With the Dos stripped of components and hanging in my garage, let's just say 29er studies aren't at the forefront of my interests right now. I found the answers to my questions. However, Cycling News is hitting the issue hot and heavy .
It's nice to see an organization with some industry ties and a bigger budget is taking the time to look at the issue. They do have some interesting analysis techniques proposed, such as using GPS and MotionBased to analyze specific sections of a route, comparing between the two bikes.
There are a couple of deal killers in the study, though. The first one hit me in the head so hard I nearly passed out. They aren't using power! Without measuring rider output, how can efficiency possibly be determined? It can't. You could determine which bike was faster over a short course by repeated time trials, sure. But that doesn't apply to the endurance racer, the segment of the cycling market that is gung ho on 29ers. Efficiency is king to the endurance racer. We have a limited supply of energy, and the more distance we get from that limited supply, the better. Gotta have power.
An example: Robert Chung of the wattage list (I think he is a statistician by trade, but not sure) assisted with the data analysis of my files from the Old Pueblo 24 hour event. He looked closely the files comparing a couple of laps with similar times but different power, one on the 26, the other on the 29. What he found was that for most of the time, the power between the two bikes was very similar. There was 1 section, though, that required a lot more power on the 29 when compared to the 26. For those familiar with the course, this was the Corral trail. This section is slightly downhill, twisty but very fast. Time to cover that section wasn't much different, but power was much different. That sort of observation would have been lost without the use of power.
The second issue is that they've gone to great lengths to normalize the cockpits between the 2 bikes - and I'm assuming this implies there is only 1 test rider. It's been my observation that larger riders tend to prefer 29ers more than smaller riders. By larger, I'm talking about weight more than height. There is probably a reason for that...results from one person's runs will likely be different from anothers, especially if they differ in size.
In short, CN has tightly controlled for equipment variables but without objective energy measurements, their results are just going to stir the pot rather than provide any sort of definitive conclusion. They could change all that with an SRM or Ergomo...are you listening???
Don't settle for 80% CN, this ain't the pareto principle.