Pinkbike Poll: What has been the biggest breakthrough in mountain biking technology?
I might have bit more than I can chew with this topic, but I recently remembered the bike I owned twenty years ago which made me reflect on how far mountain bike technology has come and on what’s now considered the norm on bikes in 2021, if you can find one.
It all started for me with a 1999 Kona Muni-Mula that I was lucky enough to get my hands on after my parents agreed to donate the funds collected from the gardening work. I won’t get too nostalgic, but even for a 14 year old kid, weighing 45kg soaking wet, things broke; the rims and cranks bent, the chains bouncing in unimaginable places, the head angles were frightening and the stems were horribly long, not to mention the terrible control points like the molded pedals, slip-on grips and plastic tires. I loved this blue bike, despite the overtaking. I know other seasoned readers scoff at the issues they faced later in history, but a steady stream of mechanical mountain biking technology has started to level off.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, mountain biking is a mainstream sport and it has been an imperative step for the demand for technology at a grassroots level. There are knee-deep kids jumping in bike parks after school, YouTube stars dig 30-meter gaps every day, and the downhill bikes perform as well as some of the 2005 freeride machines. World Cup downhill races are now routinely decided by hundredths of a second, heck, even qualifying is a feat for a privateer because the equipment is top notch. The best pros barely stay one step ahead in the field as developments are prototyped so quickly.
The new enduro bikes are available for $ 3,000 that won’t fall apart over a weekend of riding and have all the fixings: dropper posts, locking grips, air suspension, hydraulic brakes, tubeless tires and 1x wide range transmissions that hold the chain in place without a guide. Even bottom brackets and hub bearings are considerably more reliable than ever before. Modern geometry makes beginners feel like heroes tackling local trail networks that were once reserved exclusively for die-hards, all on a budget. Sure, things always break, but for the number of riders pushing bikes to the upper limit, it’s amazing when you step back and observe from the outside. To draw a parallel, it’s like when the entire ski industry switched to parabolic skis. Everything clicked and the masses caught up. As mountain bikers we have it very, very well right now.
However, all of this trickle-down technology seems to be drying up. So where do we go from here? The next chapter, integrated electronics. In our digital age, this is the next logical step – like it or not. We’ve seen small gains over the last few years with Shimano’s Di2 drivetrain, then little things have appeared like the ShockWiz suspension app, but RockShox’s new wireless electronically controlled suspension Flight Attendant is taking flight. into the future of high-end bicycle technology. The system delivers the best downhill performance while seamlessly monitoring the shocks based on incline without wires.
Battery powered wireless motor driven components are the most advanced advancements to date, but are they something as simple as a soft compound, tubeless tires, the only point of contact between the bike and the ground, or is there a more polarizing part that changed the game for you?