For the past couple seasons, the mountain bike world has seen a rise in the 27.5-inch wheel size, also known as 650B. Most major brands now support 650B, which hovers between the 29- and 26-inch standards.
I rode a high-end Focus bike, model Raven 650B, this summer equipped with a carbon frame and the new-to-me wheel size.
Overall, I was convinced — as a 5’6’‘ woman used to riding a 29er, the 650B size seemed “just right.”
New mountain bikers will likely have a hard time distinguishing 650B from 26-inch wheels. But if you have ridden one wheel size for years, either 26- or 29-inch, you are familiar with the performance and feel of your go-to wheel. You know how to ride that size and how it will perform on many types of terrain.
I felt the difference immediately the first time I got on the Raven. I’ve tested the bike at 24-hour adventure races, in short sprints at a local ski resort, and for miles on XC singletrack.
This bike is a crusher — it takes on any terrain I throw at it and rolls fast straight through.
How’s it different from my 29er? The Raven and its 650B wheels overcome inertia from a dead stop faster. It’s more nimble on technical trails. Yet it rode over rough spots noticeably better than a 26-inch wheel.
As for the bike, the Raven is a race-ready hardtail with a carbon frame that soaks in bumps but is faster than almost anything I’ve ever pedaled. At 24 pounds the Raven shoots up climbs and can rocket from a standstill to 20mph+ at a race start in seconds.
It costs $3,950. For the price you get Shimano XT components, a RockShox Revelation fork, and aluminum clincher wheels. To top it off, a front thru-axel hub gives the front end added stiffness. Internally-routed cables provide a sleek aesthetic.
Overall, I love the Raven 650B. Am I sold on the 650B wheel size? Well, I won’t be hanging up my 29er for good. But 650B for me is a perfect mix of comfort and agility.
Whether you’re a diehard 26-inch rider or devoted to the 29er format, there’s a substantial trend toward 650B. Give it a try at a demo or shop. 650B might be your “just right” way to roll.
—Amy Oberbroeckling is an assistant editor as well as a racer on Team GearJunkie/WEDALI.