Larger wheels: 29ers set to roll out on the german bike market

The American market is an important trendsetter for all areas of the sports industry. Sometimes it just takes a little longer for trends from the United States to take hold in Germany. The new mountain bikes with larger wheels, called “29ers” in the industry, are a perfect example of this.

In the United States, these bikes have nearly supplanted the classic 26” wheels, and are now also rapidly gaining market share in Germany. Industry experts estimate that at the next EUROBIKE – the leading global trade show for everything related to bicycles, which takes place from August 31 to September 3, 2011, in Friedrichshafen – a large proportion of models shown in the high-quality mountain bike segment will feature 29” wheels.

Are these 29ers just a way for the bicycle industry to create an additional selling point in the already highly developed market for mountain bikes? Such an explanation would hardly account for the enormous success that this category has enjoyed in the United States, where 29ers have come to dominate the market in hardtail mountain bikes with no rear suspension. And 29ers are also rapidly gaining market share among full-suspension bikes in the homeland of the mountain bike.

This success is due to the special advantages offered by larger wheels. The 60 mm of additional diameter compared to classic mountain bike wheels allow 29ers to roll over obstacles with greater ease, while also lending them better traction, thanks to the larger contact surface. Additionally, their greater rotational inertia offers better stability at low speeds. The geometry of these bikes also benefits from the larger wheels, giving many riders a feeling of sitting in the bike rather than on it, and resulting in a greater feeling of balance between the bike and the rider. These strengths are particularly apparent when riding under tricky conditions: the more difficult the terrain, the more the advantages offered by these larger wheels come to bear.

Until recently, interested buyers of 29ers in Germany often had to search somewhat longer for stores where they are carried. But starting this season, consumers will also find a wide selection of 29ers in German retail stores. Oliver Hensche, head of the German division of the mountain bike manufacturer Giant, agrees: “29ers are a major focus at retail stores specializing in biking sports. Customers are now asking about them by name. I estimate that in the future, 50% of the hardtails sold in the upper price segment in Germany will be 29ers.”

The rapidly growing popularity of this new category of bikes will also be apparent at EUROBIKE. “Nearly every manufacturer will be participating in this trend at the upcoming bicycle trade show. We’re forecasting that the number of offerings in the 29er segment will also grow considerably in the coming sales year in Germany,” says Doris Klytta from the tire manufacturer Schwalbe.

What’s more, 29ers won’t just remain a phenomenon in the hardtail segment, says Sebastian Maag, Country Manager for Germany at Specialized: “In 2012 there will be a few new 29ers in the full-suspension segment up to 120 mm of spring travel.” The mountain bike expert also predicts that bikes featuring even greater spring travel will be offered with 29” wheels in the long term.

EUROBIKE will take place from Wednesday, August 31 to Saturday, September 3, 2011. The first three days of the trade show will be open exclusively to visitors from the trade. On Saturday, September 3, the trade show will also be open to consumers. Additionally, EUROBIKE Demo Day will take place on August 30, 2011, in the nearby town of Argenbühl in Germany’s Allgäu region, offering retailers and journalists the opportunity to extensively test new arrivals from the upcoming season.