Is there a better option than 29er, 650b or 26?

Introducing Bike magazine’s Project SubNer

As we were putting the final touches on Vernon Felton's "War of Wheels" story for the March issue of Bike, our edit staff couldn't help but wonder if we shouldn't have another mountain-bike standard.

"Is that all there is?" we wondered. "Is this as good as it gets?"

Given our decades of combined testing and riding experience, we believed we could create the perfect bike. Project SubNer was born.

Bike's Ryan ‘Squirrel’ LaBar sees it this way: "The Subner is revolutionary: It takes the geometry advantages of a 29er and combines them with the automatic fun you have on smaller wheels. It's perfect."

At first glance, you notice the SubNer's smaller wheels and copious wheel clearance. One starts to draw a comparison to monster trucks—or lowriders.

Our SubNer, however, isn’t just for show. While the downhill bike trend ventures further into low-and-slack territory, the SubNer is all about low and steep. Head angles that were built into 29er frames to ensure that the big-wheel bikes will still steer now command control of the sub-29-inch wheels. The center of gravity, on the other hand, is all about sure-footed control.

It's clear to us that the SubNer will be a boon for aggressive mud riders who demand massive amounts of mud clearance and low CGs, and who often need to employ Fred Flintstone footwork, so we have trademarked LowriderTech and MudLaunch Control 2.0 as a way to market this push-off technology. The SubNer’s real-time pedaling is immediately evident when traction is scarce.

It's not all about mud, either.

Despite the fact that we've showcased Intense's Spyder 29 here—completely without the company’s prior knowledge—we tested many different brands as a chassis for our SubNer—we even shared our idea with a few bicycle companies. Santa Cruz Bicycles' Joe Graney views the SubNer as a potential quiver-crusher.

Before. Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Bicycles

Subner. Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Bicycles

"Just went for my first SubNer ride, and it was so sick,” said Graney. “There was extra wheel stiffness, which, combined with the low BB, made the bike handle with aplomb. I eschewed the notion of 160-millimeter rotors with the smaller wheels, and instead opted for stoppers with a little more power since my corner speed had increased. It climbs like it’s on rails. I'm thinking my SubNer could be my 'one bike'."

Graney, of course, used Santa Cruz Bicycles’ Highball hardtail as the base for his SubNer, and, as such, came away with more of a short-track XC version as opposed to our own All-Mountain SubNer.

Building your own SubNer is not as simple as slotting a 26-inch wheel set into a 29er frame set. Accordingly, we've been working closely with several wheel manufacturers to come up with a new SubNer-ready wheel standard, and with suspension manufacturers to perfect the spring rates and valving necessary to keep the smaller wheels glued to the ground.

Look for a long-term test in Bike magazine soon.

Bike's SubNer kit will be available at and your LBS soon. Pricing TBA.