Re: [CR]650B the perfect wheel size?

Example: Production Builders:Peugeot:PX-10LE

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Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 10:35:31 -0700
To: "Tom Martin" <>
From: Jan Heine <>
Subject: Re: [CR]650B the perfect wheel size?

According to Raymond Henry (from an article in the 650 Newsletter), in France, the wheel sizes "evolved" in an interesting way: Mass producing bike makers wanted to offer different tire widths for different conditions, but didn't want to rejig their production. So instead of varying the outer diameter of the tire (for the same size rim), they varied the rim diameter. So there was 650 A, B, 700 A, B, C (quoting from memory), all fitting into the same frame. The brakes back then clamped to the fork legs and seatstays and could be moved to suit.

So if you wanted narrower or wider tires, you "simply" bought another set of wheels. And the same jig could be used for all bikes. As a result, there were many wheel sizes very close in diameter.

Of course, things evolved differently in Britain and the U.S., hence 700C vs. 27".

To think that the best was the most successful in cycling, and that is why 700C is common today... I would argue the biggest ad budget and the most success in racing (which means you need a big ad budget to sponsor racers) lead to success. Otherwise, I guess one could argue that Campy was technologically superior to Shimano during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when all Tour de France winners used Campy C-Rec, but that finally, Shimano has caught up and surpassed Campy: Witness the Tour victories of Lance Armstrong. (However, I thought it was the other way around - Shimano was ahead back then, and Campy now has caught up.)

-- Jan Heine, Seattle Editor/Publisher Vintage Bicycle Quarterly

So I had this thought while I was commuting home from work on my off topic 559 ISO mtn bike:

If 605B was the most perfect size, how did bikes evolve with different size wheels? Were there a number of decisive TdF or Giro victorys made with 700c or 27" wheeled bikes? Victories that would not be made with the smaller and wider 650B tires? I surmise that better quality roads precluded the need for the fat tires, but maybe there is more to it than that. And how and why did the migration to 700 happen? Wasn't 27" good enough? Was it just kinda arbitrary that Mavic focused on 700c as 'the way to go' in the mid to late 70's?

Tom Martin
Oakland CA