Update: Nov. 20, 2013

We are doing another round-up in December. We'll have an army of 27.5 bikes as well as some 29er bikes. What bikes would you like us to include in this shootout?

Update: August 1, 2013
The season is in full swing and a lot of good things have occurred in the world of 27.5 bikes. First is there's a very strong movement to use the term 27.5 instead of 650b. Momentum has shifted towards the new 27.5 instead of the entrenched 650b moniker.

The other observation is that 27.5 is here and is here to stay. The growth of the 27.5 market in 2013 is absolutely stunning and 2014 promises to be an even bigger year. It is seen by many in the industry as the 26er replacement as most of the frame and tire development for the 26er wheel size has stopped.

Most riders are not seeing a dramatic improvement as they hop on to a 27.5 bike from their established 26er rigs. But there's no disadvantage either as steering, quickness and standover issues are hardly compromised at all. The general observation is the the 27.5 bike is better than the 26er in every way. It may be a slight advantage of 10-20% in traction, braking, bump-rolling, stability and cornering but they all add up to a ride that is superior ride specially in singletrack trail and enduro/all-mountain applications.

The one clear disadvantage is the availability of components like forks, wheel and tires. There is a growing set of options out there but they all seem to be in short supply as the demand has clearly outpaced the availability of components. But 27.5 components are being introduced every week and suppliers are promising good availability in the coming year.

Some of interesting highlights are:

1) Trek has introduced the 27.5 Remedy and Slash. These will be rolling with high end Rhythm Elite Bontrager wheels and XR-3 and XR-4 tires by the end of the year. The Slash looks like a real ground-breaker 160mm of plush travel at a very light weight with prototypes coming in at 28 lbs. Details on this release are here.

2) Giant is going all in with 13 new models in the 27.5 platform. Details are here.

3) Specialized will NOT have any 27.5 bikes for 2014. Specialized is very focused on 29er at the moment and will not have any 27.5 products until their components are ready in this wheel size. But some insiders have acknowledged that 27.5 is the 26er replacement and perhaps they may have bikes in 2015.

THE Ultimate All Mountain Bike Platform?

Update: March 25

We are getting to update this with a whole slew of tires, wheels and forks for 2013. Also, we are proposing to rename the 2013 Sea Otter Classic to The 650b Sea Otter Classic. The amount of 650b/27.5 product introductions there will be staggering.

Jan. 17, 2013

650b/27.5 is the hottest category in mountain biking today. If you haven't caught the buzz yet, 650b refers to a new size of wheel that falls between (but not exactly in the middle) of the traditional 26er wheel and a 29er wheel. Its purpose is to take what is good about the 26er wheel and what is good about the 29er wheel and combine them to strike a balance that is superior to either end of the spectrum. There are several advantages but chief among them is the promise of better bump rolling ability and traction than a 26er but more nimble than a 29er. For a more in-depth explanation of 650b and its history, check out the video and 650b info article we posted a last summer.

The popularity and acceptance of the 650b wheel for mountain bikes has taken off in recent months, with the development and availability of quality 650b specific forks from big manufacturers like Fox and Rock Shox. Add on to that the increased number of tires now made in 650b specific sizes and 650b (also referred to as 27.5 by certain brands) and 650b will thrive with many tangible, real-world benefits in the All Mountain bikes category, with 140mm to 160mm (5.5 to 6.3 inches) of rear travel.

There are at least a dozen companies making full suspension All Mountain 650b bikes for 2013 (and even more making 650b hardtails, but that's another round up) and we have highlighted five of the latest and greatest here including: Norco Sight Killer B, Intense Tracer 275 and Carbine 275, Foes F275 and the Scott Genius 720.

Check out this video of Francis explaining 650b and how it works for the All Mountain category of mountain bikes.

Video: Part 1 Introduction to 650b/27.5

Video: Part 2 - The best bikes in each category.

More specs, photos, videos and info »
We have a spec chart showing side-by-side comparisons of these bikes including actual weights. We also measured BB height, wheelbase length, seat tube angle and head tube angle. One common concern readers expressed during our initial bike previews was the weight of these bikes. But one needs to remember that these are longer travel bikes and that this is the tip of the 650b iceberg and we expect weights to drop as more bikes and components come out optimized with different materials. It is also important to note that all the bikes in our round up rode lighter than their given weight. Regardless of climbing or descending, these bikes stealthily hid their weight and were able climbers. Also helping hide the weight was the efficiency of the platform suspension on of these bikes.

Being cutting edge doesn't come cheap. All the bikes we tested were size medium and range from $4500 to $5500 including two carbon bikes (Intense Carbine, Scott Genius) and three aluminum ones (Norco, Foes, Intense Tracer). For the record, the Scott Genius 27.5 is also available with an aluminum frame (and even a women's specific version). Norco is the only one who makes FIVE different sizes including an Extra Small (both Norco and Scott make an XL). The geometry numbers shown for the Scott are with the adjustable BB in the low setting.

All of these bikes featured All Mountain components and features like a dropper post (except the Scott Genius), wide 750mm handlebars, direct mount front derailleurs, tapered head tube and thru-axles front and rear. These bikes were made to handle plenty of jumps, drops and hucks but still get you to the top under your own power. All Mountain full suspension mountain bikes are where 650b will gain the majority of its market dominance.

Next Page: Conclusion and Bike Reviews »

Conclusion and Bike Reviews

After riding each of these bikes for several weeks, we are here to tell you that 650b is not hype and is here to stay. And for the All Mountain rider, the 5.5" to 6" travel range is where 650b shows true advantages. Unhindered by the space constraints in frame design and drivetrain layout that 29ers face, the 650b platform allows bike manufacturers to use tried and true suspension designs without having to start from the ground up. 650b fills the gap left open by 29ers in the "longer travel" arena. And the future is open for 650b in the DH world as well (as shown by KHS DH racer and freerider Logan Binggeli who placed third in the recent Red Bull Rampage event.)

Because 650b is closer to a 26" wheeled bike than a 29er, these bike rode a lot like 26ers so it's very easy to feel comfortable with them. Most of them have very similar suspension components (Fox 34 fork, Fox Float CTD rear shock) so they have a familiar ride quality to them and yet each one had it's own bright spots and strong points.

The Intense Carbine 275 and the Tracer 275 were the best climbers. The VPP suspension provides very efficient power transfer even when the suspension is full open. The Scott Genius uses technology in the form of their Twin-loc lever to make the most of its climbing ability. The adjustability of the Scott (adjustable BB height, TALAS fork) expands its uses and fun. The Scott remote lockout works so well that it allowed us to set the bike up plush and then hit the lever to either provide pedaling platform or full lock out the front and rear suspension.

True to its DH oriented roots, the Foes F275 is the beefiest, plushest descender. Its suspension is confidence-inspiring and if your definition of All Mountain is going big, take a close look at the Foes. The bike is the slackest and lowest to the ground so it felt very comfortable when pointed at drops and rocks. The rear suspension too was very laterally stiff throughout its seemingly bottomless action.

The Norco Sight Killer B with its A.R.T take on the FSR suspension creates a ride that makes it the best all-arounder. The Sight was low to the ground and had the shortest chainstays. It is a true demonstration of what the 650b platform is capable of as it had 26er lines but the biggest tires with the Schwalbe Hans Dampfs. The Norco is the most versatile bike and its geometry makes it a snappy and agile handler.

Predictions for the future of 650b? More, much more 650b bikes will be coming from major manufacturers who have had their ear to the ground and have been doing plenty of their own secret testing and research on this exciting new type of mountain bike. By the time the Sea Otter Classic rolls around, we expect many of the big bike brands to have their 650b All Mountain bikes ready (at least in prototype form). For more in-depth analysis, photos, specs and info about each bike click an image below.

Norco Sight Killer B Review

Price: $4985
Weight: 29.62 lbs

"The Norco Sight Killer B with it's A.R.T take on the FSR suspension creates a ride that makes it the best all-arounder. The Norco is the most versatile bike and it's geometry makes it a snappy and agile handler." read more »

Intense Carbine 275 Review

Price: $5549
Weight: 28.81 lbs

"The Intense Carbine 275 was the best climber. The VPP suspension provides very efficient power transfer even when the suspension is full open. It is a carbon frame that feels very similar to the ride of the Tracer 275." read more »

Foes F275 Review

Price: $4650
Weight: 31.76 lbs

"True to it's DH oriented roots, the Foes F275 is the beefiest, plushest descender. It's suspension is confidence inspiring and if your definition of All Mountain is going big, take a close look at the Foes." read more »

Scott Genius 720 Review

Price: $4499.99
Weight: 29.69 lbs

"The Scott Genius uses technology in the form of their Twin-loc lever to make the most of its climbing ability. The adjustability of the Scott (adjustable BB height, TALAS fork) expands it's uses and fun." read more »

Intense Tracer 275 Review

Price: $5049
Weight: 30.97 lbs

"Also an efficient climber, the Tracer 275 provides a similar ride to the Carbine with a few subtle differences. It is a bit longer and lower than the Carbine, making it's DH side a bit stronger." read more »

Next Page: Other 650B/27.5 Full Suspension Bikes Available or Coming Soon »

Other 650B/27.5 Full Suspension Bikes Available or Coming Soon

Jamis Dakar Sixfifty B Comp and Pro Review

Price: $4799 (Pro) $2699 (Comp)
Rear Travel: 130mm
Weight: 27.75 lbs (claimed)
Jamis Dakar Sixfifty B Pro Review
"Jamis deserves some credit for being one of the staunch supporters of the 650b movement for a few years now. We test the 2012 Jamis Dakar SixFifty B and find it to be a smooth and versatile ride. For 2013, Jamis has made some changes to this model (including frame design) and it is now called the Jamis Dakar XCT 650 (Pro and Comp)."read more »

Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 650b Preview

Price: $5399.99 (770 model)
Rear Travel: 150mm
Weight: n/a
Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 650b
"We had the chance to do a short demo and preview of the Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 650b bikes recently and have a preview write-up. Available in carbon or alloy, the Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 650b is an excellent climber and is a more capable descender than past Altitudes." read more »

Turner Burner 650B Demo from Interbike

Price: TBD
Weight: n/a
Turner Burner 650B Demo
"Mtbr Guest Reviewer Krob had a chance to demo the Turner Burner 650B at Interbike's Outdoor Demo and he gives his opinions on this much anticipated ride." read more »

Norco Range Killer B Ride Impression

Price: $5485 (B-1), $3838 (B-2), $2670 (B-3)
Rear Travel: 160mm
Weight: 30.7 lbs
Norco Range Killer B "Francis attended the World Wide Launch of the Norco Range Killer B and got to try it out on its native North Shore trails. Read what he likes about the Range Killer B in this article." read more »

Mtbr also has a Banshee Bikes Rune v2 coming for testing soon, that did not arrive in time for our round-up. The Rune v2 features 160mm of travel and has a weight in the 31-32 lbs range. In addition to the Rune, Banshee is making their Spitfire model in a 650b version. The Spitfire has 140mm of travel and weighs 29-30 lbs. Both bikes feature an all new suspension design for 2013.

Other models you might consider are:

-Ellsworth Epiphany 275
Price: $2695 (frame only)
Rear Travel: 140mm

-KHS SixFifty
Price: $2149 - $3099 (4 models)
Rear Travel: 140mm

-Ventana Zeus
Price: $2445 (frame only)
Rear Travel: 140/160mm adjustable

As more 650b/27.5 full suspension mountain bikes become available, we'll add them to this list here so stay tuned!