If you happened to have caught any of our Eurobike 2017 coverage, you already know that it wasn't exactly a riveting show full of new and exciting gear. No, she was a bit of a snoozer this time around, which is, sadly, becoming the norm as you'd have to have the marketing IQ of a gerbil to think that debuting an important product at a tradeshow is a good idea. We need more gerbils to make these shows exciting again but, in the meantime, they've turned out to be great opportunities to put one's ear to the proverbial carpeted show floor and pick up on rumors and whispers.
This edition of Levy's TMZ has some doozies, including a pretty solid rumor about the *possibility* of Shimano's next XTR group sporting twelve cogs. Will that or any of other the below rumors pan out? If they do, remember who told you first; if they don't, please don't remember where you read them.
Shimano's 12-Speed XTR Drivetrain is Coming
Well, we all know this one is coming, don't we? Of course, but I finally heard some solid whisperings from a number of different sources confirming not just a 12-speed XTR drivetrain from Shimano, but also a handful of interesting details. Among those details is that the twelve-cog cassette will have a 10 to 51-tooth spread, beating you-know-who by one tooth and taking dinner plate-sized large cogs to new, er, diameters. And much like how SRAM had to develop a new freehub body design for their own 10 to 42-tooth block (and, later, their 12-speed Eagle drivetrain), rumors have Shimano also employing a new freehub, and using a smaller version of their Centerlock threaded lockring to attach the cassette. Also, news that many won't welcome, there could actually be a few different 12-speed freehubs from Shimano to suit different setups.
All that booth space and not a single 12-speed mountain bike drivetrain to be seen... yet.
Expect a new 12-speed derailleur and chain to go along with all of the above, of course, as well as a fresh, single-ring XTR crankset; all likely finished in that classy gray color that their high-end drivetrains always wear. Shimano is also said to be releasing a new, four-piston XTR brake that would go up against SRAM's Guide Ultimate stoppers.
Shimano is not a company who teases, or even hints, as to what's in the pipeline, so it was no surprise to me when my inquiries were met with mostly cold stares at their sprawling Eurobike booth. Joe Lawwill, Shimano's Mountain Bike Marketing Specialist, did have this to say, though: ''Shimano is constantly working on new products. However, Shimano does not comment on any products in development, or any rumors or innuendo - whether true or not.''
Yes, all of the above is hearsay and dirty drivetrain innuendo, but I'd also be willing to bet both of my thumbs that we'll see most, or maybe all, of the rumors to be proven true when the Japanese giant does decide to release the information.
Eleven cogs? Pfft, the next XTR group will turn it up to twelve. I think. Probably.
Chance of this rumor becoming fact: 90%The Return of Marzocchi's Range
Fox Racing Shox and Marzocchi shared floor space inside Messe Friedrichshafen, as you'd expect given that the former owns the latter. But while Fox's section of the booth was full of the latest suspension goodies (but not their new, four-way adjustable fork damper
that I spotted at Crankworx), the Italians only had a handful of last year's models, as well as a Marzocchi-branded Transfer dropper post, hanging on the wall for people to see. Word is that will change in the near future, however, with Fox planning to lift the Italian name back up into the front of everyone's minds.
You don't need to be Nostradamus to know that Marzocchi will have a larger presence in the near future.
That's not exactly a surprise, though, as it's not like Fox picked up Marzocchi just to let the name fade away. But rather than just a few revised, low-end models, rumors have Marzocchi soon debuting an entirely new range of suspension offerings. If or when it does happen, I suspect that they'll be focused on original equipment rather than aftermarket sales. And, because nothing says ''come back'' like a steel stanchioned tubed fork, they'll hopefully have something nicer than just entry-level products. If you think about it, all these aftermarket coil conversion kits coming out are a sign that many riders are happy to move away from air-sprung suspension, and wouldn't it make sense to see Marzocchi's new forks answer that demand while Fox stays with air? Chance of this rumor becoming fact: 70%Devinci's Return to Downhill Racing
It wasn't that long ago that Devinci was a serious presence on the World Cup downhill circuit, with wins and overall titles coming from the late, great Stevie Smith, and some solid results from his teammate, Mark Wallace. But then, as we all know, tragedy took Smith far too early, and Devinci switched their efforts from downhill to the Enduro World Series. To be fair, the team has had some EWS placings worth being proud of, including a win from Damien Oton. But the EWS isn't World Cup downhilling, and a successful World Cup campaign sells far more than just downhill bikes, with eight-inch-travel sleds being the pig in the window of the mountain bike butcher shop.
The Wilson is an out-and-out race bike, and I'm betting that they'll have some top-20 riders on the World Cup downhill circuit next season.
I'm not just talking out my ass here, either, as more than a few insiders have mentioned Devinci's return to the World Cup scene. With what riders, I'm not sure, but it would just feel right to see Wilsons being raced against the clock again.Chance of this rumor becoming fact: 80%Santa Cruz Has an eMTB in the Works
I don't have any faith in this one being true, but hey, it's fun to speculate. The crew at Santa Cruz vehemently denies any eMTB plans, but there's a tiny smidge of chance that it could happen down the road. Wait, at least hear me out before you accuse me of being a looney heretic for saying that Santa Cruz, arguably the "coolest" company in the game, might jump on the battery-powered bandwagon.
The most telling sign of the end times for me is that Santa Cruz has been owned by Dutch company Pon Holdings since 2015, and battery-powered transportation is a large part of Pon's portfolio. The Dutch conglomerate already owns a number of other cycling brands, including those who have their hands deep in the ebike pie, so it's pretty obvious to see where the tech would come from.
It's no secret that eMTBs are the current cash cow that companies are pushing, and this is especially true in Europe where Santa Cruz doesn't have the same foothold that they do in North America. On the flip side, Pon Holdings is known to be a hands-off type of dark overlord, so it's by no means a sure thing.
The new Nomad's appearance was divisive, but just imagine the comment section if it had a motor and battery bolted to it.
For their part, Santa Cruz denies that they'll be joining the battery brigade anytime soon. ''E-hostilities aside, our best bikes represent a convergence of passion and differentiation,'' Don Palermini, North American Marketing Manager at Santa Cruz, explained when I posed the eMTB question to him. ''I'm not sure we can deliver on that right now, so we're not working on one. That doesn't mean never, but we're not willing to spend the financial and social capital on a 'me too' product.''
So that's that, at least for now, I guess.
Chance of this rumor becoming fact: 20%