Brilliant post over at the blog yourbikehatesyou spells out the coming demise of the 26-inch mountain bike wheel size, as more and more manufacturers are rushing to hop on the 650b/27.5 bandwagon. Mister Bikehates and I are in agreement on the problem: there was never a problem with 26"/559 ERD wheels to begin with. The only "problem" was that they'd been around so long industry gurus couldn't make any more real money out of them. So when Jan Heine and Grant Peterson started pushing 650b like it was The Next Great Bike Heroin or something, well, customers began buying the product and putting up their noses. And now we have most of the bike industry following along like lap dogs in search of their next meal.
It's one of those times I'm glad I got out of the industry and no longer turn wrenches for a living. I have a stable full of bikes with 26"/559 wheels and that's all I ride today. I am hoarding the wheel size in used wheels and rims because I've known this was coming for a while, and I don't intend to follow the herd anytime soon.
David Guetler of River City Bicycles put it beautifully in an interview a couple of years ago when he said that 650b/27.5 wheels were the answer to a question that not one of his customers had yet asked. In short, other than the aficianados who were early adopters for Randonneuring purposes, everyone else is going to be buying this wheel size because the bike industry will be holding a knife to their throats -- especially the mountain bikers. Go read Mister Bikehates' post and pay attention to his ideas about how a smaller wheel size and rim brakes force riders to develop some actual off-road skills, whereas a larger wheel and disc brakes make things easier. He's in favor of developing some skills, and so am I. But more than that, this is about an industry trying to figure out the next money-maker based on a road map of planned obsolescence; and for that alone it stinks to high heaven.
I'm sticking with 26" wheels. There's nothing wrong with them. If you plan to "upgrade", call me. I'll give your old 26" wheels a good home. Hapy riding!