In part one of my 26er status report, I picked five random bike companies and looked at their current lineups to see if they still made a decent bike with 26″ wheels.
I only found one company making 26″ wheel bike that wasn’t a DH bike or dirt jumper. And it was a 26+ bike – sort of a fat bike, but not quite – which is a pretty specialized type of bike. There were no bikes with 26 x 2.0″ tires on them for general trail riding.
But, we’re not done yet. You may not be able to buy a new 26″ bike, but can you instead upgrade your current 26″ bike? Just about every mountain biker wants to upgrade, so what can we buy to trick out our Schwinn Homegrown hardtail?
Your #1 upgrade is probably wheels. Lighter – or stronger – wheels can make a huge difference in the way your bike rides. Recently, ENVE has made some of the better wheels out there. They’re carbon of course, and expensive of course – and not made in 26″ sizes…
What about Mavic? Their Crossmax wheels helped kickstart the “system” wheels movement, which dominates the market today. Can we get a nice 26er wheelset from them?
I was not expecting that at all, but you can still see a set of Crossmax wheels on their website. Which appears to be the Euro version of it though, so I’m not sure about North America.
Next thing you might want to upgrade is the fork. Lots of new bikes come with special OEM versions, which might skip out some features that a retail fork has. Like rebound damping or remote lockout levers.
Fox has always been my favorite fork, and I’m sure they’re done with 26…
The 32mm (this is the stanchion diameter) XC fork still comes in a 26″ model! It looks like you can customize it a bit too, but I have to say that the website confuses me a little and I’m not sure what’s going on there. But if it’s here, that means your local bike shop should be able to get one.
However – and this is a big however – I don’t know if these forks come with straight head tubes. Tapered head tubes have taken over now, and the older style has been left to the bottom of the market, like SunTour and “no-name” forks you can find on eBay.
Same goes for rim brakes too. You want a new, feature packed fork, that isn’t a boat anchor, and can run V-brakes?
The guy at your local shop will stop laughing and pick him or herself off the floor momentarily…
I see that Fox still makes a 40 in a 26″ size – this is for the DH bikes. DH will be the last hold out for 26ers. Even though I only found one DH bike with 26″ wheels in part one, there are still lots of high-end, very capable DH bikes out there that may only be a couple years old. It’s nice to see that Fox is still there to offer an upgrade for riders that aren’t ready to ditch their bikes.
The last thing I can think of to upgrade that is specific to a 26″ wheel is tires. I’ve always thought that a new set of tires was the best upgrade – it’s almost like getting a new bike. Ok, maybe not, but it really makes you feel good about your bike. New tires and new grips is like getting a haircut and buying a new pair of shoes. I feel like a new man after that, and my bike looks new with new tires.
And it sure looks like we’re not going to be calling it on the 26er today, as Continental still makes lots of 26″ tires. Which is nice, because just like Fox and their forks, Continental realizes there are still lots of very nice 26ers out there needing new rubber.
But what about the used market? Now that 27.5 and 29 have taken over the market, there are lots of very good 26ers for sale on Kijiji and Pinkbike. I’ve seen people comment that the bottom has dropped out of the market for 26ers, which I’m sure is because 27.5 has really taken over 95% of the new bike market.
I bought a loaded Rocky Mountain Blizzard with RaceFace and XTR parts for $500 not long after I posted part one, so, yeah, 26ers are not going to hold their value that well.
And they simply can’t hold their value; when you can buy a bike like the Kona Precept 130 for $2000, with all of it’s modern technology, that will simply steamroll any trail, and come with a warranty, getting a five year old 26er, even though it has better parts, is not a bargain, since you don’t know where that bike’s been.
So, 26er parts still live. You can still upgrade your old hardtail a little. But I wouldn’t wait too long.