The 26er is dead.
TeamCow aims to find out. In an in-dpeth two-part expose, I will examine the current retail situation for 26ers, and the aftermarket opportunities for upgrading.
We’ll pick five companies and look at their lineup for 2018 and see what they still sell for 26ers. I expect there are some cheap ones, and maybe some DH options, but not much else. Then in part two, let’s see what’s left in the aftermarket; does Fox still sell a 26″ compatible fork? Are there still high-end 26″ wheels made by Mavic or ENVY?
Before we start, I’m going to make a couple exceptions. DH bikes don’t count in our search here. DH bikes are highly specialized bikes for one purpose – getting down the mountain fast. They’re not general purpose trail bikes at all.
Also fatbikes. There are still lots of fatbikes with 26″ wheels, but they’re not “normal” bikes. They have custom frames and custom wheels of course, and they’re much more specialized than a 26er mountain bike.
Like this 2001 Schwinn Homegrown for instance. From about 1981 to about 2012, this was simply a “mountain bike.” But today, you probably can’t go into a store and buy a new bike with 26 x 2.0″ tires for general trail use.
Or can you?? Let’s find out!
For starters, let’s check out the new bikes for sale from five companies I’ve picked at random.
1. Santa Cruz.
Let’s start with a smaller company. Less likely they’d make a 26er really, but maybe they know something we don’t. Or, they think they know something that we don’t…
They make the V10, Hightower, Nomad, Bronson, 5010, Tallboy, Chameleon, Highball, and the Jackal. Only the Jackal features 26″ wheels, and it’s a dirtjumper – essentially a BMX bike but with bigger wheels. I’m making another exception here because a dirtjumper is a very specific use bike, and not really the same as our baseline Homegrown.
I thought there was a chance that the Chameleon could be a 26er for old times sake, but no, maintaining it’s do-it-all nature, it’s a 29er than can also be a 27+ bike. Very much like my Devinci actually.
2. Rocky Mountain.
Rocky makes the Element, Vertex, Thunderbolt, Instinct, Pipeline, Altitude, Slayer, Maiden, Sherpa, Blizzard, Growler, Soul, and the Fusion. Of these 13 lines, one has 26″ wheels. And it’s a fatbike, which doesn’t really count to me because it’s a special purpose bike. It’s not a general use mountain bike like the Fusion is.
Some of them can use 26″ wheels – like the Maiden DH bike, and the Slayer, but again those are special purpose bikes. I thought we might find a nice little Soul for $699 with 26″ wheels, but no.
Two companies, no general purpose 26″ bikes that you can buy in 2018.
Over at Cannondale, their MTB lineup has the following; Scalpel, F, Habit, Trigger, Jekyll, Cujo, Trail, Catalyst, and Fat. Only the Fat bike has 26″ wheels. Many of the bikes have options – either 29″ or 27.5″ – but none have optional 26″ wheels.
Three companies, zero 26″ bikes.
Jamis’ lineup has the Dakar, Halo, Durango, Defcon, Dragonfly, Helix, Eden, Komodo, Dakota, and Nemesis. Of these, the Komodo, Eden, and Dragonfly are all 26+ bikes. Our first real signs of life!
The 26+ bike runs on a 3.0″ wide tire and wider rims than normal. It’s a fatbike lite, if that makes sense. I do acknowledge that that sounds dumb, but that’s what’s it is.
This is a bit of a special purpose grey area here since wheels and forks made for this bike will not work on our baseline Homegrown. It’s definitely something though, and these 26+ bikes are way more general trail-oriented than a DH bike. So, I’m going to give it to them, and declare that Jamis makes a 26er – hooray, we found one!
5. Gary Fisher.
Oh wait, they don’t exist anymore. Thanks, Trek….
The Aurum, Range, Sight, Torrent, Optic, Fluid, Revolver, Charger, and Storm. Not a 26er in the bunch. It looks like you can go 26+ on the Fluid, but I think 27+ is the factory setup. They of course have fatbikes on 26″ wheels, but those are the 4 and 5″ wide tires which are very specific to a fatbike.
I really thought if anyone would still have a plain old 26″ bike in the lineup, it would be Norco. What’s happened to the Bush Pilot and the Mountaineer?
Like Santa Cruz, they have dirtjumpers, but nothing for trail use.
I’m comfortable calling it here. You will be very hard pressed to find a quality 26er in the bike shops in 2018. 26ers are dead as new bikes.
But, can you still buy decent parts? We’ll find out in part 2 coming soon!