26 versus 29 - Implications for Coaches
Generally speaking, as coaches it is not our place to say what wheel size an athlete should or shouldn't run. It is our job to educate athletes on how different choices will act, ride and feel. We need to advise them that different wheel sizes are suited to different types of terrain and how to get the best out of their equipment. Additionally, what you would advise for a beginner would be different to what you would advise a pro on the world cup circuit.
Once an athlete makes the choice (or even if they cannot because of sponsorship arrangements) and has a certain type of bike, then the coach needs to be supportive. Regardless of the equipment (or wheel size) an athlete has, the coach will then need to adapt to the individuals needs, goals and ability.
In today’s PCS Skills course at Karingal, Mount Cotton (east of Brisbane), I was assisted by Level 1 Cycling Coach, Jodie Willett. Jodie is sponsored by Santa Cruz and rides a Blur Carbon XC 26inch full suspension bike. I was riding my new Specialized Fate Expert Carbon 29er hard tail decked out with the SID Brain. Half of the group we were coaching were on 26’ers and the other half on 29’ers. Before this session, I had never really thought about the implications of coaching athletes on different wheel sizes and today brought about a whole new perspective.
For me personally, it was the second ever ride on a 29’er so I am still getting used to it but it became evident very quickly that regardless of what wheel size a person had, the best line still remained the best line, regardless of the bike. The fact that I was on my 29’er struggling with the best line brought home to me that to get both bikes around this tight corner meant the coaching points would be slightly different. Watch this space as I will need time to get used to how the 29’er handles before I can comment on what those coaching points would be. However, I am pretty sure I am not the pioneer on this point either!
As a coach, this makes life a little trickier having separate (albeit similar) coaching points for the same skill. This is excellent news as I am expanding my skill set and being able to offer a new insight. As if I didn’t already need another excuse to have one of each wheel size in my garage! Just don’t tell the bean counters the 650b is coming!