|A new tapered steer tube standard- 1 1/9th to 1.8", as seen on the 2020 Bulls Sonic Evo|
While watching it rain yesterday, I decided to peruse more show news from Eurobike. This has quickly become the de facto "dealer trade show" for the world now that the pesky Interbike show has finally gone by the wayside. With technology having the impact that it has had, one show for the World is maybe all we really need.
To wit: "pinkbike", the mtb site, had virtual video tours through the halls of Eurobike showing off highlights for mountain bikers. They also showed some of what is charming about trade shows, and that is the weird and wonderful gadgets, inventions, and ephemera that one can find while wandering around at one of these events. Kudos to the site for making no commentary on some of these weird things. Raspberries to the site for the occasional show of "bro-culture humor". But anyway......
The single most interesting thing I saw was from Bulls, a German based brand. They have HPC's, (e-mtb's, for those stuck with that bad moniker) of course, and one of their newest ones, the Sonic Evo, has a new tapered steer tube dimension. It is a traditional 1 1/8th at the top, but swells out to a 1.8" at the crown of the fork. Rock Shox and SunTour are buying into this idea, for now, and are making the standard "open", meaning other companies (Fox) are open to using it if they so choose. Okay.....so why?
Rock Shox was quoted in an article I read, and their officials were saying, it was a customer request and that they would watch to see "where this goes" for the future. (Read: Will there be any further OEM interest? If so, it's on like Donkey Kong! If not- it will die) SunTour said that it was a necessary evolution of fork/headset/frame design pushed by the electrification of mountain bikes. The heavier bikes with more power are exerting higher peak loads and this idea will help to handle that. Who is right?
Will it become an adopted standard? The folks at "pinkbike" weren't so quick to say it will. Here's the thing- If other manufacturers see the benefit in terms of marketing, engineering, and in preventing possible warranty/liability issues, then yes. It's going to be pushed out for HPC's particularly. If so, since HPC's and human powered bicycles are still so closely related, you might see some cross-pollination with DH bikes, or really long travel 29"ers. But one could also argue that this points to where HPC (at least on the MTB side) and human powered bicycles start to part ways.
Once standards start getting developed for electrified two wheelers, then the dam may break, and many connections to standard bicycles may cease to exist. Just like what happened a hundred years ago when folks found out that simply strapping on a gasoline motor to a bicycle wasn't enough. Parts and pieces had to be developed to handle the higher peak loads and forces a motor brings to the table. And we all know where that ended up.
And standards are being changed for HPC's in the MTB realm. Both Hope and Magura have 220mm rotors and brake adapters now in an answer for a need for better brakes on electrified MTB's. Magura also has an integrated cockpit specifically for these rigs which has a built in controller, hidden master cylinders, and internally routed brake lines. It looks as huge and clunky as it sounds. Fork manufacturers are already busy modifying internals to adapt to the heavier vehicles and different dynamics they bring to motorized two wheeled trail riding.
This will all continue to develop and change, in my opinion, and then at some point lines are going to start getting blurred between what a "bicycle is" and what a motorcycle is, as motorcycle companies continue to electrify their product. At what point do you say, "Well, I could by this 6-10K electrified bicycle deal, which I have to pedal a little bit, or spend about the same on a better electric trail bike I don't have to pedal at all?" When the motor cycle companies get there, and they will, this will likely be the death of the so-called "e-mtb".
You'll say, "But those things without pedals are banned!", and I say, when they all start looking similar, how will anyone be able to tell one from the other? Inspections at parking lots? Who has the time and money for that? These things will be silent, or nearly so, so how would you catch them on a trail? Maybe you are of the mind that law abiding citizens wouldn't do such things? Maybe some, but c'mon! We already have trail poachers, people who don't stop when its muddy, and laziness abounds.
But time will tell. It's going to be an ever shifting landscape for several years to come.