THE FUTURE OF
“What’s new?” That’s one of those questions that people always ask each other, especially in the bike business. We’ve all seen how quickly new ideas can catch on in the world of mountain bikes. Innovations in geometry, suspension, wheels and components can alter the off-road bicycle landscape from one year to the next. Remember how quickly mountain bikes switched from 26- to 27.5- and 29-inch wheels a few years ago? That was a major change that hit most people by surprise when it happened. What are the trends that are developing right now? We asked some people in the mountain bike industry to share their predictions of the trends we’ll be seeing in the next few years. Read on to see what they have to say.
Hans Rey, GT:
• Here is a little mini trend. I call it #HalfWayRey.
• I’ve been riding with one clipless pedal and one flat pedal. For me, this works perfectly for my style of riding: technical and steep. Especially for riding technical uphill sections, a rider has the best of both worlds.
• I clip in with my leading foot. I call it my “chocolate foot” or forward foot. My back foot is the one on the flat pedal, which makes it easier to dab or regain balance and allows me to put my foot down at the very last second instead of having to clip out first.
• As I said, this works great for riders who ride technical terrain or for beginners who want to get used to clipless. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for hardcore XC riders, but it might work well for enduro and DH.
Chris Cocalis/Pivot Cycles:
• More on-frame storage: I believe the trend of carrying what you need on your bike and not on your body will continue, so there will be more cool options for carrying tools on the bike.
• More Super Boost!: 157mm rear-axle spacing on trail and longer-travel bikes will continue to be adopted by more brands. Every major component manufacturer is supporting it, and it’s really what is needed with the tire clearance and frame-load demands put on modern trail bikes. If you don’t have it, you’re off the back.
• More electronics: We see it now, but it will likely become the norm for shifting and actuation of other components as well as suspension in the next 5-10 years.
• Lighter-weight e-MTB designs: It’s just a matter of time until battery and motor technology evolve to get us bikes that are much closer in weight to current enduro and DH bike weights.
• Tire development: Tire development moves relatively slowly, but I do see a day when we can have lightweight tubeless tire casings that are essentially pinch- and cut-proof. There’s been some great development with the latest Maxxis EXO+ casing, but I think this is just the beginning and an area that will continue to change the performance and capabilities of mountain bikes in the future.
Pro Downhiller, Intense:
• It’s always hard to tell where trends will go, as some are performance-driven and some seem to be more style-driven.
• On the performance side, I would guess that we’ll be seeing more staggered wheel-size bikes in the future, especially in the enduro/downhill market. The 27.5 rear wheel and 29 front wheel combo offers a number of benefits for your average-size rider and is overall just a really fun setup to ride.
• I would also think that e-bikes will continue getting lighter and have longer-range batteries.
• Last, I’d predict that there will be improvements and a more widespread popularity of electronic shifting with more affordable pricing.
Bastien Major, Devinci Team Manager:
• I think we will see a big push in the entry-level. Our sport is experiencing unprecedented popularity, and bike and component manufacturers will want to expand their offerings for all the crowds.
• I also believe we’ll see more brands exploring electronically actuated components.
• In racing, downhill will continue to be the F1 of cycling, and the Enduro World Series will hopefully be broadcasted live.
Richie Schley, Freeride Pioneer:
• I think the most obvious trend coming is super-lightweight electric bikes, such as the Specialized Turbo Levo SL. Possibly a bike that can be ridden without the battery will come soon, too, so it can be an all-in-one bike.
• I still think the mullet setup is also going to make a comeback, because I think the benefit of the 29 is most useful in the front wheel, and the clearance from the smaller wheel in the back is important.
Andreas Hestler, Rocky Mountain:
• Around these parts, everyone is riding 2.4-inch rears and 2.5-inch fronts for trail and all-mountain.
• For XC-trail style, it’s 2.3 and 2.4—with consideration in all departments for sidewall and sealant.
• Nobody likes flat tires, and traction is king.”
Loni Hull, Structure Cycleworks:
• I think we’ll see a number of trends in MTB over the next few years, including much better bikes in the $1500–$5000 price range in both aluminum and carbon.
• Reliable, available components are going to become priceless on those bikes—and on bikes higher up the food chain—as long waits for service and replacement parts make durability more important than bling, saving a few grams, or scarcity.
• Purchasing trends have moved in the direction of less expensive bikes that allow beginners to enter the sport—and skilled riders to stay equipped—at a reasonable cost. Most of those bikes will be 29ers, but 27.5 will still have a place, especially among smaller frame sizes.
• Those with money to spend are increasingly going to buy e-MTBs, most of them 29ers, and far fewer of them weighing over 50 pounds.
• With more people catching the bug (not COVID-19), there will be more riders on more trails riding better bikes for the money than in the past. Although some will drop out and create a feeding—and sadly, theft—frenzy in the used market for the next two or more years, the passion that experienced mountain bikers understand so well is going to capture more riders, and many of them will be sticking around for decades. Buy bigger locks everyone.
• Some of those new, passionate mountain bikers will want top-quality, cutting-edge products that make the most of their skill and available ride time, while others will want bikes that keep up as they develop greater skill. For them, things like front linkage suspension, dialed kinematics, and great component specs will extend what is possible on lower-end bikes.
• Small brands like Structure will have to adapt, because 2019 is never coming back.
• Our audience wants 29ers, hardtails, and other model types in the mix. They want them light and inexpensive or they want electric drive. Not everyone wants front linkage, and we get that (we buy bikes for our families, too). So, we’re innovating and looking for partnerships with other brands, with the goal of developing more and better products to serve a rapidly growing market. As a company, we’re all about improving riding for everyone, so as long as we’re able to stand by the quality and innovation of a bike or cycling product, it could come from Structure in the future. It’s going to be crazy fun.
Matt Giaraffa, Guerrilla Gravity:
• Mountain bike designs finally broke away from derivatives of road bikes over the past five years, which GG (Guerrilla Gravity) was a part of.
• Simple and effective tuning options for geometry and suspension will become more popular to tailor the performance to a rider’s terrain and preferences.
• Electrification will continue to grow, not only with more pedal-assist motor systems, but integrating information from wearables, and multiple bike systems for information and adjustments on the fly.
• COVID will have ripples for some period of time.
Mike Wirth, Gooseworks Mobile Tuning:
• I think we’ll continue to see technology improvements across the board that will make it easier for riders to cover huge distances over rougher terrain than ever.
• The specificity of a cross-country or a downhill bike will seem more and more ludicrous for most, although the technology used for the trail bikes we all love will continue to use the trickle-down from the race teams in those disciplines.
• As for the actual hard parts? They’re going to have to practically invent hover bikes at this point, because with the current materials, suspension, and tire technology we’re riding, that feels like it would be the only way to improve. That said, every time I think I have the perfect bike that will last me a lifetime, somebody invents short-rake fork geometry or long-travel dropper posts, and I’m right back to pining for my next rig. By the way, we still haven’t seen that gearbox technology we were promised about a decade ago. What’s the deal with that?
Hannah Rae Finchamp, Orange Seal Team:
• I think that the professional courses will continue to get more technical, and the bikes will rise to meet that demand with slacker and more aggressive geometry.
• In the amateur realm, I think that we will see a greater demand for a variety of different courses, distances, and options to meet everyone’s personal preferences.
• I believe we are only at the beginning of a huge boom for mountain biking in the U.S.
• As NICA continues to expand and we get more kids on bikes, we are developing a generation that sees mountain biking as a life-long sport, whether it is competing on the world’s biggest stages or conquering personal goals on one’s own backyard trails.