How to Measure Wheel Size

How to measure bike wheel size is one of the most debated topics on bike forums around the web. If you are new to cycling, the topic can be very confusing as you would not have any ideas to talk about. Therefore, it is important to learn how to measure wheel size not only for the sake of such discussions but also, because such information can be helpful in your biking experience. There are only a few inches between different bike wheels and it is important to know what each represents.

There are 3 wheel sizes associated with mountain biking: 26 inch, 27.5 inch and the 29 inch wheels. These sizes offer riders with different mountain bike riding experiences. The wheels determine your experience on the bike as well as your riding style and position. In this article, we are going to look at how to measure wheel size on your mountain bike.

How to Measure Wheel Size

The first step in determining the size of the wheels on your mountain bike is to look for set of numbers. These numbers can be found on the front or back side of the wheel or on the rim. For example, you will have a set of numbers such as "29" X "2.2". Such numbers means that the bike wheel is 29 inches total while the tire is 2.2 inches thick. This method is the best way of determining the size of your mountain bike wheel because it is openly indicated on the side of the wheel. On the other hand, if you do not see the numbers on your wheels, you can take measurements by yourself.

The process of taking wheel measurements begins by holding your bike in place. You can either support it on the wall or you can ask a friend to hold it tight as you take the measurements. You also need to place a yardstick on the edge of the tire before setting a tape measure across the wheel. In so doing, you should ensure that it attaches to opposite sides of the wheel while passing over the hub. This is to get measurement on the widest length of the wheel. Read the measurement on the opposite side of the yardstick and determine the size of the wheel. As I stated earlier, the figure could be 26 inches, 27.5 inches or 29 inches.

Why Is the Wheel Measurement Important?

As we look at how to measure wheel size, it is important to explore the benefits of different wheel sizes. Although you might think that bicycle wheel size does not matter, the truth of the matter is that it does. This is especially when doing some mountain biking.

While the size of your wheel determines the amount of rolling resistance on your bike, bigger wheels makes it possible to overcome larger obstacles in your path. For example, if you are riding on a bike with 26 inch wheels and encounter a stone on the way, the stone will strike the wheel at a higher point than let’s say on a 29 inch wheel. This will force the bike to hit the stone with a much bigger force and this will affect stability, control and the momentum of the bike. The difference becomes more pronounced when going down a steep slope at high speed.

It is the same principle that enables monster trucks to handle rough terrains better than other 4X4 vehicles. Their wheels are larger and therefore, can counter obstacles with much ease.

3 Basic Wheel Sizes of Mountain Bikes

1. The 26 Inch Mountain Bike Wheels

When mountain bikes were first introduced, they came with 26 inch wheels as standard. Since they are smaller, the 26" wheels are lighter than their 27.5" and 29" counterparts. This makes the 26” wheels smaller, lighter and more agile. Bikes with 26 inch wheels offer better acceleration than those with 27.5" and 29" wheels. They are therefore suitable for shorter and faster rides. In addition, they can handle trails with sharp turns better than their counterparts.

The only downside with the 26” wheels is that they are challenging to control on tough terrains. This is because; they give the rider a hard time when trying to negotiate through obstacles on the road.

The other thing that makes these wheels harder to ride on is the fact that they keep the saddle closer to the handle bars. This puts the rider in a tricky situation since it becomes harder to maintain balance. The only good thing with this is that it enables a sitting position that improves the agility and responsiveness of the bike.

It is for the above reasons that many mountain bike manufacturers opt to install larger wheels as they offer higher levels of stability, predictability and reliability. However, most bikes designed for dirt and mud jumping are fitted with the 26 inch wheels or higher.

2. The 27.5 Inch Mountain Bike Wheels

The 27.5” wheels came as a compromise between the 26 inch and the 29 inch wheels. These wheels set a balanced compromise on the problems that are associated with both wheels. Also known as the 650B, the 27.5” wheels provide people with a midpoint ride experience. The wheels are smoother than the 26 inches but weaker than the 29".

The good thing with the 27.5” wheels is that they handle better and are more durable than the 29ers. Furthermore, these wheels result in a better ride quality because they are stronger, more agile and faster than their bigger counterparts. On the other hand, the 27.5 inch wheels ride more smoothly than their smaller counterparts. With these wheels, you get the better of the two extreme options.

3. The 29 Inch Mountain Bike wheels

As we mentioned earlier, the bigger the wheels, the easier it is for the bike to handle obstacles on its path. Therefore, we cannot look at how to measure wheel size without looking at the importance of the 29" wheels.

The 29" wheels translate into a longer bike since they extend further than let’s say a bike with 26" wheels. Although this lowers the center of gravity on the bike, it results in a steadier ride. There are also people who find challenges in trying to adjust to the new sitting position.

With the 29" wheels, you are assured of higher levels of stability, strength and control. And although the bike will be able to achieve higher speeds, it accelerates slower when compared to bikes with smaller wheels.

The downside with these wheels is that; although you might be moving very fast, the ride feels slower because of the larger wheels. In addition, there are people who feel that the bike is too rigid to maneuver especially when cruising along a winding road.


When all is said and done, it is important to learn how to measure wheel size as this is the only way to know the kind of wheel you have on your bike. Furthermore, with the information, you can be sure that you are buying the right type of wheels for your bike.

If you are just getting started on mountain biking, you should get on with the flow by acquiring a bike with 27.5 inch wheels. By so doing, you will get an experience of the two extreme worlds and enjoy the smoothness, control and stability that they have to offer. With time, you will be able to determine what you like from the bike and from there, make the right choice.

For now, you are good to embark on your biking sessions since you now understand how to measure wheel size on your mountain bike.

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