Of course there has been alot of talk in the MTB scene about wheel sizes and us regular MTBers take it all in out stride as pedal stroke as the case may be.
It's funny talking to my roadie friends about mountain biking and before long you notice the eyes roll back in their heads as you start talking about 26 inch, 29ers, 650B, hardtails, dual suspension, XT, XX1, 2x10; I might as well be talking chinese!
Setting up the bike, the first thing I noticed is how far back I feel relative to the rear axle. It's been years since I rode a 26" bike and even then it was a trail oriented build, so jumping on a mid wheel size XC racer is quite a new experience. I reckon Giant have gotten the geometry just right. gone are the days of the twitchy Anthem with the steep head angle. This bike feels fast and flowy, yet forgiving.
The next thing I notice is how quickly the wheels seem to spin up. Not surprising considering the lower rotating mass, but I didnt expect it to be so pronounced.
The bike handles really well and with a full Shimano XT groupset and Fox Shocks, it is equipped with the components of choice in my books. With the mid size wheel you also get the benefit of better rolling resistance and that tractor wheel effect of rolling over large rocks that make 29ers so popular.
All in all I definitely rate this bike. I loved riding it and set some pretty cool PR's on my local track so there is no doubt, it's quick. The bike is certainly more agile than it's big brother and this means you are not only quicker on tight corners, but you can take lines that would normally be not negotiable with a 29er. The thing I found most interesting is on a 29er you have to be very intentional where you roll your front and back wheels. What I mean is you have to steer the front wheel with the rear wheel in mind to avoid hitting the sides of rocks and the like and losing momentum. On the 27.5, you just dont need to worry about that, the bike has enough agility to make cornering more effortless.
Would I upgrade? Well if money was no object or if I was starting fresh yes I think this bike would definitely be high on the list of possibles. I can especially see it being a favourite on short tight technical courses, such as those employed for your typical 2 hour clubby. For me, that is someone who doesnt really bother with too much under 6 hours I think the 29er would win out in the end, but it would be close.
It will be interesting to see how the wheel wars play out over the next few years. Thanks to Nick Bonich and all the crew at Giant for setting this up.