2018 is almost over, which means it's the perfect time to take a look into the crystal ball to see what new mountain bike tech is on the way for 2019. Unfortunately, I'm not seeing anything as groundbreaking as a trigger shifter operated gearbox that allows you to shift under load, or a dropper post that lowers the seat without any weight on it, but there are still plenty of interesting trends and gadgets that are worth a mention.More Electronics
Mountain bikers don't seem to be as eager to hop on the electronic shifting bandwagon as our road-biking relatives, but that doesn't mean new products aren't in the works. SRAM appear to be on the cusp of releasing their wireless electronic mountain bike drivetrain to the masses, although there's no exact date as to when that will be. We saw Nino Schurter and Malene Degn putting prototype versions
to the test on the World Cup circuit, which typically means that the final version isn't too far off. The first World Cup of the 2019 season takes place on May 18th in Albstadt, Germany – I wouldn't be surprised if an announcement happens around that time.
Of course, Shimano's electronic DI2 drivetrain has been on the market since 2014, but it's not wireless, and the installation process isn't the easiest, especially compared to tried-and-true cable actuated designs. I'm positive they're working hard on the next generation, but the fact that the new XTR isn't readily available yet likely means it's going to be a bit before we see anything.
Where else will we see electronics pop up? How about dropper posts? Magura's Vyron
debuted a couple years ago, but it's still a rarity out on the trails, and the first iteration's return speed and remote ergonomics made it hard to recommend over simpler, and less expensive, cable actuated options. (I recently received the newest version that's supposed to address those issues – look for a full review once I get enough hours in on it). However, it looks like RockShox are poised to join in. Going wireless is one way to ditch the Reverb's silly hydraulic remote, but it does mean you'll need to make sure your battery has enough juice in it before heading out the door.
Just think, you could have an e-bike with an electronic drivetrain, an electronic dropper post, and electronically controlled suspension. My brain hurts just imagining trying to keep track of all those chargers. Evolving Geometry
How much longer and slacker can bikes really get? That's a good question. Every year seems to bring about a half degree of head angle change, and an additional 10mm of reach. I could be wrong (it won't be the first, or the last time), but I do think that over the next few years we'll start to see things settle down. After all, it is possible to create a bike that's too long and slack, especially if you're not regularly dropping into near-vertical chutes. If you look at the motocross world, head angles tend to be between 62.5 – 64 degrees, which is approximately where I think we'll see DH and enduro bikes settle.
For trail and all-mountain bikes, 64.5-66 degrees will likely be the sweet spot, and then there's the unfortunately named 'downcountry' segment, where head angles will sit in the 65.5-67.5 degree range. Speaking of downcountry, I wouldn't be surprised to see a fresh batch of new contenders emerge next season, short travel (110-120mm) bikes that are built for more than XC racing, with dropper posts and real tires, but that can still hold their own when it's time to put the hammer down.
Steeper seat angles will also become more prevalent, although, once again, you can only go so steep before things get weird. I'd say that number is around the 79-degree mark, and most companies will probably stick to the 76-77 degree realm.
Of course, we can't talk about geometry without talking about fork offset. 51mm used to be the standard amount of fork offset for 29ers, but that's changed over the last year or two, and looking ahead I'd expect most new 29ers to have forks with 44 or 46mm of offset. Does it make a huge difference out on the trail? Honestly, I'd say that there's a little more hype surrounding this topic than there needs to be – the difference in handling isn't drastic, especially with slacker head angles, but companies don't want to look like they're behind the times, so reduced offset will become the new norm. More High Pivot Designs
High pivot suspension designs aren't new (Paul Aston put together an excellent overview here
), but the success of Commencal's Supreme DH, piloted by Amaury Pierron, and GT's new Fury, underneath Martin Maes, certainly refocused the spotlight on the potential of that design. Commencal, Norco, and GT are the three biggest companies producing DH bikes that have a high pivot suspension layout, but I'm sure there's a lot of off-season experimentation going on.
We also have Forbidden Bikes' still-unnamed creation to look forward to, which uses a high-pivot design on a shorter travel trail bike. I don't foresee a wholesale switchover to this design, but I do think we'll see a few more contenders enter the mix. Tire Tech
The quest to end flat tires once and for all still is still underway, and there are more companies than ever offering all sorts of foam inserts to help keep rims from breaking, tires from tearing, and air from escaping. There's no sign that the insert industry is going to slow down, either. The good news is that there's a wide range of options available depending on how much protection you're looking for.
The same goes for tires – there are more thick-but-not-DH-thick casings available that provide a little extra measure of security compared to the paper-thin, 700 gram options out there. Hopefully we'll start to see more bike companies spec proper tires on their enduro and all-mountain bikes – nobody wants to shell out thousands of dollars for their dream machine only to tear a hole in the single-ply sidewall a hundred yards into the first ride.Don't Forget, It's Still a Good Time
You know what's really worth looking forward to in 2019? The fact that mountain biking will still be as fun as it ever was. No matter if you're on a fully rigid hardtail with a coaster brake, or a fancy superbike bedecked with all-carbon-everything, it's still tough to beat ripping around in the woods for a few hours, and that's never going to change.