2016 – Predictions and prognostications

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By Barney

Well here we are. On the cusp of another year, looking forward to the future, and (at least round here) hoping like hell that it involves less flooding than the past. And on a more two-wheeled knobbly-tyres note, we’ve collared some of the best minds that we could muster at such short notice, and we present to you, here, (for your undoubted amusement in 2 years’ time) some MARVELLOUS PREDICTIONS for the state of the world in 2016. So grab your finest glass of port, slip something manic into the stereo and relax with our predictions for 2016. Cue the wavy wayback machine: OooooeEEeeeeEEOOOoooOOOooooo…

Antony De Heveningham

Ant is a keen and incisive master of the Bristol trails, with his very nose keenly sniffing out the pulse of mountain biking in the South West. You might know him by his ironic pseudonym, Mr Agreeable. And naturally, he has some pithy observations:

  1. Trail dogs will be ousted in popularity by trail cats.

Thanks, Ant. I can see it now: trail centres will start to do a roaring trade in plasters and minor antiseptic for the moderate abrasions caused by the fitting of leads to cats. And the washing of cats post ride. And the transportation of untranquilised cats.

2. A serious one (not that the above one wasn’t serious): Wales will decide to introduce Scottish-style access.

More like it. It’s a hotly debated topic, but there is a growing body of support to the notion that the best way for Wales to modernise its trail network is to adopt a Scottish access template rather than the current English one.

3. A mountain bike company will come up with a female-centric “This Girl Can” style marketing campaign, and clean up.

What with the heated debate around the sexism/harmless fun dichotomy of a certain tyre manufacturer’s calendar it’s odds on that there’s going to be something like this arriving, if it hasn’t already.

Incidentally, we asked Ant to expand on these missives for this article, to which he replied, “I’m a writer, not a mathematician”. So he leaves us on yet another hotly debated topic.

Jason Miles

Reviewer, a.k.a. Terrahawk, mate of professionally-sideburned motorcyclists, and rather fast chap, all things considered:

1. E-Bike Tuning – Apparently a derestricted electric bicycle is illegal for road use. It’s probably illegal for bridleway use as well. I can’t see that stopping a lot of people carrying out the (probably quite straightforward) [very, actually – Ed] hack to get the thing to go faster. There’s probably ways to modify the motor to make it go even faster still, so we’ll be seeing that happen as well. 2016 could be the year that illegal, uninsured electric motorcycles take to the roads. Under-protected riders whizzing around, breaking speed limits, wishing their brakes would work better…

This is eminently possible, in your scribe’s opinion. Although with the increase in motor output and hence speed comes a concomitant increase in battery drain. So your average under-protected rider is only going to be doing 70mph unassisted for three minutes – after which he’s in the middle of nowhere with a 60lb bike. Good luck with that, mate.

2. Dynamo Hubs – a mainstream hub manufacturer should acquire a dynamo hub company, ramp up production and bring this great technology to the masses at an affordable price point. No more excuses for crying off a night ride with your mates because you ‘forgot’ to charge your battery, no more batteries conking out mid-ride and thankfully fewer fires/explosions due to cheap lights/chargers bought on Ebay malfunctioning when they’re plugged in.

Nice idea, this. Can they survive the rough and tumble of mountainous Gnar? All evidence says ‘yes’. They’re pricey at the moment, but economies of scale would sort this, and they’re really not all that heavy. Do they have the oomph to fire up the modern panoply of uberlights though? Well now, there’s the rub… [all they’d need to do would be to top up the battery, in the same way a car alternator doesn’t directly power your sidelights – Ed]

David Hayward

a.k.a. Nachmir. Video games guru (yes, really – he’s got bona fides and everything), destroyer-of-rims and staunch Gnardtail Advocate.

1. More integrated sensing and electronic guff in or on bikes. More and more companies are messing around with sensors, intelligent shocks, cameras that collate different kinds of data, smartphone apps, and so on… I don’t expect anyone to come up with a flawless, integrated approach in the next year, but I certainly expect to see more bike companies crawling toward it. I just hope it doesn’t end up at the point where I’m at the top of a descent with my bike telling me it needs a firmware update. That’s already happened to me with a camera, and it sucks.

Computer says ‘Pffffft!’

Not much to add to this – David, Chipps and I saw Magura’s integrated approach at Eurobike in 2015, and Things are Definitely Heading In This Direction (caps. intentional)… but look at our April Fools prediction for..er.. last April. Not quite as far fetched at it seemed then, is it? *worried look*

Wil Barrett

Freelance bike journey, pet Australian and hence international Man of Mystery.

1. Tyres: While the past 5 years has seen more experimentation in the wheel and tyre world than at any other period of the mountain bike’s existence, the dust is likely to settle somewhat on tyre standards. Plus is here to stay, and it’s going to seriously eat into the sales of fat bikes. Unless you’re riding snow or sand, fat bikes are simply too heavy and too sluggish to ride on regular singletrack for the average rider. Plus-sized tyres offer many of the same benefits, but without the same design limitations of a fat bike.

salsa pony rustler, plus bike, chubber
Getting plussy

As for tyre width, it appears that the 2.8in width is more likely to gain traction (eh? eh?!) [*groan* – Ed] over the 3.0in size. Why? Because a 2.8in plus tyre gives you a bigger volume and more rubber on the trail than a 2.3in, without turning the bike into a bouncy castle. Once a tyre reaches 3.0in wide, you end up with a lot of undamped suspension, and you’re also carrying additional rotational weight. We do expect some big improvements to casing structures for plus-sized tyres however, because current offerings are proving a little too delicate in real-world riding conditions.

Ooooh, controversial. But at the same time, he’s probably right. And those sidewalls do need some attention. I’ve seen a colossal amount of hot pinch-puncture action this year. Right now, tubeless is essential on chubbies. ESSENTIAL.

2. 29er Trail Bikes:  The humble big-wheeler has had a rough time since 650b [27.5in – Ed] came to the party. Only a couple of years ago, Trek and Niner were both showing off 29er Downhill prototypes, which may have suggested that the big wheels were set to replace 26″ in almost every mountain bike genre. But then Goldilocks came along and put a hold on that idea. Now that 650b (I still prefer calling it that) [and then we edit it – Ed] has become well established, some brands are still looking to progress their 29in mountain bikes with new developments such as the Boost 148 system offering serious benefits to handling. With stiffer and stronger wheels, and the possibility for even shorter back-ends, the 29er trail bike will enjoy a resurgence through 2016, as bikes like the Pivot Mach 429 Trail and the Trek Fuel EX 29 prove just how much fun a big wheeler can be.

As a self-confessed lankster, I think this is a great thing. With the caveat that, unless it’s done really, really well, those lovely stiff wide rear axles give me heel-rub something fierce.

3. Fox Electronic: They’ve already made it public that they’re developing it, but expect to hear more news about Fox’s electronically controlled suspension. RockShox may have beat them to the punch with the e:i system used on Lapierre, Ghost and Haibike models, but don’t for a second think that Fox will be resting on its laurels. Electronically controlled suspension damping presents a whole new array of opportunities, with automated pedalling aids being one of the primary goals. While the e:i system is brilliant, it isn’t modular. The three-year patent on e:i runs out this year, so we’d expect RockShox to strengthen its offerings with an electronic suspension module that can be retrofitted to your existing bike.

 Let’s all look at that April Fools article again, shall we? Hmmmm.

And finally, what do I think? Not that my opinion is worth much, but I tend to echo many of the opinions herein. 29ers will get a resurgence, with people already posting DH victories on them. The geometry on 29er Enduro bikes is becoming more and more extreme – heck, even Chris Porter has made a 29er Geometron – admittedly it was apparently made to show how much worse than the 27.5in one it was – but to his annoyance apparently he keeps on selling them…

Electronic shifting will continue to trickle down the Shimano pantheon – XT this year [maybe give it another year – Ed], and the others will inevitably follow eventually. But we’ll see. On a shifting note, Shimano SLX will go 11 speed, and SRAM will bring out an ultra-budget cassette to compete with XT’s world-conquering £80 one.

Fox will release some budget forks under the Marzocchi label to compete with RockShox’s cheaper offerings. It’ll take them some time to properly assimilate the Italian company, but we’ll start to see them this year.

Got any predictions of your own?

Add them to the comments below!




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Comments (10)

    I wonder how much power a dynamo hub at 60mph can produce…you know, to charge up that rapidly-draining battery on a souped-up E-Bike…?

    A Fuckton I believe is the correct term of electrickery.

    I believe the bubble will burst. Not on mountain biking per se, but on the relentless pursuit of marketing man’s “next big thing”. We’ve seen a lot of developments in recent years – wheel sizes, natch – but I think many riders will be cured of upgraditis ‘cos bikes are too damn good already.

    I predict this because (a) I am Mr Demographic and what happens to me is often a general trend (b) I have spent many hours trying to find something to buy for my bike, ultimately buying nothing because I can’t think of what “needs” improving.

    Ed – whenever I see 27.5 I edit it to 650b (which is at least accurate) in my head

    @stilltortoise I concur, the next big thing ends up stagnating the marked as no one will comit to spending a few grand on something that will be old hat by the end of the year. I at least to get something that will me at least moderately current in Three years time. I’m all for choice, but trying to decide what sort of bike I need is rediculous, unless I am buying more than three!

    “a mainstream hub manufacturer should acquire a dynamo hub company” – what, like Shimano?

    ” fat bikes are simply too heavy and too sluggish to ride on regular singletrack for the average rider.” – err, nope. This below average rider finds them just fine, although….

    “Right now, tubeless is essential on chubbies. ESSENTIAL.” – err, nope again. Very much dependent on where you ride.

    I agree with the 29er trail bike. Having supped from the wagon wheel cup hell would have to freeze over for me to go onto a smaller wheel size. Current available 29 trail bike Geo is pants. Nukeproof 290 is heading in the right direction. Could get a Nicolai, geometron or pole but would like to wait. The hand made ally frames come in at half a kg more than the mass produced frames.

    I agree with aracer.

    And 650b rollsxof the tongue so much easier than 27.5

    “….Unless you’re riding snow or sand, fat bikes are simply too heavy and too sluggish to ride on regular singletrack for the average rider”

    What an utter load of balderdash!!!

    Guessing the said author has never tried one.


    How about a dynamo hub being used as an energy recovery device for braking? Instead of wasting it away as heat on a disc, charge up your lights, or top up the E-bike battery?

    And as soon as someone on a hacked E-bike mangles someone else, or themselves, there’ll be a lot more interest in them from the law makers and enforcers.

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