By Tom Jow –
With the current state of technology and engineering, bicycle equipment improves by leaps and bounds every year. From my viewpoint, the year 2014 saw both the introduction, and confirmation of incredible technologies and ideas for bicycling. The following are some of the things that caught my attention, and, if not already, should catch yours too (apologies for being slightly dirt biased).
- The single ring drivetrain. SRAM introduced the top of the line XX1 group-set in late 2012. Sales were pretty good until the end of 2013 when they introduced the second level XO1. Since then sales have been through the roof. ‘Cross racers should take note of the new high-end SRAM CX-1 group, complete with hydraulic disc brakes.
- 27.5/650b wheels. As if two wheel sizes (29 inch, 26 inch) were not enough, a few years ago some bike designers thought a wheel size between 26 inch and 29 inch would be perfect. The 27.5/650b wheels are faster rolling than 26 inch, lighter and quicker than 29 inch. Made popular by those people that race “enduro”, they must be good if the world cup downhill racers are switching over.
- Enduro mountain bike racing. Transplanted from Europe, enduro races utilize courses which demand the fitness of cross country and the skills of downhill. The reason: riders must pedal up to the start before time trialing a not completely downhill run to the bottom. Races can be found internationally, nationally, and right here in Utah at the Wasatch Enduro and Big Mountain Enduro in Moab.
- Carbon fiber wheels for mountain bikes. A little lighter, stiffer and stronger, carbon fiber has been a little under the radar for mountain bike wheels. Until now. Years ago, it was just the wheel specialists like Enve and Reynolds. Now everyone is in the game. Big names like Easton, Roval, DT, SRAM and smaller players like Ibis, Nox, and Atomik.
- Fat bikes. Ok, yeah, they've been around a while. But now, the all-around fun bike can produce twice the smiles with full suspension. While there have been custom suspension fat bikes around, with the introduction of the RockShox Bluto fork, semi-custom models are now available from your favorite OEM makers such as 9zero7, Salsa, Borealis and 11Nine.
- Bike-packing. Is it touring? Is it racing? It's both. Think backpacking except with a bike. Traveling light, with as little gear as necessary, across dirt roads and single track. Of course, if you can ride it, you can race it. Like the original bike packing race, the Tour Divide race. Down the Continental Divide trail from Canada to Mexico in seventeen days. Seventeen days! From that evolved other race/rides in places like the Colorado trail, the Arizona trail, and numerous places throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
- Gravel bikes. TransIowa, Dirty Kanza, VeloDirt, Crusher in the Tushar. Gravel bikes were born from events like these. It's the type of bike a racer would want if they were going to ride 200+ miles on dirt and asphalt as fast as they could: comfortable for long distances, lightweight, clearance for 40mm tires and disc brakes. Throw on some bike-packing bags and you'd be, well, bike-packing.
- Road hydraulic disc brakes. Not cable driven hybrid hydraulics. Full bore hydraulic brakes on high level bikes from all the major manufacturers. Specialized, Orbea, Pivot, Bianchi, Cannondale, Ridley, Niner, Pinarello and more. It'll be the first time we have something before the pros.
- Mountain bike electronic shifting. For 2015, Shimano introduces XTR electronic shifting with 11 speeds. The most advanced electronic shifting yet with options for single, double or triple ring and one or two shifters.
These are just some of the cool bike trends I’ve noticed this year (remember, all trends hit here a little late). The list can go on and on. I’m not sure any one of the items on this list demands replacing a perfectly good bike, but if you’ve been looking for a reason to upgrade, there’s no reason to wait. Except there will be more hot stuff by the middle of next summer I’m sure.
Got a bike question? Email Tom at [email protected]