Wheel sizes and diminishing marginal utility

In the old days we rode 26x2ish tires, and that was it. There were no other options and nothing to worry about. And we were happy.

26, 27.5, 27.5+, 29, 29+ … the list of mountain bike wheel options keeps growing.

More choices are better, right?

In BMX they have 20-, 24- and now 22-inch wheels. Really!

Here’s a quote from Harvard Business Review article titled More Isn’t Always Better:

“Choice is good for us, but its relationship to satisfaction appears to be more complicated than we had assumed. There is diminishing marginal utility in having alternatives; each new option subtracts a little from the feeling of well-being, until the marginal benefits of added choice level off.

“What’s more, psychologists and business academics alike have largely ignored another outcome of choice: More of it requires increased time and effort and can lead to anxiety, regret, excessively high expectations, and self-blame if the choices don’t work out. When the number of available options is small, these costs are negligible, but the costs grow with the number of options. Eventually, each new option makes us feel worse off than we did before.”

Cars have all sorts of wheels and tires. Do people go looking for a 15er or a 16er, or if, you’re a rapper, a 22er? No. They choose the style of car that meets their needs, and it comes with the wheels it comes with. Some drivers customize their wheels, but smart engineers and designers decide which wheels make the most sense for each car, and there are few reasons to change.

What kind of riding do you want to do? How do you want your bike to feel? How big is your body? How much money can you spend? What color do you like? Which local shop do you want to build a relationship with? Pick a bike that meets those needs. It’ll have whichever wheels make the most sense.

I personally like 29-inch wheels on my trail bikes. A) My limiting factor is aerobic capacity, and bigger wheels help me carry a bit more speed when I’m with stronger riders. B) I can make a 29er corner, pump and jump just fine. C) Specialized, who has been supporting me for a decade, makes 29-inch trail bikes. Gotta be honest!

Pick a bike that fits you, that you can afford, from your local bike shop.

Learn to ride it.

Have fun!

I like the responsiveness of my 20 and the rolling speed of my 24. Would a 22 give me all of that pop with better roll?

Know more. Have more fun!

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