Vintage wheel size?

I was chatting with my neighbour the other day, and he made a comment that was really innocuous at the time, but when I thought about it really quite telling about the state of the industry.

He’s a rider too I should mention – has a Giant enduro-type bike from a couple years ago.

We were discussing the end of the 26″ wheel.  I mentioned that I have a set of Mavic XC717 rims, and they’re probably the last high-quality, rim brake compatible, 26″ rims made.  He said; “Soon there won’t be any good 26″ stuff left for us.”

For starters, I didn’t realize that we were united in facing down the bike industry, but that’s cool; it’s always good to have allies.  Also, I thought he was building a 29er hardtail this season, so I know he’s leaning towards the darkside.  But in the end he is right – 26ers are dead.

Except for aggressive trail bikes and DH racers, you won’t find any 26″ bikes over $700 this year.  And all the ‘just ride what you want and have fun!’ type sentiment you can muster won’t help that very soon, companies won’t have any reason to make new 26″ wheel parts.

What’s going to be interesting is; what happens to the market value of 26″ bikes?  If you can’t get a good fork, or a good set of wheels for a decent used bike, would you buy it?  Good bikes are always going to be worth buying, but what good is a mid range 26″ hardtail with blown fork seals or a bent rim?

There is a guy in town here that has been trying to sell a set of Mavic Crossmax wheels.  They cost $900 in their day, but he’s had to steadily drop his price from $250 to $150.  I would be all over them if I hadn’t been (subconsciously) stockpiling quality 26″ wheelsets, but I still wonder if even $150 isn’t over priced.

Hopefully companies that make spokes and rim will continue to do so for 26″ wheels, but for these system wheels like the Crossmax, and the Cane Creek WAM, and the Shimano XTR wheels I bought a couple weeks ago, how long will they have stock of the special spokes required? I would be stunned if you can still buy the rims required for that XTR set.

What will probably happen, is the good stuff will go underground.  Just like today, if you want to find good vintage stuff, you have to go to a vintage website, it probably won’t be long before there are 26er websites where you can trade high-end 26er wheels and forks.

I should start up a website, get in on the ground floor you know?  teamcow26.com?

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