It always takes a while to recover from the Interbike trade show but, once we did, three of us who oversee Dirt Rag sat down to discuss trends we saw at the show, what we’re excited about and what we think the near future holds for bicycles and cycling gear.
Katherine Fuller [online editor]: Let’s talk bike stuff. Is it possible for either of you to be impressed anymore at something like Interbike? Would you say you’re a skeptic or you think you can find some cool stuff each year?
Mike Cushionbury [Dirt Rag editor-in-chief]: Mostly a skeptic. Most of the big new things out there we’ve already covered online either as a first look or actually ridden it. Some big brands didn’t even have a space inside the show and their “new” bikes are models we have already gotten our hands on. No one does those massive product intros at Interbike like they did in the past.
Fuller: What what are you seeing as big trends in mountain biking going into next year? Are you excited about any of them in particular for any reason?
Eric McKeegan [tech editor]: There is much more evolution than revolution happening these days. I’m into mountain bikes just being mountain bikes again. The cross-country bikes are cross-country bikes; the DH bikes are DH bikes, everything else is pretty much a “trail bike” now. Ride them all day, ride them on gnarly trails, ride them with your kids. Whatever. It’s becoming less about going fast on a race course and more about having fun, whatever that means to you.
Cushionbury: All-purpose road bikes (we need a new name for “gravel”) are big. The current trends are making it OK to be a mountain biker on the road. You can wear your baggies and helmet with a visor because, sure, you started on the road but in a few miles you might end up on singletrack. These multi-purpose bikes are also way more fun in general to ride than a traditional road bike. Plus, the cool thing is that the technology on “gravel” bikes is coming from the dirt, not the road.
Fuller: I should tell my husband he was an early trend adopter. He always wears baggies on road rides.
McKeegan: And droppers for drop bars. It will be the hottest trend in 2016. Just wait.
Cushionbury: I also see a lot more trail bikes that are based on a cross-country pedaling platform. We’re seeing good performance and great climbing with 130 to 140mm travel or even 150mm on a bike with 27.5 tires. How is something like that not the most fun “cross-country” bike you’ll ever ride?
Fuller: That seems like the sweet spot. Most of us don’t have ultra-smooth trails to ride all the time so why get stuck with race geometry, 100mm of travel and room for only 2.0-inch wide tires?
McKeegan: But on the topic of tires, I think that companies releasing fat bikes right now are on the wrong side of that trend. Fat bikes will go back to being special purpose bikes. I think “plus” bikes (2.8- and 3-inch tires) will become the bike of choice for beginner and intermediate riders looking for extra traction and the comfort provided by the visual of a big tire leading the way.
We’re also starting to see electronic shifting and fancy electronically controlled suspension. SRAM claims you can get two years of life out of button batteries in the new road shifters, up to 60 hours for the derailleurs. But it is getting to be a “mature” market. Throw all the electronics you want at bikes these days; it won’t change the ride experience that much.
Fuller: Is that electronic stuff really better? What’s the point?
McKeegan: My girlfriend asked me the same thing … It is like the super powerful computers we carry around in our pockets. We don’t “need” them, but consumer electronics aren’t about need. What is the point of mountain bikes, anyway?
Fuller: Well, now, there’s a question. But I just don’t see how electronic shifting would enhance my ride.
Cushionbury: Some of our readers will tell you no one needs anything but a rigid singlespeed. But, technology is fun. SRAM’s wireless will see dirt. And the Fox/Shimano relationship will be a driving force. Whether or not dirt riders will accept it remains to be seen.
McKeegan: The nice thing right now is that we all get to decide what mountain bikes mean to each of us. Want a $400 rigid singlespeed? You are covered. Want a $10,000 carbon bike that can ride world cup downhill courses and the local singletrack loop? You can have that, too. But it can be overwhelming. Imagine walking into a shop and asking to buy a Stumpjumper FSR or a Scott Genius: you’ll have three wheel sizes to choose from.
Fuller: So what do you guys think is due for an update in bike tech? Could be anything. I haven’t seen pinion gearboxes taking off or any more super-fancy inverted suspension forks popping up, but we’re getting electronic shifting and more affordable MIPS helmets.
Cushionbury: Floor pumps. We need better floor pumps.
McKeegan: I’m liking all the various options for leaving the hydration pack at home. We’ll also see continued refinements across all tech, and we will see another hub spacing standard soon.
Fuller: Noooooo. No more standards.
Cushionbury: Ha. There’s the big peeve. Why is everything new a standard?
McKeegan: Many in the industry think Boost isn’t enough. But I think the industry will also have to dial some things back; it seems nuts to have full suspension bikes with 100, 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 200mm of travel in a single lineup. And don’t forget all of the wheel sizes. The motorcycle industry actually tried 16.5-inch wheels for a while (versus 16 or 17 inches) so I don’t think even wheel size debates are dead, yet…
Cushionbury: I see brands becoming more and more integrated with their own proprietary parts so you can’t switch things anymore. It started with Cannondale and many are following suit. But I guess you can’t put Suzuki parts on your Kawasaki.
Fuller: But is the expectation of being able to do so the same on motorcycles?
McKeegan: I think the real question is, should it be the expectation?
Cushionbury: The aftermarket always finds a way to make stuff fit.
Fuller: I don’t think we’re going to resolve that one, so, softball question: What did you see that you wanted to go home with? I saw a lot of orange at the show. That made me happy.
Cushionbury: Giro’s purple shoes. Want.