On this trip especially it seemed we were given the occasional double take on our bikes. All of us are on 29ers and, with the exception of BLM, all hard tail (he has the dos niner softy).
Last months trip to Telluride had me returning to MO with the feeling that I am missing the full suspension plush downhill goodness afforded by a 4 inch travel and a little more girth in the framework. I rented an 07 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert while there and catted up in size to an extra large. I was wanting to see how the longer top tube worked with my stature, how much faster and with how much more comfort I could descend with. It did the trick.
This week provided me with the understanding that the 29er hardtail is of a regional choice and one of a training specific discipline. The trails in MO, rollers, ups and downs, roots and rocks, lots of distance to cover, lots of pedaling suit my semi custom Gunnar and frankly, my riding style in general, so I am staying with my opinion that 29ers are good for large framed riders, with skill. The larger wheels help me maintain speed in the flats and gradual climbs, and, while the smaller downhills don't require much more than the comfort of the steel frame, things level out for this type of bike.
In Colorado, they work nicely along double track jeep roads, cross country treks and, from what I have observed, competitions like the Firecracker 50 and Leadville 100. But for the extended descents, rocky and technical high speed goodness, I would go with a 26 FS any day. It is not that I would not do any more riding in Colorado on a 29er. They were workhourses, getting us in and out of the Breckenridge Colorado Trail system where the plan was to do a lot of accending, getting as high as we could go. I would simply bring another beefy friend to assure the comfort of my fatass.