Here we are, rolling into 2020 and we're not even riding hoverbikes yet. Disappointing, I know, but there's plenty of slightly more realistic new tech and gear to look forward to (or maybe dread, depending on your point of view) in the coming year. If I was forced to write down my predictions for what we'll see more of in 2020, which is exactly what this is, I'd put my Canadian pesos on more integration for bikes and components, a lot more aluminum, a handful of slightly larger suspension forks, and further e-bike development that will hopefully mean my eyes won't bleed every time I see one.
Does your crystal ball match mine, or is there no future in my career as a psychic?
Integration is usually thought of as an eleven-letter dirty word by us mountain bikers, sometimes for valid reasons, but it can also be a smart way to make more reliable, simpler components that also weigh less. A win-win-win, right? Well, kinda; if it's stronger, lighter, and more better, it's probably going to cost more, at least for the time being.
Integration gone too far? Maybe for now, but Magura's hidden brake lines combo'd SRAM AXS shifting makes for an ultra-clean cockpit.
While it's still unconfirmed (but also not undenied) that we'll see RockShox launch wirelessly-controlled, AXS-ified
suspension in 2020, I'll be keeping an eye on the World Cup cross-country circuit. You know, just in case. I'm guessing it won't be a ground-reading suspension system that responds to the terrain like Fox's Live Valve
, but rather a way to control the fork and shock's compression modes wirelessly. If the AXS shifting and dropper post are any indication, AXS suspension should be highly customizable too.
Want your fork to firm up by 70-percent and your shock to completely lock-out with the push of one button? Or maybe you'd rather your the fork stays wide open and the shock goes to 50-percent firm?
SRAM's wireless AXS drivetrain offers customized control of the shifting and dropper post, and the next step would be from them to extend that to their suspension. Maybe.
Or maybe you want your suspension to automatically firm-up when you raise your eVerb seatpost or shift to your largest cogs? Most of the technology to do that has been around for a while, but putting it all together in a reliable package that doesn't weigh as much as a Tandy 1000 computer is a more recent development. Controlling the drivetrain, dropper post, and suspension together with a single wireless system sounds like science fiction, but SRAM can do exactly that, and I expect to see working prototypes of it in 2020. What's probably still a ways off, however, is a significantly less expensive AXS drivetrain; that'd be a big surprise for me.
They'll be more component integration in the future, too, especially when it comes to the front of our bikes. Wireless control will make for cleaner cockpits, but so will more one-piece handlebar and stem combinations.
It's expensive and isn't adjustable, but just look at it.
An obvious example would be Syncros' one-piece, carbon fiber handlebar
and stem combos that first showed up for cross-country use, exactly where you'd expect them to. But now there's even a direct-mount version for the downhill crowd that's said to be insanely strong while weighing a chunk less than a traditional bar and stem that depend on a handful of steel bolts to keep everything together. That seems a bit archaic, no? And without said bolts and threads for riders to deal with, there's less chance of user-error causing any issues. Probably. Downsides include no roll adjustment, of course, and the small fact that they cost SO MUCH MONEY.
I hope we'll see less expensive one-piece 'bar and stem combos in the near future.
More holes and more bolts for more storage solutions.
Expect more integration when it comes to frames and how to carry tools and supplies. Last year we saw Trek release a bunch of mountain bikes with a big hatch in the downtube to carry stuff, much like Specialized's SWAT-hole (I guess you can't patent holes in tubes?), because it makes too much sense not to make that big and otherwise hollow downtube carry your mid-ride philly cheesesteak. For the same reason, we might end up seeing holes in other brands' carbon frames, and other clever ways to strap or bolt things all over your frame that a bunch of engineers spent countless hours shaving 37-grams from compared to the previous version... Only for you to go and strap a tube and a set of rusty hex keys to it. Yeah, more of that in 2020. Chance of this actually happening: 80%
Expect to see more coil-sprung suspension on trail and enduro bikes.More Coil Springs
Upsides to coil springs include more traction, more consistent damping, and way more trailhead cred. Unfortunately for your bro score, most full-suspension bikes come equipped with air-sprung suspension because it can be adjusted to suit most riders, air obviously weighs just a bit less than steel, and let's not forget that air-sprung shocks can do some neat stuff like offer easily adjustable ramp-up and more tuning possibilities. There's also the little fact that the large majority of bikes are designed to work with an air spring's inherent ramp-up; with a linear coil, they're likely to hit the end of the stroke more often than a 15-year-old Levy whose parents just got dial-up internet.
Thankfully, there are some really smart people out there, a few of which came up with Sprindex's adjustable-rate coil spring system
. It's so simple that I don't know how someone hadn't already thought of a similar idea. All you need to do is rotate the Sprindex collar by hand to add or subtract as much as 30 to 60 lb/in to the spring rate, and it works by locking out a short section of the coil, effectively make it shorter, and therefore less willing to flex. It also consists of only a few extra parts, so it's dead-simple to boot.
If you like coils, relatively lightweight shocks like X-Fusion's new H3C and clever solutions like Sprindex's adjustable-rate collar are worth checking out.
While not a new idea, but just as simple and useful, progressive-rate coil springs can be used to combat that aforementioned lack of ramp-up. Basically, a section of the spring is designed so that the coils come into contact with each other, which then raises the spring rate. Cane Creek's Vault coils
do this, as do MRP's Progressive Springs
, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the big boys of suspension spring a surprise (ugh, I'm sorry) with some new coil-sprung options.
All that should mean that we'll see more coil-sprung suspension than ever, especially for the trail bike crowds. Chance of this actually happening: 70%
Stiffer, Heavier Forks
I remember when the Boxxer had 32mm stanchion tubes because it was around the same time that I had a sweet eyebrow ring. Both seem questionable these days, especially as things keep getting bigger, stiffer, and "more precise" with every product cycle. Fox's rumoured new fork (which we assume is called the 3
, uses upper tubes that are 2mm larger in diameter than their current 36, made a sneak appearance on the Enduro World Circuit last season
and you'd be a fool for thinking that their competition won't do something similar soon.
If RockShox does come out with a bigger fork as well, the main question in my mind is if it should be called the Totem or not?
Can you tell that the new 32 is 20-grams heavier than the old one? Me neither. Can you tell that it's 20-percent stiffer? Likely.
Likewise, DVO, X-Fusion, and a few others probably have similar up-sizing plans in the works for their enduro-focused forks, but we might also see beefier fork chassis in the cross-country and trail bike world as well. After all, Fox's updated 32 cross-country race fork
weighs 20-grams MORE than the previous version but is claimed to also be 20-percent stiffer in the steering department.
I'm all for a completely unnoticeable amount of grams being added in the name of double-digit gains in rigidity, but that's just me. One day we might even get CSUs that never creak and groan. Chance of this actually happening: 50%
More Short Travel Bikes
Modern cars are intended to isolate you from the road, providing smooth, safe, and quiet transportation that also lets drivers be in more comfort while going faster. And most of them are boring as hell. But ditch the gooey suspension, heaps of sound deadening, and all the frills and gimmicks and a drive to the corner store can turn into something to remember. I've always argued that a similar theory can be applied to mountain bikes, just so long as the all-important geometry is dialed, and that's hopefully what we see more of in 2020.
Less travel can be more fun, especially now that bike brands know that doesn't have to mean it's a pure race bike.Norco's new 125mm-travel Optic
won our Mountain Bike of the Year award for doing exactly that, and rigs like the Tallboy
, and the Top Fuel are closely matched with smart geo and suspension. Bikes like those, along with a handful of others, let many riders get more out of their rides, despite them requiring more effort, care, and skill when things get sketchy. Chance of this actually happening: 90%
The Olympics counts for all the beans, so expect riders and their sponsors to go all-out for gold.Fresh Cross-Country Tech
There's this little race coming up this year called ''the Olympics'' that a lot of people get really excited about, and there's a good chance that we'll see some wild new cross-country tech as a result. Companies and countries will be putting a ton of effort, time, and money into making sure their athletes have the best chance of being successful in Tokyo, and history says that should mean lighter, more advanced bikes and components than ever before. Chance of this actually happening: 100%
eMTB Advancements and Attitudes
Have you guys seen that bonkers Specialized e-road bike that hides its battery and motor so well that the damn thing could nearly pass as for normal machine? Sure, there've been motors and batteries completely hidden inside seat tubes and bottom brackets for years, but the Turbo Creo SL road bike is the next level of integration
(ahhhh, that word again!) that has allowed for a relatively lightweight, traditional-looking rocketship that can blend in with the stone age, non-motorized machines still plodding around out there.
I'm not sure how this Bianchi get out the door without someone saying "Hey, maybe we shouldn't make the ugliest e-bike of all-time?" I am clearly not the target demographic here.
Will the same thing happen to eMTBs? I f*cking hope so. Have you seen all of some the abominations out there? It's like some of these brands had a competition to find out who could design the ugliest way to attach a battery and motor to a bicycle.
I suspect we'll see a handful of much sleeker, more refined off-road e-bikes in the near future, including some with much smaller, less powerful batteries intended to provide less boost with less weight and size. eMTB-lite, which is a bit like jumbo shrimp, I guess. At the same time, more user-adjustability will figure in, allowing riders to choose different batteries, further customizable torque and power settings, and who knows what else. E-bike hot-rodding is a real thing, which sounds like nothing but trouble.
The bikes improving is great and all, but let's hope we see attitudes improve as well. It's fine if eMTBs aren't your thing - they're not my thing, either - but I also don't care if it is your thing. You shouldn't care, either, just as long as said eMTBs aren't making things difficult for others. After all, I know plenty of people who do all sorts of questionable things on their non-motorized bikes. #ridewhateveryouwant2020Chance of this actually happening: 30%
You don't need to be Nostradamus to figure this one out. We've seen more and more riders shun carbon fiber frames and components for their heavier, less expensive aluminum counterparts over the last few years, and that trend will continue for 2020 and beyond.
Aluminum usually offers more bang for the buck than carbon fiber.
If I were in charge of a bike company, I'd concentrate on nice aluminum frames and making sure my geometry and suspension are on-point. Then, I'd hang some decent but not too pricey components on it, saving coin where it makes sense, before finishing it off with reliable tires and graphics that say, ''I make good financial decisions but also want to look pro AF.'' The $2,899 USD Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 and $2,999 USD Ibis Ripmo AF that RC just reviewed for the Field Test
are great examples of bikes that won't hold 95-percent of us back but also won't drain 95-percent of your bank account. Way more of this in 2020, please. Chance of this actually happening: 90%
So, where do you stand on those predictions: Are you hoping that I'm not far off, or is my forecast completely out to lunch?