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Why does bike wheel size matter?

It can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the different shapes and sizes of bikes these days. "Why are they all so different?" or "Which one do I choose?" you may ask. In terms of bike design, one of the main things that determines how the bike feels to ride is wheel size. Below we'll break down all the different wheel sizes on offer, explaining the benefits and drawbacks of each and what makes them unique.


This is the wheel size that you'll find on our popular Brompton Bicycles! As highlighted in the image above, the main benefit to this wheel size is it's compact nature. When folded up, these wheels allow the Brompton bikes the ability to pack down super small, making them both more portable and easier to store. These small wheels also offer a sensitive ride feel, making these little bikes feel fast and sporty when you're hooning around town! This does mean that you do have to be paying a bit more attention however, as even movements will be noticeable to your ride.



This wheel size is common on many of our cargo bikes, as it offers many benefits for this style of bike. It's still much more compact than a regular size wheel and is a more common size than 16", making getting tyres and other parts more manageable. This largely wheel size is also less twitchy than 16", making your bike more stable when loaded up. The main benefits that this wheel size offers cargo bikes is that they allow your bike to have a lower center of gravity, meaning that the bike is less likely to tip over. They also are very strong due to their compact nature, which is crucial for durability on a cargo bike when you're carrying big loads. This wheel size is used on all of our Tern bikes, and allow bikes like the Tern GSD S10 the ability to carry huge loads whilst taking up such a small footprint due to their compact nature.


24" & 26"

These two wheel sizes are usually found on kids bikes but are also used on a few of the cargo bikes that we sell. These wheel sizes offer similar benefits to the smaller 20" wheel size, whilst allowing the bike to behave more like a regular bike, due to their larger form factor. This is seen Spicy Curry pictured above has a 26" front wheel, which allows the front end handling is familiar to most people. However being smaller than regular full size wheels, 26" wheels can be built extra strong and allow the center of gravity for the bike to be slightly lower. Same applies for 24" wheels. Unlike the Spicy Curry pictured above, the Benno Boost (one of our most popular mid-tail cargo bikes) uses 24" wheels front and rear, which makes it sit right between 26" and 20" in terms of handling, whilst making the bike handle more evenly due to balanced front and rear wheel sizes.


27.5" / 650b

Note -  both names above are describing same wheel size, in which the name used depends on the size of tyre that the bike is designed around. 27.5" usually implies tyres greater than 2" wide, whilst 650b implies tyres under 2" wide.

This wheel size is one of the two modern, full size wheel sizes that you'll find on this list, which you can find on the majority of the adult bike on the market today. 27.5" was a wheel size that was created to combine the benefits of smaller, 26" mountain bike wheels with the advantages found on 700c road bike wheels to create a wheel that is very responsive with good rolling efficiency. This is the reason you'll find this wheel size on lots of mountain and electric bikes, as it combines the best of both worlds. The Moustache X Road pictured above is a good example of this, as it allows for a relaxed riding position that still handles itself off road. Recently, this wheel size has also been adopted by gravel cyclists who are wanting to squeeze wider tyres onto their bikes, as the smaller diameter of this wheel means that sometimes you can put on higher volume tyres for more fun on the rough stuff.


29" / 700c

Note -  both names above are describing same wheel size, in which the name used depends on the size of tyre that the bike is designed around. 29" usually implies tyres greater than 2" wide, whilst 700c implies tyres under 2" wide.

This is the largest wheel size you'll find on the market today, which in recent years has gained lots of popularity. Previously only found in the road bike market, due to it's high rolling efficiency as a result from it's larger circumference, this wheel size is now also commonly found on mountain bikes. Previously mountain bike designs meant that fitting these wheels would make bikes feel sluggish due to their size, but modern frame design has allowed for this issue to be largely resolved. Sure, bikes like the Surly Ogre pictured above are still big bikes, but due to the way they integrate these wheels they're still heaps of fun to ride. Their larger size they float over rough surfaces easier, and you get the most distance out of every pedal stroke. Combined with a high volume tyre, this wheel size can practically roll over anything!


To wrap, I want to reiterate that if you haven't noticed already, there is no one perfect wheel size. There are lots of different sizes wheels for good reason, as they all have their own pros and cons and offer a different ride experience. This means that it all depends on what type of riding you're planning to do, and have a go on these bikes and then you'll be able to have a better idea of what suits you best. We're always happy to offer test rides on our bikes so if you're interested, come on down to the bikery and take one for a spin!