Nothing stays the same, as they say. But it seems like the cycling world is in a constant state of change. We shared our predictions for what we’ll see in 2020 on road, gravel and cyclocross bikes, and what we think is coming for mountain bikes. But there’s so much more to our industry, our passion, our livelihoods, than just the bikes. Here’s our thoughts on what we’ll see happen to indoor training, the cycling tradeshows, e-bikes, gear, and more in 2020.

Zwift UCI 2020 Cycling Esports World Championship, funisfast

e-Sports will become a (real) thing

OK, it’s already a thing. But it’s gonna get serious. And have its own fan base.

People like you and me will start training for it. Heck, The Sufferfest has already added a training plan specifically for e-sports. Zwift might help you get on a pro team. Rouvy has a $20,000 purse. Rapha (and others) even has clothes now just for riding inside! Ridiculous? Not when there’s money on the line. Now, about those doping controls…

Wahoo Kickr Bike trainer, connected smart indoor training fitness bike

More brands (and riders) will have a stationary bike

Wahoo, Stages, SRM, Wattbike and TrueKinetix just launched stand-alone stationary bike indoor trainers. Why? Because the market is exploding. Riders who are serious about their training know having a dedicated bike set up just for indoor training at all times, they’ll be far more likely to use it. Most of these bikes are also quick to adjust to fit different riders, meaning if there are multiple riders in the same household, you won’t have to switch bikes on the trainer – just make a few quick adjustments. Not to mention that you’re no longer forced to drag your dirty bike through the house, potentially scuffing walls and damaging the floors just to set up your trainer every time you need to spin it out upstairs.

Stationary bikes will of course remain a premium option, but it’s one that more brands will want a piece of in the future. Like maybe Specialized? We could see them (or BH, Trek, etc.) jumping into the stationary bike market as a way to extend their brand into the home. But they’d be expensive. Why? Because Peloton, NordicTrack and their ilk really make their money on subscriptions, not hardware. Bike brands who are only making the bikes will only make money, one time, on the bikes. That’s why Wahoo bought The Sufferfest…it adds recurring revenue. We wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of merger between Zwift and a bike brand.

The golden ticket will be the first brand that runs both “cyclist” training apps (Zwift, Rouvy, Sufferfest, Kinomap) and “fitness” apps (like Peloton), taking a cut of subscription fees. They’re separate for now, but anytime there’s money to be made…

Canyon officially approves a number of bikes for turbo trainer usage, Canyon ZCC eRacing team indoor training, photo by Rene Zieger
Yelling at your customers is optional.

Smart bike shops will take advantage of this

What do you do when your client base starts using something new? If you’re smart, you create an experience that helps sell it. Top-tier smart trainers are nearing (or exceeding) $1,000. The new stationary bikes? Double or triple that. Or more. We think people are going to want to try before they buy. Smart shops will pick the brand and model they like and create a virtual training room that lets customers get a workout in.

Smarter shops will set up an entire section where they can host virtual ride nights (local e-sports league!), having a few stationary bikes on hand and room for customers to bring their own smart trainers. Get a food truck, sell drinks, make it a regular thing. Get us into the habit of coming into your store by becoming a social hub, expert resource, and tender of beers (or just coffees).

e-Bikes will become harbingers of all bikes

This one’s a little further reaching than 2020, But have you noticed the trend among e-bikes? It’s integration, and there’s an arms race amongst top brands to make a high-performing e-bike that looks more like a regular bike. That means hiding the electronics, batteries, motor and more into a streamlined package.

Guess what? We’re going to start seeing a similar level of integration on all bikes, starting at the top end of course. Why? Simple: money. Why do you think every major brand has their own house-brand components? Because they cost the bike brand far less than buying, say, Easton, Ritchey, Race Face, Crank Brothers or whatever components. So the bike brand makes more money, and they just have to convince you and me their components are up to snuff.

Or…

2020 FSA internally routed cockpit integration - ACR, ICR SCR road, gravel, mountain bike handlebar, stem, headset

They’ll make it so you can’t use other brand components. How? By making things so uniquely integrated that it’s impossible for 3rd party products to be used. We’re already seeing this with fully integrated bar-and-stem combos that feed the cables, hoses and wires directly into the frame. It’s awesome, it’s aero, and it’s beautiful. But unless you’re the one making that system (like FSA or Token, who thankfully offer some universal fit solutions), it’s going to be awfully hard to get OEM spec or sell your parts aftermarket. This gives the bike brands more control over the entire experience.

By no means are we suggesting this is a bad thing for riders. “Systems engineering” is why Shimano’s drivetrains work so damn well. And why Cannondale can make ridiculously lightweight bikes. We’re just saying it’s likely to narrow your ability to customize your bikes.

2020 Niner RLT9 RDO carbon gravel road bike gets more accessory mounts and new cable routing

You’ll see more mounts on more bikes

Adventure riding is in. Gravel’s leading the way, but it’s inspired things like wider road bike tires that encourage a little exploration. We’re betting more and more bikes will at least get (and should get) integrated top tube (aka Bento Box) bolts added behind the stem. We’re hearing bag companies talk about making more bolt-on accessories available.

Gravel bikes, like Niner’s latest RLT lineup, keep adding more mounting points, at least for the non-race models. And like Niner, you’ll probably see those brands starting to offer their own made-to-fit frame bags to capture more of the sale. And with those custom bags, hopefully we’ll see more integrated mounts for the frame bags themselves – frame bags are so much better without a bunch of sloppy velcro straps all over the frame.

vee tire rail escape trail mountain bike tire review and actual weights

Wheel and tire sizes will continue to change

Anyone want to guess how long it will be until we see a ‘mullet style’ gravel bike? You know, with a 650b wheel in the back and a 700c wheel up front? We’re seeing this a lot more in the world of mountain biking, so who knows. More importantly though, even though we seem to be getting closer to more generally accepted wheel, rim, and tire sizes, things are sure to change. Substantially wider rims and tires for road? Maybe? Whatever it is though, you know someone will try it.

SOC18: Teravail adds tan sidewalls for road, gravel, & plus along w/ new tire sizes

The drive of the last decade to adopt new wheel sizes probably came down to better availability of tires. Now that there are so many high-quality, lightweight tubeless-ready tires in 650b/27.5″ & 700c/29″ for everything from old school road 23mm tires up to monstrous 2.8″ mountain tires, even 3″ plus & 4-5″ fatbike tires. The choices are almost endless, meaning you can mix & match whatever you want, for almost any discipline.

Oh, and more tan walls are definitely coming. Will there be more non-black rubber treads to match?

More tubeless options for drop bars…with standards!

Challenge Handmade Tubeless Ready tires HTLR, road gravel tires

This past year, we saw long-time hold outs finally add tubeless ready options for the road. And other brands, like Schwalbe and Challenge, continue to push the boundaries of lightweight tubeless road bike tires. As those designs evolve, we’re betting we’ll continue to see the brands refine the casings to further drop weight and improve ride quality. Tubulars? In a few years, we don’t imagine too many pros even wanting to use them.

The other big innovation we’ll see is a move to more standardization of Road Tubeless rim and bead interfaces. There are still a couple of brands, Goodyear in particular, who are holding back on launching high-end Road Tubeless tires until there’s a proper ETRTO standard. Why? Because without that, it’s still the wild west in terms of which tires will safely mount on which rims. Should you wait? We’ll answer this way: We’re all riding tubeless tires on all of our bikes now, and it’s glorious. But better safety standards should help things get even better.

prototype ceramicspeed driven shift-drive chainless mountain bike drivetrain concept

Drivetrain manufacturers will have to reinvent the (pulley) wheel

You can only stuff so many gears into a cassette. Eventually, you’ll run out of room on the axle or the gears and chain will become so thin that durability will begin to suffer. So what comes next? Well, after 13 or 14 speed cassettes, it seems that drivetrain manufacturers might have to look to new concepts to add gears or improve performance. CeramicSpeed’s DRIVEN shaft drive concept is one possible example of how to rethink the traditional drivetrain. Gear boxes are another – though most that we’ve tried up to this point have fallen short of their promised potential. This all may point back to the integration comment above – don’t be surprised if you start seeing bikes that are capable of running a single drivetrain after it’s built into the frame.

Thyssenkrupp Steelworks steel bike frame, ultra lightweight EU-made machine-welded formed premium steel road bicycle frame

Bike builders will figure out new ways to make bikes

We’ve seen a lot of 3D printing pop up in the cycling accessories & component market in recent years – custom saddles, custom aero bars, GPS mounts, even tires! But there’s been a sizable jump this year in using automated technologies to actually build the bikes themselves. That might be a World Cup Track bike or DH & enduro bikes that rely on 3D printed titanium for customization. More fully CNC-machined frames like those from Pole? A couple of companies told us this fall that they are looking at automating carbon frame manufacturing to speed up the notoriously labor-intensive process, and maybe even bring some production closer to home. It might even end up being the next premium steel bikes that could get stamped out of sheet metal and welded by robots.

Bike markers could even branch out beyond the wheel

RedShark BoardBike, packable pedal-powered boat bikes

Maybe those new bikes won’t be limited to roads or trails either…

And there’s no end in sight to new innovations…

This was a big roundup on the future of bicycles, but we have regular crystal ball sessions: Our Patent Patrol series. We’ve seen new drivetrains that put the shift buttons on your fingers, high-end bikes that fold up for travel, even Lauf’s thoughts on how to put the leaf springs from their forks into a bike frame, even transforming recumbents. Sure, not all of that will become real in 2020. But some of it likely will make it to market soon, and we’ll be there to share it with you!

Want more? What do you think is coming?

If you’re looking for a more focused vision, here’s our predictions on the future of Road, Gravel and Cyclocross Bikes, as well as Mountain Bikes. What do you think? What do you want to see on future bikes? Tell us in the comments!

33 COMMENTS

  1. I agree that we’ll be completely inundated with e-bikes, like it or not. I personally wish there were separate web sites for e-bikes so I didn’t have to spend so much time filtering-out information for e-bikes that I don’t care about.

    Regarding the demise of 3rd party products, I used to hate it when a manufacturer used their own in-house brand parts. For example, if I bought a bike with Shimano 105, I wanted the whole group set, not half of the group set and in-house brakes or cranks, etc. However, my opinions on that have changed over the years as companies like Trek and Specialized have started making their own components that rival the quality of the 3rd parties. I rather like it that my latest Domane has the “Blendr integration” for lighting and the like, which makes me stuck with their Bontrager brand, but that’s OK because I’ve been quite impressed with Bontrager’s products for the most part.

    • E-bikes are going to be good for us. If the industry leaders in conventional bikes win with e-bikes too, we’ll see technological development accelerate. People riding e-bikes are cyclists too. They’re going to bee a shared voice that will help to keep infrastructure development growing. It’s all upside.

  2. With sub-30 lbs e-bikes becoming ubiquitous this year, my prediction is e-bike handicapping since biking is the new golf (at least in the Bay Area). Strava and Swift data will be able to be used to set power levels on e-bikes to allow friendly neutral competition on those Saturday morning rides even if your not training every day like your friends.

  3. e-bikes and integration…
    Okay to a point. But I won’t buy one if I am concerned about replacement battery availability in 5 years. That said, I am not sure the new integrated design (Trek Supercommuter –> Allant) use a proprietary battery. It just seems like the Panasonic semi-integrated approach combined used of frame design backed by more universal battery availability.

    I’m also concerned about proprietary mid-drive mounts, but I’d hope the major players maintain consistency.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, but the integrated Trek batteries are just Bosch powertubes with custom covers.

      Just about the best supported and most widely available integrated battery on the market now.

      Bosch promises 7 years support after a product is discontinued. Trek’s usually been pretty good at having spare parts.

      Battery availability is certainly a valid concern, but the example you bring up is probably of little concern.

  4. thats a much better article than the last one on the same subject!

    definitely interesting stuff. The “less standardization” is definitely visible and worrysome. The trainer revolution is also something i see here, one of our big bike shop now has a wahoo station for people to try it out, connected to the tv and all. and if i had the money/space Id probably want one lol

  5. All those mounts add weight, especially to carbon frames. The ultimate expression of a carbon frame is a race bike that provides a stiff exoskeleton that supports the weight of the bike and rider. Forks for road racing bikes have gotten down to 350 grams. The latest Rodeo Labs Spork, with triple cage mounts, is 620 grams. The best a carbon frame with all these mounts can do is around 1200-1300 grams.

    Adventure bikes should be steel or aluminum, imo.

    • That “ultimate expression” is a fairly myopic roadie view of carbon fiber. It isn’t just for weight weenie race bikes anymore because it proven it’s worth as a completely viable material in the adventure realm. We figured this out years ago… As soon as you detach roadie gram counting from adventure bikes you’ll have that moment of clarity, hopefully sooner than later.

      • Mudrock has a point. Adding all those mounts adds weight to a carbon frame. So what exactly is the point of using carbon if you are giving away much of the weight benefit, while still suffering from carbon’s diminished ability to deal with random point loads (falling into a sharp rock etc). Adventure riding puts a premium on getting out of the wilderness with bike intact, rather than pushing for the last 1% of performance.

        • Well i dunno, carbon frame mtb’s go alright, and my carbon xc bike has a had few hot dates with rocks over the years, and its perfectly fine after 8000km of hard training and racing. Carbon can be made weak for point loading if its a roading frame with 1mm thin wall thickness in the middle of the tubes, or it can be very very strong with thicker, but heavier, multi directional layup. It will be heavier than a weight focussed build, but still lighter than aluminium or steel for the same / greater strength, more tuneable ride characteristics and dampening etc etc. Thats why the frames with more attachments points are heavier, they are simply flat out stronger everywhere = more material. Any load that would crack my carbon frame would also severely damage a steel / alu frame. Carbon also happens to be the most easily repaired material. I love the great metal options out there these days, but simply the thought train that a carbon adventure bike will leave you stranded if you fall over is pretty strange thinking considering what good carbon xc / enduro / dh bikes are put through which is many many levels harsher than gravel rides,and i know because i race gravel and cx as well as mtb, have had plenty of stacks in the others too and dont nothing worse than a scratch and a bent hanger. Good carbon frames made well according to their designed purpose are Fudging strong.

          • 100% agreed. The reality is that a properly designed CF off-road frame is in fact more durable and far more easily repaired than any modern light weight metal frame that even remotely approaches the CF frameset in weight. Not only is CF far more easy to repair, but because it’s laid up it can be built to have far thicker and stronger layers in needed areas where you simply can not do that with a thin walled alloy frame. Any off-road impact that damages a well made CF frame to the point it can’t be ridden further is most certainly going to “tin can” or fracture any reasonably light thin walled modern alloy framed bike. Fact!

            The only frame that I personally trashed to the point of it being unrideable from aN off-road crash was one of those “strong” Columbus Foco steel off-road framesets. It tin canned like a beer can on an off-road impact crash I had, and that crash was fairly mild. It was most certainly not anything close to a 10/10 on a crash impact standpoint.

            CF has proven itself off-road to be an extremely durable material. And if it is soooo fragile as an off-road frameset material as the steel troglodytes love to ignorantly claim, perhaps they can explain why virtually 100% of their “really really durable” alloy off-road frames are mated to those “really really fragile” carbon fiber forks????? I sure do not see too many of those really “strong” alloy off-road alloy frames being mated to “strong” alloy forks. In fact, every single one of them I have ever seen ran on one of them “weak and non durable off road” CF forks. LOL.

        • Oddly enough Ti doesn’t make it on Mudrock’s list as a suitable frame material for adventure bikes, only steel and alu. Hey Tom, are you really that hung up on the weight of an eyelet on an adventure bike regardless of material? So much for making a …point? [golf clap]

    • Mounts add weight to frames of all materials which means the benefit of carbon is the same as it is for road and mtb. It’s also useful for creating shapes that are difficult or impossible in metals to improve compliance and clearances that the gravel kids want.

    • It will be interesting to see what Shimano does with this. I’d like to see them use normal sized rear cogs and be compatible with Campagnolo, but wouldn’t be surprised if they did something completely different to either them or SRAM. If that happens I expect a lot of folks will be stocking up on 11 speed parts.

      As for proprietary parts integrated into frames, these will shorten the usable lifespan of those bikes as the first thing which becomes unavailable will be those weird stems, etc, after they get “improved” again. (As with suspension.)

      More mounts are good IMHO, and it’s not like there won’t be plenty of bikes or forks lacking them, so whining that some bikes add a few extra grams to gain versatility is a bit short-sighted. The Rodeo Sporks might weigh a bit more than a straight racing, but at least they actually do the job, and IIRC they’re tested to MTB standards too. Steel frames are good, but steel disc forks end up being a lot heavier than carbon, but not necessarily any more comfortable; if they’re strong enough to take disc loading they’re not likely to flex much. 🙁

      • I’d like to see the return of the 12-tooth small cog. A 53/39 standard crankset with a 12-speed 12-36 cassette is my ideal gearing for road use.

        > so whining that some bikes add a few extra grams to gain
        > versatility is a bit short-sighted.

        It’s not just the weight. Holes are a source of fatigue propagation in carbon fiber.

  6. Watch out for a truly revolutionary new cooperation by many of the world’s leading freelance product designers – Coming together in early in 2020 under the Nex-Gensports brand. Commencing with mostly cycling products, other sporting goods to follow. You read it here first!

  7. I predict that CeramicSpeed will release another iteration of their demo drivetrain in 2020. The cycling press will lap it up again like kittens. Finally, by around the year 2030, the cycling media will start to grow tired of CeramicSpeed’s vaporware claims.

    Also in late 2020, Rapha will announce its complete departure from cycling and morph into a skincare for men products company.

  8. I read with a real interest your last post regarding the 2020 predictions and really enjoyed the reference to a golden ticket for the first brand that runs both “cyclist” training apps and “fitness” apps. This is Kinomap indeed by looking at nearly 100 brands made compatible as of today. A mix of smart trainers, exercise bikes, cross trainers, treadmills, rowing machines, climbers and other Skiergs… as shown on http://www.kinomap.watch/en/compatibility/brand/get/all.

    Taking benefit of our crowd sourced content, we try to remain as affordable as we can, willing to give access to most of the people and match our mission to imagine we can live longer. And have fun when we take care of our health. And travel the world from home. That’s Kinomap. Greetings.

  9. Also, I see bike manufacturers just going one small step further and put in mounts for fenders. It just seems like they are turning their backs on a potential market segment. It wouldn’t be much trouble, they wouldn’t need to change the basic bike they made at all, just have some way to add fenders. I’m not trying to single out any manufacturer, I see it from most manufacturers.

    • I think we’ll see this a happen on everything but pure race road. After wathing CX bike sales go down the toilet because of race specialization, only to come booming back in the guise of gravel, they’re learning their lesson.

  10. “People like you and me will start training for it.”

    Errmmm… Maybe you, but definitely not me. Tried it once. Boring as feck…

    Cheers!
    I.

  11. To me the hardest thing to predict is the future of roadbikes… If the rules about Ebikes stay the same they will remain a niche, If they change the rules a little bit Ebikes will take a huge chunk of the road market and that would change everything…

  12. I remain constant with my broke stance: it is not a tool for exercise, it is a tool for commuting and putting around town. A great tool, but not the same thing as a bike for exercise.

  13. Some in the cycling industry speculate there may be a billion bicycles in use on the planet (sorry, no source). Yeah, I know: too many people lack a bike. Point being, what technologies prevail among the overwhelming majority of rigs? Double-diamond metal frame? Parallelogram derailleur? Rim brake?

    If we’re gonna talk Innovation, shouldn’t it include more than “The 1%” of bicyclists?

    Trickle down? I dunno… How many of the Dutch sport clipless pedals?

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