|Tiny frame. Big wheels. Bad idea.|
However, I just read that one of the big mainstream companies, Trek, has finally taken a step towards sensible wheel sizing. In Bike Retailer and Industry News, I read that Trek is offering its new Marlin and Skye mountain bike models with two different wheel sizes. The frames smaller than 17.5 inches will get 27.5, while those larger will get 29 in. wheels. Trek calls it "Smart Wheel Size."
A press release from Trek announced, "For some time, riders and retailers across the world have debated the merits of both (27.5 vs. 29), causing bike shops and bike company product managers to scramble to meet the demands of a confused marketplace. Smart Wheel Size ends the confusion and simplifies the choice for riders while making it easier for shops to sell the best bike for their customer."
One thing I notice, though, is that 26 in. wheels seem to be forgotten -- and I've read statements from people in the industry predicting that the 26 in. size will eventually get phased out, or relegated to entry-level bikes. I still think that is terribly short sighted. For some small riders, even 27.5 might be too large for the best bike fit. Whatever benefits are supposed to come with larger wheels get lost when the bike simply doesn't fit the rider comfortably.
The other thing I notice is that on Trek's road bikes, it's still "one-size-fits-all" where wheels are concerned. Like many other big brands, they offer "women's specific" road bikes, but when you look closely at the geometry, they all use the same wheel size and pull the same tricks manufacturers have long used to make them "fit" -- steep seat tube angles, slack head tube angles, and tons of toe overlap.
Still, it's a step in the right direction. What I'd really like to see at some point is where the three most common wheel sizes 559, 584, and 622 (notice I'm using the ISO sizes here -- less confusing than 26 /650B/27.5/700C/29) become common for both road and mountain bike applications, and used to achieve the best bike fit for a wide range of riders. Trek might have discovered the benefits of "Smart Wheel Size" -- but it will be much smarter when it covers even more riders and more sizes.