By Seb Kemp
What follows is a short (and by no means comprehensive) list of 26-inch wheeled bikes that are still in production, for now. It turns out that the list is small, but contains some of truly brilliant bikes.
A super bike. No, a super, super bike. The SB-66c is long on travel, but efficient and lithe enough to be ridden all day, everywhere. It might not have a decent bottle cage mount, but that's all it can be faulted for. The bike is well proportioned, possesses smart geometry and has a racing pedigree that is mind boggling. Jared Graves rode almost the exact same bike – save for shock changes – all year on the Enduro World Series and at the World Downhill Championship in South Africa, coming second and third place respectively. Also, the Yeti is absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous.
"We still have the SB-66 and SB-66c in the line-up. It will be available for the foreseeable future. It has been our best-selling bike, but dealers seem to be hesitant to bring it in due to the 27.5-inch stuff. It’s a shame because we all love the SB-66…We are not adding any 26-inch bikes to the mix. Anything moving forward will be 27.5 or 29." – Chris Conroy, Yeti Cycles.
Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Evo
This bikes personifies Specialized's incredible ability to create extremely sporty and playful bikes. At the 2011 Bible Of Bike Tests this bike almost unanimously won over the hearts of the testers. A true trail bike in the sense that it feels at home whether cross-country racing or being hurled down the burl of any trail. I truly wish I owned one.
Personally, I'd put this into the ‘All Time Greats’ category. It pedals far more efficiently than any long-travel, all-mountain bike probably should and descends better than many downhill bikes. Sure, you have to deal with awkward proprietary shock mounting hardware and the price of them is frightening, but I've not met anyone that regrets buying one. In years to come people will look back at that bike and wonder why they don't have one in their garage.
[Note: Specialized didn't return my emails about the life cycle of the Enduro or Stumpjumper Evo, I think they might be a little preoccupied at the moment.]
We tested this at the latest Bible Of Bike Tests in Sedona and we were all very surprised by the performance of the Uprising. That issue of the Bible hits newsstands in the new year, so you'll have to wait for the full group review.
"I'm not getting rid of 26-inch buddy! People can buy our other sizes but, well, that's their choice." – Kevin Walsh, Evil Bikes.
Ibis Mojo HDR
Another tester favorite from the 2010 Bible Of Bike Tests. Sure, you might be thinking this bike has been around for so long that it might be a bit long in the tooth, but it's still bang-up-to-date with any other competitor, simply because Ibis got this one right the first time. I'm glad to see this one is still out there kicking the shit out of anything it needs to.
"The 2014 SL-R and the HDR with 26-inch wheels and 160-millimeter travel are alive and well. There are a lot of people still loving their 26-inch wheels. While our 650 and 29-inch offerings our outselling 26 a lot of people are very happy that we’ve still got 26 offerings. And they let us know." – Scot Nicol, Ibis Bikes.
Ibis Mojo SL-R
Like its bigger brother (or sister, I can't tell because it's so wonderfully and beautifully androgynous) this one was another favorite at the 2011 Bible and in subsequent long-term tests. Fast, capable, well proportioned, and with the DW-Link magic that makes it climb like a rat up a drain pipe.
Blur TR (Carbon and Alloy)
Santa Cruz was smart to build some good 650B bikes pretty early in the game. However, there are still the pants-droppingly awesome TR models – short travel, really really well laid out bikes that make going the extra mile not just an option but a necessity. The paint jobs, which on the first generation models (See image below. Newer models look very different) were hit or miss for many folks, are fast being recognized as classics. This is a bike people will remember and no doubt have very fond memories of.
"The OE 2014 26-inch models we have left are the V10, Nomad C, Nomad A, Chameleon, TRC and TRA. Crazy how few that is and how much has changed in the last two years. What we will have in the foreseeable future is a trickier question to answer. If the demand is there, we’ll keep making them, but the demand for 26-inch has definitely decreased." – Scott Turner, Santa Cruz Bikes.
Other notable mentions.
This bike won the inaugural Enduro World Series in 2013. Sure, Jerome Clementz could have probably Riverdanced his way to the top of any podium even if he was riding a syphilitic Pomeranian, but the fact remains that this might be one of those bikes that was severely overlooked by the buying public. Joe Parkin tested the Jekyll for Bike in 2011 and 2012 and had this to say, "The bike feels ridiculously light while being ridden, and pedaling efficiency is indeed impressive. Ironically, the bike's only weakness may be that the long-travel mode pedals so efficiently that you might just forget about the handlebar-mounted travel-adjust lever, opting instead just to enjoy the 150 millimeters of linear travel." The Jekyll is still around this year, but it's highly likely Cannondale has something up their sleeves. But why change a winning formula? Well, regardless of podiums and praise, the buying public get what the buying public wants.
Rocky Mountain Slayer
It feels like it's been around for years, and what's wrong with that? If it works, it works. There's always a Slayer or two at every trailhead in the Pacific Northwest because it's a pretty simple, rugged, big-hit bike.
"Slayer stays as 26-inch for 2014. We are always working on different designs and prototypes—who knows what 2015 holds." – Brandon Crichton, Rocky Mountain Bikes.
Transition Covert (Carbon and aluminium)
The Pacific Northwest brand has been relatively quiet over the recent years but the Covert is still out there doing it's thing, and doing it well. It now comes in a sexy carbon option too.
If you are looking to buy a new bike and want to keep on 26-inch wheels then the list of options is very small, and probably getting smaller by the day. However, the bikes I've listed are all extremely good bikes. In fact, I'd go as far as to say they outride a lot of the brand-new 650B bikes and some of them probably outshine the best of the best of the new bunch. If you want to stay with the traditional wheel size, then the ones that remain are absolutely great bikes, regardless.
There must be more bikes that could fit on this list but I'm stumped. Know of any more? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.