The Eurobike tradeshow is so big and so busy that it's easy to miss the little things while you're dodging roller bags, high on a combo of Haribo, sliced meat, and fizzy water. Little things like, oh, I don't know, a new 1.8" tapered steerer tube, whispers of an eMTB motor from the folks at SRAM, AXS integrated suspension, and what might be an entirely new fork from Fox with 38mm stanchions. And here I was worried that the biggest news from the show was a derailleur hanger...
But first, a disclaimer: While I'm pretty sure we'll see a few of these go from fiction to fact in the near future, they're all still rumors and speculation at this point.
Does SRAM have an eMTB motor?
Are you Team Shimano or Team SRAM? Or maybe just Team Whatever Came On Your Bike? The two component giants combine for so much OEM sales that there are only relative crumbs left for the other guys, but there's something in Shimano's catalog that their biggest competitor has yet to offer: An eMTB motor to go up against their Steps E8000 system. And, in case you haven't heard, the whole e-bike segment is apparently growing like a weed, regardless of what you or I think of them.
With that in mind, it'd make sense for SRAM to offer their own motor in the future, wouldn't it? Sure would, and that's exactly what one persistent rumor has been saying for a while now.
I don't think there's any fire to go along with this smoke though, as not a single source has been able to back it up with anything solid. If SRAM were working on a motor for next year, their OEM partners would likely be well-aware by now as they'd need to prepare their frames and spec a long way in advance. However, all is quiet on that front.
If they did have a motor in the pipe, I'd have expected a more generic ''We're always working on new things'' type of response. Instead, it's an outright denial from SRAM on this one, with them citing their close relationship with Bosch and explicitly stating that there's no eMTB motor in the works from them.
It's likely that a group of smart people are beavering away on some type of prototype motor deep in SRAM's development centre, or eagerly looking to acquire some intellectual property, but I don't think they have plans to enter that market anytime soon.Chance of this actually happening (in 2020): 10%
RockShox AXS Suspension is probably on the way.
We're probably not going to see a SRAM motor anytime soon, but there's a good chance that their wireless AXS range will expand from drivetrains and a seatpost to include forks and shocks in the near future. Rather than taking the reactive-suspension route as Fox did with their Live Valve system, I suspect AXS will offer wireless control over both the fork and shock's compression modes, letting riders choose what level of firmness they get at the push of a button.
Imagine if your drivetrain, seatpost, and suspension could all talk to each other to offer the best performance?
Remember when AXS debuted earlier this year from SRAM's press camp in Tucson, Arizona? Word is that the Nino Schurter and the rest of the Scott-SRAM team were testing AXS-ified suspension components during the same time, although no one's spotted them being used at the World Cup level yet. Since then, the hastily hidden images we've seen of the shock revealed only that it appeared quite large.
The potential for AXS suspension also brings us to the next logical step: integrating suspension performance with your AXS Reverb. SRAM is by no means doing that, but wouldn't it make sense to have your suspension automatically open when you lower your dropper post? Or, if you're on a cross-country or trail bike, you might set it up to all-but-lock out when your seat is at full height. It'd be a huge development for on-the-fly suspension adjustment. What's SRAM say? Not much - they declined to comment on this one.
We've spent the last few months testing the same Eagle AXS XX1 drivetrain on three different bikes, and it's see everything from long days in the Whistler Bike Park to overnight epics in the Chilcotins in that time without any real issues. One way it could be even better, though, would be integration with your bike's suspension. Chance of this actually happening: 80%
Is a 1.8" tapered steerer tube standard happening?
When I walked into the SR Suntour booth, I strolled right past a Bulls e-bike with a Durolux long-travel single crown fork before inquiring if there was anything new to be seen. ''Maybe...'' came the answer before I was led right back to that Bulls to look at its strangely large headtube and the fork's massive crown. And the '1.8' sticker on the lowers.
There's a 1.8" tapered steerer tube on the front of this Bulls eMTB.
Yup, rather than the common 1.5" tapered steerer that everyone uses, this SR Suntour Durolux fork has a 1.8" steerer that tapers down to the usual 1.125" at the top where your stem clamps. Sounds like an upcoming "standard" of some kind, right? It isn't likely, thank the Lord, but there were a few hours where I thought I'd be the one delivering exactly that news.
Some digging revealed that yes, there are a few select forks from both SR Suntour and RockShox with 1.8" tapered steerer tubes being made for Bulls, but no there are no plans to offer them aftermarket. So, it doesn't sound like we'll be seeing them on the front of our mountain bikes, and 1.5" tapered steerers aren't being replaced. I don't think.
So, what's the deal with 1.8" steerer tubes? Here's the official word from Mallory Burda, RockShox Brand Manager: “Last summer our product team received a request from one of our customers, ZEG
[owner of the Bulls brand], for forks that would be more aesthetically suitable for their eMTB line. In detail, that ask was for larger sized steerer option (1.8” tapered) in a select number of RockShox forks to better match the customer's bike line aesthetics. We assessed the project, and chose to support that request and moved forward with producing the option for Lyrik and our 35 Gold fork models, to be released this summer.
''This steerer option is offered to all other OE customers along with all current inline models. In the end, we treat such requests similar to how we fulfill specific travel needs, or custom decals - available to all, and supported throughout our service centers and distributors.
The Durolux (left) features a 1.8" tapered steerer and a fork crown that looks massive compared to a standard version (right).
Here's SR Suntour's take, courtesy of Darren Salsbury, North American Liaison Manager: ''SR Suntour has been an early adopter to building suspension forks tailored to the demands of both pavement e-bikes and eMTB. Special attention has been given to key structural areas in the wall thickness of lowers, brake interface and crowns designed to handle the increased loads.
''SR Suntour was approached by bike manufacturers that have been dealing with changing structures on e-bike frames in terms of strength, stiffness, and tube shapes. These brands answer is a 1.8” lower bearing and corresponding larger fork crown. E-bikes are pushing the limits of strength, stiffness, and durability requirements for suspension forks due to the increased weight of frames, batteries, and motors combined with riders pushing these bikes harder than ever. SR Suntour agrees with these bike manufacturers that 1.8 makes sense for the added stiffness and strength on certain categories of pavement e-bikes and eMTB.
It's likely going to be called 'Supertaper,' and in case you didn't catch it in Burda's response, this isn't coming from suspension companies - it's being requested by just a single frame manufacturer - and it's driven by aesthetics rather than performance. Do the 1.8" tapered steerer and corresponding massive crown improve rigidity? It must, to some extent but, as it was explained to me in the SR Suntour booth, the larger steerer and corresponding fork crown are mainly being used to better match the massive, battery-filled downtubes and large headtubes found on e-bikes.
Here's hoping that's where this whole 1.8" tapered steerer tube doesn't take off, but the cynic in me wouldn't be surprised to see this show up on mountain bikes in the future. Chance of this actually happening: 40%
Fox might have a 38mm fork coming.
Sticking with the fork theme, multiple sources have confirmed the existence of an entirely new model from Fox called the '38' that, surprise surprise, sports 38mm stanchion tubes. While I haven't seen the fork or had any details confirmed, it'll likely be a long-travel single-crown offering that's aimed at the enduro and eMTB crowds, and it'll get their Grip2 damper. Expect 180mm, or maybe even a touch more, and a burly chassis to keep it stiff.
Richie makes the 36 look underbuilt. Will we see the Yeti racer using a 38 at the final EWS of the season?
Perhaps the most damning evidence has to be the simple fact that their current range goes from 32, 34, 36... And then jumps to 40. It's almost like it's meant to be, and Craig Richey, Director of Brand & Product Marketing at Fox, sounds like he agrees: ''A 38 would fit nicely into the FOX naming convention so let the rumours swirl. We’re always working on new suspension products to help riders go faster and push their limits.
Something else that Fox has been working on is a new downhill-oriented shock, first spotted at the World Championships
in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec. With dials on the bridge like their X2 model and another at the opposite end of the shock, it looks like Fox is close to introducing something new. Word is that a shrunk-down version of their Grip2 damping system is hidden inside, but we'll have to wait and see if that's true.
It's been a minute since Fox has debuted an all-new fork, and with enduro riders looking for burlier options, I suspect this one is highly likely. Chance of this actually happening: 90%