For people already involved in mountain biking, bigger tires, wider rims, lighter carbon, longer suspension, more gnarly trails, and taller jumps may be amazing advances - and that is just fine for someone who wants a little bit more speed and grip, the experienced racer needing an edge, the guy, who measures his mates by the gram, or the conqueror who has squashed his local trail network and needs higher jumps or longer loops.
Ask somebody who has never rode a mountain bike before, what faster, stronger, lighter and bigger means and the answer will probably be: "Compared to what?" What is "better" compared to "nothing?" For example, my dad, rarely rides bikes, so taking dad around a remote trail center on a carbon 27.5-inch bike, instead of an alloy 26-inch one might allow him to roll and climb a little faster and find a little more grip, and its high-end components might make his life easier, but dad is not going to have any idea about the recent technological advances in our niche sport. He will just ride the bike and assume that this is what a bike feels like. He will have no point of comparison from which to make that judgment, and probably, his riding level would be nowhere near the capabilities of the bike. Hopefully he would enjoy himself regardless, as he negotiated around 40-foot tables and avoided the black trails.
These guys aren't popping for carbon super-bikes yet, but they will be one day.
Are we enticing new riders with all this marketing and technology? Marketing $8000 super-bikes, to big-dog dentists and lawyers with disposable incomes, to passionate die-hards who live by the latest kit, or racers who must keep up with their competition will surely bring in plenty of dollars for bike makers this year, but is this bigger, faster, stronger direction that the market is currently taking the best way to grow our sport in the long term? How does an $8000 superbike with five functions on the handlebar get people off the sofas and onto the trails? Let go of the console and grab some grips? Get kids on bikes and families out for the weekend and breed the next generation of riders? I can't remember the last time I saw an advert biased towards new riders. It's always: 'We sold you THAT. but NOW you need THIS."
There has been huge evolution in the sport, especially in the UK, and for a period of time, new trails, pump tracks, retail shops and riders have sprouted up and all were welcomed with open arms, but has all that come to an end? Maybe I am biased, or blinkered because I have been at the sharp end for so many years. Perhaps all that high-end marketing hype actually does trickle down to newbies and reels them into the sport. Perhaps the current growth of our sport is enough to sustain us for the coming years. If it isn't though, are we digging a black hole by concentrating upon hyper-expensive technical improvements, building bicycles tailor made for elite-level riders, and constructing trails to showcase super-powers that will generate short term profits that will abruptly dry up when current riders are too old, injured or broken to ride anymore? Are there be enough new riders today who will possess disposable incomes and will progress to replace them? Maybe we should turn down the volume a notch or two and try making the sport more approachable - and encourage some new seedlings to enter the sport.
So, the question is: Are we investing in the future or bleeding the present dry? Ten years from now, when a huge chunk of the current cash crop have left the scene, will our feasts have created a famine?