Every year we play at making like we’ve got our finger on the pulse of the future and have a go at predicting what’s coming in the year ahead. Despite current inclinations to hide under a blanket and not think too much about tomorrow, we’re having a go again, casting our future vision to the sunlit uplands of 2022…
Mystic Mark – Publisher
Since Mark didn’t make any predictions last year (perhaps he saw 2021 coming…) we’ll dive straight into his vision for 2022:
Keeping It Real
I’m coming at this from a publishing perspective and the buzz word of the year will be ‘community’. But don’t worry, it’s still very much relevant to us as mountain bikers – we are already a community after all.
There will be a slow transition away from platform based, so called communities and back towards real, and in many ways more independent platforms out of a realisation that the big tech companies are not in fact there to help us connect, but to exploit us for ad impressions. Not that we weren’t already aware of the controlling tech giants behind our platforms of choice but that slow transition from awareness to action will start to pick up in pace this year.
Influencers will be less influential as everyone realises that a) there’s so many of them and b) they are mostly exploited themselves by corporations and sponsors behind the scenes. Real communities belong to the community and not to the platforms that manipulate them.
To be fair, this is less a prediction and more a continuation of a movement that has already begun (How many of you are planning a social media ‘dry’ period already?). Be ready for a response from the giants though, they are cunning, manipulative and very powerful. There will be resistance. Wolves in sheep’s clothing and all that.
More, Better, Cheaper eBikes
On a specifically more bike related theme I see the evolution of the eBike continuing a pace. They have already dominated the bike buying market for the last few years and their continuing development will continue at an exponential rate in 2022. Expect more acceptably light offerings as well as options with even greater battery capacity for those consumers attracted to sheer scale of watt hours. I see the next big market move towards ebike offerings at the lower price points – in the next year these bikes won’t actually be very good by our standards but they will increase the thirst in the market for this type of technology and will provide a level of product that the better technology at the top end can drip down to in the years to come.
Crystal Baller Benji – Tech Content Manager
How will our newest addition to Singletrack Towers fare in the soothe-saying stakes? With the number of ideas he has, we think he’s opting for a spread betting approach – something he suggests must come true, right?
A return to the noughties
Sometime in the mid-noughties the bike industry tried to convince us that regular trail bikes should have 150mm of travel. They were right of course but their timing was about 15 years too early. In 2022 we now have the technology and (crucially) the rider attitude and experience to make 150mm travel trail bikes perfectly, well, perfect. From now on trail bikes are going to have as much travel as possible so long as the overall genuine on-trail weight doesn’t stray too far over 16kg. The 30lb barrier has been consigned to the past. Good riddance. Well-designed 16kg trail bikes are much nicer places to be for big days out than anything else.
World Cup DH resumes ruling
The XC bubble is going to burst. There’s only so many times you can watch riders awk their way around a manicured faux-tech course. It’s not like it doesn’t always still come down to whoever is the fittest. If anything XC is selling itself a wrong ’un by trying to up its tech level. Bring back massive climbs please. Downhill is leagues and leagues ahead as a spectator sport. As well as the racing itself, there’s the pre-race behind-the-scenes YouTube gawping and the post-race OTT analysis.
Mo’ electronics, no interest
Bike designers are clearly into microchips and electronic stuff. Which is fine. I’d probably be of the same mindset in their position. But I’m not. I’m just someone who likes mountain bikes. And mountain bikes work incredibly well already. They don’t need computers and chips. Expect more electronic gubbins on suspension units and drivetrain bits. Don’t expect anyone to buy them much. Having said that, this chips-with-everything mentality is already coming unstuck due to the global microchip shortage.
Winter of e-contentment
This is a prediction for this time next year ie. winter 2022. Basically, loads of mountain bikers are going to buy their first ebike. It arguably would have happened this year but supply chain woes and other global things got in the way. Winter 2021 is going to be the last winter that a lot of experienced UK mountain bikers are prepared to take on without assistance.
More people getting the bike they want
This is a great thing. No one is being limited or forced into buying a mountain bike that doesn’t suit them. The mountain bike media is finally at the age where we’re not recommending bikes based on the likely terrain they’re intended for. Bikes are beyond that. The perfect mountain bike is the 150mm trail bike I mentioned above. But perfection is boring and un-inspiringly sensible. It makes no ‘sense’ to ride a short-travel coil-sprung bike that weighs a ton. Nor does it make sense to ape Nino Schurter’s bike when all you’re doing is riding tepid bridleways. But if you want to do that because it floats your boat. You can do. The bikes are out there.
Head angles are fine. Reach numbers are fine. Seat angles are fine (in fact they may actually have become too steep but that’s another story). You can even find 165mm cranks on bikes these days. The area that needs attention next is stack. Basically, bikes’ front ends are too low for a lot of riders. We arguably only had low slung front ends to help counter the illness of the other geo numbers on mountain bikes. It’s time to get our grips up and grin again.
Put away the idlers
As a longtime idler-curious person, it comes as something of a sadness to say that high-pivot idler bikes have possibly run their course.
More metal filing cabinets
Now that Specialized and Trek have put down tube storage compartments on their bikes, the rest of the world is sure to follow. I’m not sure I’d buy a bike that didn’t have frame storage. Which sounds like a bonkers thing to say but it’s true. Frame storage is the new bottle bosses.
There will be more people in mountain biking who aren’t white men. If you have a problem with that then you have a problem full stop.
Hannah’s Hunches – Managing Editor
Last year I predicted:
- The resurgence of Shimano
- Restructured Race Support
- Waterproof Flat Boots
- Price Increases
Shimano sold out (but then, so did everyone), the race support thing didn’t really happen, but we did get waterproof flat boots and price rises. We also finally got my prediction for 2019 – the rise of women’s freeride. What do I think the future holds?
Experience over excellence
This might be cheating since I think it’s already happening, but I expect brands to focus their marketing on the experience of mountain biking rather than the ability to go faster and win races. Longer, slacker lighter and stiffer will be usurped by promises of fun, adventure, relaxation and friendships.
Collaborative corporate social responsibility
I think some brands will focus their marketing efforts on projects that give back to the sport, but without the stamp of a proprietary initiative. We’ve seen World Bicycle Relief – initially a mostly Giant and SRAM led project – receive support from across the industry. I expect to see similar support for Trash Free Trails, and perhaps a more cross-brand collaboration on trails maintenance and inclusion initiatives. This may well coalesce around an existing multi destination event, like Crankworx or the EWS.
Have I predicted this before? I feel like I have. Everything comes back around, and they’ve probably figured out how to stop elastomers disintegrating like rubber bands, so it’s time for the resurrection of the elastomer. RevGrips and Fasst handlebars are already in on the act. Expect seatposts for gravel comfort, and just slightly less than rigid forks for bike packing.
The golden age
As riders from the birth of mountain biking hit 50 and more, ebikes continue to make the outdoors more accessible, and people look for covid safe outdoor pastimes, I think we’ll see bike companies target older riders’ disposable incomes. Light weight ebikes, low standover options with electronic droppers for easier mounting, electronic shifting for weakened or arthritic hands, and regular service packages to ensure reliability… your parents and grandparents are going to be spending your inheritance on bikes.
Access and dissent
I think we’ll see more rumblings around access rights, though not all the noise will be coming from mountain bikers. A push for more outdoor access generally will have an overlapping agenda with those who want the right to protest, the right to gather, and the reduction of private interests over public. Whether it’ll all come to anything might well depend on whether there’s an election or leadership battle – and who wins it. Maybe I’m two years early with this one?
Mystic Chipps – Editor at Large
Chipps says: After 2021 didn’t really go the way that most of us thought/hoped, we seem to be in a similar position to a year ago, so who knows what’s going to happen? With that said, I’ve put my prediction glasses on and I’ll have a go to see what I can see for 2022.
Here’s what I suggested a year ago:
Events cancelled: I said “I don’t think we’re out of the Covid woods yet and I can still see a few events even going into the summer that’ll be curtailed or cancelled. Can you imagine a spectator-free Fort William DH or Olympic final? It’s unimaginable, but it’s what many football games have been doing for the autumn.”
Mostly right there, I reckon.
“Wireless XTR – Still no sign. However, 2021 is an Olympic year and Shimano’s 100th birthday, so if ever there was a time.”
A solid ‘Wrong!’ there… I also suggested there’d be an unspecified scandal (nothing there either), a move further away from 27.5in wheels by manufacturers (mostly correct, I reckon, unless you count mullet bikes) and ‘Cheaper and more electronics’ – This seems to have been borne out with the launch this spring of SRAM’s GX AXS groupset, a more affordable (though still hardly ‘cheap’) electric, wireless groupset. Nothing yet from the other Big S though. I reckon that’s still a win for that prediction.
So what does Chipps think 2022 has in store?
On to next year… After two years of travel and social restrictions I think that some riders might just take up other sports. It’s hard to travel, it’s been hard to cram into a pub/cafe after a ride and it’s hard to get hold of bike bits to keep your bike running. I reckon that a small part of the lockdown mountain bikers are going to give up again. However, I also think that the great majority will throw themselves at making the most of what they have – whether that’s an out of date bike, or limited travel opportunities and they’ll just get out there regardless and scour the hillsides for every single trail they can get to. There’ll be more spontaneous riders out on bikepacking adventures (the original socially distant sport) and more riders on longer, solo missions because those are easier to organise and easier to adjust/postpone/cancel than trips away with a bunch of friends.
It seems that component and material shortages will continue into 2023, so don’t expect to be able to go into a bike shop and get everything you need every time. Saying that, though, there’ll probably be oddities resulting from over-ordering during the scarce months, so those places that pre-emptively ordered 1000 10-50T cassettes are going to be left wondering if they need to sell them cheaply, expensively, or not at all and to just hang on to them. It’s definitely going to be the year of ‘You like it? Then buy it now, because it won’t be here tomorrow’ impulse buying. Or of not buying at all.
KIS/SS – Keep It Simple/Single, Stupid
And keeping in that vein. Is it time for the singlespeed to return? Charlie seemed to think so last year. How about a three speed, for those of us with slightly older knees now?
No problems with FOMO
One thing that the last couple of years has shown is that plans have had to change, trips cancelled and meet ups put on hold. The great thing to come out of that is that, for the most part, no one minded. If you couldn’t get to the ride due to isolating, or if your yearly trip to the Lakes was moved back a year, no one really minded. What really mattered was making the most of things when you got the chance. I think that will continue. If you can’t get to an event, or on a trip, don’t stress. We’ll all get there in the end…
What do you think? Would you like us to pick your lottery numbers for you? Or would you not even trust us to pick your energy supplier? Head to the comments and let us know what you think is coming!
Sign up as a Singletrack Member and you can leave comments on stories, use the classified ads, and post in our forums.
Join us, join in, it’s free, and fun.