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Bike Wheel Size Guide

By Jordan Grimes   /  Last updated - January 14, 2022

Wheel size plays a massive role in how a bike feels and handles when riding in different environments.

For example, speed is critical in road riding and cyclocross, so it only makes sense to use large 700c wheels. In mountain biking, a 26″ wheel mountain bike is more agile and faster off the mark than a 29er.

However, the 29er is faster, more comfortable, and maintains momentum easier, giving each MTB wheel size suitable to different disciplines.

29 inch vs 700c

29″ vs 700c | 736mm vs 622mm diameter

In general, frames are designed for one specific wheel size, meaning a different wheel alters how a bike feels and moves and may hinder performance. In addition, smaller wheels work best for smaller adults and children.

For this reason, many manufacturers change the wheel size to align with the frame size. For example,  XS and S MTB frames mostly have 27.5″ wheels, whereas M+ will have 29″.

*Age recommendations based on Prevelo Bikes

Bike Size Wheel Chart (Diameter)

inch (“) mm cm Age / Height Bike Types
12″ 305mm 30.5cm 1½ + Kids’ balance bikes
14″ 355mm 35.5cm 2-5years Kids’, kids’ balance bikes
16″ 406mm 40.6cm 4-6years Kids’, folding
20″ 508mm 50.8cm 5-9years Kids’, E-Folding, Folding, BMX
24″ 609mm 60.9cm 7-11years Kids’
26″ 660mm 66.0cm 12years+ Kids’, city, cruiser, dirt jump, BMX
27.5″ 584mm 58.4cm From 5’4″ Hybrid, Touring, Mountain
29″ 622mm 72.2cm From 5’8″ Mountain
650b 584mm 58.4cm All adults Touring, hybrid, city
700c 622mm 62.2cm from 4’10” Road, fixie

Finally, each person’s body shape and preferences play a significant role in the choice of wheel size, so the best way to understand which wheel and bike geometry are best for you is to go for a test ride at your local bike shop or even rent a bike for a day to get a good feel for it.

When choosing the right size for you or your child, use the chart above to identify the wheel size that corresponds to your age and height. However, keep in mind that the wheel size also depends on the size of the tire and tire pressure. For example, a 26″ x 4″ fat tire has roughly the same diameter as a 29″ mountain bike tire.

bicycle wheel sizes

Below, we’ve described each wheel’s strengths, weaknesses, and applications in more detail.

12″ wheels


12-inch wheels are the smallest you can find. You find these on most kids’ training bikes (or electric balance bikes).

The best way to find the correct kids’ bike is to measure your child’s inseam length and height and compare that to the manufacturer’s recommended rider measurements or check out this excellent kids’ bike size-inseam/height chart.

  • Kids’ balance bikes
  • Bikes with training wheels
  • Toddlers’ bikes (1.5-3y/o)

Balance Bikes

 

14″ wheels


14-inch wheels are another size for young children ages 2 to 5. These are found on learners’ bikes like the 12″ wheels above and kids’ electric bikes.

  • Kids’ bikes
  • Balance bikes
  • Kids’ electric bikes

 

16″ wheels


16-inch wheel bikes are the smallest wheel size found on adults’ bikes, including electric minibikes and folding bikes.

This small wheel allows for a compact folding design but is uncomfortable on bumpy terrain, slow, and has very sensitive steering because of the small turning radius.

For childrens’ bikes, most kids ages 4 to 6 will fit a 16″ bike.

  • Kids’ bikes (4-6)
  • Mini eBikes
  • Compact folding bikes (Brompton)

brompton bike with 16" wheels

 

20″ Wheels


20-inch wheel bikes are one of the most common small sizes. These wheels are ideal for kids ages 5 to 9.

In addition, they are the most common wheel size for BMX bikes, folding and electric folding bikes. Some niche bike styles like moped-style e-bikes even use this size.

The issues with 20-inch wheels are similar to the 16″ described above. They are uncomfortable and difficult to handle but they are very strong for landing jumps and compact for folding.

  • Kids’ bikes (5-9)
  • Folding bikes
  • Moped-style eBikes
  • Folding electric bikes
  • BMX bikes
20 inch ebike wheels

20″ wheels on electric bikes

 

24″ Wheels


Regular 24-inch wheel bikes are great for kids ages 7+ or even some petite adults (under 5′). Additionally, this size is typical on kids’ mountain bikes for those under 12.

These wheels offer comfort, speed, and rollover gains on the smaller 20″ size, making them much more enjoyable to ride.

  • Older kids’ bikes (7+)
  • Jr. mountain bikes

 

 

26″ Wheels


26-inch wheel bikes are easy to find nowadays with the growing popularity of fat biking. Firstly, it is the best size for kids ages 12 and over and many junior mountain bikes.

This bike was the first wheel size used in mountain biking, where enthusiasts turned old cruisers into Klunker bikes in California. The wheel was ubiquitous for a long time until 29,” and 27.5″ wheels took over.

Adult fat tire electric bikes, regular fat bikes, dirt jump bikes, slopestyle bikes, and cheap rigid mountain bikes still use these wheels.

They have a few key benefits for adults bikes:

  • Lightweight,
  • Maneuverability
  • Strong
  • Fast acceleration on smooth terrain

The downsides for adults bikes are they’re slow, the poor rollover ability, and unstable.

  • City bikes
  • Cruiser bikes
  • Fat bikes
  • Dirt jump bikes
  • Youth’s bikes (12+)

26 vs 29 inch fat tire comparison

 

27.5″ / 650b (584mm) Wheels


In general, the measurement ‘27.5-inch’ is used to describe mountain bike wheels, and ‘650b’ represents non-mountain bike wheels, including hybrids, city bikes, and some gravel bikes.

This wheel is more suitable for wider tires than the 29″ or 700c wheel, making it great for some styles of mountain biking, wide urban tires, and for shorter riders who find 29″/700c wheels challenging to maneuver.

For mountain biking, the 27.5 offers a great middle-ground between the 26″ and 29er, improving maneuverability, strength, and acceleration over 29ers but sacrificing speed, rollover ability, and traction.

What’s the difference between 27.5″ and 650b wheels?

  • 27.5″ wheels come with wider tires as standard
  • Some 27.5″ tires may be too wide for 650b wheels
  • They are the same diameter
  • Hybrid and gravel use 650b
  • Mountain bikes use 27.5″

 

650b bike

650b wheels and plus-size tires on a tourer bike. Image credit: pexels.com

 

 

28″ Wheels


The 28″ wheel is one of the least common on modern bikes. The actual ISO measurement for a 28″ wheel could be 622mm, like the 29″ and 700c, or 635mm.

The differentiating factor is the width of the rim and the tires it supports, roughly between a road-size 700c rim and a MTB 29er.

The one style of bike that still holds on to this wheel size is the European city bike or Dutch-style city bike, the most famous of which is a Dutch brand called Gazelle, which uses 28″ on almost all of their bikes.

  • City bikes
  • Dutch-style bikes
  • Urban e-bikes
gazelle medeo ebike

Gazelle electric city and touring bikes have 28″ wheels

 

700c Wheels


The 700c rim (622mm) is universal on road bikes and any bike made for speed on tarmac and asphalt.

These wheels are mostly found with tires between 23mm and 47mm, with anything wider requiring a 29″ wheel. Although the diameter on these two sizes is equal, the 29″ rim is wider, allowing for wider tires.

The tires’ width, tread depth, and rim size results in super-fast rolling speeds on smooth surfaces, making these rims perfect for racing. However, a slight disadvantage of the 700c is the lower maneuverability and acceleration compared to smaller rims.

An advantage of the popularity of these wheels is they are straightforward to replace or find new spokes in any bike shop.

  • Road bikes
  • Hybrid bikes
  • Gravel bikes
  • Fitness bikes
  • Fixed-speed bikes
state bicycle co

Fixie & road bikes

 

29″ Wheels


29-inch wheels are the most common mountain bike wheel size, based on the same diameter as the 700c, only slightly wider.

This size was the first to successfully replace 26″ MTB rims and quickly became famous for its speed, rollover ability (low attack angle), stability, and comfort.

The main issues with 29ers are:

  • Low acceleration
  • Poorer maneuverability (making them not ideal for technical downhill riding)
  • Incompatibility with small bike frames and small riders (it’s common to see MTB manufacturers change the wheel size based on the frame size)

The characteristics of this wheel are best for cross-country, enduro, and trail mountain biking. In addition, they are great for beginner mountain bikers.

  • Mountain bikes – XC, enduro, trail, and some downhill

 

Niner AIR 9 RDO 3-Star GX Eagle

 

Mullet Bikes


Mullet mountain bikes are mixed-wheel bikes where the front rim has a larger diameter than the rear.

This creative mix theoretically provides the best of both 27.5″ wheels and 29ers, meaning improved rollover and stability of the larger front rim, paired with the agility and sharp cornering of the smaller rear rim.

For example, a modern version of this is the 27.5″ rear wheel and a 29″ front. Other iterations of the mullet included:

  •  26″ with a 27.5″
  • ’69er’ which is 26″ with a 29″
  • 24″ with a 26″ which was the first pair that was tried

Mulleted bikes are primarily for downhill disciplines.

mullet mountain bike explained


How to Measure a Bike Wheel Size?

Let’s assume you have checked your rim for the manufacturer’s printing of the size, and there was nothing to find.

If that’s the case, you can measure your wheels easily using the international standard (ISO). First, remove the wheel. Then measure from the center of the wheel hub to the rim’s outside edge and double the measurement to get the total diameter

If your instrument is in inches, covert it to cm or mm (1 inch = 2.54cm) and compare it to our chart at the beginning of the article to determine your wheel size.


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