Thank God for these 10 MTB innovations…

Climbing cassettes, sealed bearings, knee pads – so glad they exist

Its easy to pass things by in life, taking for granted the things that really make life better. Whether it be on a small or large scale, there are some bits of kit and innovations that we at MBUK would be hard pushed to be without. To show our appreciation we feature one in the mag each month – and here’s our latest roundup.


1. Wide-ratio cassettes

Wide-range cassettes: wide-range cassettes

The huge 10-42 tooth cassette introduced by SRAM in 2013 sent ripples through the sport. Having a wider range of gears at the rear means that you can get rid of your front chainrings and derailleur and still tackle steep climbs and fast descents without killing your legs. This development has had all sorts of knock-on benefits too. For a start, it saves weight, but it also frees up the space occupied by your left hand gear shifter for, say, a dropper post remote. It’s also allowed bike designers more free range in their designs as they no longer have to design around a front mech fixing point. With the introduction of their new 11spd XTR and XT groupsets, even Shimano is getting onto the wide range cassette bandwagon. If you’re on a tighter budget there are even aftermarket modifications you can make to your existing 10spd cassette to extend its range. 

2. Hydration packs

Hydration packs:

Tools, food and plenty of water all in one place – a godsend! Modern designs made for cycling are a far cry from a bog standard backpacks, with clever systems to ensure that you can lug you kit about comfortably all day long. Lightweight but tough and water resistant fabrics keep everything safe, while organised tool sections and easy to find hip pockets mean that you’ll always have what you need at hand, whether it’s a quick snack stop or serious mechanical malfunction. Clever harness systems are designed to prevent everything moving about without restricting your breathing or making you overheat. You can find packs sized to suit anything from a quick blast around the woods to a multi-day bikepacking adventure. Some models even help keep you safe by integrating spine protecting armour into them. What’s not to love?

3. Sealed bearings

Sealed bearings:

Thanks to these, the days of having to strip down and regrease every bearing on your bike after a soggy ride are long gone. Thanks to better seals and cartridge bearings, headset and pivots will run smooth as icecream for far longer than ever before. More time riding and less time spannering can only be a good thing…

4. Hardcore hardtails

Hardcore hardtails:

Hardtails with fun and fast geometry – so called ‘hardcore’ hardtails – are guaranteed to induce grins! There’s another plus side too – less maintenance is needed with no shock or suspension pivots to look after, so they’re ideal for the soggy winter months. 

5. Effective suspension

Effective suspension:

Flipping the coin, we are also thankful for effective suspension! Thanks to brands like Rockshox, Fox and BOS our kit just keeps getting better and better!

6. Technical fabrics

Technical fabrics:

Technical fabrics are great for keeping us warm and dry in the winter and also cool in the summer. Breathable jackets and jerseys with wicking properties all combine to keep us comfortable on all-day missions, no matter how bad the weather outside gets.

7. Big wheels

Big wheels:

While there’s nothing wrong with old-skool 26in wheels, the smooth rolling properties of a 29er wheel aren’t to be sniffed at. With the introduction of 650b/27.5in wheels, there’s more choice than ever, so you can pick the best wheel size to suit you and your riding.

8. Trail knee pads

Trail kneepads:

The rise of enduro has given the protection market a boost with riders clamouring for more protection than they can still pedal all day in. Less is certainly more where knee pads are concerned, with the main focus on comfort using high tech materials that only harden up when impacted to provide the protection. 

9. Thru-axles

Through axels:

While the good old quick-release axle has been around since the turn of the century – and by that we mean the last century – through axle designs are much better suited to mountain biking, offering much more stiffness and security. Some, such as the RockShox Maxle pictured above, have smart designs that make them just as fast to undo as the old designs. What’s not to like?

10. Tubeless tyres

Tubeless tyres:

By switching out your inner tubes for a special tyre and rim combo plus a bit of sealant, it’s possible to almost eradicating punctures, helping say goodbye to pinch flats and increasing traction – if you haven’t tried a tubeless set up yet then it should be the first thing on your ‘to do’ list now the New Year is here! There are many conversion kits on the market too, so it needn’t be expensive or difficult to go tubeless.