|I believe that E-bikes will force a huge evolution in the general cycling market in the future. They will open the discipline to new customers, open access to new trails, generate new problems like erosion and speed on the trails, and create new needs in bike design. All that will force the bike industry to adapt. The impact in North America has not arrived yet, but in Europe we have felt it strongly this year. They do give a new vision for the future of the market and the sport itself, but I personally believe that the excitement around these fresh perspectives should not hide problems that could affect the sport - let's stay focused on the roots of what mountain biking really is.|
|At the rate things are changing, calling out something for the next ten years is almost a shot in the dark, especially considering that ten years makes up about twenty five percent of the entire time mountain bikes have even existed! But with that being said, the game changer right now is electronics, as well as further integration.|
The doors that are opened by electronics make things possible that simply can't be achieved with a mechanical system. The new Di2 XTR with the syncro shift is a game changer in of itself. Being able to have the range of a 2 x 11 system with just one shifter is amazing. The integration possibilities are endless. FOX's iRD system already integrates with the Di2 battery which runs both the shifting and the suspension remote adjustments. Battery technology is already quite amazing, but you know for sure that battery technology will only continue to develop. The new Magellan cycle computer already connects to Di2 and can give you detailed reports of your rides as well as display the gear you are in.
As more items are made to use electronics you will see more and more integration, with the ultimate goal of packaging all these cool features into easy to use and clean systems, an with all the tech tucked away out of sight inside the frames. Pivot and Rocky Mountain already offer amazing frames designed around using Di2 and have done a fantastic job of hiding all of the wires and the battery, and over the next ten years there will be many frames designed around Di2 and other tech that all integrates together. I know that ''keep it simple stupid'' is a popular saying when it comes to adding things to bikes, but if you can integrate all of these awesome features into refined packages that are simple, intuitive, don't clutter up your cockpit and will ultimately let you better focus on the ride itself and the enjoyment that can be had, I see it as a win - win. I say bring on future technology. I for one would not trade any of my current bikes for anything I rode ten years ago!
|I was going to say mainstream media coverage, but I honestly think that is already starting and will only continue. And yes, it will be a massive game changer for the sport. Instead, I'm going to go in a totally different direction: the biggest game changer for the sport of mountain biking will be the change in the ''modus operandi'' of the UCI. I think this is being lead in particular by Brian Cookson. I had the opportunity to meet with Brian a year ago, along with Chris Ball (Enduro World Series Managing Director), to discuss the Enduro World Series and how it could work on its own but with the support and blessing of the UCI. Brian said something in that meeting, and I am paraphrasing here, but essentially it was that ''Our role [the UCI] isn't to put up road blocks to having people ride their bikes, it's to find ways to make it easier for them.''|
I think the UCI has already started to realize that mountain biking isn't the same as other cycling disciplines, and as such needs its own ''method of operation'' and, in some instances, its own rules. I think they are going to make it easier for organizers to host events and do what is best for the various disciplines of mountain bike racing. Is there a long way to go? Certainly, but, now more than ever, I believe they are open to discussions, and I only see this willingness to discuss things growing in the next ten years.
|I think that the changing demographics of mountain biking is the game changer. Older, more affluent, politically connected riders who aren't golfing, but choosing a healthier exercise for an option... and they want to share this with their kids. This will lead to increased access and a generation of young rippers and more bike parks, especially with the impact of global warming on ski resorts.|
|It has to be mountain bike skills clinics and more women on bikes. With mountain bike skills clinic offerings on the rise, the word is out: if you want to pin it, take a clinic! The community of female riders is growing because they are taking clinics. By taking a clinic they are not only learning to love the sport, they are also learning to face fears, choose their attitudes, and start believing in themselves. When these women experience the power of riding and learning with other women, they naturally encourage more women to get into the sport by taking a clinic. Clinics are also game-changers by giving women a comfortable place to learn about bikes, suspension, clothing and other products from other women.|
Clinics also mean better riders, and less injuries means a longer life on two wheels. When you take a clinic you learn the nitty gritty details about mountain biking that you never thought about. I have witnessed people with twenty five years of riding experience get their minds blown. Many people understand how to pedal and get through stuff, but when you truly understand the relationship between bike and rider and the art of balancing the bike beneath you, it will take your riding to a whole new level. With more clinics available, more people are trying mountain biking. This leads to more people on bikes, which leads to more trails, which leads to happy trail builders who continue to have work. New trails can also lead to happy resorts who are losing snow, and then it all comes around to more people finding a passion, a community and happiness on two-wheels and some dirt.
|Without a doubt, the biggest game changer over the next ten years is going to be the proliferation of professionally designed and built public bike parks. Over the last fifteen years there's been a growing demand for purpose-built bike facilities. During this time, advocates, professional trail designers and land managers were working together to identify trends and develop methods to craft landscapes intended specifically for mountain biking. Along the way, trail builders were seen as professionals - working in concert with landscape architects and urban planners to design and build progressive facilities. Advocates showed up at town hall meetings - in large numbers - to engage the community and share their vision. Land managers ''got it''. Bike parks became a valued asset, funded at the same level as other types of recreational facilities.|
In the ten years to come, the popularity of the bike park is likely to surge. Neighborhood pump tracks to multi-million dollar bike parks will sprout and flourish. At the same time, riders' skills will progress with abilities gained from riding at purpose built facilities. Mountain biking will continue to progress and evolve. The next generation of rippers will hone their skills at these facilities while developing a sense of stewardship for the land, and their community.
|Could it be that the mountain bike industry is largely unable to deal with game changers very well? 29'' wheels were a game changer, but only when a handful of clever engineers worked out how best to get frames to match. Many are still guessing, and the rest are probably copying what the good guys did. There's also overuse of that term, for every year bikes and components are said to be better, faster, and stronger, so I'm sure there will be f*cking thousands of so-called game changers. The reality is often otherwise. Things will improve inch by inch to maximize profits, but I'd be happy to see a low maintenance bike come to production, one with a hermetically sealed drivetrain and single sided swing arm. |
In terms of racers, I'm looking forward to see who will sit alongside the names Nico Vouilloz, Anne Caroline Chausson, and Sam Hill, who were / are quite different and played a different game. Maybe a super-athlete / risk taker will join forces with an engineer of the same mindset, such as Olivier Bossard or Cesar Rojo. There needs to be more calculated racers, more 'win at all costs'. I hope some daft bastards will make a track that's so technical that only a handful of riders can ride it cleanly, and another track that's so fast and wide open that it makes for truly terrifying viewing. There's so much mediocrity on downhill track design while the bikes have increased their capability. But the answer is pretty simple when a European direct-sales downhill bike will be available this year at 3999 EUR [apprx $4,479 USD], offering performance arguably better than a pro race bike. How much game changing do you want?
|Sure, it's easy to default to looking at the bike itself and think that the game change will come from innovation. Yes, our bikes are technically incredible and do make the ride more enjoyable and thrilling, but you need somewhere to apply that to, and I do feel that many populated areas in the world lack truly good trails. I think that mountain biking is still in its primary infancy when it comes to accessing land and trails that are fit for proper enjoyment of the sport. The impact that private and public bike parks and properly sanctioned riding areas have is huge on building our sport's reach, legitimacy and growth potential. Too many cool places are over-suppressed in access due to a lack of proper association and collaboration with local land managers, and / or the short sightedness of the government as to what mountain biking currently is and can grow to be.|
I have been witness to the evolution of mountain biking on Vancouver's North Shore and have seen the sport explode, suppress, and explode again within a decade due to the entanglements of accessing land and trails properly with local governments. On the contrary, places like Whistler, Squamish and Kamloops have embraced the sport and both promoted and provided everything that we want. This has managed to make huge game-changing impacts to how we all ride, who rides, and locking in the stability of the future of the sport. What the Whistler Bike Park has become inside of a designated 'ski area' is amazing. Apply that recipe to more struggling ski areas across the globe and we as a sport are going to explode. So, as we enter into this next decade of evolution, I think the biggest game changer needs to be the accessing of more land through bike parks, sanctioning and maintaining current trail riding areas so we can properly maintain, use them, and create more trails, and the opening up of state / provincial / national park areas to the sport of mountain bikes.
|The biggest game changer in our sport will be whether or not we can change the prevailing attitudes of trail advocacy and build legal trails that aren't boring and monotonous. If current trail building trends don't change, mountain biking will be horrible in ten years.|
Apparently five years ago there was a meeting that I wasn't invited to where all the MTB advocacy groups on the planet agreed that every new trail that gets built from now until the end of time needs to be have a ten percent average grade or less, be built by machines, paved from one side to the other with crushed gravel, pavers, or embedded rock, bench cut into sidehills, and the only acceptable form of turn is a 180 degree switchback or a massive berm. It also must built to withstand one thousand years of bike tires, rain, snow, sleet, flooding, explosions, stray plane crashes, plagues, and the zombie apocalypse, all without needing any from of maintenance whatsoever.
There was also a second meeting where they decided that anyone who didn't agree with the trail concepts from the first meeting should be labeled as ''just a hater,'' ''anti-growth,'' or ''close-minded,'' and to be ostracized and kept a safe distance away from any legal trail building. Any trails that didn't fit the general precepts from the first meeting would be labeled as ''unsustainable'' or ''dangerous'' and must be closed down or rerouted. I've seen this pattern occur over and over again across the U.S., but also in Canada, the UK, and even in the Alps, and it's resulted in two separate worlds of mountain biking: the world of legal, boring, legitimate trail building, and the world of fun, steep, fast illegal trail building. Thanks to the seemingly irreconcilable differences between both groups, these two worlds grow farther and farther apart every year.
Of course there are examples of legal trails that don't suck. Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance in Seattle, Washington, is building a pretty incredible (and totally legal) downhill trail on their flagship riding area, Tiger Mountain, just fifteen minutes from downtown Seattle. The guys at Momentum Trail Concepts in Colorado are doing a great job. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is probably the most enlightened federal land management agency in the U.S., and they've done an increasingly good job of offering mountain bike opportunities that aren't horrible. It's possible to balance land managers concerns while building a challenging trail for someone with a skill level exceeding ''Fisher Price: My First Bike Ride.'' So why do these positive examples have to be the exception, not the rule?
The challenge facing mountain biking is twofold: will advanced riders speak up and define what we want our trails to look like, and will legitimate trail advocacy groups choose to listen? The answer to those two questions will do more to shape the mountain bike industry ten years from now than any product, rider, or event ever could.
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