Who could resist the _perfect_ opportunity the Ibis Mojo HDR presents to evaluate 650b and 26″ back to back on the same bike setup you know and love? Not me! But I would never have guessed that a few days later I’d be left completely gobsmacked by how things turned out…
I’d been enjoying buzzing around the trails at Melrose South Australia on my 26″ Mojo HDR in stealth mode when it came time to shoot the HDR 26″ > 650b conversion video. 650b stuff is hard to come ATM by but Rich from Over the Edge kindly offered the wheels and forks off his recently completed Mojo SL-R 650b conversion. The plan was just to shoot the video and revert both bikes but looking at my HDR kitted out as a 650b I just had to know what it felt like on the trails. (You can check out the 26″ to 650b conversion video here)
Ibis Mojo HDR 650b vs 26inch
Ibis Mojo HDR 650b (130b) First Impressions
My first outing on the 650b was Dodging Bullets, a popular run at Melrose which features fast descents with a smattering of rocks, jumps and drops. I’ve ridden it a bunch of times, it’s always great fun. Where the 26″ feels busy when you’re on the gas down Dodging Bullets the 650b felt settled and stable. It almost felt as if I was descending slower on the 650b but physical markers on the trail told another story. Roots strewn across the trail that I’d land on after jumps on the 26″ I was easily clearing on the 650b.
It turned out that whether the trail was pointing up or down I was faster on the 650b, yet a long way from being on the edge. There was clearly still room to go that much faster again. But there was something else too. The HDR felt like it was always meant to be a 650b. It felt like a more efficient, well mannered 26″ bike without the less favorable aspects of a 29er. The HDR 650b also looked plain nasty as if Mojo designer Roxy Lo had always envisioned it that way. The Schwalbe Hans Dampf on the Flow EX rim at the front, just massive and confidence inspiring, making the 26″ wheels on the same frame look underdone.
Hmm… I could feel my brain beginning to melt!
How could a 130mm travel 650b be effortlessly roosting my beloved 160mm 26″ on a trail better suited in theory to the latter? But wait, they’re both my bike – the same bike! The ideal place to restore order to the universe was Eurovision, the new Super D trail out at Bartagunyah. Surely the 160mm 26″ would open a can of whoop ass there and send the 650b packing?
Ibis Mojo HDR 650b vs 26″ on Eurovision Super D, Bartagunyah
Climbing up the Whiskey Trail to the top of Eurovision I was grooving with the 650b. At an intuitive level the bike felt ultra sorted, and I found myself sitting at the top of Eurovision feeling unusually confident and relaxed. Without hesitation I pointed down Eurovision and let the HDR have its way, gathering momentum, hitting everything blind – unheard of for me. The 650b consumed the rollers, jumps and stepdowns. Damn… it flowed so sweetly and felt so good. At the end of the run I couldn’t believe what had just gone down.
I returned to Eurovision on the 650b the next day, descending the the Super D half a dozen times at least. It was more of the same. The HDR continued to impress. It was so much fun to session sections – faster and faster, funner and funner – with the bike feeling poised and stable.
My concerns that 130mm of rear travel on the HDR 130b might feel XC and inadequate compared to 160mm amounted to nothing. The initial plushness as you sit on the 130mm 650b may not be there as it is with the 160mm, but the combination of the HDR’s 130mm rear travel and 650b wheels IMO rode the trails better – smoother, faster, more efficiently – than my 26″ with 160mm. I was never wishing for more travel with the 650b – I was too busy having fun.
Now for the moment of truth! The following day I returned to Eurovision on the HDR back in 160mm 26″ mode. Some things were immediately and undeniably noticeable. I had to work much harder to sustain speed, to clear the same gaps. In doing so I was much closer to the edge, much less poised, much less control both on the ground and in the air, much less flow. I just didn’t have the confidence on the bike to hit the large step down at speed as I’d been doing on the 650b the day before. After almost having a high speed crash while trying too hard on the 26″ later in the day and feeling a little deflated I retreated down the hill to the slower single track trails where the difference between the 26″ and 650b seemed markedly less.
Riding home that night I wondered how some guys say they can hardly feel the difference between 26″ and 650b wheels. Perhaps being able to compare them back to back on the same bike such as the Mojo HDR is key.
The Bottom line
After years of loving my HD as a 26″ 160mm travel bike there was no escaping the unthinkable. Back to back against the new 650b yardstick, the 26″ didn’t feel as much fun any more. The HDR 650b had reset my fun dial and it didn’t want to be turned back. I emailed Scot Nicol at Ibis that night telling him I just wanted to like my Mojo again. Against the odds the 130mm Mojo HDR 650b came, saw and kicked undeniably huge ass. It was bittersweet.
The king was dead. Long live the king!