Toward the tail end of a day at Interbike, the bicycle industry trade show, I was wandering about the Jamis booth, looking for a chair so that I might give my feet a break Through circumstances I cannot really recall, I found myself seated at a table with Greg Webber, the Jamis VP of Product Development. Greg has been with Jamis for a lot of years and is a very interesting guy, thoughtful and spare with his words. I was a little bit intimidated, but very much enjoying a chance to chat with the man.
At some point I asked about 650B. He said that Kirk Pacenti (pretty much the motive force behind the current resurgence in 650B mountain bikes) called him several years ago in an effort to get Jamis to build one or more 650B bikes. To that end, Kirk sent Greg some 650B wheels, tubes and tires for a little experimentation. Greg and Jamis tried to fit the wheels to then-existent 26″ bikes. When the wheels fit, it was test ride fiesta. People loved the way the bikes felt with these new wheels and soon frames were soon built around the 650B wheel size. Fast forward to today, and Jamis is a leader in 650B bikes, having both hard tail and dual-suspension models.
Recently, we’ve tried similar experimentation. First was a lady with a very small, very neat 26″ titanium frame with a Fox fork. Just for fun we grabbed a set of 650B wheels and tried the fit. They did fit, but it was close. She rode the bike and was pleased with the results. We then got her Velocity hubs laced to Blunt SL rims. Nice! However, the Velocity rims were wider than those we had originally tried, and tire rub on the chain stays became a problem. We searched for a more narrow tire with trepidation. While there are LOTS of new 650B tires available for 2013, not all of them are available now. Combined with the current trend toward wider tires run with lower pressure, I thought I was going to get a nice wheel set out of this deal (No way I’d let a customer eat a set of wheels that didn’t work.) Fortunately, Ritchey Design had something a bit more narrow and really nifty-looking. It worked perfectly. This customer: very pleased. Like this:
Next up was a customer with a steel 26er equipped with a Fox fork. For this one we tried Stan’s rims laced to American Classic hubs with a Schwalbe up front and a Ritchey in the rear, both tubeless. Absolutely no fit issues. Plenty of room all around. And the results? I quote: “Love, love, love it.” We later chatted in greater detail. He (perhaps obviously) loved the change from the wheels, but went on to say that, “You know, I think there’s something to this tubeless thing. I almost came by your house to get your damn digital pressure gauge because everything felt perfect.” Nice to hear.
Is this change/upgrade/test for everyone? Probably not. Though we’ve had a terrific success rate so far, I’m confident that there are bikes upon which the bigger wheels just won’t fit. There are likely people who won’t like or notice the change to a bigger wheel. That said, if you’d like to try it out, give us a call. We like to experiment.