May 29, 2010
Every so often, I get an email asking whether or not a person should move from a 700c road wheel to a 26" wheel for touring. My touring experience has predominantly been aboard 700c wheels, but there are some good reasons to give a 26" wheel some thought.
The first advantage that most people will point to with 26" wheels is that they are more durable with shorter spokes, and a wider rim. If your tour takes you on a variety of road conditions, this additional strength can come in handy for rough dirt and gravel, in addition to handling heavy loads.
With a smaller wheel diameter, the bike can become a little more responsive, and feel more stable, however, frame geometry will also play a big role here.
If you have a world tour in mind, the 26" wheel can be very attractive, as it's the most common wheel size world wide. For mechanical assistance overseas with tires, spokes, tubes, rims, etc, your chances of finding 26" equipment is pretty good.
While the majority of stock touring bikes are designed for 700c wheels, some touring bikes that currently come stock with a 26" wheel include the Co-Motion Pangea, Novara Safari, Bruce Gordon BLT-X, as well as the Surly Long Haul Trucker.
Keep in mind that these benefits by no means indicate that a 700c wheel is not a good option for touring. The majority of touring bikes out on the road have 700c road wheels, and perform very well. Moving to a 26" wheel often means a new bike frame, and I would not recommend overhauling your current setup to accommodate a different wheel size.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.