It's tradeshow season, which means that just when my Eurobike-indjuced jet lag has subsided and I'm no longer having strange dreams about pretzels and bratwurst, it's time to head to the gaudy desert wasteland of Las Vegas for Interbike.
The endless waves of new products and marketing speak can start to feel like déjà vu all over again, especially given the cyclical nature of the bike industry (no pun intended). Products that went out of fashion ten years ago are back (3.0” tires, anyone?), albeit in an updated and improved form. That being said, these massive exhibitions of all things cycling do provide a good opportunity to view the new products that are coming down the pipeline, and to get an idea of what the near future holds for the sport.
What's on the way? Here's a quick rundown of what to expect in the coming months.Dropper Posts With More Drop
It's taken a little longer than I would have expected, but more and more bikes are now coming with 150mm or even 170mm droppers posts as standard options, at least on medium and large sized bikes. It makes sense – after all, why would you only want to move your seat partially out of the way before a steep descent?
There are also a several new players entering the dropper post arena, including e*thirteen, Ritchey, and PRO. Despite the increasing number of options, prices still haven't exactly plummeted, although they are heading in the right direction, a trend that I'd expect to continue as competition increases.Eightpin's integrated dropper post
was one of the most interesting products at Eurobike, and while Liteville is currently the only brand using the post, it's a development that's worth keeping an eye on to see if other companies decide to adopt the technology.More Travel
A few years ago, the long travel single crown fork was on the verge of going extinct, left behind in the mad rush towards 27.5” wheels. That's no longer the case, and with both RockShox and Fox offering 170 or even 180mm single crown forks for 27.5” and 29” wheels we're starting to see a new crop of longer travel bikes enter the market. What would have once been called 'freeride' bikes are now being pitched as enduro race machines, but however you categorize them, it looks like 2017 is going to be bringing a new batch of these burly longer travel rigs.
Specialized's new Enduro, with its 170mm of front and rear travel, and Rocky Mountain's revamped Slayer with 165mm of rear travel are two models that immediately come to mind, and I have an inkling that we'll see other companies adding or updating their longer travel options this year, especially since we saw so many new mid-travel options launched in 2016.
Drivetrain Dueling Continues E-Bikes
This is the elephant in the room, especially in North America. In Europe, the idea of pedaling around in the woods with a electric motor and a battery attached to your bike doesn't seem to be raising too
many eyebrows, and at Eurobike every other booth seemed to be filled with motorized contraptions. While it may be big overseas, trail access in America is much more tenuous, and the general attitude towards motorized assistance isn't quite as easy to read. E-bikes
aren't my cup of tea, to put it nicely. I could go on a long-winded rant, but let's just say that I view e-biking as a completely different sport, one that I have little interest in. All the same, given how much money and marketing dollars major bike companies are devoting towards developing and producing e-bikes, it's certainly going to remain a hot topic for years to come.
At the moment it doesn't look we're going to see any drastic changes in the drivetrain world, at least for the near future. SRAM's 12-speed Eagle drivetrain is going to be a common sight on higher end bikes next season, especially since the popularity of 1x drivetrains (and 1x specific frames) continues to increase. Shimano has their 11-speed Di2 XTR and XT drivetrains, but the demand for electronic shifting doesn't seem to be as high as it is for a wider gear ratio. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if SRAM responds with an electronic drivetrain of their own (they already have a wireless electronic road gruppo), but I'm not holding my breath that it'll be anytime soon. Wide, But Not Too Wide
The hype machine was running in overdrive for 27.5+ bikes in 2016, and most of the major manufacturers now at least have one plus-sized option in their lineup. They don't seem to be replacing any particular style of bike; instead, they're being billed as another option for riders looking for a particular ride quality. They also help make 29” wheeled bikes even more versatile – bikes like the Santa Cruz Hightower or Trek Fuel EX can be set up to run 29” or 27.5+ wheels, giving riders the option to try different wheel sizes without needing a completely different bike.
At first, when 27.5+ was introduced it was originally based around 3.0” tires, but now 2.8” tires are the more common option. We're also seeing the introduction of 2.6” tires, which split the difference even further, allowing riders to toe the edge of the plus-size waters without diving completely in. Maxxis, Specialized, and Schwalbe all have 2.6" tires on the way, with more to follow.
All the hemming and hawing about rim widths and tire size only goes to show just how much room there is for experimentation and innovation in the mountain bike world – little things like rim or tire width can have a big impact out on the trail, and our sport is still new enough that all of the variables haven't been figured out yet. More to Come
Interbike kicks off on September 19th, and we'll be bringing even more tech news from Vegas once the show starts. In the meantime, forget about the future and get out for a ride - that's much more important than stressing over frame geometry, gear ratios and rim widths.