Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably caught wind of the latest wheel-related phenomenon in mountain biking: the 650b aka 27.5”. For years and years I’d been perfectly content on my 26” hardtail, even giving a couple singlespeed 29ers a chance, however, nothing really held my attention like a good ‘ole 26” wheel; at least until just recently.
I was given the privilege of testing out the Budnitz No. 2 titanium 650b mountain bike and let’s just say it was really hard to give back after two weeks of straight thrashing. The bike rides like a dream and is ridiculously light, weighing in at just 18 lbs. The 650b is a wheel size I’ve been curious about in regards to mountain biking for some time now, especially since I’m partial to a smaller wheel. A 29er has always felt a little cumbersome for me and doesn’t exactly fit my riding style. As a youth, I spent afternoons building jumps and riding a BMX bike, so once I transitioned to a mountain bike, my bmx instincts followed.
The one part of riding a 26” wheel that is a constant bother is rolling over patches of roots, certain rock gardens and generally unpredictable terrain. For this reason, I’ve always thought a 650b would be the sweet spot for me, and after riding the No. 2 bike my hypothesis has been confirmed.
I took the bike out to my regular stomping grounds to put it through it’s paces and within minutes of leaving pavement, I had an ear-to-ear grin and couldn’t believe I was riding a bike with bigger wheels. It felt quicker and rolled better than my 26”, yet I was still able to whip it around as I pleased. Navigating technical, rocky terrain was a breeze and I even cleared a certain rock garden that I’ve only ever conquered once before. I was also climbing loose, technical ascents with greater confidence and speed thanks to the larger footprint. You could say I was stoked (sorry, I don’t do the MTB lingo), and I’m most definitely sold on the 650b; now I just need to obtain a personal SS 650b mountain bike.
This was also the first time I’d ridden a singlespeed mountain bike in years and definitely the first time I’d ridden a titanium mountain bike. For a while I’ve been skeptical towards titanium as I’ve ridden a few ti road bikes that were terribly underwhelming, especially when compared to my scandium bikes. I like to feel my bikes and the terrain under me. I need lateral stiffness and I want my bikes to go when I say “go”.
The No. 2 mountain bike has all the benefits of ti, but with none of the unwanted noodly side effects. It’s responsive, yet forgiving when situations get hairy. It speeds up when I want it to and handles as if it’s predicting your next move. The cantilever top tube is largely responsible for the liveliness of this bike and at the same time does a great job of diffusing vibrations. This is also true with the titanium seat post. The curved seat tub leaves the seat post a comfortable angle, which really helps dampen rough terrain.
On top of that, as mentioned before, the 650b wheel is magical. Whether you’ve given one a shot or not, I’d keep an eye on this segment of the mountain bike market as tons of manufacturers are beginning to produce 650b-specific parts. If you get the chance, hop on one and give it a shot! Whether you’re partial to 29” or 26”, you’ll definitely find the 650b as the perfect marriage of the two.
I’m hyped that Paul and the gang at Budnitz have put out a 650b as their first mountain bike. It rides like nothing else and can be configured as either a singlespeed or with an internally-geared hub such as a Rohloff or Alfine. Head on over to Budnitz Bicycles if you’d like get the specifics on this bike or if you’d like to order your own.
If you have any questions about this bike, definitely shoot me an email or Tweet!
Thanks again to Paul, John and Hunt for letting me rip this around for a couple weeks! Check out some detail shots below.
Ti stem, spacers, bars and Chris King Headset