In our opinion, the best application of 29 inch wheels is still on a hardtail, which maximizes the rolling advantage of bigger wheels—it’s easier to get them powered up, and you get the full benefit of rolling over (not into) roots and rocks. Add today’s evermore compliant and tunable carbon frames and plush tubeless tires, and you get a damp, smooth, and fast hardtail. That’s the XTC 29ER. If you have the right trail system for it (rolling groomers to mildly chunky) then it could be your only bike. Swami gripe: Buyer beware: If you ride rough country all day you’ll feel the hard in hardtail. Swami like: It’s a relatively affordable dirt road and buttery track racer to complement your full suspension machine. Tester’s take: “Goes uphill very well. The front end tracks perfectly.” Best usage: Smooth singletrack. Racing. Dirt roads. Leadville 100.
From the Spring 2012 issue