26", 650b or 29" wheels? The British problem.

26", 650b or 29ers?

For years we were happily running 26" wheels. Then 29ers came along and we grumbled. Not compatible we cried! How can we swop out our existing wheels to these new 29ers and save money? You see us British like to upgrade bits as we go along, and the old bits go to our winter hacks. Nice bike for the summer, hack for the winter. Buy a new 29er, and that aspect of upgrading from old to new, or new to old, no longer works. Marketing scam we all cry.

Me too. For ages I moaned and refused to accept the 29ers, let alone the 650b bikes.

Until the other day, when I had an epiphany. You see I have five 26" bikes. My theory is that when I upgrade one bike, I can use the old bits to keep an even older bike going. Yet is this realistically possible?

My original Orange Clockwork. 9mm quick release yet some funny spider thing to hold the rotor on. Can't use any wheels from any other bikes for that.

Three other 26" bikes use the same size wheels. Ah, one is 9mm quick release, the other 15mm and one a 20mm axle. I can buy adaptors? Sure, but over time the rim width has changed. The Tassajara and PACE use old school, thin rims. Means old school, narrow tyres. The Orange has fatter rims, fatter tyres. I could use the rims in my old bikes, but what's the point; I'd have to use narrow tyres. More to the point the Orange has a 142mm rear axle, so no use for 135mm frames is it?

My last bike is a Fat Bike. Notionally 26" yet how would I fit a 170mm hub into a 142mm frame? Or 80mm wide rims into a frame only 70mm wide?

In a nutshell virtually none of the wheels on my five 26" bikes will fit into any other bike I own. Kind of makes my argument about compatibility a bit weak. I've never been able to upgrade one bike and put the old wheels into another. I've stuck with 26" for an invalid reason. There is no point moaning about wheel sizes for the simple reason that they've always changed, year in year out. I can as much put a 26" wheel from my Orange 5 into my Clockwork, as I could fit a 29" into the 5.

The only things I can change, indeed ever have been able to change, is, well, pretty much everything else! Saddle, handlebars, stem, gears, brakes.... I can change those over to a 650b or 29er quite easily. And really, when was the last time you got a brand spanking new frame and thought "you know what, I'll put all my worn out crap onto this and build a bike up!" You never did, did you?

So stop moaning about wheel compatibility. For me it never was an issue.