|That ubiquitous free hub spline pattern may be a thing of the past now that the new XTR is here.|
But the biggest news, to my mind, and a sea change moment in cycling, was the "Micro Spline" cassette body. This small part will radicalize cycling for years to come, just like Shimano's cassette body standard did in 1988.
When Shimano moved the free coasting mechanism from the cog set to the hub, it made every wheel set in existence in 1987 and before obsolete. Cassette technology overwhelmed the cycling industry so quickly that by 1990 free wheels were dead.
This may not happen so quickly with wheels today. Shimano has made this technology a "closed system", meaning that it would have to be licensed from Shimano for others to use it. Shimano has allowed DT Swiss to use the design for its free hub bodies though, so an aftermarket choice will exist there. This does two things- First it controls who gets to use Micro Spline, and secondly, it keeps Shimano's current free hub design relevant for the short term. Shimano doesn't necessarily want the current free hub design to be tossed aside like free wheels were in the late 80's, since it would be a huge strain on the company, not to mention the bike industry, to just dump the old for the new today.
This stuff won't hit the market till the Fall, so effectively not until next season, but I look for it change our wheels entirely within the next five to ten years. How this affects smaller, "artisan" wheel brands like Industry 9 and others will be interesting to see. But make no mistake- wheels will never be the same again.