All right, just finished my Monday night training/recovery ride and see Facebook blowing up about the 26" vs 29" bikes. This article is based on 26" full suspension vs. a 29" hard tail. I started riding 26" wheels in 1985, yes 26 years ago, I have also been racing 26" for 16 years, and my initial reaction was to never change or "drink the juice" as people say. I then did some research and listened to all the hype, I did make the transition, and will never go back to 26", I will explain why!
My choice to never go back is based the initial feelings of how the bike performs, that is it. The last 3 weeks have been a challenging transition with many times questioning my decision to not go back, but every time I step over my 29 Cannondale Carbon Flash, I am assured that I made the right decision. Lets talk about why it seems so "fast". For new riders, (less than 4 years riding), the 29er has an advantage in that once you get it up to speed (the hard part) it rolls over everything and steers slower (not twitchy), therefore the course does not beat you up like a 26er. For an experienced rider the 29er is just a more efficient bike. It climbs smoother, rolls better, but handles worse (much more difficult to make evasive moves when you are at speed) on tight technical courses, and harder to get up to speed. On a non technical course a 29er does well. The main difference is if you are strong and have skills the 29er "MAY" help your overall times. If you are not as strong and lack skills the 29er "WILL" make you appear faster from lap to lap but your overall time will not probably not change from a 26er due to the power and energy it takes to keep it up at speed.
Overall lap times for me have not changed enough for me to say it is faster yet. My comfort level is up (the main reason I will not go back), my overall skills are down (for now), my speed on flats is up, my climbing speed better, but having said all that I truly believe that for an experienced rider the 29er is something different that is faster in some areas and slower in other areas. For most new riders a 29er gives you the chance to ride faster with less of an opportunity of getting hurt, therefore making the Mountain Bike experience better.
The reason the article is based on a 26 full suspension vs a 29 hard tail is that I have not used a 29 full suspension yet. In October I will have a 29 Full Suspension Cannondale Scapel in my collection. At that point I will write about the difference. For now the 29" hard tail has not "beaten me up" enough to believe I needed full suspension.