The motto of most bicycle manufacturers seems to be: If something works, don’t fix it – make it better! That’s because no matter how efficient, comfortable, sturdy and all-out-wow today’s mountain bikes are, the tweaking and tinkering go on. It is a highly competitive industry with consumers who are very knowledgeable, intensely committed and – very competitive. Everyone is looking for an edge.
This year’s edge might just be more fun and less travel. Which is one reason that there are more MTBs being produced with “progressive” geometry: slacker head angles, longer reach and lower stand-over height and even lower bottom brackets. On some bikes, the fork has 10 to 20 mm more travel than the rear. The aim is to make the bikes more lightweight, more efficient and more fun to ride. The result is a mountain bike that performs well on XC trails where lighter weight is important but is also a kick to ride on enduro racing where a sturdy suspension is key.
Another tweak getting traction in the MTB industry is the increased integration of storage options, which means no more bulky backpacks. More and more companies are coming up with ways of hiding tools in steerer tubes, handlebars, crank spindles, and axles. The key is to create snug fits so there is no rattling as well as an easy way to get to the tools when you need them – as with the new Trek Fuel EX, below.
Another innovation that appears inevitable on mountain bikes is wireless technology such as Sram’s electronic gears and dropper post. The inevitable wireless boom will also involve suspensions such as Fox Suspension’s automated electronic suspension system, called ‘Live Valve’. Sensors are connected to the front and rear suspension and transmit information to them about the terrain. If the terrain gets steeper, the sensors ensure you get more suspension and it locks itself out when you hit a fire road.
And, finally, there’ll be more electricity – and it will be better. The continuing refinement of eMTBs will help transform your electric mountain bike from a speciality leisure two-wheeler into a part of your daily mobility, one that will, ideally, performs just as well on the downhill track as during a commute.
For example, some manufacturers – such as Bulls and Rotwild – have anticipated this development by using the MonkeyLink mounting system, which is connected to an e-bike’s battery and allows the cyclist to snap on lights for the morning commute in seconds. Then, if you want to hit the trails in the afternoon, the lights come off at once. The key is obviously to make eMTBs as flexible and practical as possible. This is why another trend that is gathering traction is a system that allows the cyclist to remove the battery to make their ride lighter and turn it into a non-motorized, muscle-powered mountain bike.
And, of course, inevitably there will be more connectivity. Greyp calls its G6 eMTB the most advanced mountain bike in the world. When available later this year, it will include a 3G module with eSIM, Bluetooth 4.2, a Wi-Fi module and a USB port. It also offers integrated front and rear wide-angle cameras and a host of sensors such as GPS, a 3-axis gyro, a 3-axis accelerometer and a barometer as well as an Android mobile app. The cost? Between 6,500 and 7,500 euros.
Eventually, this technology will enable brands to boost the biking experience with the addition of, for example, gamification and virtual reality. The point of all this added functionality is not merely to make you buy a mountain bike you didn’t know you wanted but to increase the practicality of making these machines important – and pleasurable – parts of urban mobility