Change. Change is as certain as death and taxes. It seems that in recent years, changes have come hard and fast in the bicycle industry. Every facet, from bottom bracket revisions to new or reinvented wheel sizes, has experienced some sort of change. In 2016 we saw the mountain bike find renewed popularity as the industry pushed the 27.5″ wheel and its pseudo 29″ cousin, the 27.5+ wheel. On the road front, carbon became affordable for the masses and the adventure road bike saw increased interest. Change brought about excitement and it was a great year to be in a bike shop.
As we stand before the exit door to 2016 and prepare to jump over the threshold into 2017, what can we expect in the coming year?
To get started, let’s take a jump into the woods. By all accounts, when it comes to playing off road with your friends, it seems that all of the industry money is firmly riding on the latest 27.5+ platform. For the uninitiated, this new mountain bike uses the newer 27.5 wheel as a base, then adds a three inch wide tire with increased sidewall height. This combination seats itself squarely between a standard two inch tire and a full four or five inch wide fatbike. You get some of the speed and nimble handling of the traditional narrower tire, and some of the confidence inspiring, all season grip of the fatbike. With an increase in non competitive trail cycling and a decrease in competitive mountain bike racing, it’s a fairly solid guarantee that this new “baby fat” tire will be the winning choice among many woods riders.
It’s a fact. Big wheels keep on turning. Proud Mary would undoubtedly be leaning towards the 29″ wheeled mountain bike. When the 27.5 wheel was introduced everyone wondered which wheel size would win the battle for supremacy. The question is, WHAT battle? 2016 saw the 29er take a small back seat as the industry gave a really hard push towards the new 27.5 bikes. Was the 29er slated for disappearance? Did the smaller underdog 27.5 turn the tables and carry out a David and Goliath surprise upset? Fear not. For 2017 it seems that there will be an equal representation of both of these wheel sizes on the floor at your local bike shop. What can we see as the future for the average mountain biker? How about a garage that contains a sweet old 26″ bike for satisfying that retro urge, a 27.5″ bike for tight, technical trails and a 29er for longer, high speed rides and race events. Feel free to mix up their intended uses. Why choose just one? One more thing. We predict an increase in requests for full suspension mountain bikes as enduro style riding becomes more popular. Comfort is key.
Speaking of comfort, let’s head on out to the pavement. As more and more casual and recreational riders develop an interest in drop barred bicycles, it seems reasonable that we see an increase in comfortable, endurance styled road bikes. More forgiving tubing shapes coupled with higher volume tires and taller handlebar positions are what many cyclists are really asking for. It’s the ultimate day trekking bike. Or is it? What would your reaction be if we took all of that and tossed front and rear suspension into the mix? Check out the new 2017 Roubaix from Specialized. That’s it in the picture above. We had this bike on display in the shop for a day, and it really represents the next step forward. The seat post has been installed into the frame in such a way that it is allowed to move slightly to ward off bumps. The handlebar stem is installed on a shock absorber of sorts, which sits inside the traditional looking head tube. You have a small amount of bump absorbing travel upwards, and double the amount downwards. The action does not feel the same as the front fork on a mountain bike. The movement is more subtle and the bike appears to be visually conventional. We expect other manufacturers to quickly follow suit.
Gravel riding will continue to grow in popularity. Purpose built gravel road machines are out there and we predict that many cyclists will lean towards the unique geometry, increased tire capacity, and rack and bag capability of this sort of bike. It’s almost what one would call a super tourer. Almost.
We’ve seen two strong choices in the past when it comes to recreational cycling. The flat barred road bike, such as the one above, and the crossover styled bicycle, which resembles a mountain bike hybrid with its larger wheels and suspension fork. Both of these machines are more than happy to pull double duty by accompanying you on your commute from Monday to Friday and blasting miles of rail trail on the weekend. There really isn’t any need to fix what isn’t broken and so we can only see sales of these types of bicycles to head one way. Straight up.
It may be a futuristic photo, but the near future of ebikes looks to be quite rosy. There are as many different reasons to use an ebike as there are brands to pick from, but one thing is certain. We’re still at the tip of the iceberg. Developments of electric assist bicycles with lighter weights, increased battery range and true offroad capabilities are making headlines everywhere. Newer thinking revolves around creating mountain bikes that use available electric power to help the rider conquer bigger hills while conserving human energy, thereby extending the duration of any offroad adventure by a considerable margin. One day ebikes ARE going to save the world.
Lastly, as cyclists discover performance limitations due to improper bike fit, many will seek to correct these issues by undergoing detailed fitting assessments, such as the Specialized Body Geometry FIT method. By discovering each cyclists individual physical limitations and adjusting the bike to meet those limitations, rather than making the cyclist bend uncomfortably to meet the design of the bike, having a proper bike fit can improve just about any aspect of your ride. It makes good sense.
As bicycle shop employees, we never stop learning. The near future constantly shapes our skill sets while keeping our chosen line of work exciting. How will the coming advancements in bicycle technology shape your own cycling habits next year? How about five years from now? Ten years from now? One thing is certain. There will be change.