|Circa 2007 Haro Sonix w/650B wheels|
So, a lot of folks are going to start to wonder, "what's next" in terms of mountain biking. Why? Because we seem to get bored with the latest and greatest at warp speed anymore. You know, "that was soooo 27 seconds ago!". That attitude scares the bejesus outta marketing wonks, and the general public. So....once the newest stuff hits, the next trend is always being looked for, and here is what is going to hit you all upside the head in the coming months and years.
29"ers, once the bastard chile of da mountain bike world, is now "normal". That's bad. Bad for marketing "cutting edge" products. Long travel 29"ers are very problematic, the short chain stays/tire clearance/triple crank clearance trifecta being nigh unto impossible to achieve with big 29 inch diameter wheels. So, the marketers have decided for you that 120mm-130mm is going to be the limit for travel on 29 inch wheeled mountain bikes.
What are you going to do if you want 5" of travel and beyond with "big wheels"? You will get the "compromise wheel solution" called 650B by their supporters. (I still like 27.5"ers, but that's just me.) Why? Because the marketing wonks have latched on to this solution big time. Trust me, you will hear a lot about this wheel size starting next spring for the 2013 model year. I can't even make any hints right now, but I have actually seen some things, and it is coming. Long travel 27......er, 650B- is going to be "the next big thing" in mountain bikes.
Plug In- Charge Up- Tune Out: The other "big deal" you are going to start hearing a lot about is electronic shifting for mountain bikes. That's right- you won't have to tune your bike again, and shifting will be by buttons that won't fail you......well, that is until the power goes out. The only two cables on your bike will be hydraulic lines to your brakes. Yeah, and by the way- that will be an 11 speed set up too. I expect that the range of gearing will stay constant- 11-32/36, but the jumps between gears will tighten up even further. Shimano is really big on the tighter gear ratios right now, so look for that to happen instead of a wider gearing range.
The death of 9 speed will be hastened by all of this with Shimano and SRAM dropping 8 speeds to bare entry level rigs, and 9 speed will be the realm of cheap "mountain bike shaped objects". Real mountain bikes will all be 10 speed systems, or the aforementioned 11 speeds.
|Fat-bikes: More than just for snow.|
I expect someone will crack open a box someday soon with a fat-bike specific suspension fork. I can see dual suspension fat bikes being sold, (tinkerers are already making convincing examples from 29"er FS bikes), and more materials technology is going to be thrown at this genre' of bike to help make wheels lighter, stronger, and more fun and capable.
There may be some drive train tweaks that will make the bikes work with wide range triples, 9-10 speed cassettes, and 100mm wide rims with 4.5" rubber. I also expect to start seeing someone offer a conversion, or an outright designed 170mm internally geared hub. Belt driven too. Accessories for fat-bikes will start to appear like fenders, racks, and components designed to work in a wide range of temperatures and severe conditions. Tubeless tire systems and tubeless ready tires may even be a possibility.
Those are the things you're going to start hearing a lot more about in 2012 and beyond.......