Mountain biking in 2018 – what does the future look like?
We rub our crystal balls and bring you our 2018 trend predictions
Now that the 2017 race season is over (already, how on earth did that happen so quickly?) and all the major trade shows have been and gone, we've been rubbing our crystal balls until they can't shine any brighter to show you what the future of mountain biking holds. Here are our kit, trend and people predictions for 2018...
1 Plus tyres are dead! Long live slightly smaller plus tyres!
The original 650b+ tyres were a load of crap, with paper-thin sidewalls. They're improving now, but is it too late? Tyres like Maxxis's 'Wide Trail' offerings, which sit between a regular tyre and a plus tyre in size (2.4 to 2.6in), offer many of the benefits with fewer of the disadvantages and work great with the latest wider rims. We reckon they're only going to get more popular. (Check out MBUK 345 for our grouptest of the latest mid and plus-size options).
2 Flat pedals will steal the thunder
After Sam Hill's triumph in this year's Enduro World Series (EWS), everyone will be jumping back on the 'Flat Pedal Thunder' bandwagon. SPDs will be burned in pagan rituals and Five Ten will see a 200 per cent boost in sales. OK, maybe not, but if there is a resurgence in people riding flat pedals, it'll be no bad thing – it can improve your technique and, as Sam has proven, can work out quicker too.
3 Seat tubes are set to shrink
The first 200mm+ dropper post is already here (check out the BikeRadar review here), and it won't be the last. And when your bike is hung like a horse, there's no need for such a long seat tube. Frame sizes will begin to be differentiated only by reach, and riders will be able to choose based on length, not standover room.
4 No more 'going full enduro'
The 'enduro' look – goggles and an open-face lid – has been around for quite a few years now. But with the introduction of lighter, better-ventilated and, let's face it, cooler-looking convertible helmets, we expect more people to ditch their open-faces for the improved protection of a full-face. We've heard Troy Lee Designs have been working on their own removable-chinbar lid, which is the ultimate stamp of approval.
5 More travel equals more fun
Short-travel 29ers were a big deal this year and most bike brands had at least one in their line-up. For 2018, longer travel seems to be the trend, regardless of whether you prefer 29in or 650b wheels. Improved suspension and geometry means you really can shred the downs like you're on a DH bike, then pedal back up. Most of the MBUK staffers are going to have longer-travel long-term bikes next year.
6 Turn it up to 12!
Shimano are late to the party again, with SRAM launching their first 12-speed drivetrains way back in March 2016 and following them up with cheaper versions too. We predict that 2018 will see Shimano develop (but maybe not release) a 12-speed offering. One question remains – will it be worth all the extra time in development?
7 'Fanny packs' will fade
Bumbags have made a surprising U-turn on the 'cool or crap?' scale, and are currently one of the most sought-after accessories for the discerning mountain biker. But why do the donkey work when your bike can do it for you? The new year will bring all kinds of new and exciting ways to attach stuff to your frame, or hide it inside it. Backpacks and bumbags will become a thing of the past, and you'll soon be asking yourself how you ever managed without 2018's newest storage solution.
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8 Back to the future
Fashion comes and goes like a prostitute in a sexual health clinic, so it stands to reason that 2018 will see the resurgence of flames, lightning bolts, screaming skulls and stars on our bike kit. Some of this kit will be pro-rider only, but we're sure that as soon as they're all wearing black again it'll be available to the paying consumer!
9 DH 29ers are here to stay
The sight of 29er downhill bikes at 2017's first World Cup round caught quite a few people off guard. Team managers and riders recoiled in fear at the prospect of being beaten by the big-wheeled monsters. Santa Cruz, Trek, Scott, Mondraker, Commencal, Cube, Saracen, Bergamont and others all now have DH 29ers, and more will no doubt follow. But will us lesser mortals actually be able to buy any of them in 2018? We hope so!
10 British DH will bounce back
Domestic downhill racing is in a spot of bother. The national series is out for tender at the moment, with long-time organiser Si Paton blaming dwindling entries for his departure. There's also an ongoing court case where British Cycling, a race organiser and a marshal face charges over the death of a spectator at a regional race (for more on this, check out the Shropshire Star), which could have big repercussions for grassroots events. British downhill has weathered plenty of storms in the past though, so we don't reckon it's on the rocks just yet.
11 Enduro won't just endure
Enduro racing is getting tougher and more exciting by the year. Some of the EWS's timed downhill stages are nearing the 20-minute mark and riders are descending over 1,500m in one go, on trails that are as tough as World Cup tracks. It requires epic levels of skill, stamina and strength to keep going for that long. We think we could see more downhill racers take on the ever-growing and most physically challenging discipline in our sport in 2018.
12 Big names could bow out
With top-level downhill and enduro races now requiring 110% commitment, 110% of the time, will we see more riders swapping start lines for selfies and social media? So far, Hannah Barnes, Josh Bryceland and Manon Carpenter have all decided that there's more to life than racing. We predict a number of high-profile riders will follow suit in 2018.
13 Peak gnarliness may have been achieved
Red Bull Rampage has been getting bigger and gnarlier ever since its debut in 2001. We've seen more riders crash out and severely injure themselves in recent years, begging the question – has the event reached its peak, in terms of the difficulty of the terrain and size of the lines? Last year, our columnist Sam Reynolds pulled out, saying he thought it was just too dangerous. Are we going to see more riders doing the same this year? Quite possibly, and who can blame them?
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Alex Evans is BikeRadar’s senior mountain bike technical editor. He started racing downhill at the tender age of 11 before going on to compete across Europe. Alex moved to Morzine in the French Alps at 19 to pursue a career as a bike bum and clocked up an enormous amount of riding. Hitting those famous tracks day in, day out for eight years, he broke more bikes than he can remember. Alex then moved back to the UK and put his vast knowledge of mountain biking to good use by landing a job working for MBUK magazine as features editor. Since working for MBUK, Alex’s focus has moved to bike tech. He’s one of BikeRadar’s lead testers and knows how to push bikes and products to the limit, searching out the equipment that represents the best value for money. Alex is also a dedicated eMTB rider, and still dabbles in racing of a sort, doing his best to top the Strava leaderboard on the steepest, gnarliest and twistiest trails the Tweed Valley has to offer – just for fun, of course. Alex is also a regular on the BikeRadar YouTube channel and BikeRadar podcast.