.

1. Boulder is pretty much the epicenter of bike geekery and me-firsterism, so there were Gates belt drives popping off their cogs and 5' tall people on 29ers here like 10 years ago. If it's trendy, I'll see rich Freds at the trailheads with it strapped to the roof of their Eddie Bauer Outback. I haven't seen a single 650b in Boulder. Ever. Not one, unless you count a frame that a friend of mine built a few years ago, and the FS bike I built for my friend Martin. No Jamis's, no Haros (both have multiple dealers in Boulder), no custom stuff. And I would have seen them, because I'm the kind of person who could see a swimsuit model on a Pacific and only notice the cable routing.

2. I *never* get asked to build them. In the 5 years or so that 650b has existed, I think I've built half a dozen. And most of those were back in the very early days of the wheelsize - the current guy I'm doing some design work for is the first in a couple of years, probably.

3. Fox is making a 650b fork this year - but it is 160mm travel, which is something I have NEVER been asked for in 650b. I don't even know of any production bikes that you'd use such a fork on. Maybe they figure the market is for freeride/trail bikes?

So my question is - is anyone buying the bikes? I am someone mostly known for 29ers, so perhaps people don't think to ask me about 650b (for the record, I am a big fan), or perhaps Boulder is too deeply invested in 29ers right now for the Freds to get 650b. But it's downright weird to me. When 29ers came out, they started popping up everywhere, not so (at least here) with 650b.

I hope I'm wrong, because I think that having a size between 29 and 26 is a really good thing for a lot of people - but man, I have a hard time believing anyone is buying these things based on what I've seen here.


Anonymous said...

Hey Walt,

I have a 650b bike, and I ride it frequently on Boulder area trails. But it's not a 'native' 650b bike. Instead, I have a Cannondale intended for 26" wheels, for which I built 650b wheels, and they barely fit. I haven't seen anyone else out there with 650b wheels either.

But you have a point. At 5'9, 29ers have always felt too big and awkward. 650b is a great middle ground. There still aren't a lot of great stock 650b bikes out there, and some of those are already sold out this year. So custom would seem to be the way to go right? Maybe Boulderites were early adopters of 29ers and now are shrugging off the 27.5er wave?


steve garro said...

Yep, built quite a few, building one now, and a few in the queue.
The build lots of 650B forks - they are sold as "29er forks" and work beautifully.
Thankfully I only built one 29er for someone way too short before I got over it & never went to the belt drive - I've never seen a Gates here.
This year building quite a few 26" and last year was the year of the dirt roadster.......

MMcG said...

I think people generally think of you as a 29er frame builder Walt. But yeah, kind of surprising you don't see any out there in Boulder.

Where is Erikson located? Is he Colorado based?

Adam M. said...

I almost asked for the bike you built for me to be a 650b. For BC trails I think it would be a good middle ground for a lot of people, though we don' see them out here yet. 29er's are finally starting to show up so maybe in 5-8 years we'll start seeing the 650b's increase in popularity. There is one for sure maybe two but those were custom built by a guy out here.

Tom A said...

Actually, that was the first question I was planning on asking when we meet later this week.

But, then again, I didn't have any questions until you asked me to make a list....

Tom A said...

Actually, that was the first question I was planning on asking when we meet later this week.

But, then again, I didn't have any questions until you asked me to make a list....

shane said...

I had a 650b hardtail. Loved it but loved my FS bike more so I sold it. that being said if I could have any bike right now it would be a 150mm travel FS bike with 650b wheels.

Lance said...

Great article on 650B


Anonymous said...

hey Walt...I really considered having you build me a 650b frame, but then I bought a Jamis Nemesis as their XL frame is actually fairly small for an XL and fits me really well (usually I fall between XL and L sizes for most bike manufacturers).

I've owned several 26ers and 29ers in the past and for me I just love everything about this bike. I only have this one bike and have a 2nd 700c wheelset I use for commuting and cyclocross. Love it.

According to Jamis, when I contacted them with a question, the Nemesis is basically sold out...I'm not sure how many they produced though.

I'm suprised too that you haven't been asked to weld more of them though as there really are not a lot of choices. I bet you'll see some people sporting a Scott carbon hardtail or f/s next spring and have more requests for them in the near future.

take care, matt f

Craig said...

Buying? No. Building? Yes! I decided I wanted to build a frame, so I took the course at UBI. I figured I might as well build a 650b since I was curious about the wheel size and there aren't many production models - yet. Built it, and love it! Right down the road from you in Golden.

The 650b market is going to explode, no doubt about it. With the major fork manufacturers on board now, and more tire choices coming, it's gonna be big. Though, like you, I'm having a hard time understanding why Fox's 650b fork will only be available in a whopping 160mm travel version. I can't help but think with almost every ride lately that a 5" travel 650b bike will be the closest yet to a "do it all" mountain bike.