Walking around the show, it’s easy to spot obvious trends. But we talked to product managers, brand ambassadors, and the marketing folks at hundreds of companies over the four days of Eurobike to get the real scoop on what’s coming for mountain bikes in 2018 and even 2019…
BIKES CONTINUE TO GET LONG, LOW & SLACK
The Transition Sentinel is just one of many bikes that continue to push things out further. The benefit? Trail capable bikes that climb better with weight more over the front wheel thanks in part to steeper seat tubes that allow riders to reach across those longer top tubes for better pedaling, but get out of the way on the downhills thanks to the ubiquity of dropper posts. Paired with short stems and wide handlebars, that better weighted front wheel actually makes the bike easier to control through technical sections as well. And the lower bottom bracket and slack headtube means the bikes are more stable at speed and when attacking the steepest descents.
The flip side is that total wheelbase has to be kept in check, so some manufacturers are trying even harder to trim chainstay length, just embracing the added length, or turning to shorter offset forks.
Long, low & slack isn’t reserved just for Enduro bikes either. Mid travel trail bikes have been getting in on the move too. We even see more lightweight cross-country hardtails that are using more modern trail bike geometry to lend more stability & predictability to handle the trend of more technical XC race courses.
SHORTER OFFSET FORKS
With the move to longer top tubes and slacker head angles, forks have had to adapt to keep the wheelbase at a reasonable length and keep fork trail in check. This is usually accomplished at the crown, simply by reducing the distance that the stanchions sit out in front of the steerer tube. Doing this increases the fork’s trail, though, which has mixed results depending on your speed. We’ll dive deeper on this in our Suspension Trends article later in the week.
LONG TRAVEL ONE-BIKE QUIVERS
A couple of brand managers for bike and suspension companies noted that more people seem to be opting for a longer travel bike and just using it everywhere. With bikes becoming more capable and suspension kinematics more dialed than ever (like on the new Polygon and Marin bikes with NAIL’D rear ends that actually pedal well uphill), there’s less reason to have a trail bike, enduro bike, and a park bike. But, at the extremes, they’re also seeing that some folks are going really long on their “big” bike and getting a 29er full suspension XC bike for racing and fast trail days.
LONGER TRAVEL 29ERS
For a while we’ve been seeing new long travel 29ers from Trek, Evil, Yeti, Intense, and Transition (among others) launch, and there’s definitely more to come. The interest is certainly high, too – both from potential buyers and our colleagues in the press.
Fox’s European marketing manager says last year they sent out mostly 27.5″ 170mm 36 forks for media review samples. This year, that’s almost completely flipped, with 8 of 10 long travel 36 forks requested being 29ers.
It’s not only full on Enduro 29ers, but longer travel do-it-all trail bikes as well. The land of 27.5″ trail bikes is getting encroached on by big wheeled 29ers as the heavy-duty tire availability continues to grow – a good bit of credit going to 29ers popping up on the World Cup downhill race circuit.
Specialized has been doing it for a while, and we just saw the South African made Sahmurai S.W.O.R.D. tire plug system that mounts inside your bar ends. Add to that a Fork Cork fork lower steerer plug to carry spares, a One-Up multi-tool in the top of the steerer, or a CleverStandard chain tool replacing bar end plugs. There are still plenty of hollow tubes in a bike, and surely someone out there is trying to stuff gear out of your pockets and onto the bike.
NEW BAR & STEM OPTIONS
We’ve been seeing more and more 35mm handlebars and stems bringing added stiffness to aggressive trail & enduro bikes sporting 800mm and wider bars. Some companies are going even farther to get added stiffness and control without the added weight penalty. A Scott Genius we saw went down the path of an integrated bar/stem, with full carbon construction Syncros in a tiny 35mm stem length that essentially strapped a steerer clamp on a wide carbon riser bar.
E-mountain bikes are surely another huge trend that can’t be ignored. In Europe, they’re basically saving the cycling industry, bringing in new sales at higher average unit costs. Word from many brands is that sales of traditional mountain bikes are way down, but sales of much more expensive motor-assist bikes keep going up. And people are going into shops to buy them rather than ordering online, which helps every end of the industry.
In the U.S., we’re still warming up to the concept, and trail access is a hot button issue (although we are being quickly reminded that many of our iconic riding locales are already rideable on proper motorbikes.) What we’ve seen time and again is that anyone that’s actually ridden one gets it, and those who haven’t still don’t buy into the concept. But with major global-but-US-based brands like Specialized, Trek, and Cannondale now offering them, we expect e-bikes to start making inroads everywhere over the next couple of years.
Keep an eye on Bikerumor over the weeks to come as we delve deep into new & forthcoming mountain bikes, and even more so into the suspension trends that will be driving them…