The cycling industry is currently in a turbulent period with Orange Bikes unfortunately being the latest high profile casualty. However, we forecast it won't be all doom and gloom this year. There will be some bright days that will bring some potentially exciting stuff in the next 12 months. From bike tech to bike racing, 2024 is gearing up to be an interesting year for mountain bikes and riding in general.
Two of Bike Perfect's resident tech experts, Guy Kesteven and Graham Cottingham, have banged their heads together and gathered up all the 2024 predictions that fell out in the collision. Here are our top six predictions for mountain biking for the rest of the year...
1. It's going to get worse before it gets better
OK, so let’s get the grim stuff out of the way first. The health of the bike industry isn’t going to get better any time soon. Whether it’s Chain Reaction Cycles / Wiggle owing £20,000 to Haribo, reports of vendors and distributors dropping excess stock into the sea or burying it as landfill rather than pay spiraling warehouse costs, brands running ‘buy one get one free offers, or everyone from iconic media and top racers to Tik Tok influencers struggling for ads/sponsorship, it’s a mess right now.
From what I’ve heard from multiple sources Covid over-ordering to try and secure supply, means there’s several years of excess sat in the system for components, some of which have already been made obsolete by new tech.
To be honest, though that’s not really a massive issue to most ‘real riders’. Sadly, we’re almost certainly going to lose more bike and component brands, shops, and distributors. Especially as it’s likely to be the smaller businesses that really bear the brunt of bigger companies yard sale-ing their surplus stock. Ultimately that means fewer brands, less choice, and potentially fewer interesting and diverse options and a landscape that looks more like motorbiking or automotive in terms of mass market brands with just a few maverick outfits selling upgrades.
At the moment though the fact there’s never been a worse time to sell means there’s never been a better time to buy. But maybe use that power wisely to keep the brands/media/shops you value alive, rather than suffering a painful death by price match.
2. MTB racing will be leaner but radder
It's not just shake-ups in the MTB markets, things are changing in racing too. Big money from Warner Bros / Discovery comes with big expectations and a big business approach. That includes going through the ‘product range’ – in this case racing – and working out what’s profitable and what’s not. Rumors have been rife that EDR (what used to be the Enduro World Series) is unlikely to survive much longer in its current format and XCM (Marathon racing) looks to be on a back burner already. DH is very much a work in progress in terms of format too, with most people hoping that it’ll revert back to qualifiers and final runs rather than the extra seeding race we saw this year. Because profit is now a bigger factor in the business model, racing has become a lot more expensive too. Fewer teams and riders are going to be able to afford to stay in the limelight of top-level World Cup competition and there are some high-profile riders still with question marks next to their names for next year.
On the plus side, we’re going to see some fresh venues and whether you’re watching XC or DH, courses are getting more and more rowdy and the racing ever faster. The actual race coverage was a lot better at the end of the year than at the start too, so that’s another big positive. Greg Minaar is going to be on a mission to get a fifth World Champions title for whoever his new team turns out to be and Peter Sagan told me he was going to do a backflip at the Olympics (damn, I wish I’d got that statement on camera) so the 2024 season is looking pretty sick.
3. Make metal great again
Using molds makes building bikes in carbon fiber a very expensive investment and potentially locks you into a long-as-possible use of those molds to get your money’s worth. Neither of those things is good in a situation where companies need to be as agile but cost-effective as possible in developing new designs to leapfrog the overstock backlog. Plus, most carbon fiber manufacturers are based in the Far East which puts European and US brands on the wrong side of whatever Covid, container, or Suez Canal shipping issues are occurring.
That means metal is increasingly looking like a great option for frames – particularly for smaller, more innovative manufacturers. Cotic is now ‘on-shoring’ or at least ‘on-continenting’ as much of its steel frame production as possible. Pace is also getting its latest frames built by a European company they used to work with thirty years ago while younger brands like Bird, Privateer, etc are showing that metal bikes can be super competitive on performance and price. Specialized have proved metal has a place even for the biggest manufacturers with awesome bikes like the top-spec Stumpjumper Evo Elite Alloy and Chisel XC hardtail. Metal components – particularly wheels and cranks – are seeing a big renaissance too, as riders realize high-tech carbon knitwear doesn’t always survive being smashed into the ground on a regular basis particularly well
With carbon equipment becoming ever heavier to match up to increasingly generous warranty claims, steel and alloy bikes aren’t far off on weight and potentially have big gains in user trust, repairability, and cause less damage to planet Earth.
In other words, if you’re looking at buying a new bike or componentry in 2024, don’t just follow the high modulus composite herd, give metal a serious consideration for a whole bunch of good reasons.
4. More electronics, less wires
No, we aren't talking about e-MTBs, although no doubt they will continue their rapid uptake in popularity in 2024. Instead, we are foreseeing electronic component wizardry will further work its way into MTB and gravel components.
Up until now SRAM has been busy electrifying everything from the new all-electronic T-Type Transmission range to Apex eTap, plus we can't forget SRAM's recently released Eagle Powertrain that integrates with your SRAM transmission to automatically change gears. It's unlikely that we are going to see any new wireless groupsets from SRAM unless AXS is filtered down to NX, although I wouldn't put it past SRAM.
Other than the Auto Shifting e-MTB-specific drivetrain, Shimano on the other hand currently features no off-road electronic groupsets. It's not as if the Japanese brand doesn't have the technology, instead, it's something it has appeared to actively retrogressed having first released a Di2 groupset back in 2015 before slowly abandoning it. The same can be said for GRX which was also originally released with a Di2 variant that was subsequently dropped in the second generation GRX 12-speed release. We think there is a good chance that Shimano's Di2 will make a return to off-road riding in 2024, with a new MTB Di2 drivetrain and potentially GRX Di2 as well.
It's not just drivetrains either, suspension is likely to be more digitalized in 2024 too. There is strong evidence that Fox is working on the next generation Live Valve system, which will reportable be named Fox Active Valve. Although the actual functionality is yet to be confirmed, the patent we have seen has some wild suggestions from “personalized riding coach” to radar and Lidar (light detection and ranging) that could be used to measure for various distance measurements and object detection. Even if the more sci-fi features of Active Valve don't come to fruition, it's probably safe to assume the system will be wireless and compatible with more frames.
SRAM Flight Attendant has been around for a couple of years now so surely there will be an update here too, especially if Fox releases something. SRAM already has plenty of existing tech that could be stitched into Flight Attendant 2.0, for a start telemetry and suspension setup advice from an integrated Shockwiz or digitalized compression and rebound adjustments seem possible. Imagine having a bank of settings for different trails that can be automatically created and optimized as you ride, then electronically adjusting your suspension to these personalized presets with a few presses in an app.
If there is a lot of hype in the electronic suspension market, Suntour might finally release its TACT system to the public although we aren't holding our breath on this one.
Will 2024 be the year we see a brand dare to taste the forbidden fruit and release a wireless brakeset? We certainly hope not although there is a chance Bosch's ABS tech may become more available.
5. A new era of trail bikes
Trail bikes have found themselves in an awkward position, feeling the squeeze between more capable downcountry bikes and the increasingly technical terrain that is defined as trail riding these days. However, many brands are taking a new more radical approach to trail bikes that should reinvigorate the category
Short travel bikes like the Canyon Spectral 125, Santa Cruz 5010, Forbidden Druid V2, and Scor 2030 all feature aggressive enduro angles yet lively characteristics that are aimed at having fun on most trails. They may not be the fastest to the bottom but they are also considerably more rideable than an all-out enduro bike.
Although not all the new bikes will fall into the developing 140mm/120mm-ish rad trail sweet spot, expect to see the likes of Giant update its Trance (a bike that coincidentally was one of the few Fox Live Valve compatible bikes), Trek’s Fuel EX (which was last updated in 2022 and follows a regular two-year product cycle), and maybe even Specialized's four-year-old Stumpjumper despite the fact Specialized has just released a bunch of Stumpjumpers with updated specs.
Other brands on our trail bike update radar are the likes of YT who could beef up the Izzo or develop a short-travel version of its Jeffsey trail bike, Marin's Rift Zone, and Kona's Process 134.
6. Loads of new XC technology
It's an Olympic year and that means one thing, loads of new cross-country tech. Brands will unleash the last four years of product development in an XC arms race to try and equip their riders with all the best tech and hopefully secure the extremely coveted Olympic Gold medal.
What can we expect to see in the lead-up to the Paris Olympics, well other than being inundated with custom paint jobs there will likely be new bikes, new suspension, and a load of components surfacing. We have already touched upon electronic suspension but the biggest tech expectation is the possibility of an XC version of SRAM Flight Attendant surfacing again, which was previously spotted at the 2023 World Championships. We also expect the Olympics would be the perfect opportunity for Fox to unveil Active Valve too, although whether it's as a prototype or public release only time will tell.
If Guy and Graham's predictions have you feeling inspired to get out riding then over on our New Year bike sale bargains article, you'll find our carefully selected best mountain bike deals that we've found in the January sales so far. There is a wide range of bikes and kit from the best mountain bike helmets to tech, clothing and consumables all with fantastic discounts.