A glimpse into MBA’s crystal ball and what you’ll be seeing in the coming year


Ten years ago, bike designers were aware of the benefits of larger wheels; however, they had not designed many bikes, especially full-suspension ones, that could harness the big wheels and make them feel and fit practically. Now, designs from many brands may have a somewhat homogenous look, but it’s because they have collectively decided on what works, especially when it comes to geometry and linkages. Refinements like reduced fork offsets and long front centers have improved stability and weight distribution and allow us to run shorter stems for improved handling. Meanwhile, linkages deliver enough travel to handle even the toughest terrain without sacrificing handling. From cross-country to downhill, riders have all benefited from bigger wheels.

Drivetrains have evolved to be incredibly reliable and lightweight, but Shimano’s new Linkglide looks to push into new territory in terms of durability, smoother shifting and strength.



Drivetrains are more robust than ever, thanks to huge improvements in component technology. Single-ring drivetrains replaced the overly complex front derailleur and multi front chainring setup many years ago, but the past 10 years have seen refinements to the drivetrain that make these newer systems even more practical. Clutch-style derailleurs keep the chain stabler and quieter over rough terrain, and narrow/wide chainrings keep the chain in place, even without the use of a chain guide in most situations. Shifting can be handled by a Bluetooth remote if you don’t want to deal with cable maintenance, although this does add the complexity of battery charging to your riding routine.

Brakes are evolving to offer better heat management, power, and control.



Brakes feature strong hydraulics and dramatically improved feel and consistency compared to their predecessors and allow the rider to dial in the feel and modulation he prefers. Compared to older brakes, which could feel grabby and inconsistent, new brakes allow the rider to more easily control how the braking power comes on, preventing the brakes from feeling too strong too quickly. Lever designs like Shimano’s Servo Wave or Magura’s BAT allow for the lever to feel consistent in all conditions, even under the extreme heat generated on a big descent. Other companies, like TRP, have also opted to build thicker rotors to further manage heat, while new and improved pad compounds and designs keep noise to a minimum on almost all braking systems. While new brakes may not be much heavier than older designs, they are much easier to use and maintain. We expect to see continued refinements and improvements, particularly in the electric bike category, which really puts brake heat management to the test.

Electronics are becoming a more common part of the ride experience. RockShox is the latest to add it to their suspension with the Flight Attendant system. 


Bikes are becoming more complicated yet arguably better in many ways thanks to electronics. Wireless electric shifting and dropper seatposts have made for incredibly easy installations, and they work surprisingly well. Electronically activated suspension is becoming more common now, too, with RockShox introducing its new Flight Attendant system, and Fox is now on its second generation of Live Valve. Electronics are even making it easier than ever to set your suspension and tire pressure. It is inevitable that electronics will become more common on newer bicycles and components.


Designers will almost always take the opportunity to make a design look sleeker and more streamlined if possible. Internal cable routing is all but ubiquitous on modern bikes, and for good reason. The large-diameter carbon tubes have plenty of room to hold cables out of the way, safe from snagging on trail obstacles and out of sight for aesthetics. Early internal cable routing, however, was plagued with design issues. Apart from the obvious hassle of feeding and fishing black rubber noodles through dark tubes, we experienced a host of issues on test bikes over the years. Rattling was among the most annoying. Pinched and leaky hydraulic lines were among the scariest. Stealth  dropper-post-line routing is the most time consuming and frustrating to deal with for any mechanic of any skill level.

Thankfully, several companies are diligently working to crack this proverbial nut and deliver what riders are after—cables that are relatively easy to install, quiet and rattle free on rough terrain, free from linkage-pinching, squirrel-snagging cable clutter. Innovations like internal sleeves, oversized cable ports, and specially designed clips have improved these systems greatly.

Specialized was the first to offer internal downtube frame storage with its SWAT system, but others are starting to follow suit with similar designs.



Storage solutions on a mountain bike have rarely been elegant, as mountain bikers can be a very utilitarian bunch when it comes to such things; however, designers have determined to solve the issue of carrying spares and tubes in a more elegant way. The first real attempt was the Specialized SWAT system, introduced on the Stumpjumper about a decade ago. SWAT, which stands for Storage, Water, Air and Tools, was essentially a sealable downtube box you could put stuff in, along with some nifty ways to carry bottles and multi tools. These days, most bikes come with optional storage like this, and if not, there are a host of aftermarket products out there to cleverly store all your necessities. Bottom line, the trend is to carry the essentials without having to carry a heavy and unruly hydration backpack. That nuisance used to be all but mandatory for backcountry adventures and is something we’re happy to put behind us. We don’t see hydration backpacks becoming popular again anytime soon. We are already seeing more brands adopt on-the-frame and inside-the-frame storage solutions, and we expect this trend to continue.

Tubeless technology and tire inserts have had a dramatic effect on flat prevention. Are we close to solid tire inserts like the mousses that offroad motorcycles use?



When tubeless tires first hit the scene about 20 years ago, they delivered on the promise of lower tire pressures without the worry of the dreaded pinch flat. That was a game-changer for improved traction and ride quality. Those old tubeless tires were also super thick and heavy to prevent air loss. They had really stiff beads that were next to impossible to install and remove without damaging the rim; however, the benefits of going tubeless still couldn’t outweigh the simplicity and reliability of stretchy black rubber inner tubes.

“Tubeless ready” refers to the way that tires are designed to be run without inner tubes these days. TR tires have thinner casings than old-school tubeless tires and are designed to be run in conjunction with a liquid sealant to prevent air loss. In addition to being nearly immune to pinch flats, they are also resistant to other punctures, like those from goat-head thorns, thanks to the sealant. This system, even with the added weight of the sealant, valve, and rim tape, is generally the lightest and most reliable system today.

On the leading edge of flat-tire-prevention technology are lightweight foam liners, which are available from many companies in many shapes and styles to suit different rims, tires and riding styles. When paired with the right rim and tire setup, a foam-lined wheelset is nearly indestructible. The tires are protected from punctures by the sealant. The rims are protected by the foam inserts, and even if you are unlucky enough to tear a sidewall on a sharp rock, it’s still possible to limp home by riding the foam liners without doing much damage to your bike. Could we be far from truly flat-proof tires?

Integration can have performance and asthetic advantages. Other times it just complicates things.



Interchangeable parts and standards are great for everybody, but system-specific integration seems to continue. Sometimes it’s for a good reason and a true performance benefit; other times it’s different just to look unique. We would not be surprised to see more parts integration in future designs as engineers push the envelope of bicycle performance.

Brands like YT and Canyon led the direct-to-consumer charge years ago, but with Specialized joining the party it seems inevitable that other big brands will follow.



Early mountain bikes were relatively rudimentary machines driven by thick chain links on steel cogs. Putting one together didn’t require much more than some basic mechanical aptitude and tinkering till it felt right. Being one’s own mechanic is a good thing, and it seems to be making a bit of a comeback, albeit in a different form. Bike manufacturers have spent big bucks developing new ways to deliver your bike to your door ready to ride, or as close to it as humanly possible. Sophisticated as they may be, direct-to-consumer bikes are meant to be assembled by the rider rather than at a bike shop. With more brands adopting direct-to-consumer sales strategies, we expect to see even more bikes sold this way in the coming year.

There is still plenty to be said in favor of buying your bike at a local retail shop. Supporting local businesses is awesome for your community, but the support they can give you is really invaluable if being your own mechanic sounds like a headache. If you’re not into becoming a bike mechanic yourself, the local bike shop might still be the way to go. Plenty of our favorite brands can still be found at bike shops, and that means they still come with something that direct-to-rider bikes may never be able to replicate—the rubbery smell of bike-shop expertise.


While today’s bikes are more sophisticated than ever, there’s also never been a better time to be a home mechanic, thanks to the increased availability of product information.

Before the internet, bike shops would need to call manufacturers for even the smallest bits of information, and it was a nightmare. We’re talking about 45 minutes on hold just to get somebody at the factory on the phone, and then however long it would take for them to page through the oil-stained owner’s manual on their desk. Now with the internet, it has never been easier to find the right information, as well as some of the absolute worst advice you will ever see.

Most component manufacturers have content on their websites or YouTube for the services you can perform on your own. They typically do a nice job breaking routine services down into step-by-step procedures that are meant to educate you and eventually save you some trips to the bike shop; however, always consider the source when looking for advice online. If there is only one sketchy-looking video on how to rebuild your malfunctioning dropper post, and nothing available from the factory on that specific procedure, it’s probably worth the fee to have the professionals do the work.

Technology is pushing the boundaries of rider safety at a rapid rate. EVOC’s yet-to-be-released airbag backpack for commuters inflates in .2 seconds and could eventually protect us on the trail as well.



Exciting innovations in rider safety are happening more frequently, and that’s a big win for everybody. Helmet technology seems to be moving at the speed of light as manufacturers figure out new and better ways to protect the brain. Full-face helmets continue to get lighter, better ventilated and more protective in ways that make them far more than just downhiller’s headwear. We see brands innovating in not just head protection but body protection as well.


Most brands have eschewed the old-school notion that they must come out with a new version of every model in their catalog every year. Instead, brands opt to keep models for several years and only execute a redesign when they have something that’s truly head-and-shoulders above their current offering. If a company has a handful of bikes in its lineup, you may only see a new version of each model every three to five years. That said, the marginal gains made on the rest of the components will always make this year’s bike better than last year’s model. While major innovations are exciting, marginal improvements on products that are already great are often overlooked. When it comes to understanding what’s most “new and exciting” about a bike, often it’s a fix to a minor gripe we had last year. Pandemic-related production delays and supply-chain difficulties have slowed development and manufacturing to the point where what was supposed to be new this year might be new next year instead.

You might also like