Mixed-wheel bikes, mullet bikes, Franken-bikes…call them what you want, but riding different-size wheels on a mountain bike has been a hot topic in 2019.
Regardless, the trend to run a 29-inch front and 27.5 rear wheel combination is here to stay. And with features like quicker handling, faster acceleration, and the combined benefits of a 29er and a 27.5 wheel, it makes sense for serious enduro riders to be eyeing a mixed-wheel bike to add to their collection.
Here are 5 reasons you might find yourself riding a mixed-wheel bike in 2020.
1. Mixed Wheel Bikes Handle Quicker
If you’ve ever have watched Enduro World Series races over the past two years, there are two things you’ve probably learned.
First, the tracks are World Cup DH-level technical and races are won and lost by fractions of a second. Because of this, racers like Alchemy’s own Cody Kelley are turning exclusively to mixed-wheel bikes. The smaller rear wheel allows Kelley to pivot more quickly around obstacles, which helps him avoid race-ending flat tires and maintain momentum.
Second, Kelley also said that the smaller rear wheels allow him to be more precise with the rear wheel in rough terrain:
“I just feel like I can place the rear wheel where I want it more easily, with less effort,” says Kelley.
It’s small stuff, but a tenth here and a tenth here can be the difference between 1st and 30th place.
2. Mixed Wheel Bikes Accelerate Faster
It’s no secret: smaller wheels accelerate faster than larger wheels.
This is mostly due to where the weight is distributed on the wheel. Larger wheels place the weight of the rims and tires farther from the center of the wheel. This results in higher rotational mass and slower acceleration.
If the terrain you ride is varied with a lot of quick acceleration needed to get back up to speed, you will be faster on a mixed wheel bike. Remember, it’s your own body creating acceleration by pedaling, so less effort to get the bike back up to speed could mean more energy for other parts of your ride.
Note: While 27.5 wheels accelerate faster, it’s been proven that 29er wheels require less effort to maintain momentum once up to speed.
3. Mixed Wheels May Be Better if You’re a Smaller Rider
If you’ve ever seen a smaller rider — like 5’2” World Cup-racer Chloe Woodruff — 29er wheels are pretty big in proportion to the rider.
Another example: my wife who stands at 5’6” is somewhat dwarfed by the wheels of a standard 29 set up. As a result, she tends to feel like the benefits of riding 29ers (the easier roll-over on obstacles and the momentum the wheels carry) is outweighed by the unwieldy feeling of the bike.
But take a 29er and drop a 27.5 wheel in the back (of course with corrected geometry) and the bike comes alive for her. It is more playful and easier to throw around, and she generally can make the bike do what she wants, versus just plowing through terrain.
4. Mixed Wheel Provides the Best of Both Worlds
The benefits of a 29er are the increased tire patch and the ability for the wheel to roll over obstacles. The benefits of a 27.5 are the quicker acceleration and turning, plus the lighter potential weight of the complete wheel.
It makes sense that the two together would result in a better overall bike. Motorcycles like the venerable Honda CR450 have been using mixed wheels since inception. And for the same reason, Honda engineers decided on two different is the same reason it might just be right for you.
5. Mixed Wheel Bikes Are Just Cool
Okay, so this last point might be a little shallow. But who doesn’t want to ride the same equipment that top racers want to ride?
When Loic Bruni is winning World Cups on a carbon mixed-wheel suspension bike, doesn’t it make sense that it could help you ride faster, too?
And when Martin Maes smashes the course at an EWS, all the time looking like he’s just cruising the beach boardwalk, are you just a little curious about his speedy set up?
The potential that riding a mullet bike will make you faster is certainly there.
Now might be the perfect time for you to throw a leg over a mullet bike. Alchemy was one of the first companies to offer a mixed-wheel carbon suspension bike with the nine7five, and Alchemy racer Cody Kelley rode the nine7five to a career-best 7th at the EWS at Northstar, California a few weeks ago.
The nine7five is the perfect weapon for the rough terrain that Northstar bike park offers, and the possibility it will make you ride faster and have more fun doing it is high. So what are you waiting for?