In general, things are looking pretty bleak for bicycle inventory heading into 2021. The combination of exploding demand, supply chain shortages, and global shipping constraints will likely mean slim pickings when it comes to new bikes and gear.
So does that mean we won’t see any new developments in the world of mountain biking? That’s hard to say, but we can predict a few things that may happen in 2021 – or beyond.
Partially updated models?
Due to all of the issues outlined here, it’s likely that we won’t see as many completely new models for 2021. That makes us wonder if we’ll see some partially updated bikes.
Full suspension mountain bikes offer the unique possibility to update just the front or rear triangle, or the suspension linkage, shock, etc. If a brand has a bike that say, doesn’t have the best rear tire clearance, it’s feasible that they could come up with a new rear triangle design that could be produced and shipped more quickly than a complete bike. We’ve seen this before in the form of brands offering updates to existing frames, while rolling the same changes into the new model.
Small changes in features like tire clearance, suspension travel, geometry (through different linkage, shock stroke, fork length, and adjustable headset cups), and accessory mounts could be enough to make an older bike exciting again – without having to resort to a complete redesign.
Fluctuating build specs
Limited part supplies may mean that bike that’s finally in stock, may not have the same build you saw in the catalog. Even before pandemic related issues, most companies would state that “specs are subject to change” in their catalogs and on their sites, but now it seems far more likely that this will be the case.
More tubeless bikes on the showroom floor?
This is purely speculation, but it seems that since tubes have been in short supply, it would make sense that more complete bikes that are already spec’ed with tubeless tires would be shipped without tubes. Many bikes that are sold with tubeless tires, tape, and valves are still shipped with tubes since it makes it easier during the manufacturing and shipping process, and guarantees your bike won’t show up with the sealant already dried out.
But shipping without those tubes eliminates one more component that could cause delays. Shops would have to add the sealant and seat the tires, but considering the alternative of not having bikes to sell, they’d probably be OK with that.
It seems likely that in an effort to streamline production, manufacturers may try to consolidate tire sizes across their range. Given that 29ers have taken the edge over 27.5″, it stands to reason that we’ll see more 29″ bikes this year, and fewer 27.5″.
However, the flip side of that is that it may come down to what’s in stock when it comes to tires, tubes, and/or rims. If tire manufacturers are sitting on a pile of 27.5″ tires but won’t have 29″ for months, they may push more 27.5″ bikes just to sell… something.
Continued geometry evolution
Many brands are already searching for the limits of modern geometry. But there are also quite a few bikes that haven’t been updated in a few years and are due for a refresh. Assuming these bikes make it to market this year, we can expect continued updates in terms of slacker head tube angles, steeper seat tube angles, longer reach figures, reduced fork offset, and more room for tires, and droppers.
Rise of the High Pivot
Contrary to our former prediction of partially updated models, we do predict that a handful of the larger mountain bike brands will adopt high pivot suspension designs on their enduro bikes, if not their downhill bikes too.
The high pivot platform has seen success on the Forbidden Druid and the Deviate Highlander this year, and the larger brands are noticing it; take the Norco Shore big mountain and freeride bikes, for example. OK, their suspension designs are a little more complicated, integrating a high main pivot with a Horst Link, but it’s proof of concept from an established brand.
More room for accessories?
Whether in the form of mounts to carry tools & spares, or semi-integrated bags to do the same, some of the best bikes of 2020 made it easier to carry the typical gear for your ride. In our opinion, this is an awesome trend. The ability to get that gear off of your back or out of your pockets and onto the bike (where it’s always there) is welcomed by many.
And if you still rock a hydration or hip pack, you can simply opt not to use the accessory options on the frame. Because of that, this is one trend we hope to see continue for 2021 and beyond.
More flat mount brakes for MTB
Shimano already offers flat mount MTB brakes for some groups, and Magura’s had them for a couple years. SRAM has a flat mount Level brake, but it’s OEM-only for now.
It could be time that more manufacturers started using them for MTB. After all, they could get away with tighter rear triangles (even with larger 180mm rotors!), lighter weights, and they look a lot sleeker, too. However, on the road & gravel side, from our experience not all frames offer the best experience when it comes to adjusting flat mount calipers – which is usually a direct result of how well the frame was constructed and how the brake mounts were faced before heading out the door. If companies can get that right, it would be nice to see one standard across all bikes.
Noble (shown above) did it in 2018 and gave a great explanation of the benefits. Surprisingly, Cannondale has it on their budget hardtails, and Sour Bike’s latest patch has them. There are a couple others out there, and we hear more are coming.
eMTB gets radder, and bikes will get lighter
At this point, it’s not even worth arguing about. E-mountain bikes are here to stay, and they’re only going to get more popular. Heck, we even have entire mountain bike parks built specifically with eMTB in mind.
While we think the category is still sorting itself out a bit, we think this is the year where we start seeing more clearly defined designs emerge. And we’ll see bikes go in two directions… mid-travel “trail” bikes that get lighter, and longer travel bikes that pack more power.
While we just saw new motors from Bosch and Shimano in 2020, 2021 is the year that all the bikes with those new, smaller, lighter and more efficient systems start shipping. A few made it through the fray to launch in 2020 (like Patrol, Merida, Privateer, and Pivot), but more are coming.
There will be brands like Specialized that use proprietary systems to make things really light, such as the bar-setting Levo SL. And long-time e-bike makers like Bulls that innovate to add more power and capacity to capable full suspension platforms.
We’ll all have to help out new riders
Not a product trend per se, but with a flood of new riders hitting the trails for the first time in 2020 and 2021 (or, at least, the first time in a long time), we should look for ways we can welcome them to the sport. Maybe that’s teaching them trail etiquette. Or helping them set suspension sag and tuning, going tubeless and explaining tire pressure, or just getting their seat height dialed. Remember what it was like when you were first starting out and help get your new future riding buddies up to speed.
Or *cough* just pointing them to Bikerumor to see all the latest gear!
From a brand perspective, they’re looking at ways they can get consumers up to speed on the tech and features and bikes that will most benefit them. Maybe that’s with tuning guides, more video content, whatever.
Cities will also likely take note of the increased need for recreational opportunities. But, don’t leave it to them to figure it out. Hit up a City or County Council meeting with your local trail builders and push more more trail funding and development. The timing is great and the interest is high, and the smart cities that are trying to attract a new wave of remote workers need to do anything they can to promote quality of life!
Curious what’s coming for road and gravel bikes? Check our predictions for drop bar riding, but start with our cycling industry predictions to see the major trends that will affect every category. What do you think? Did we miss anything? Got your own theories on where things are headed? Leave your thoughts in the comments!