Just when we thought all debates about wheel sizes were decided upon and set in stone, someone comes along and throws a spanner into the works… You may have heard of it as the 297 or my favourite, The Mullet.
Words and photos // Kane Naaraat.
The Mullet consists of a 29 inch front wheel and a 27.5 rear. Business up the front, party in the back. And yes, we have seen the mix-matched wheel concept brought to market before on the Specialized Big Hit way back in the day. However, even that was a little different in that they used a 24 inch rear and 26” front. A bullet proof combo but not really optimal for winning races.
This time around the modern mullet has already seen some very impressive results. A win at the first world Enduro under Martin Maes and another win at the first DH World Cup under Loic Bruni. Holy crap. Is this a new standard. We better have a look into this.
The science. Now to get our heads around this lets list what we know about wheel sizes
- The ability to smooth out the bumps by having less approach angle than the 27.5
- Larger contact patch for more grip and better braking.
- Greater inertia from the larger diameter resisting large hits slowing down forward movement
- Increased inertia of the larger wheel makes direction changes slower
- They Accelerate slower
- Large size wheel on the rear hits shorter riders in the butt when descending steeps
- Large size usually needs a longer rear chainstay and less rear travel
- Not as strong or stiff as the 27.5 wheel
- As you may have just noticed most of the ‘cons’ only effect the rear of the bike and so that is where the idea of putting a 27.5” out back comes into play.
- Stronger, stiffer size than 29
- Accelerates faster
- Allows for shorter chain stays, and more rear travel
- Less inertia from the smaller size allows quicker direction changes
- Better for smaller riders to avoid tyre ass burn
- Falls into holes easier
- Not as stable or smooth at speed.
- Smaller contact patch gives less grip and braking than 29er.
I think you would agree that the 27.5” cons are of little worry on the rear but those characteristics on the front can give some arse clenching effects.
A beast of an e-Bike and in my opinion it’s currently the best overall handling e-Bike on the market. The Levo comes standard with 29inch front and rear however they frame and fork can handle both wheel sizes. I figure just swap out the rear wheel out and she should be good to go, right?
I must admit, heading to the trails with my new mullet bike I felt like I should be driving an old Kingswood with a blue wife beater, stubby shorts on and blasting Jimmy Barnes on the 8 track. Is this really a thing in this modern era?
So how does it ride? Pretty damn good. All those ‘arse hits’ caused by my big 29’er wheel are now gone and the bike feels a bit more racey than it did before.
It sure does corner really nicely with the smaller rear wheel in there as well. I did notice a few more crank strikes than normal even with the flip chip in the high position. It is better on the tighter turns but noticeably rougher in the rear. Is it better though? I think yes. Maybe.
But I’m probably not pushing it to its full potential at my skill level. I didn’t do any timed runs but I say it just feels faster. So fad or not, I think we are going to see a lot more of the Mullet. I would say in this configuration it would make a great race bike, but for me, I will be going back to the 29” rear and sticking with it.