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Interbike 2012 - The 650b/27.5 Revolution

A look at the newest products supporting the 'tweener wheel size

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Interbike 2012 proved that 650b is not coming. It’s here, it’s well-received and it’s even been accepted by some major players in the industry. Except it's not called 650b anymore. Most superstars undergo a name change right before their rise to fame, and this case is no exception. Ladies and gents, I give you the new “27.5-inch” wheel.

Call it what you will, this year’s largest bike trade show was abuzz with the latest 650b/27.5 offerings. It felt like everywhere I looked, manufacturers were quick to embrace the new middle wheel size. I saw forks, rims, wheels and even complete 27.5-inch bikes. Folks, I think it’s safe to say this relatively new middle sibling is poised to stay the course.

What follows is a list of the latest goods I saw at Interbike 2012 from manufacturers getting behind the medium wheel size.

KHS

©Beth Puliti
The first ever 650b/27.5 downhill prototype was on display (and looking well-ridden) at the KHS booth, turning more than a few heads. Dirt Rag magazine reports that the model features a 62.5-degree headtube angle and 8.25 inches of rear wheel travel, and is outfitted with a Manitou Dorado fork and Stan’s NoTubes Flow EX rims. The bike will be ridden by KHS Factory rider Logan Binggeli in the RedBull Rampage on October 5, 2012. While it is reportedly still in its testing phase, word on the street is there’s a good chance the bike will make its way into production soon. In 2013, KHS will also be offering a full line of full-suspension 27.5 bikes in addition to two economical alloy 27.5 hardtail models.

RockShox

©Beth Puliti
In order for 27.5-inch wheels to really take off, some important components are needed to guarantee success—one of those being compatible forks. RockShox has created 27.5-compatible SID and Reba models that will be available in December to meet the anticipated demand. The fork manufacturer says its new forks are not modified 26- or 29-inch models. Rather, the new line features a chassis optimized for 27.5-inch wheels. MSRP: SID $820 - $888; Reba $673. Available in black or white. Sometimes it takes a big name to back a new trend. Enter RockShox. Exit 27.5 cynics.

Stan’s NoTubes

©Stan's NoTubes
Looking pretty in the Stan’s NoTubes booth this year at Interbike, the top-of-the-line Medalist 650B wheelset garnered a lot of attention from passersby. Available only as complete wheels, the new addition is for "lightweight" race use like their existing 29-inch Race Gold and 26-inch Podium MMX versions. In fact, the Medalist is copied from those designs specifically. The new Medalist 650b wheelset, like all other XC race wheelsets from Stan's, features "Bead Socket Technology" rims, which mean they are wider and lower than conventional rims. Why is this a good thing? You get less rolling resistance, better traction and faster cornering. Stan’s maintains that the weight of the new 6061 alloy Medalist is 1335 grams per set. MSRP: $950, available in November. You can order front or rear specifically/separate should you wish.

Kenda

©Beth Puliti
Lots of tire manufacturers have been quick to embrace the 27.5 trend, and Kenda is no exception. Offering several 27.5-inch tire options in 2013, Kenda’s middle wheel size line-up will include the already well-liked Slant Six, Karma and Nevegal tires. In addition, the all-new Honey Badger tire—created for both trail and all-mountain riding—will come in 26-, 27.5- and 29-inch versions. Available in regular and tubeless-ready versions in early 2013.

WTB

©WTB
WTB has created its first 27.5 tire, in its fast-rolling Wolverine tread. WTB calls this its “most versatile trail tire” featuring moderately-spaced knobbies that make it cling to hard pack trails. Outside knobs are the ideal addition to hug corners. According WTB, this is a race-level tire that weighs in at 640 grams. In addition to the new 27.5-inch Wolverine, WTB has made its Frequency TCS (Tubeless Compatible System) rims now available in 650b as well.
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