2022 MTB predictions: What will the year ahead hold for mountain biking?

The new ebike from Whyte
(Image credit: Whyte/Russell Burton)

As we head into a new year, what are the Bike Perfect tech team (including our resident MTB soothsayer, Guy Kesteven) most looking forward to riding, or at least seeing in 2022? We may not have a crystal ball and our last cup of tea was a tad murky, but our mud-encrusted divining rods have led us toward ten of the best mountain bike next moves, prototype into production releases and other hinted at new bikes and gear we reckon/hope we'll see over the next 12 months.

1. The return of Shimano XTR Di2

The original version of Shimano XTR Di2

The now discontinued version of Shimano XTR Di2 (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

After introducing electrically controlled Di2 shifting in the previous incarnation of its flagship XTR group, Shimano completely dropped the option with its current XTR set-up. With the massive success of SRAM AXS, plus 105 level Di2 probably joining Dura-Ace and Ultegra on the road this year, it would be great to see a fresh XTR.

The new semi-wireless format (the shifters are wire-free) Shimano is using would lend itself really well to MTB use too, especially with more and more ‘concealed’ cockpits on the scene. It would also be good to see Shimano deliver on the new crank and hub tech it promised with the previous XTR as it looked really interesting in principle.

2. RockShox forks and shocks using the same tweaks as the Flight Attendant versions

Flight Attendant equipped Trek Slash

A Trek Slash equipped with RockShox Flight Attendant (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Obviously, the big deal with RockShox’s Flight Attendant suspension suite is how the fork, shock, cranks, plus other angle and acceleration sensors, work together to automatically give you the optimum damping set up for every part of your ride. That’s underpinned with a significant set of alterations to the actual forks and shocks that the sensors are bolted onto as well though.

These changes include Buttercup damper pucks, manual pressure relief valves, increased bushing overlap, more rebound range adjustment and bolt-in torque cap spacers for standard hubs. Those tweaks are really noticeable in the ride in terms of even smoother, plusher but also more consistent control, so it’d be great to see them used in non-FA gear.

Pike Ultimate Flight Attendant also uses a significantly lighter chassis than the current Pike Ultimate, so without the sensor box and battery on the crown, it could really flip the fight back to Fox’s new lighter 34.

3. Live Valve with similar functionality to Flight Attendant

Fox Live Valve

The Performance Elite version of Fox Live Valve running on a Giant Anthem (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Graham Cottingham has been getting to grips with the new more affordable Performance Elite version of Fox’s Live Valve on the latest Giant Anthem bike, but he reckons it needs significant updates to be properly competitive with Fight Attendant.

“The word on the street is that Fox will add a pedal sensor to Live Valve at some point (source: bicycleretailer.com). I imagine this is going to be almost guaranteed considering Rockshox Flight Attendant does it already and pedaling is such a crucial factor in suspension design/performance.

“In terms of things I would like to see, Fox needs to address the snake pit of wires as it’s a massive barrier in the Live Valve system. Not only is the wiring that connects all the sensors a mess thats ready to get caught on branches, the fact that the system requires dedicated OEM fitment is a real sticking point for true mass adoption – other than price.

"If Fox were able to move to a wireless system, whilst also making it possible to retro-fit, it might really accelerate what could be the dawning of a new MTB suspension era.”

4. New bikes from Whyte

The new ebike from Whyte

The latest forthcoming ebike from Whyte (Image credit: Whyte/Russell Burton)

UK bike brand Whyte has had a great reputation for innovation in its home country ever since it rolled out the radical PRST-1 linkage fork bike in 1999.

Despite Whyte's small size it also pioneered single-ring specific frame designs, short offset forks (simultaneously with Transition) and continued pushing hard with progressive and/or adjustable geometry, ultra-low center of gravity slide-in battery designs on e-bikes and a lot of other innovations.

2022 looks set to be a big year for Whyte too as it received significant investment with the intention of lifting the brand from a national player to a globally significant outfit. Looking at the caliber of people already signed up to bolster the design team, we’re really excited to see what starts coming down the production pipeline when things really get into gear. 

5. Suntour e-suspension

Tom Pidcock on his Four Stroke BMC mountain bike at the Tokyo Olympics

Tom Pidcock on his custom Four Stroke BMC bike at the Tokyo Olympics (Image credit: Bartek Wolinski/ Red Bull Content Pool)

Thanks to all-round race sensation, Tom Pidcock MBE, the development prototypes of Suntour’s electrically controlled fork and shock system had a stellar first season including Olympic and World Cup XCO wins. Suntour has been understandably keen to put Pidcock’s custom BMC Fourstroke race bike in the spotlight at every showing off opportunity since.

We’re still largely in the dark about exactly what’s going on with the remote-controlled pairing though and whether it’s just a simple wireless lockout system or something more complicated such as sensory automation or other form of AI. It’s certainly a step up in terms of tech for Suntour who’ve always had competitive – often carbon loaded – forks at the sharp end of the pro pack, but haven’t always shone so bright out back.

Hopefully, Tom’s success will encourage more manufacturers to pick Suntour as original spec too so we’ll be able to see ourselves how much of that gold medal performance was rider and how much was suspension. 

6. Shimano GRX update

Shimano GRX

We reckon a new version of Shimano's GRX groupset is well overdue (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Graham is a big fan of Shimano’s workaholic GRX groupset but feels it’s showing its age now. “Shimano really needs to up the cassette size to stay competitive and if Shimano does update GRX, I would be surprised if GRX didn't move to 12-speed too. I think it's unlikely that we will see Di2 filter down through the ranks, instead I think it's more likely that all GRX levels will just get an extra gear.

“If there is a GRX update, I would expect GRX Di2 to move to the Ultegra/Dura-Ace layout rather than still use a junction box and would expect to see an aesthetic that matches the new road lines too. Other than that I don't think we will see any dramatic periphery releases as SRAM did with XPLR. While Shimano already does GRX wheels, however I think it would be a real turn up for the books if Shimano gave the wheelset a significant update.”

7. Cable-free brakes

Magura's MCi series brake

A cut-away shot of Magura's concept MCi series brake with an integrated hydraulic unit in the bar (Image credit: Magura)

While we’re probably a way off seeing (and trusting) servo-controlled wireless brakes, there’s no doubt that hoses hanging out the front of an otherwise totally clutter-free cockpit are a real eyesore now.

The good news is that we’ve already seen prototype setups such as Magura’s MCi, which uses modified routing to connect the master cylinder straight into hydraulic plumbing within the handlebar and stem. MCi was first shown that back in 2019, but so far we’ve only seen it on concept bikes from artists like Gustav Dangerholm.

There’s not been a murmur of anything similar from Shimano or SRAM. Given that both have their own handlebar brands to work with they’re in a great position to take the next step towards ultra-clean cockpits. As long as we don’t have to set them up for initial testing ourselves, then we can’t wait to see who’s going to be the first to properly put some momentum behind stealth anchors.

8. Combined motor and gearbox drive

The Valeo integrated drive

The Valeo integrated drive should become available in 2022 (Image credit: Valeo)

The sealed system cleanliness and service dodging, stationary shifting, suspension liberating reduction in unsprung weight and simplification of pivot placement options advantages of gearboxes are very real and tangible.

However, every gearbox system we’ve used so far has suffered from noticeable drag issues and the shifting mechanisms generally haven’t been great either. That makes matching a gearbox with an electric motor sound like an awesome idea and brands like FEV, Mubea and Valeo have already shown off prototypes. The Revonte system which uses a stepless transmission to double whatever power you put in should hopefully be available in small numbers to early followers too.

Whether this tech will be enough to break the stranglehold of the major players – or we’ll see someone like Bosch, Shimano, Brose or Bafang – bring out a combined gearbox and motor themselves, we’re definitely excited about their potential.

9. Wout Van Aert racing XC

Wout Van Aert

We would love to see Wout Van Aert mixing it up on the XC circuit (Image credit: Luc Claessen / Stringer)

Given the amount of cross-discipline racing going on with riders like Mathieu Van Der Poel, Tom Pidcock, Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Lucinda Brand at the moment, there’s one name that we’d really like to see lining up alongside legends such as Nino Schurter for some 2022 XCO action.

Wout Van Aert has been totally dominating the cyclocross season so far, winning every race he’s entered apart from the recent World Cup where his double chainring set-up jammed. Considering he still finished fourth, it’s hard not to think he could really mix things up on the MTB scene.

However, with Nino determined to ‘do a Minaar’ and prove he’s not too old to be competitive, Pidcock wanting a rainbow jersey in all three (road, cross and MTB) disciplines this year and MVP with a lot to prove (if he can sort out his current injury issues), it’s looking set to be a scorching season whatever Van Aert decides to do.

10. New Hope bike and brakes

Hope's new bike

The new bike from Hope on display at a trade show (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

This is a bit of a cheat as we’ve already seen the new bike at various trade shows and Guy has also bumped into it being test-ridden by Hope while out on his local northern test trails at Stainburn.

While significantly more travel than the previous HB-130 bike and a high pivot suspension system have been constant features each time we’ve seen the new bike, it’s clearly been an evolving project. This has included welcome changes from the HB-130’s original machined alloy rear end to carbon fiber sections to match the mainframe that Hope handbuilt in Hope's Lancashire factory.

As you’d expect from Hope though, elements like the oversized idler pulley are still carved into meticulous machined life on the main fabrication floor. The same facility will shortly be turning out production versions of the new Tech 4 Enduro brake which we’ve also seen on the new bike as well as the rig of Hope component sponsored rider Adam Brayton.

Internet rumors are suggesting a 30 percent increase in power over the existing Tech 3 which would make it super-pokey, but we don’t know if that’s from internal changes or just the extra-long motorbike levers. The only info we could get from Robin at Hope though was, “The Tech 4 is more powerful than the Tech 3, but we don’t have any numbers just yet.” I guess we’ll have to wait for the official launch then.

Obviously, we’ll keep you up to date on any news we get on our ten predictions or any other blips we see that might shift the MTB landscape up a level. With supply and delivery still an issue on existing gear though you might have to be patient when it comes to seeing prototypes become production pieces and then wait even longer for them to appear in the shops. 

Guy Kesteven

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg