It IS, in my strong conviction, everything that there is NOT in a bicycle:
It doesn’t weigh much
It doesn’t break
It doesn’t cost much
In effect, and above all in the world of bigger wheels, there have been innovations that have changed the way that we ride (e.g. suspension forks or disk brakes) making the paths that were previously only used by tightrope walkers accessible to most people.
The introduction of 29 inch wheels, with respect to the previous standard of 26, seems to be one of those innovations.
Without going into complex technical details, I’ll explain the effects.
29 vs. 26
More stable even if a little heavier on climbs, but with better traction
More stable and faster in descent
More stable and faster on bends
Easier to manage at higher speeds on the flat
What’s best, 26 or 29?
Definitely the 29 inch for cyclists taller than 170cm (5ft6) and for cross country routes where the advantages more than outweigh the few disadvantages (in other specialities such as free ride, enduro, and downhill the standard 26 is still the most widespread)
For cyclists of around 5ft6 or less it becomes a question of personal preference and riding style and it’s therefore advisable to do a test with a 27.5 (the standard destined to replace the 26) and a 29 on a technical course, best if you know the course well. N.B Test bikes are available in large stores, or trade shows, where many exhibitors offer the option of testing their latest models.
I have to underline that, when talking of technical matters, style and km cycled, in slang “legs”, cannot be substituted by even the most advanced bike.
That same self-awareness should prevent us from thowing ourselves at 50km/h down a gravel pit just because we’ve got the saddle of a £5000 bike beneath us – you can always buy another frame, not another femur!