Technological developments and different riding styles have pushed the boundaries of mountain biking for this year and previous years. Many technologies continue to be developed and some of have already hit the market early for the 2017 season.
And now that 2016’s trade shows are over, we have a clear picture of where the cycling industry is taking cycling fans around the world. Form Eurobike, Sea Otter, Interbike and other product launches along the way, here’s our take on where mountain bike is heading.
Plus Size Tires
Two years ago, fat bikes were the norm and it crowded the trade show halls, but their time has come and gone. Although their heyday may have passed, the fat bike influence on the market still remains, and many riders now have a taste for fatter but not fully fat tires. Plus size bikes come in different diameters and have grown in popularity this year. Nearly every mountain bike manufacturer has a 27.5+, 29+ and 26x3in hardtail and full suspension bikes.
Electric mountain bikes are popping up like mushrooms, and some brands are moving towards more fully-ready-EMTBs. More bike companies are offering long travel full suspension e-bikes that enable the rider to experience motocross fun on e-bikes. Some exhibitors have also unveiled plug and play motor kits that can upgrade almost every bike. Although some riders still frown on EMTBs since it feel a bit like cheating, plus battery packs are not environmentally friendly.
Elevated chainstays are not new in the MTB world. It has been done for a decade or more. The reason is to prevent chainsuck because the drivetrains designs were quite different and prone to chainsuck. Now this trend is a direct result of trying to shoehorn plus-sized tires into frames while keeping the chainstays length in check.
Bike Adventure Packing
Many riders are taking their bikes on longer expeditions, gravel adventures and extreme endurance events. And as an emerging trend, backpacking has gotten a boost from media coverage surrounding organised races like the 4418-km Tour Divide in North America and the Transcontinental Race in Europe that does not require any set route but requires riders to pass mandatory checkpoints. Backpacking may be more appealing than long distance races thus bikepackers prefer to carry fewer bags, offering more freedom and flexibility.
Lighter Bike Lights
Most consumer bicycle electronics follow the same evolutionary trajectory as smartphones and other gadgets; they become smaller and more powerful. This includes bicycle lights. Bulky and replaceable batteries are not the norm anymore, with new lighting products packing more into smaller and neater packages.
Big Data in Mountain Biking
Big data and data gathering is becoming a more significant part of the development process for many companies. Motorcycle and MTB component company Renthal is developing a GPSA telemetry-based system that will measure flex in their handlebars. Their goal is to take testing out of the lab and into real-world situations and applications in order to design handles bars that are strong but not harsh.
Dropper posts are becoming standard riding equipment on many mountain bikes. In less than 10 years, dropper posts have become so popular because a rider has the ability to adjust the saddle height on the fly, which is a big technical advantage on changing trails.
Cross-Country is Becoming More Technical
Cross country race bikes are progressing toward longer, slacker and more capable rigs. Yes, all mountain bikes are getting this treatment, but cross-country is where it really makes a difference. If you’ve seen the Rio Olympic MTB course and other recent cross-country races, you will understand that XC has become more technically challenging. Weight and speed is still in the game, but steeper and more challenging courses need a more aggressive XC bike. 120mm front and 100mm suspension setups will be the norm with 68.5 degree head angle.
Powerful Disc Brakes on Road Bikes
Although not a mountain bike thing, while the UCI are very hesitant or are reluctant to roll out disc brakes in pro road racing, the whole bicycle industry has no hesitation. Why? Because it works. Many riders and enthusiasts will find many performance road bikes having disc brakes. Disc brakes perform better in bad weather and provide braking power more effectively. However, when one Spanish rider claimed to suffer lacerations from having contact with a hot rotor, the trial of disc brakes in professional road racing was suspended.
These are the changes we’ll expect throughout 2017. Ride safe and enjoy the trails!