With over 20 years involvement in the cycle trade, I’ve seen many trends come and go. I’ve even been there at the beginning of some of them. Before I even got into the trade, I rode and pre-empted mountain bikes by throwing knobbly tyres and cow horn handlebars on a five-speed racer back in the late ‘70s.
My first real mountain bike was purchased in 1988, so even though mtbs had been around a few years by then, they were still a bit of a novelty. A few years later I started riding around on a single-speed mtb and everyone questioned my sanity. By the turn of the century SS mtbs had become the norm.
Disc brakes on cross and road bikes, fixed gear commuter bikes and 29in wheeled mountain bikes all came through my hands in the early noughties when I had a business importing high-end frames and components from North America. Again at the time people questioned my thinking offer such weird designs, but today it’s all mainstream. However, it shows that I can see the future. Now, if only I could see the lottery number.
Anyway back to the subject at hand. I’ve recently been thinking about what the next ‘Big Thing’ is going to be. It would be all too easy to say gravel racers. However, I remember when monster cross was being touted as the next Big Thing and that never really came to fruition. Incidentally, monster cross was the love child of 29in wheeled mtbs and cyclo cross bikes, so basically the forerunner of gravel bikes.
Anyway, when you drill down a bit the only real difference between a CX bike and a gravel bike is the addition of water bottle bosses and rack and mudguard eyelets, especially now that CX bikes are running disc brakes. Gravel bikes are simply less race focused machines.
Bearing all of this in mind, I think there will be a couple of new trends one of which will be for the hipsters and the other will change the face of cycling.
First off bicycle polo is going to be resurgent. There’re lots of cheap single-speed and fixed gear bikes knocking around after their popularity faded a few years back and while they are not ideal for bike polo they’re a good starting point. The other plus point is bike polo is a relatively cheap form of cycle sport and can be a lot more sociable than hours spent on a Sunday morning chain gang.
What though is going to change the face of cycling? Electric bikes, that what. Or to be more precise electric-assist bikes. I’m not talking about the bulky step-through framed monstrosities that can be found for sale in the Sunday supplements, but rather bicycles that have compact motors and batteries integrated into their design.
It’s already starting to happen in the mountain bike world. Full suspension bikes are being built that have a drive system which kick in to help on the climbs and then turn off on the downhills when no additional speed is needed. I’m willing to wager that sort of technology will soon begin appearing on bikes aimed at sportive riders.
Cyclists are getting older, but they also have more disposable income than ever before and manufacturers are taking note of this and responding accordingly. Just look at how popular compact chainsets and wide ratio cassettes are to make pedalling easier and similarly how head tubes are getting longer and tyres wider, all to make bikes more comfortable for older riders who have less flexibility and muscle power. I’ll just leave that thought here…
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