Update: Dec. 18

The last two bikes have arrived. Let the games begin!!

Intense Carbine 275

Foes 275

Update: Nov. 12

Bikes are rolling in every week for the Mtbr 650b All Mountain Bike Round Up.

We've been riding the snot out of them are really stoked on this platform. We are now convinced that consumers will love them and these will dominate the All Mountain bike category in a couple of years. They are just so fun and capable. With a great frame, big Schwalbe Hans Dampf tubeless tires, Fox 160mm Kashima fork and Fox rear, we have merely scratched the surface of these bikes' capabilities.

Early favorites so far are the Norco Sight and the Intense Tracer 275. The Norco is a fun, low-to-the ground climber and jumper. The Intense Tracer 275 is a burly beast that can climb rock walls and tame rocky descents.

Bikes arriving for the Round Up are:
Norco Range and Sight 650b

Jamis 650b Line

Turner Burner 650b

Intense Carbine 275

Scott Genius 700

Update: Oct. 1

We just came back from Interbike and 650b was the highlight of the show. It is by far the most exciting category of the industry as companies scrambled to get prototypes and rideable samples for the Outdoor Demo. 650b will be the growth category of the sport in 2013 as users again find a reason to upgrade their bikes and components to try a new wheel platform.

The good news is the unbridled excitement seems to have substance behind it as 650b attacks the core of the 'All Mountain' bike market. In 5-6 inch travel bikes, the 650b wheels which are 40% of the way to the 29er wheel size really demonstrate an advantage in technical terrain such as the Dirt Demo Bootleg Canyon trails of Nevada. Most bike testers came away impressed as they had better traction and rollover ability. An the bikes were still agile and playful as most of them shared very similar chainstay and wheelbase lengths as 26er bikes.

Mtbr got to try many of the products and our coverage is here:

Scott Genius 700

Ellsworth Epiphany 275

Norco Range and Sight 650b

KHS DH 650b Race Bike

Litespeed 650b Bikes

Jamis 650b Line

Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 650b

Turner Burner 650b

Intense Carbine 275

Update: August 20

650b continues to gain momentum as component manufacturers and small and medium bike companies announce their 650b offerings. Asked why we think 650b is going to succeed: Mtbr responds "The world now realizes that big wheels really work. But 29ers don't work that well on 150-160mm travel bikes because of long stays, long wheelbases and heavy wheel inertia. That's where 650b will make its mark. Then it will spread and chip away at the 26er market."

We ride the new Norco Sight 650b with 140 mm of travel and the new Norco Range 650b with 160 mm of travel.

PJ Hunton of Norco explains the science behind 650b and the other wheel sizes.

Update: July 10

Scott announces the Genius 700. It's a carbon fiber 650b with 150mm of travel.

May 25, 2012

'650b' is now the number two searched term in mtbr, flanked only by '29er'. A year ago, it was barely breaking in the top 50 search terms but a few key events have catapulted it near the top. 650b is a new wheeel size standard that falls somewhere in between 26er and 29ers.The graphic below shows the three wheel sizes, 26er - 650b - 29er. Note that 650b is not half way between the size of a 26er and 29er but 39% of the way.

https://reviews.mtbr.com/650b-bike/wheel_size_illus1(Photo used with permission from: https://www.justridingalong.com/)

What is 650b and how did this growth happen? How is it all of a sudden experiencing hockey stick growth when it has been struggling for momentum since 2007? Looking at the historical timeline, there are a few bolts of lightning that have energized the movement.

Feb 2007 - Kirk Pacenti introduces a Kent Eriksen-built 650b hardtail with hand-stitched WTB tires

1977 - Tom Ritchey builds 650b mountain bike for British client to explore farm roads and trails.

July 2007 - The Pacenti Neo Moto 2.3" tire is produced

Nov 2007 - Velocity Blunt 650b rims are produced

2008 - Pacenti Quasi Moto 2.0 and Neo Moto 2.1 tires are made available

Mid 2008 - Sun Ringle 650b rims are produced

Sept 2008 - White Brothers ships the Fluid 130 mm fork to Craig Hoyt of Jamis for the Dakar

Early 2009 -Stans 650b rims are introduced

2009 - Haro, KHS, Jamis produce full suspension 650b bikes

2011 - 29ers take over the majority of sales and pave the way for new wheel sizes

Jan 2012 - Fox, Rockshox and Xfusion all announce long travel 650b suspension forks

March 2012 - Nino Schurter wins World Cup XC #1 using a 650b Scott bike.

So that's a simplified version of the launch of 650b. The availabiliy and the announcement of the forks by the key players opened up the floodgates of interest for the new wheel size. And the after the World Cup win by Nino Schurter, all hell broke loose. A win in the #1 race in the world validates the concept and minimizes risk. Regardless of whether the 650 wheel size helped Nino go faster or not, consumers and dealers saw this as the tipping point to validate their decision or purchase. "I sold 1400 rims the Tuesday after Nino won." Kirk Pacenti told us. Both Kirk and Paul Aieta of White Brothers said they have shipped a ton of 650b product to bike designers of many prominent bike brands.

Now in May, 2012 there is tornado of activity as companies scramble to offer product for this year or 2013. Virtually every suspension fork manufacturer has announced support for 650b and many tire companies are jumping in to the standard. R&D labs are scrambling to test and ride their 650b prototypes products.

Why 650b? Mtbr is developing an in-depth FAQ on this but in a nutshell, 650b is better than 26er in many respects, particularly in traction and bump roll-over ability. Over a 29er, it has an edge when it comes to agility, weight and fun. And when it comes to 6 inch travel bikes and beyond, 650b doesn't have the room and wheelbase constraints that can harm a 29er frame design.

So how do consumers ride a 650b full suspension bike now? There are two common options:

1) Buy a complete bike like the Jamis Dakar Sixfifty B Pro with 130 mm travel or the KHS SixFifty656 XC bike with 120 mm of travel.

2) Convert a 26er bike and fit a 650 front and rear wheel in it. Tire clearance is a big issue so the rider has to make sure it clears even when the suspension is under full compression. Often, smaller tires have to be used and mud clearance is compromised. The big issue the bike will get taller and the bottom bracket will rise by about .5 inch when the wheel size is increased from 26er to 650b. Here is a list and discussion of 650b Compatible 26ers.

The 650b Conversion of the Santa Cruz Blur TRc

Disclaimer: The Santa Cruz bike and Fox fork you see in the photos were not made for the 650b wheel so these are not approved configurations. This will void your warranty so proceed at your own risk. The Ibis Mojo HD and the XFusion Velvet fork are approved for 650b use as of press time.

The Santa Cruz Blur TRc is one of the finest all mountain bikes available today. We reviewed the bike here and were so pleased with it that we purchased the bike for our stable. The frame is only 4.77 lbs but it is strong. It has ample big tire mud clearance with 16.9 inch stays and the head angle is a slack 68 degrees with a steep 72.5 seat angle.

And the key is it has a very low BB height at 13.1 inches unsagged. That means that putting 650b wheels on it will raise the BB to 13.6 inches. 13.6 inches actually brings this 'west coast' geometry style up to the norm and may make it more useable in very rocky and rooty areas like Arizona, Moab and the East Coast.

Photo: They Tioga Psycho K 26er, the Pacenti Mega Moto 650b and the Panaracer Driver Pro 29er. Note that the 650b tire looks halfway in size since the Pacenti Mega Moto 2.4 is so big.

Kirk Pacenti supplied us wheels for the test with Chris King hubs laced to his TL28 650b rims. These wheels have an outside rim width of 28 mm and 23 inside and they weigh in at 420 grams. These rims are tubeless compatible and they feature eyelets in the nipple holes for strength.

The tires are Pacenti Neo Moto 2.3 in the rear and Pacenti Mega Moto 2.4 in the front. The Mega Moto is a prototype tire and it is the biggest 650b tire produced to date. The tire is very tall and measures 27 7/8 inches or 708 mm in outside diameter. It features blocky, widely spaced knobs and very strong side knobs that extend half way down the sidewall.

Below are two photos of the Blur TRc and the Tallboy LTc 29er. Note that the TRc 650b actually looks well-proportioned.

Stock Santa Cruz Blur TRc with stock Maxxis Crossmak 26er tires.

650b Santa Cruz Blur TRc - It is impressive that the chainstays are so short and the tire still doesn't hit the seat tube with the 650b tire. We believe this is a by-product of the rear ward travel path of the tire as it has extra room as it goes through its travel.

Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc 29er - This is the latest 29er from Santa Cruz in size medium. It has 140 mm of rear travel.

How did it ride?

It handles like a 26er and goes over obstacles like 29er. Cute summary huh :)? Well that is what the 650b brochure said!

First, there's the issue of fit. I'm 5'8" and I've ridden the medium Santa Cruz Tallboy LTc. The bars are a bit high and the bike feels a bit big for me. On the other hand, the medium Blur TRc with 650b feels perfectly proportioned for me. The bars are just the right height with room for adjustment both higher and lower. The bottom bracket height feels very normal.

I rode the Blur TRc 650b at Waterdog Lake in Belmont, CA and El Corte de Madera trail both near Woodside, CA. Climbing was good and it felt like the tires had more climbing grip than before. Acceleration and getting up to speed felt pretty normal.

On the tight twisty trails, the bike felt agile once again. Getting around switchbacks and tight places was a non-event. The bike descended more like my 26ers than my 29ers but it was a bit more stable and had more traction than the 26ers.

In the air the bike was a lot of fun. It was easy to jump and I felt like I could throw the bike around a bit in mid-air. The predominant feeling is the bike felt more like a 26er than a 29er when it came to jumping and throwing the bike around.

And finally, the bike tackled ruts obstacles better than the 26er. It ate them up well while holding its line.. It wasn't quite the rut and bump eating machine that the Tallboy LTc 29er was but the TRc 650b was a couple steps in that direction. The key observation for me was the difference in rollover ability was noticeable from a 26er.

When I get a 29er, I have a tendency to lighten up the wheels and the tires. I put carbon wheels, tubeless and light tires. I often end up shrinking the outside diameter a bit to get a 29er to be agile and responsive. On a 650b, I feel that am free to to explore a bigger tire with more volume and height. It seems like I'm free get as a big a tire as I want to help an all mountain bike be more capable and more playful.

Comparing the Blur TRc 650b to the Tallboy LTc

I am one of the lucky folks that got to try the Tallboy LTc 29er with 140 mm of front and rear travel. That bike was much more plush and capable than the regular Tallboy. The bike would eat rocks and ruts and it would air it out nicely. When I cased a landing or got in some choppy stuff, the bike was like a pillow that would cushion the blow. The bike felt big and high though for my 5'8" stature. The big heavy Maxxis Ardents that suit this bike well slowed this bike down a bit on climbs and slow, technical corners.

The Blur TRc 650b was really halfway to the Tallboy LTc in terms of bump and rut eating ability. It was better than a 26er TRc but not quite to the abilities of the Tallboy LTc. Accelerating was easier and faster on the TRc 650b. The tires had great traction and the bike felt nimble when stopping and starting. It was easier to get around corners too. And finally, I felt that the TRc 650b was more fun and playful in the air. It was easier to point and flick around while descending or launching small jumps.

The TRc 650b handled more like a 26er because it was a 26er frame after all. The chainstays were 26er short and the wheelbase was the same as a 26er. The contact patch was longer now so traction was superior to the 26er.

It will be interesting to ride a full 650b bike designed for this wheels size to see if the handling is much slower that what I experienced with the TRc 650b. Jamis is sending their their 130 mm travel SixFifty B2 next week so stay tuned.

The bad

The biggest downside is all this is experimental and very leading edge. The bike and fork are not approved for this use and there's very few choices when it comes to wheels and tires at the moment. There's a few five inch 650b stock bikes at the moment but they're not at the caliber of the great carbon bikes from Santa Cruz, Specialized, Yeti, Trek and others. But the good news is the cavalry is coming. Amazing forks, tires and frames are in the pipeline and they are likely to blow us away.

Another downside is it's not quite a 29er. 29er full suspension development has come a long, long way and there are many, many bikes that are just amazing when it comes to five inch travel bikes. Couple that with tubeless carbon wheels and good tires and you have a bike that is a true rut eating, jumping machine.

The future

Given what we see with our 650b experiment, the future of 650b is bright when it comes to all mountain full suspension bikes. There is a noticeable advantage indeed and the promise of premier suspension forks and high end tires will allow the category to grow.

650b will also gain traction in the hardtail market. It won't be as promising as the full suspension area because 29ers actually fit ok on hardtails with some creative use of materials. But sizing is always an issue as shorter riders need their clearance and ideal riding position with big wheeled bikes.

2012 will be the year of discovery and exploration for 650b but products will quickly become scarce as component manufacturers did not anticipate this much interest this soon. 2013 will see introduction of many 650b products and bikes but the exciting all mountain bikes will be limited to small and agile companies that can introduce a completely new bike to the market in months. Eurobike and Interbike are only three months away and that's where most 2013 product is revealed. We believe that 2014 will witness the full fury of 650b as bigger companies with long lead times are able to play in this growth market.

Please tell us what you in the comments below or jump in the Mtbr 650b Discussion Forum