Following 2016’s Trump, Brexit, the death of many a rock and film star, 2017 was going to have to go some to be more eventful than the year before. And in our own little world of mountain biking, how was 2017 going to shape up compared to the events of 2016? Here is our take on ten of the significant events of the year.
E-Bikes crept into the mainstream
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here to stay. The industry is pretty unified in pushing forward their development; Eurobike was awash with them with relatively few man-powered machines on show to balance the equation. Europe itself is awash with them too. This summer I rode a few days in the Austrian Alps and didn’t see a single other bike in all that time that didn’t have a motor. The advantages of all this industry attention? They’re now starting to look more normal, weigh in at 40lbs for a FS and even traditional hard core companies like Orange are starting to make them. The disadvantages? Bike Parks are starting to charge more for them, more of your mates are likely to have one and storm up the hill ahead of you, and the haters are still going to hate.
High end componentry is brought to the masses
The natural cycle of R&D trickledown means that at some point in the near or distant future most of today’s high end kit becomes affordable by the mortal mountain biker and the standard of all our gear gradually improves. This year saw two big developments in the drivetrain world. The first was the appearance of Shimano XT Di2 (OK, this was technically released in 2016 but wasn’t really available until this year). At this stage it remains prohibitively expensive for many but lots of this year’s bikes feature Di2 compatibility suggesting changes ahead. At the other end of the affordability spectrum, SRAM’s release was more of a gush than a trickle as they skipped X1 and went straight to GX 12 speed in a bid to get ahead of the market.
Mountain Mayhem Retired
2017 saw the 20th and last ever Mountain Mayhem as we have known it. Over the years the event has become the longest-running 24hr race in the world, a rite of passage for the British mountain biker and its own institution. But as Dylan told us, times are a-changin’. News from Pat Adams and team is that Mayhem will continue but in a different – and yet to be revealed – guise. As a sign of our appreciation for all he and Mountain Mayhem have done we honoured Pat this year with our 2017 Legend Award.
Mike Hall died
One of the tougher things that happened in 2017 was the death in April of endurance cycling legend Mike Hall who was killed when he was hit by a car in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. We have written our own tributes to Mike but perhaps one of the measures of the extent of his achievements was the publication of his obituary across the mainstream press.
His friends and family took the tough decision to go ahead with Mike’s own long-distance event, the Trans Continental, just a few months after his death. Sadly a rider in TCR was killed when he too was hit by a car. These two deaths have provided us with a sharp reminder of the risks we take in pursuit of our goals.
DH went big (wheeled)
And so the wheel size debate trundles ever on, this year taking place on the DH courses of the world. The Santa Cruz Syndicate was the first to show its hand revealing the 29er V10 at Lourdes in April. After qualifying the Syndicate had three riders in the top six and the jury hardly needed any time to return their verdict. And then came the weather showing us all that wheel size matters much less than decent conditions. But don’t worry, Greg Minnaar’s win at Fort William on big wheels means that this debate will continue for a good while yet.
The end and new beginnings
It isn’t just domestic 24 hour races that have seen changes this year. As the international race scene goes from strength to strength many domestic race organisers are still facing an ongoing battle to balance the affordability and attraction of races against health and safety demands, liability risks, huge costs and difficulty obtaining sponsors. But it’s not all bad news with some events like ‘Ard Rock proving immensely popular.
2017 marked the end of the of the British Downhill Series as we know it with Si Paton citing ongoing losses due to low race numbers as his reason for stepping aside. The national Enduro series was cancelled at the start of the year before a new series for 2018 was announced a few months later. And many events still struggle to attract women. There have been just a handful at many but yet the inaugural HopeTech Women’s Enduro and Foxhunt were massively popular. 2018 seems like a good time to show your support for your local events be it as a racer or a marshal.
Sam Hill saw off Enduro and tried to see off the DH bike
While we all spend time and money debating what wheel size, bottom bracket diameter or bar width is better / faster / more awesome, Sam Hill has yet again proved that all of this is inconsequential compared to rider skill.
The downhill legend won the EWS at his first attempt at the full series coming outside the top five in just one race. In his spare time he managed a couple of DH races too with a top 20 place at the Fort William World Cup and sixth in the World Champs at Cairns, on his Enduro bike.
Evolve or die
The pressures of our consumer society continue to change and shape the way we buy our bikes, obtain our information and access our services. Sadly the loss of yet another local bike shop (LBS) is barely even noticed nowadays as the industry continues to adapt in an attempt to merely survive or make a fortune for its investors. This year marked the end of publication of What Mountain Bike? after 17 years and 200 issues and the owners of WiggleCRC continued their quest for world domination with the takeover of German Bike24. To improve customer choice Specialized have finally followed in Trek’s steps and announced a customisation option for its flagship Stumpy and Enduro bikes and several bike manufacturers like Intense and Cotic are aiming to reduce their costs and improve their services by moving to a direct to consumer distribution model. Time will tell what impact this has on our LBSs and the customers although it is bound to vary from company to company .
Rachel Atherton stopped winning everything
Bookending your 2017 season with huge injuries is always going to upset your plans, let alone if you’re Rachel Atherton and you’ve just come off the back of a perfect 2016 season winning all the Downhill World Cups and the World Champs too. Even in her truncated year Rachel managed to win a World Cup and the national title plus pulled off one of the greatest saves of all time. Stepping up to fill her cycling shoes was Tahnee Seagrave who came away with three World Cup wins. Assuming a fit Rachel, next year is looking like being another good year for the British Women DH racers. Sadly Manon Carpenter won’t be joining in after her surprise announcement that she’s retiring from racing as she is no longer happy to take on the level of risk which is required to be competitive at the highest level. A look at Rachel’s injury list suggests she might be on to something.
Away from DH, Nino Schurter followed Rachel’s example and ended 2017 with a perfect season on the XC courses of the world. Annie Last did the Brits proud and ended the year with a World Cup win and second in the World Champs and Katy Winton took third in the EWS.
No new standards (Well, kind of…)
For the first time in far too long, we appear to have made it through a year without any new standards. Whilst this should be a cause for much celebration I’m sad/frustrated to say a) that it hasn’t meant that the compatibility of wheels on my household’s bikes has improved at all and b) it doesn’t mean that the spare BB you have squirrelled away will fit the bike you eventually need it on. Some companies have seen enough though and have reached decision time, like with Rock Shox going Boost only on many of their forks. Mind you, we’ve been here before like Giant’s move to 27.5in-only a few years back which they backtracked on with this year’s Anthem 29er. Maybe it’s worth keeping those old 26in tyres after all.