We Predict The Future: What will 2019 hold for mountain biking?

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Close your eyes. Breathe in, and out, and relax. Let your mind drift. Drift like smoke on the air. Picture yourself in a darkened space, floating, floating with the smoke. Now, follow that smoke as it drifts. It is your spirit guide, leading you onwards. Follow it, see where it takes you…what do you see?

Team Singletrack has been finding their inner selves, following their spirit guides, and consulting the oracle in an effort to predict what the future holds. Here we go…let’s see what their shamanic experiences have brought us…

Amanda – Art Director

‘Hurray, I got my seatpost working’

Components for cameras

My first prediction for 2019 is components that incorporate action camera mounts, with consideration taken for weight and aerodynamic-ness. So much research is put into developing components to make them as light as possible, with minimal drag, only for us all to plonk a bulky GoPro mount on wherever we can find room. I’m not suggesting that this is essential, but at a competitive level I can really see an interest for it. I’m picturing bars with GoPro mounts that are flush, seatposts that still fit neatly into the seat tube whilst housing a camera, maybe even helmets being formed in such a way that the mounting points aren’t just a case of finding a gap between vents, but they are in a specific place that won’t create too much drag.

Fully automated droppers

Dropper posts that work in both directions, so you don’t have to sit on it to get it down. I’ve found myself with a very unreliable dropper post recently (it doesn’t like cold weather) and from the moment I fell into a ‘farm puddle’ (poo… the puddle was 90% poo) I have been resentful of having to do a full body force slam into my saddle to get it out of the way. I’ve also noticed that I need to get my saddle down much faster than I used to because I’m riding faster, and there have been times I’ve set off on a descent still sat down.

Andi – Content Demon

GORE® R5 Partial GORE® WINDSTOPPER® Shirt
Andi quite obviously on the pull.

Accessories and Tools That Run Off An E-bike Battery

The eMTB/ebike market is booming and that huge growth in popularity and sales looks like it’s going to continue for the foreseeable future. Now, with all of these riders bobbing around with a battery pack attached to their ride, it’s only going to be a matter of time before manufacturers create products which make use of these power packs too.

I’m 100% certain that we’re going to see light manufacturers create e-bike specific light systems which run of the integrated eBike battery, and this is going to happen in the very near future. But I also expect we’ll see more innovation in this space with the likes of Shimano and Fox using the e-bike battery to run systems like Live Valve and Di2 too.

That’s not all though. What about tools that run off an eBike battery? What if you had a power washer in the boot of your car and that ran off the leftover juice in your bike battery. Finish your ride, swap over the battery and give you bike a hose down before you even get home, just think of the Brownie points.

I suppose as battery technology moves on and battery life extends we might even see the advent of e-bike-packing, a little like glamping with creature comforts like lights, a kettle, or even a wi-fi router all running off your e-bike battery. You heard it here first.

Sub 40lb E-bikes

Yes, another e-bike prediction, but this is the area that most brands are really investing heavily in and it’s where we’re going to see most of the new tech, innovations and the biggest changes. One of the big changes for e-bikes in 2019 is going to be to the weight of them.

Over the past few years bike brands have had a strange relationship with the idea of weight and e-bikes, with most deciding that as a motor is helping you get up and along, weight isn’t really an issue. Those product designers obviously don’t have gates to lift their bikes over!

We’ve had e-MTB’s on test at Singletrack Towers that weigh well over 50lbs, with most bikes hovering around the mid to late 40lbs mark, but for 2019 we’re going to see those figures drop and the first sub-40lbs eBikes are going to hit the market.

Chipps – Editor

chipps rad8 glasses mudhugger
Chipps, squints into the future.

Looking back on 2018, I think some of our predictions were pretty spot-on, such as predicting that a big brand or retailer might close its doors… And Evans nearly did. The prediction of new XTR was a bit of an obvious one, as is the appearance of XT in 2019. Saying that, though, we have yet to get our hands on a working sample of XTR in 2018, so who knows what the timing is. I think that Shimano should aim to catch up SRAM’s relentless march to the future by releasing XT and SLX in the same year. But, they won’t.

Big and bigger wheels.

No, I’m not predicting extra super fat bikes, or 36ers, I’m predicting mis-matched sized wheels on bikes. I think we’re going to see the return of bikes that resemble Trek (and Carver’s) 69ers, with a 29in wheel up front and (now) a 27.5in wheel out back. I didn’t know, but apparently, until this year, odd sized wheels weren’t allowed in UCI races, but they will in 2019 – so, look out for 29in front, 27.5in downhill bikes, as well as trail bikes (it’s what Josh Bender and I have been rocking all year) and then look out for them to appear on e-bikes too. Canyon and Intense have already launched their mullet bikes. Why run a mullet bike? The bigger front wheel can roll over stuff better, while the smaller rear wheel allows for a shorter back end and a smaller, stronger rear wheel for smacking into things.

More things to have to charge up on every ride.

A couple of years ago, you’d have laughed if a friend had told you they couldn’t ride because they needed to charge their bike up, but I think the proliferation of gadget-tech is only going to get worse, with more and more stuff you need to keep on top of charging. We already have electric gears from Shimano, electric shocks from Fox and there are obviously e-bikes that need a charge, but we’re going to see more USB ports and coin-cell batteries in components. Electric dropper posts, more e-gears, live suspension tuning, integration of phone, nav, lights and safety into helmets and glasses. Phone diagnostics of shocks and tyres and even riding performance. I can’t say I’m a fan, but that doesn’t mean it’s not coming anyway.

Big name drug popping.

I think we’re due another drug scandal in pro racing. Given the huge amount of information out there on performance enhancing drugs and supplements, and a worldwide shipping culture, it’s easier than ever for riders looking for an edge to order up a few pills to try. And the line between supplement and banned substance is easy to overstep, often without realising. Look at Maria Sharapova’s recent tennis drugs bust: a supplement she’d been taking for ten years was declared illegal (albeit with a year’s notice) and she got done for continuing to take it. I think similar things are going to happen as riders mail order what they assume are accurate and pure supplements, only to find that they have banned stuff in them, or that they’re no longer legal.

But, even with all of that potentially waiting to trap the unwary and badly informed, I still think there must be a pro-racer out there on the juice who’s going to get it wrong in 2019.

Hannah – Editorial Wrangler

Sleepy little lamb.

The slow death of model years

We’ll see a shift away from model years. Currency fluctuations and reduced economies of scale in Far Eastern production will mean that it makes better business sense to produce something new when it’s new, and leave it be between times. To keep their bikes in the spotlight, we’ll see more limited edition runs of paint jobs and component specs, often around a sponsored rider’s interests or achievements. These will give bikes that are otherwise the same geometry as they have been for more than 12 months a little boost of publicity, keeping them in the minds of potential buyers without devaluing existing stock.

Professionalisation

As brands look for profit margins in a difficult economic climate, they’ll start doing more boring things like internal audits and spend analyses. Sponsored riders will come under scrutiny and be expected to prove their worth. It won’t be enough to have an army of Instagram followers, or an eight year old World Cup win under your belt. Athletes will be asked to provide an account of their actions – regular reports of Google analytics will take up time between shredit filming and Insta-posing. If you want to be sponsored for being a rider, you’d better be really really good. Otherwise, the smart cookies who can operate a spreadsheet will elbow the second tier riders out of the sponsorship. Step forth the MTB manager…

Head Injury Headlines

We’ve seen an increase in awareness of the risks and effects of head injury, CTE, and concussion, which has got be a good thing. I think we’ll see a mix of good news stories and awareness raising – perhaps an industry standard on helmet testing? – and there’ll be a marketing focus on (claimed) protective properties. Sadly, I think there will be at least one news story about a rider that’s struggled to cope with the long term effects of their injuries. I’d like to see sponsors stepping up to support such riders with specialist treatment and rehabilitation, and I’d like to see riders empowered to negotiate that as part of their sponsorship deals.

Women’s Free(ride)dom

Women haven’t had a platform for trick-based competition, so there’s a chicken and egg situation of lack of coverage for role models and lack of goals for role models to pursue. The Vans BMX Pro Cup has shown that there are women out there who can do tricks on bikes, and an audience who want to see them perform. I’ve heard female pro mountain bikers who say they’re keen to have a shot at a Red Bull Rampage style event, and Crankworx has experimented with a women’s showcase event. Expect to see an increase in women riding for shits, giggles, and spectacular photographs.

Wil – Technical Editor

panda bamboo wil
Wil predicts a whole year without any bamboo in it.

Wireless Things

It’s no secret that SRAM has been testing a wireless shifting system, and given the American brand has won many fans on the road with Red eTAP groupset, I have a strong suspicion we’ll be seeing a wireless Eagle version hitting the market in 2019. A wide-range 1×12 drivetrain that doesn’t require you to thread annoying cables inside your frame, and won’t see shifting degrade over time? Sounds bloody good to me. SRAM athletes have also been spotted testing prototype wireless Reverb dropper posts, which could very well be part of the same product launch, and wireless suspension activation could also be in there too. We know Shimano is working on a Di2 version of the latest XTR M9100 groupset, but as to whether the Japanese are also looking at wireless technology remains to be seen…

 Tubeless Insert Integration

Putting foam noodles inside tubeless tyres has been THE hot trend of 2018. What started out as an expensive niche product when Syntace & Schwalbe introduced the Procore system, has led to a plethora of alternative products that are designed to sit inside one’s tubeless tyre to provide impact protection and pinch-flat resistance while running much lower pressures. I’m a fan of the concept – most of these inserts work well, and, if you can stomach the weight increase, there are a lot of benefits to be enjoyed.

Up until now though, most of these inserts have been made by small aftermarket brands. Schwalbe and Vittoria are the only big tyre brands that have developed tubeless inserts. Even then though, those inserts are designed as an addition to an existing wheel and tyre. For 2019, I predict that we’re going to see integrated tubeless insert technology developed by the big tyre brands. You can’t tell me that a brand like Maxxis has been watching the proliferation of tubeless inserts and hasn’t thought “how could we build that technology into a tyre in the first place?”


What do you think? Have we got realistic predictions, or is it just a wish list? Have you got your own ideas – drop them in the comments below.

If you want to see how well we did (or didn’t do) with our 2018 predictions, hop on over here.

Comments (13)

    Wireless shifting won’t take off.

    I think more integrated stuff as there’s so much that can be done.

    Inserts will die a death as everyone moves to carbon wheels with a lifetime warranty that cost thousands.

    The return of pastel colours, away from lurid and lumi full-gnar-enduro outfits.

    A reduction in how many tiers of groupsets and bike models on offer from manufacturers.

    Brant designs some cool bikes and OnOne stuff up the QC and CS (again).

    Workpacking becomes a thing.

    Enduro beats DH in the UCI / Sponsor band wagon.

    The last one about “integrated inserts” I’m sure will be a thing, but whether it is affordable is another matter.

    Lights and Di2 already feed off E-Bike batteries.

    L&M do E-Bike versions of their Seca and Imjin lights specifically for E-Bikes.

    Model year bikes, it’s exactly what puts me off buying from the top 5 or 6 companies as no sooner have you hit the trail another colour or spec hits the shop floor, for the past 3 years I have been riding Ibis HD3 and HD4, Ibis only introduce a new model when they think it’s relevant and therefore an appetite for it, look at any inline business and there are still 2016 models available, and there’s the danger, some brands are beginning to look undesirable due to.the amount of old models in the market place, I’ll stick to niche.

    Are inserts such a big requirement? I’ve never felt the need as running a compliant sidewall at low enough pressure to risk smashing the rim always feels horrible and squirmy to me.

    @Tim – It really depends on your riding style and terrain, and it also depends on what sort of insert we’re talking about.

    Something like CushCore or the Vittoria AirLiner fills up quite a lot of the volume inside the tyre, and provides a more progressive feel to tyre compression – it’s kind of like adding Bottomless Tokens to your tyre.

    But because there’s so much physical support from the insert, you can run very low pressures without the tyre becoming a horrible squirmy mess. And once you experience those very low pressures, I can say it’s quite difficult to go back!

    ST Wil.

    Will thanks for clearing that up, I always wondered how people could run such low pressures without the tyre rolling off the rim!

    Advocacy and access arguments having a break through. No longer consigned to bridleways or ghetto’d into trail centres, I love to see
    1) more permissive access all over
    2) the moutain biking media cover, support and promote it more

    At least some bikes will go back to two chain rings. As Eagle sounds expensive to keep running and some people need a proper low gear for climbing

    There’ll be at least 2 more stupid incompatible BB ‘standards’ to make even more stuff non-standard.

    The last couple of years gear become more and more radical. Longer, slacker, more travel,burlier tyres and heavier. I think in 2019 this stops a bit and comes back to more normal and average user orientated kinda gear. Gear that is lighter and climbs easier.

    Stuff becomes more and more nerdy and difficult to set up right, in 2019 gear will become easier. Set it up once and never think about it but with proper performance.

    Ideas like the Fox Live Valve become more sophisticated and will replacing lock outs on mid class bikes.

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