Small or big wheels? What are the advantages of each?

ShenandoahRider

New Member
I’m looking to buy my first ebike. I’m 6’, 175 lbs. I want to ride mainly off-road (I think) but also country roads. Might do some camping. A 20” bike that folds appeals to me but I wonder if there are advantages to a bike with bigger wheels (e.g.26”)? I’ve never seen any discussion about the relative advantages of each wheel size.

just so you know my mindset, I’m an adventure motorcyclist, love to camp and explore. Looking for something similar (but for shorter distances and trails) from an ebike. I would also recommend bike suggestions.

Thanks!
 
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Nova Haibike

Well-Known Member
Bigger tires roll over things faster and better, which is why there is no such thing as a mountain bike with 20" wheels (other than kids bikes). That is also why 29er's became a thing, and is the de facto current standard, with 27.5" somewhat less popular. 26" is now primarily only on cheaper bikes, and is the standard fat bike size. 20" and 26" fat bikes are only popular in e-bikes, because without motors, basically no one wants to ride fat bikes.
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
Those 20" fat tire eBikes appear to be good off road because of the tires, but they have few other features that serve the needs well. The vertical steerer tube and narrow handlebars are all wrong for leverage and control. The geometry of the frame is nothing like a real mtb. So it's a lot more than just the wheels like you are asking about. The 20" tires will get stuck on large stones and tall roots because the height can be nearly half the tire's height, so you hit the tire near the center and it takes a lot more effort to climb over the obstacle.
 

Sierratim

Well-Known Member
What do you think of the RadRover?
I think it all depends on on serious you are about off-road riding. For occasional off-road riding you're probably OK with this bike. If you're looking at more than casual off-road riding I'd suggest a more capable bike with a torque sensing mid-drive motor, 29r wheels, wider range cassette, hydraulic brakes, etc. These ebikes are more $, but they'll get you where you want to go, and back.
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
What do you think of the RadRover?
One indicator for the RadRover is there are companies selling upgrade kits. Seems odd to buy an eBike, then spend more money on an aftermarket kit to be happier. Spend the right money to start with. I would not be a fan of a mtb that uses a cadence sensor and hub motor. When I'm in a tight uphill switchback and my front tire is up on roots or a rock, it needs to snap like a traditional mtb. I'm riding 2016 Haibikes. Bought a full suspension mtb and a trekking bike for what a single Haibike costs today. The mtb is a wonderful machine. Super responsive and plenty of torque to climb over rocks, roots, and climb the single trails around here. One was an old model year, the other a demo. So I'm spoiled. One has over 4,500 miles the other over 3,400. I guess I'll ride them till they drop.
 

E-Wheels

Well-Known Member
I’m looking to buy my first ebike. I’m 6’, 175 lbs. I want to ride mainly off-road (I think) but also country roads. Might do some camping. A 20” bike that folds appeals to me but I wonder if there are advantages to a bike with bigger wheels (e.g.26”)? I’ve never seen any discussion about the relative advantages of each wheel size.

just so you know my mindset, I’m an adventure motorcyclist, love to camp and explore. Looking for something similar (but for shorter distances and trails) from an ebike. I would also recommend bike suggestions.

Thanks!
Bigger is best because the attack angle is less
 

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ShenandoahRider

New Member
Thanks much for your insights. I see now the advantage of larger tires.

As for the bike for me, I’m not really looking for a mountain bike per se. They seem like wonderful tools for one task: getting around in the mountains. I think I’d like more of a jack-of-all-trades bike, more like my adventure motorcycle: it has knobbies and can get up mountain roads but it’s also great for paved roads and can take me longer distances, carrying stuff, with much more comfort than, say, a dirt bike. Does that make sense? Also (and primarily) I’m just an ebike beginner and can’t justify spending that much on a bike until I know what’s what. So under $2K for me (which I guess means Chinese).
 

Gordon71

Active Member
I have a Rover and really like it but I'm groomed trails or roads so nothing extreme. I think the main appeal to the 20" foldables is they can easily fit in the back of even small SUV's if you have the need to transport them to where ever you wish to ride.
 

Tino

New Member
To me your criteria sounds like a cross bike would be perfect. I own one (a non ebike) and it is a great all around, do everything well bicycle. Nice 700c wheels with an aggressive tire tread pattern. Relaxed geometry for long distance comfort. A little more heft than a traditional road bike to stand up to the riggers of trail riding. Gearing that covers a wide range of road and trail grades. Coming off of an adventure motorcycle you will feel right at home on a cross bike.
I am not sure which ebike brand builds one, but I'm sure that someone here will recommend one or two good ones to consider.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Yup, more of a cross over bike here as well. I don't need anything too serious in the way of a mountain bike, but I do like the ability to climb bigger (paved) hills for the area we ride frequently. We're 70% paved/hard pack and 30% single track through the fields and woods. Single track is my favorite, but I like to be able to ride to them, and that's generally paved.

I see 4" fat bikes for their flotation abilities in soft (sugar) sand as well as their ride. They can't be beat for either. Those big balloons absorb a lot of stuff that would sends a 700c street bike airborne. I go with the larger diameter tires ability to roll over a lot of things your going to run across thought, but so much is about how big (fat) the tire you're talking about too.

I think a good cross over is going to have something 2.3" or wider on it. How much wider is more of a personal call.

Edit: Fatties eat batteries quicker too, due to increased rolling resistance. Not TOO big a deal, unless you become range bound due to a small/low Ah battery.
 
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