Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hardtails, Dual Suspension, and 29'ers

French mountain bike cross-country racer Julian Absalon had the amazing ability to deliver the goods when it counted most. He won the 2004 Olympic mountain bike cross-country race in Athens, Greece, an amazing four consecutive world championships from 2004 to 2007, then repeated as Olympic champion in 2008 in Beijing, China. Each of these wins was on a 26-inch hard-tail mountain bike.

But at the World Championships in 2008, there was what appeared to be a breakthrough. Swiss Christophe Sauser won the cross-country worlds on a pre-production 2009 Specialized Epic dual-suspension bike. It seemed perhaps the dual-suspension bike had finally come of age: a new era of dominance was about to begin.
Sauser wins in 2008 on Specialized Epic dual-suspension 26 incher

Indeed, in 2009 Matt Pochacha, then of VeloNews, claimed "The 26-inch wheeled hardtail mountain bike is, indeed, dead," where he tested a 26-inch wheeled hardtail, a 29-inch wheeled hardtail, and a 26-inch wheeled full-suspension bike over a test course and declared the 26-inch hardtail to be substantially slower, despite a weight advantage of at least a full pound over each of the other two bikes.

So what happened? Here's the winners of the UCI World Mountain Bike championship since 2008, men and women, in action on their big day. All photos are hijacked from CyclingNews:

2008 women: Margarita Fullana wins on a 26-inch hardtail.
CyclingNews photo

2009 women: Irina Kalentieva wins on a 26-inch hardtail.
CyclingNews photo

2009 men: Nino Schurter wins on a 26-inch hardtail.
CyclingNews photo

2010 women: Maja Wloszczowska wins on a 26-inch hardtail.
CyclingNews photo

2010 men: Jose Antonio Hermida wins on a 26-inch hardtail.
CyclingNews photo

Now, this is hardly all scientific. But I'll just say that I hardly feel that were I to try my hand at mountain bike racing, I wouldn't feel like I was crippling myself too profoundly by sticking with my tried-and-true Gary Fisher 26er hardtail.


Dave said...

Amen brother, the 26er is not dead!

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