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There are many in the world of mountain biking who look at the ever-expanding range of wheel and tyre options on modern bikes with the air of someone who has discovered something unpleasant on the sole of their shoe… like Donald Trump.

“It’s all a cunning conspiracy to get us all to buy new bikes,” they mutter, unaware that, to be honest, the last thing we mountain bikers need is new ways to sell us stuff, when the old ways seemed to be working so well, suckers that we are.

“What,” they cry, “is wrong with good old 26in/29in/20in/skateboard wheels?”

And of course, the answer is ‘nothing’. There’s nothing wrong with them, and they’ll offer the same riding fun they always have. No one is forcing anyone to ride the new stuff, and all you need to do is swing your leg over your faithful old machine, and hit the trails, same as you ever did.

But of course, the cultural milieu in which your trusty jalopy operates has now changed. Always nagging at the back of your mind will be the knowledge that alternatives exist, and your bike can’t accommodate them. Different wheel sizes offer up different perspectives, after all. Different riding options. Are they better?

“Well, if you don’t try them, you’ll never know...” This is the mantra of the marketeer, and there are plenty of people – your riding mates, perhaps – who will attempt to assert that one is better than the other. When, of course, they are merely slightly different stripes of the same fun.

But of all the enormous wheel size options that festoon the modern mountain bike, none are more physically imposing than the brigade which refers to itself as 29+. Meaning 29in rims, typically 40–50mm wide, topped off with a 2.8–3.0in wide tyres. (Sorry for the imperial/metric hopping. It’s immensely annoying, but then so are a great many measurements in the world of mountain bikes. You’ll get used to it.)

Such is the resultant wheel diameter than many of the wandering wheel-size worriers will whistle in wrathful wonderment. What’s the point? Whither well-wrought wheel wrangling? [Enough! - Alliteration Ed].

Well, adherents will point to an elongated contact patch providing frankly preposterous grip, coupled to an enormous wheel which will roll over everything. Comfort, traction, stability and fun are promised. Detractors merely have to point incredulously to the enormous size and apparently self-evident heft of the wheels and tyres, and to wonder precisely how many years it would take to lumber them up to anything over a red-faced trundle.

Often, of course, such blatherings come free from any actual first-hand experience of tractor-bikes. And so we, as your stalwart Investigators-In-Chief, wish to put your minds to rest.

We have assembled three 29+ bikes. The Jones 29+ is an unapologetically long machine with a unique set of geometry numbers, and an even more unique fork. The Salsa Woodsmoke and the Trek Stache are both machines in a modern style, with short back ends and long front centres. They all share striking profiles, and of course, enormous wheels. Let’s take them for a spin, shall we?

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Editorial The publishing world is changing (again) and we’re going to be changing with it. Here’s how. UK Adventure: The Breakfast Club Sanny discovers that apple pie and custard for breakfast tastes better on the side of a hill you rode up the night before. Trail Hunter: Fremington Edge Tom Fenton earns his descents in the Yorkshire Dales. Build It And You Will Ride Many riders dream of building their own, perfect bike. Chipps takes on a TIG welding, frame building course. Room 101 Mark presides over your submissions - will you persuade him to put anything into Room 101? Interview: Katy Winton It’s not been an easy road to the top. Pete Scullion finds out how this cheerful Scot nearly gave up on bikes for good. Classic Ride: Dead Breconing Barney finds the Brecon Beacons offers a bigger day out than might be expected. With bigger nettles too. Grouptest: Trail Pumps Every rider should carry a reliable pump. Chipps checks out ten to determine which should be in your pack for that ‘last minutes of light, in the sleet’ puncture. Bike Test: Wagon Wheelers. Plus. Barney put three huge-wheeled 29+ bikes to the test. Is bigger better, or just different? Through The Grinder What has survived a winter on the test bikes of the Grinder Team? We bring you some not so shiny goods. Grinder Bike: Whyte T-130 A British bike designed for British conditions. What will our resident Australian make of it? International Adventure: Mount Elbert, Colorado EWS rider Jérôme Clementz takes a day off by getting up at 4am to ride up Colorado’s highest peak. Last Word The vortexes of Sedona make Hannah come over all flowery as she escapes the daily school run.