Over the past few years, the '+1' in the infamous 'N+1' equation has increasingly meant a gravel adventure bike. The rise of the term groading, wild adventure races like the Dirty Kanza 200, and the sheer excitement of exploring previously unridable roads have exploded into a perfect storm of gravel sized pebbles.
New bikes, especially in the gravel bike genre, carry with them a host of questions. Traditional ones like Campagnolo, Sram or Shimano, electronic or mechanical. And some not so standard, like 700c vs 650B.
If you don't even know what that means, here's a quick rundown. For a long time, the standard wheel size for road bikes was 700c and 26 inch for mountain bikes. Then in the early 2000's mountain bike manufacturers introduced a larger 29 inch wheel touting its ability to reach a higher top end speed and ability to roll over roots and rocks more easily.
Even more recently, manufacturers introduced another variation, the 27.5 in or 650B. It was meant to fill that gap between the 26 and 29 inch wheels, combining the best of both worlds.
Now, the 650B is being paired with a larger tire and put on gravel bikes. What's the difference between the 700c and 650B and why should you consider them?
The staff here at Glory Cycles have put both the 700c and 650B wheels to the test and the definitive answer is... you can't make a bad choice.
Maybe that wasn't the easy answer you wanted. But scroll down for the benefits and drawbacks of each, where each size excels, and decide which is best for you. Because at Glory, we believe that each bike should reflect the needs and wants of the person riding it.
The 650B wheel allows for a larger tire which in turn gives a more comfortable, cushioned ride. The wider tire also allows riders to use lower tire pressure, increasing the handling of the bike off road. While it's capable on the asphalt, the 650B really shines in serious off road situations like tight mountain bike trails and rough sections of gravel adventure rides or races. In a nutshell, the 650B gives the bike a mountain bike feel.
Conversely, the 700c offers a stiffer ride. It trades comfort for responsiveness and the wider tire for greater momentum. The larger wheel size, similar to a 29 inch MTB, rolls more easily over roots and rocks. The 700c excels on rides that include stretches of tarmac, fire roads, and gravel. Increasingly, people are also using their gravel bikes with higher pressure and slicker tires mounted on 700c rims as a substitute for a road bike. Opposite to the 650B, a 700c wheel gives the bike a road bike feel.
In the end, it's up to personal preference. Are you used to riding on the road and plan on riding paved roads to explore fire roads? Then the 700c might be the right wheel size for you. But if you prefer the feel of a mountain bike and plan on exploring difficult trails and rocky paths, the comfort and agility of the 650B might be the right choice.
If you do experience some analysis paralysis and don't want to chose between the two sizes, don't worry - it's not necessary. A benefit of using disc brakes is, as long as your frame can accommodate the wider tires, switching between 650B and 700c wheels is as easy as swapping wheels.