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Sales of 29er mountain bikes exploding
She didn't want to plunge down the Boulder foothills trail. Too steep. Rocky. And for years, while her husband Pete soared to the bottom, she hopped off her bike and walked it down.
But a month ago Sally Hammond bought a new mountain bike, with 29-inch — rather than the standard 26-inch — wheels.
And so down she goes — in the saddle.
"I felt 10 times more confident than I did on anything else I had ridden," said Hammond, a Boulder executive. "It opens up so many opportunities for me, trails I didn't have the confidence to ride."
Just a few years ago, so-called 29ers were for tall people and bike geeks — and usually both.
But then manufacturers started tweaking the frames, making them friendlier for non-giants, like Hammond. Bike geekdom made them seem cool. And then the big boys — first Trek, then Specialized — started pushing 29ers.
Now, they are so everywhere that if you had been wondering why mountain bikes rather suddenly began looking more like SUVs than Jeeps, don't worry, you weren't hallucinating. The two-wheeled Land Rovers were 29ers.
In 2009, the big-wheeled bikes counted for just 5 percent of the mountain bike market, said Charlie Cooper, the president of Leisure Trends Group, a market-research firm in Boulder that specializes in mountain sports. But now, he says, 29er sales are "dwarfing" the 26-inch bikes in the important $1,000-to-$2,000 price range, with 7,292 29ers sold so far in 2012, compared with 4,671 non-29ers. In fact, riders are buying more 29ers in most categories between $1,000 and $9,000.