How did our 2018 mountain biking trend predictions stand up?
- If there's one thing that's certain when the calendar changes over - besides a plethora of resolutions - it's that commentators will gather around and try to predict what's going to happen over the next 12 months. That's exactly what we did this time last year, so just how did we get on now it's all done? It's time to find out!
- Nine mountain bike trends to look out for in 2018
- Buyer's guide to mountain bike pedals - what's best, flats or clips?
- The best mountain bikes for under £1,000 - the best budget buys ridden and rated
So without further ado, we'll go through all the things that we reckoned would happen and rate our predictions using the simple scale of true, wrong or the soft option of kinda right. Never let it be said that we aren't our own harshest critics, because we are not.
1. More electronic trickery in suspension and shifting - TRUE!
Yep, 2018 was the year when the long-teased Fox Live Valve suspension system actually landed in shops. By using accelerometers paired to very fast servo motors, the system can unlock your suspension from a locked-out position fast enough to react to bumps, even on your front fork.
However, the sheer expense of the system and the fact it needs frame integration of certain components mean it's not seen widespread adoption - and probably won't. Still, we were technically right and that's all that matters.
When it comes to gearing, SRAM teased the hell out of us with their wireless off-road groupset on various pro rider bikes, but nothing solid landed before 2018 ground to a halt. Next year maybe?
- Smart suspension becomes reality with Fox's Live Valve technology
- New SRAM electronic shifting system spotted on a mountain bike
2. Everything will get more expensive, forcing more brands to go direct - KINDA
The sweet joys of Brexit - sorry, we meant the utter shambles of Brexit - has meant the pound has been diving merrily in relation to other currencies and that's definitely been seen with manufacturers - even those of the direct sales sort - raising their prices. However, we've not really seen many traditional bike shop brands abandoning physical shops in some sort of high-street exodus - instead, we've seen the likes of Trek go hard with click and collect services. That's why we can only give this prediction a so-so rating. Bad us.
3. You'll start to care about fork offset - KINDA
Well, this one was always going out on a limb because fork offset isn't the most riveting subject if we're brutally honest - not many pub brawls have started over the benefits of 51mm vs 37mm offset on a 29er* after all.
That said, we have seen more brands embracing shorter offset forks as they try and reconcile longer reach, slacker head angles and making a bike not feel like a wheelbarrow. Has it worked? Well, probably not to the point that the general riding public will be choosing their next bike based on it, but manufacturers are taking note.
* yes, we know you can't get a 37mm offset 29er fork, but you should be. Come at us bro.
4. Wider rims and 2.6" tyres will kill off Plus rubber - KINDA
While no-one is really shouting about Plus tyres as the saviour of all things off-road quite as much as they were anymore, they're still out there, though mostly on hardtails and e-bikes. Not suited to the job? Not fully developed? Who knows, but the hype has exited the house.
That said, we definitely nailed the whole wider rim thing as anything with a sub 30mm internal width is now totally unrideable (only joking!). Lolz aside, the wider rim and pretty fat 2.4"-2.6" rubber does seem to be the way the world is going, which is good, because we like it.
5. Integrated storage will be more common on bikes - WRONG
Yeah, we blew this one, badly. 2018 was totally The Year of the Bumbag if you rode mountain bikes and The Year of the Framebag for anyone riding dirt on drops. Who can predict the vagaries of fashion though? Obviously not us. Probably be helmet mounted drinking systems for 2019.
6. More trail bikes will get idlers - WRONG
While the delightful idler - a way of separating chain forces from suspension action - was definitely seen out and about, our predicted tidal wave of anti-squat free trail bikes just didn't happen, with Commencal's Supreme SX being pretty much the only one from a major manufacturer.
Where we went wrong was that it was actually the singlespeed downhill bikes that'd be doing the idling, as demonstrated by Starling's lovely singlespeed jackshaft driven steel downhill bike.
7. Women's specific geometry will be dropped for women's specific builds - TRUE!
Yup, 2018 looked very much like the year that the yoke of having bikes with crippled geometry just for the women really started to die out. Canyon's new Neuron trail bike not no longer has a load of top tube chopped out, just for the ladies, and the likes of Trek, Specialized, Yeti, Santa Cruz and more now just make the same shaped bikes regardless of gender, instead just giving specific finishing kit.
It's just a huge shame that pastel colours can't do one at the same time...
8. Shimano will play the numbers game and go 12spd (or beyond) - TRUE!
Yeah, we nailed this, but then predicting a new Shimano product launch is as easy as counting precisely three years from the last one. We were kinda shooting fish in a barrel here, as they basically had to at least equal SRAM's numbers game with the new XTR group or the internet would be sad.
That's exactly what they did, giving a SRAM Eagle matching 12 ratios and also going one better by offering a 51T largest ring instead of the 50T of their rival on a mechanically driven groupset, with a new freehub body to go with it all.
As also seems to be traditional for Shimano groupsets, delivery dates for the new group have gently sailed past their due dates, so we've still not got our hands on it for a long-term test. Boo!
9. Frame geometry will change, but only conservatively - TRUE!
Alas, we said this one with the hope that we'd be wrong, but once again the bike industry's slowly-slowly approach to bike sizing and geometry means that loads of bikes were released that we can guarantee will just need to have another 5mm added to their reach figure in another couple of years.
Still, it's nice to see progressive brands across the price spectrum still pushing the agenda and fighting the good fight to free mountain bikes from the roady shackles of our youth, so we'll take that one.