Emily Batty is a big wheeler

038443c4.jpg photo from RoadBikeReview.com forums

Emily Batty rides for Subaru-Trek mtn bike team…she’s Canadian, 23, and is 5’2”. At the risk of sidetracking myself, she is also so painfully beautiful to look at…..but the point is that she rides a 29er. Sure, sure…there’s still a lot of controversy as to whether 29ers offer a real advantage, but the fact is that a lot pro riders are moving to the big wheel. It’s also been generally assumed that big wheels suited taller riders better. Yet Emily has a choice between full-suspension 26er and hard tail 29er, and she picks 29er almost every time. I’m sure that riding style has a lot to do with what a rider will prefer, but now I’m curious. If petite, gorgeous Emily is woman enough for 29er, then so AM I. I’m 5’3” and Emily would be looking up into my eyes if we went to dinner together, unless she wore heels, which is totally cool by me and I’m sure she’d look wonderful in……DAMMNIT, where was I? Oh, yeah, talking about bikes…..

I’d like to ride 29er mtb now that I feel confident in my offroad handling skills again. In the past I’ve frankly sucked at offroad riding, but in this season’s cyclocross races I inexplicably held an advantage on the technical sections. Sure, some of it had to do with sussing out my brakes and that Redline Conquest frame is a dream, but somehow things just clicked. I haven’t owned a mtb in years, my last one being a ‘99 Fisher Ziggarat which had “Genesis” geometry designed by Gary Fisher. Gary, an early evangelist for 29ers, updated and adapted Genesis to match the 29” wheels on the Trek Superfly bikes, the same model ridden by Batty. One aspect of the Superfly Genesis geometry is that it uses custom-offset forks to reduce steering trail and quicken the handling of the supposedly sluggish 29er wheels. Mighty curious, I am.


The GF/Trek Genesis II 29ers use a head tube angle 2 degrees slacker than everyone else in the business, solely so they can make 29ers in tiny sizes without getting crankarm overlap.

The custom high-offset fork crowns are just to compensate for the HTA, because otherwise the handling actually would be sluggish.

Good point. Hadn’t gotten to all the numbers yet. Actually, the Specialized Stumpjumper is lookin pretty good to me since the headtube is 10mm shorter in the smallest size.  I despise tall headtubes, and 29ers are inherently tall to begin with. 90mm for integrated/internal headset isn’t a whole lot of support for a steerer of a big fork, but whatcha gonna do?

All the same, I like long rake forks on my road bikes. My steel bikes have had 50-54mm of rake.  Once I start researching 29er forks, it’ll interesting to compare the numbers.

...not to say that headtube length is the only number that i look at, just that the rest of the Stumpjumper dimensions seem reasonable.  i’ve used negative rise stems on 26” bikes just to get my bars where i feel comfortable, so any 29er is going to have bars higher than my preference.  a shorter headtube just gets me closer to what i want, or at least within an acceptable distance.

Given your height I’d bet your road bikes also have slack HTAs — the extra fork offset just helps it to handle like a slightly-floppier version of ‘standard’ sized bikes with their 73° HTA / 45mm rake.

The measurements of the parts independently are meaningless, it’s only the gestalt that matters: http://yojimg.net/bike/web_tools/trailcalc.php

sure, sure, i’m well aware of trail/rake relationship. for instance, in an old post i was hotrod ding a Rock SHox P-R SL fork to get a better rake for my head angle: http://bikehugger.com/post/view/rock-shox-paris-roubaix-sl-for

it’s interesting to me that head angle doesn’t really change much for size, at least with the Superfly and Stumpjumper.  so when you say that Trek has the high rake to compensate for slack head angle, in a way it’s not really for the small sizes specifically.  from my road bike design perspective, especially considering my own frame size, slacker head angle just seems expected or even natural, and higher rake is, as you said, how you balance that.  i’m actually a bit surprised that there isn’t more variation across the size spectrum.  of course, different rake options aren’t typical for suspension forks (except for a big manufacturer spec’ing their OEM like Trek), but it’s not like different rake options are typical on production road bikes.  the vast majority of road bike production just uses the “standard” 45mm rake for because that’s what works with the most common frame size, or i should say the typical head angle of the most common frame size….then use that same fork on all production to benefit from economies of scale and fewer sku#‘s.

i would think that if Trek wanted to vary the head angle in their size run, the sales volume would make that viable, given that it is Trek we’re talking about. and it’s not like they’d need a custom low rake fork for the bigger sizes with a steeper head angle, because the lower rake is already the standard used by the rest of the industry. of course, I could also see Trek doing high rake fork/slack head just for the marketing perspective of making their product stand out.

whenever i see road bikes with no variation in the angles through the size range, the assumption is that the manufacturer is optimizing for the mid or larger sizes.  when i see Trek’s numbers vs Specialized’s….where the Trek has the slack head angle/high rake fork that in the road bike world is associated with smaller sizes….. it makes it seem like the Trek might be optimized for the smaller sizes (even if the primary goal was a marketing ploy).  and I’m all for that, screw you tall people. if i ever built my own house, i’d make all the doorways just 5’8” tall so that plenty of people smack their face into it. (ceilings would be normal height though, so i don’t get claustrophobic)

i seem to recall that Gary Fisher had explained the rationale for the original “genesis” geometry (on late-90’s 26” Fisher bikes) as a way to get larger sizes to handle more like smaller bikes, so maybe this was done on purpose.  there’s a lot of marketing hype out there, so who knows? 

anyways on a third read-thru, the Superfly once again looks more interesting from my personal perspective.  damn that 10mm higher stack, though.

Of course, Trek woudn’t like it if she rode a 26-inch hardtail, so there’s only so much you can read into this.

UCI races have very little relation to recreational mountain biking.

They’re short events on smooth trails without sustained climbs or descents.  What the pros ride in these races is irrelevant for the rest of us.


i dunno if trek would be too upset if she rode the 26” hardtail, since their website has her hawking it.  even though she didn’t race that or her 26” top fuel fs once this past season.

and as far as i’m concerned, racing would be top motivating factor for me to get back into mtn biking, so her choices as rider close to my size and a competitor does have some relation to me at least….accepting the possibity that the courses i’ll race are too different from a UCI course.

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