Cycling is booming. Never before has the demand for new products been as high as it is now and the sector is responding with new and better products. Whether it’s about improving performance, bidding farewell to bike categories or the eternal question of mountain bike vs. eMTB, we tell you about the most exciting mountain bike trends of 2021.
In the context of the Design & Innovation Award 2021, the award jury, international experts and journalists took a thorough look at the trends and overarching technological developments of the new season. In this article, we take a closer look at eMTB trends of 2021. You can read more about other trends at the end of this article.
What is likely the biggest trend of the new year had already reared its head in 2020: the huge popularity that bikes are currently experiencing. More people are discovering how fantastic our sport is and with that, many branches of the industry have experienced an unexpected boost in growth. An unbelievable number of newcomers have discovered what bikes can offer them, with gravel and (e)MTBs particularly popular. The growing number of bikers gives our sport a stronger voice in society too. Studies have already found, for example the IfD Allensbach, that more people are riding bikes than playing football. Simultaneously, the increased numbers have resulted in conflicts between riders and landowners in some places. Positive progress requires everyone to take part in organising and finding shared solutions together. Individuals, for example by joining a club, can help our sport to find more societal acceptance. On the side of manufacturers, there are more and more opportunities to push the development of the sport actively forwards, whether it’s through financing trail projects, education programmes or lobbying.
The flip side of the coin: in many places, bike shops are empty, just like the warehouses of many manufacturers and suppliers. Difficult production conditions, insufficient production capacity relative to demand and further challenges have led to delivery constraints and rising prices. If you want to find out more about these global challenges and their exact origins, you can find out more in an in-depth article in E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine.
Bike performance continues to improve!
If you thought things couldn’t get any better, you’ll be disabused of that notion by the latest generation of bikes, components and accessories! In terms of riding performance, products have made another leap forward.
The best example of this is the FOX 38 fork, which makes good use of the extra size of its stiffer stanchions to reduce friction in the chassis even further. That makes it more sensitive, direct and gives it even bigger reserves for the hardest trails in the world. Speaking of the hardest trails, bikes like the Commencal Meta and the Propain Spindrift are born to ride them. Both of these bikes demonstrate impressively the jump in performance that modern enduro bikes have managed once again. Even apparently small changes to aspects of the geometry and suspension continue to result in clear improvements on the trail. Bikes are becoming experts in their field, though as a result countenance some weaknesses for all-round use. Nonetheless, there are still brilliant all-rounders, as the Trek Slash demonstrates impressively. While the latest iteration has been positioned considerably more aggressively, thanks to its variable shock it still delivers huge amounts of fun on any kind of trail! The genius package is rounded out with a practical storage compartment in the down tube.
A new understanding of geometry – Balance is the deciding factor!
Over several years, bikes have gotten longer and slacker. At the same time, short chainstays were hailed as the solution for better agility. That might have worked for some frame sizes, but for many riders it led to imbalanced bike handling, with the short rear end leaving them too far over the back of the bike, resulting in a lack of grip on the front wheel. Now, more and more manufacturers are realising how important the right balance between the front and rear centre is. That means they no longer modify just the front triangle, but change the rear proportionally across different frame sizes. The result is more balanced and good-natured bikes that can be handled more easily by less-practised riders, without holding back experienced pilots.
Classic bike categories are vanishing!
Cross country and downhill racing mark either end of the extremes of mountain biking and couldn’t be more different. Cross country is all about maximum propulsion, ultra-light bikes and high efficiency. Downhill bikes are only ridden downhill and are purpose-built for the hardest tracks in the world. Between these two extremes is the massive trail and enduro segment, which isn’t just experiencing huge growth but is also increasingly forming its own set of niches. Bikes are becoming more specialised and classic reference points like travel, wheel size or weight have outlived their use. At this point, there are super capable bikes with just 120 mm travel that can turn their hand to super hard trails, as well as 170 mm models that climb very efficiently. The lines between different types of bike are becoming blurred. That gives customers more choice but also results in an increased need for clarity and guidance. Authentic tests, clear communication and the opportunity to test bikes before buying them will gain even more relevance.
The best time for individualists!
Because of the massive growth in cycling, the desire for individual and tailored products that stand out from the masses is growing amongst dedicated bikers. This demand is being met by small, exclusive manufacturers like Antidote and Nicolai. They manage to combine exclusivity and European manufacturing, with technical refinement in outstanding products. For example, Antidote manufacture the Carbonjack 29 by hand in Poland and simultaneously set standards in terms of riding performance. On the other hand, the Nicolai Saturn GPI is a very specialised bike with radical geometry and a Pinion gearbox. It’s very clear that it’s not a bike for everyone but individualists will love it.
The future belongs to our children
What’s better than cycling? Sharing the sport and passion for it with your children. Instead of driving your kids to football training and kicking one’s heels at the edge of the field, not possible anyway in these times, thanks to more and better child-specific products, it’s possible to infect our kids with the bike bug, whatever age they are. For example, the Kids Ride Shotgun child seat will provide the first feeling of wind blowing through the hair, leaning into turns and the view from behind the bars. When your kids want to ride themselves, they’ll find the best equipment waiting for them from day one. The range of options is huge and includes luxury items like a carbon wheelset, as well as the Dirtlej Dirtsuit, the first waterproof onesie specifically tailored for the up and coming generation of young mountain bikers. Products that enjoy enormous popularity and proven themselves with adults are also increasingly being developed for kids. The safety of our little ones is also gaining increased relevance. As one example, Deuter have created the Attac 8 Jr rucksack. Finally a rucksack with a removable back protector that meets the needs of young riders. With all these offerings, who wouldn’t want to be a child again?
EMTBs are turning into the better mountain bikes!
It’s a bold claim, but we’ll make it anyway: for many, even inveterate mountain bikers, eMTBs are already the better bikes. A year ago, the handling of an eMTB was still easy to tell apart from that of an analog bike. With the introduction of the latest generation of Light eMTBs like the Orbea Rise and the Specialized Levo SL, that has suddenly changed. Thanks to their centrally positioned centre of gravity, they often handle even better and feel more secure than their non-motorised counterparts. At the same time, they are just as playful and deliver an extra dose of encouragement uphill, thanks to the built-in tailwind. While the sector is still taking its first steps, these bikes are already mature, closing the gap between powerful all-rounder eMTBs and classic mountain bikes. They also enable group rides bridging riders of different abilities.
You can find all the information about the awarded products here.
Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Valentin Rühl