Specialized Epic 29er vs 26er
The big wheels made me go faster, both up and downhill!
The most recognizable performance point has been, how much more energy I saved towards the end of my runs, and as a result of this I was faster in both ways. I stayed focussed, sharp and had more energy left. At the beginning of the uphill run the 29er felt more like a big fish in the water. Never thought I am going to beat the 26er time, because the 26er felt so light and explosive. It took off like a race horse, but calmed down after mid way, and had to concentrate more.
After I have beaten the 26er uphill time with the big wheels I thought I am going make a even bigger time difference in the downhill. But I made two, three bigger mistakes at the beginning, plus the dh run is shorter, so when the real advantage of the big wheels came into play, I was already at the finish line.
In theory the big wheels have a different angle to tackle the obstacles and roll better over it, plus I definitely have the feeling that you ride „inside“ the bike due the big wheels. I think this are the key points which made me go faster on our rough testing track.
I have also tested both bikes on a super steep, long rocky uphill, with two walking sections. The 29er made me climb more of it, because I had better balance and grip and control.
I am totally convinced to race the Epic 29er for rocky, tough marathon races such as the Cape-Epic, or Roc d‘Azur.
For Cross-Country races with all the sprinting and accelerating out off the saddle, I will choose my Epic 26er. Because it is a little bit stiffer and lighter.
Cross Country is such a racing specific discipline where every gram counts, plus the tracks normally are not as rocky as the trail I was testing on. But for general public, the big wheels are absolutely the way to go. You will get a totally new riding experience, which is comfortable, fast and smooth.
(a great video of our testing day to follow soon!)
Facts and figures of our testing day:
26er in Uphill
Heart Rate Max: 168 Average: 162
29er in Uphill
Hear Rate: Max: 171 Average: 164
26er in Downhill
Hear Rate: Max: 165 Average: 156
29er in Downhill
Heart Rate: Max: 167 Average: 157
26er 9.1kg / 29er 9.8kg (standard setups)
26er Renegade 1.9 / 29er Renegade 1.95
front & rear 27psi
26er fork 50psi, shock 150psi / 29er fork 60psi bottom and 90psi top, shock 150psi
5km singe trail, 220m elevation difference, rocky, rooty, sandy, smooth, tight and fast corners