It's easy to take the technology found on a modern mountain bike for granted, especially if you never got to experience the joys of trying to properly toe-in a set of cantilever brakes, or don't remember what life was like before dropper posts made descending with a fully extended seatpost a thing of the past.
For this episode, we decided to take a look back at the most important inventions in mountain bike history. Our special guest this week is Richard Cunningham
, who's been involved in the sport since the beginning, and has amassed an incredible wealth of cycling knowledge. RC is also a master story teller, and his tales and recollections of everything from the invention of index shifting to disc brakes make this an episode you won't want to miss.
THE PINKBIKE PODCAST // EPISODE 56 - WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT INVENTIONS IN MOUNTAIN BIKING?
April 8th, 2021
Would you rather give up your disc brakes or dropper post?
Featuring a rotating cast of the editorial team and other guests, the Pinkbike podcast is a weekly update on all the latest stories from around the world of mountain biking, as well as some frank discussion about tech, racing, and everything in between.
Previous Pinkbike PodcastsEpisode 1 - Why Are Bikes So Expensive?Episode 2 - Where the Hell is the Grim Donut?Episode 3 - Pond Beaver TechEpisode 4 - Why is Every Bike a Trail Bike?Episode 5 - Can You Trust Bike Reviews?Episode 6 - Over Biked Or Under Biked?Episode 7 - Wild Project BikesEpisode 8 - Do We Need an Even Larger Wheel Size?Episode 9 - Why Are We Doing a Cross-Country Field Test?Episode 10 - Getting Nerdy About Bike SetupEpisode 11 - Are We Going Racing This Year?Episode 12 - What's the Future of Bike Shops?Episode 13 - Are Bikes Too Regular Now?Episode 14 - What Bikes Would Pinkbike Editors Buy?Episode 15 - What's Holding Mountain Biking Back?Episode 16 - Who's Your Mountain Biking Hero?Episode 17 - XC Field Test Insider Episode 18 - Electronics on your Mountain Bike: Good or Bad? Episode 19 - The Hardtail EpisodeEpisode 20 - MTB Conspiracy TheoriesEpisode 21 - Stuff We Were Wrong AboutEpisode 22 - Does Your Riding Style Match Your Personality?Episode 23 - Grim Donut 2 is Live!Episode 24 - Why Even Buy a DH Bike?Episode 25 - Fall Field Test Preview Episode 26 - The Three Most Important Mountain BikesEpisode 27 - The World Champs Special Episode 28 - All About Women's BikesEpisode 29 - Freeride or DieEpisode 30 - Would You Rather?Episode 31 - Wet Weather Riding Tips & TricksEpisode 32 - What Needs to Change in the Bike Industry?Episode 33 - Behind the Scenes at Pinkbike AcademyEpisode 34 - Grilling Levy About Field Test Trail Bikes (and His Bonspiel)Episode 35 - Story Time - Stranger Than FictionEpisode 36 - Grilling Kazimer about Field Test Enduro BikesEpisode 37 - The 2020 Privateer Season with Ben CathroEpisode 38 - Editors Defend Their 2020 Best-Of PicksEpisode 39 - Predicting the Future of Mountain Biking Episode 40 - The Pinkbike Awards! Episode 41 - Racing Rumours and Team ChangesEpisode 42 - Mountain Biking's Guilty Pleasures Episode 43 - Dangerholm's Wildest Custom Mountain BikesEpisode 44 - Mountain Bike Suspension Decoded Episode 45 - What Makes a Good Riding Buddy Episode 46 - The RockShox Zeb vs Fox 38 Deep DiveEpisode 47 - High Pivot Bikes: The Good, The Bad, and The Why?Episode 48 - Rides That Went Horribly Wrong... & Why That Made Them So GoodEpisode 49 - What's the Best DH Bike?Episode 50 - Are Bikes Actually Getting Less Expensive? (Value Bike Field Test Preview)Episode 51 - Should MTB Media Post Spy Shots? Episode 52 - Our Most Embarrassing MTB MomentsEpisode 53 - Should Climbers Still Have the Right of Way?Episode 54 - Best and Worst MTB Product MarketingEpisode 55 - Big Dumb Rides & Staying Motivated
derailleurs , different geometry , etc , all came BEFORE hydraulic disc brakes .
i'm going g to go with wide knobby tires as the best initial invention . i could ride with NO suspension , or without a dropper seat post , or with rim brakes or an altered geometry , but it was very difficult to ride in soft dirt or chunky terrain on skinny slick tires . Those wide tires is what set a mountain bike apart from other bikes in the early days .
The comment was more from a Socioeconomically stand point, if it wasn't for the modulation and comfort that a a Hydraulic Break brings a lot of people that started wouldn't have stayed in the sport, and the sport wouldn't be as big as it is now, more people = more $$$ = more R&D = better bikes.
Knobby tires for sure did its part in the sport but now as big as Hydraulic Brakes.
responsible for any of the big improvements that i mentioned , such as bigger tires , front suspension , rear suspension , better geometry , dropper posts etc . and they are not responsible for people getting into and staying in the sport .
Please cite the Evidence that shows where people were enticed into mountain biking and stayed because of hydraulic brakes .
They can't even make that comparison if the sport is new to them .
The sport grew very rapidly long before disc brakes were invented .
So Joe Breeze and his invention of the american version of the MTB didn't exist because of my anecdotal experience ?
My individual observation nullified the objects of perception ( facts ) which were the mtb and it's bigger tires , rim brakes and Mr. Breeze and Cunningham . ??? ?? LOL !
If the majority of bikes in those days were road bikes and cruisers and others and a person saw what those guys created , that person would be inquiring as to what type of bike it was , based on it's obvious difference to that of a road / race bike . At that point the persons observation ( anecdotal experience ) would have been verified by the bike itself and Joes explanation of the bike .
Sorry, i don't mean to be rude but what you are sayin is just a silly deflection .
"Custom paint job" will be the cover story.
When the Fox came out, I knew they were going to be serious competition for us.. The only thing that truly surprised me were the bushing issues on the early Fox forks..
Or is it now that Fox owns Marzocchi, we just rewrite things a bit and its now all Fox?
Started riding seriously in ‘94. When the Bomber first came on the scene, the only thing we all talked about was it’s insane weight. Then one in our group got one.
It was a matter of months before the rest of the group, and virtually everyone you saw out on the trail, had one. I had to scrape my pennies together hard, but it was a total revelation and opened up our trails to a totally different perspective.
Fox got my nod, because they were the first to put the whole package together: Reliable production, generous travel, larger stanchion tubes, bomb-proof reliability, simple and universal adjustments, it was air sprung and it was targeted specifically at the droves of baggy short trail riders who had abandoned the spandex club and would later embrace dual-suspension. At the time, Marzocchi was concentrating on BC, while Manitou and RockShox were so caught up in pro racing that their products did not represent the needs of rank and file riders. Fox refocused the suspension industry when it was most needed, which probably became the launching point for today's long-travel dual-suspension trail bike.
Best quote to come from a pinkbike podcast hands down
Single front ring = minor.
Better brakes = good
Dropper = good
Rear suspension = good (just good because it came after front suspension)
Front suspension = HUGE
There was some gnarly stuff being ridden on those bikes.
- Index shifting in the 80's was huge.
Overall biggest inventions:
- Front suspension changed the game
- Hydraulic disks are magic (I've ridden with caliper brakes for 37yrs and recently switched)
- Dropper posts are also excellent.
- The move to larger wheels is a big advent.
If you asked me to give up hydro brakes (and assuming cable disk brakes are still an option) or give up my dropper, I'd be riding BB7s tomorrow without a doubt.
1. Hydraulic disc brakes. As someone who started riding with cantilever brakes, this was a game changer.
2. Front suspension (close second to disc brakes).
3. Modern frame geometry. Finally figuring out how to design a proper MTB frame for rider balance and control.
4.Tire compounds, tread patterns, and sizes.
6. Dropper posts.
Everything else is incremental improvement.
I think one thing that was glossed over was how good parallel push v-brakes were compared to many of the discs at the time (which were mostly one fixed and one actuating pad) or just v-brakes compared to cantis. That fixed pad on early discs would wear down and had to be adjusted constantly!
Geometry: I used to hate 29ers until the geo was sorted out. The big changes there being fork offsets and head angles. The first 29ers had great rollover but they felt like pulling a trailer through the woods - just not that maneuverable. My last two mtbs have been 29, and that's all in the past.
I was totally wrong about front derailleurs. We used to joke in the shop that SRAM could never make a front derailleur that worked and that's why they went first to 2x10, then 1x11. Ripping that thing off the mountain bike allowed so much progress for rear suspension to improve. I still prefer them on road to maintain a tighter cluster in the back but I'll never have one again on an mtb. The funniest thing about that is that I was riding 1x9 when I said that front derailleurs were good.
Clutch derailleurs! What a game changer. True story: I once went for a ride with some friends around the time they got the scene on my 1x9 hardtail. The tension spring at that point was old and tired and not holding very tight. I dropped my chain 12 times in an hour, picked my bike over my head, and threw it in the woods. I announced I was going home, retrieved my bike and started to climb out of the trail. My chain dropped at very top (I probably ratchet pedaled to clear some rocks) and I got tossed off my bike into a tree. Broke my helmet. I bought a clutch derailleur immediately after that ride.
TOPIC: What is the worst invention or technology each presenter has HAD to use? Love the "bitch sessions"
I had cantilevers and 3 rings and no suspension and the whole bit. I still have some of that antique stuff around here.
Front suspension: talk about arm pump descending alpine terrain with no suspension... Just not bearable.
Disc brakes: brakes when wet, can suffer significant wheel damage, power and modulation
Tubeless tires with sealant: from an average of 1 puncture per ride to 1 puncture per year (depends on riding location of course).
29 wheels: so much more confort and confidence.
dropper post: saddle at the right height, at the right time.
1by drivetrains: simple.
Better frame material / construction: not only carbon but aluminium and steel have gotten much better than 30 years ago
I ran 1-pc cranks BITD for BMX as I was too broke for anything else and would have loved RedLine or Profiles. I remember seeing ads for Bullseyes 2-pieces but they might have been just too ahead of their time although their US BB kit was dialed looking!
Not an important product for mountain biking per say but I feel Bullseye (and Phil Wood) hubs were also a pioneer as they were the first (as far as I remember) to produce cartridge bearing hubs and in Bullseye's case ones with trick anodized colors! Seeing a set of anno'd Bullseyes laced to anno'd Araya 7x rims was ethereal!
I had 3 piece alum cranks on that bike, but it was old tapered square axle.
And speaking of bike jealousy, I LOVED PK Rippers, and thought their rectangular frame tubes were super cool.
2. Disc brakes
3. Big tires (Not really an innovation, as they'd always been around)
4. Dropper Posts
5. Index Shifting
6. Rear suspension
7,8,9,10...you figure out the order for derailleur clutches, 1X drivetrain, NW chainrings, Aheadsets, clipless pedals, tubeless,etc.
@mikekazimer: what kind of underwear do you suggest for people who don't want to wear a chamois? I'm currently destroying my briefs at an alarming rate, and I'm not really keen on wearing my road bib shorts.
@brianpark: For the companies that don't size chainstays up or down based on frame size, which size(s) do you think get screwed the most? Which size(s) are the ones where the chainstays are designed perfectly for, or is it just some compromise between all sizes?
@...someone, not sure who: Regarding footwear, I've noticed that a lot of mtb flat pedal shoes have really wide toeboxes (for my small feet anyway). Coming more from a skiing background, how snug should the shoe fit to get more out of the experience versus a ski boot?
Why don't b-screws simply have a # of clicks or some way to determine / set this on the trail w/o constant bike-shop overisight?\ Just moved to SRAM X01 (from NX - never once had this issue w/ NX) but now my b-screw simply will not stay put, jockey wheel constantly rattling & bobbing. Have taken twice to reset at the shop, but I cannot fix it - nothing works. SRAM video says to set w/ 25-30% sag on the derailleur w/ the red b-screw tool. One local shop says red SRAM measurement tool doesn't work - another shop says it does but not with sag. SRAM video shows it works. WTF is going on w/ this?
Another beauty: Alum lock rings on steel threaded steerer tubes. And of course repeated compression / tension of that connection would wear out the softer alum and become sloppy. If I recall Specialized at least had an all steel headset that was durable.
With hindsight being 20/20, what are your thoughts today about wheelsize? Have we gone too big? Or have we not yet gone big enough?
BTW - I always love hearing you on the podcast with the millennials!
So happy with 28oz on the Meta AM, and 32oz on the DJ, hours of fun with no refills and no backpacks!!!
Bicycle shaped object with electric motor≠ bicycle.