What does 2021 have in store for mountain bike tech? Well, it’s lucky you asked, because here are our top five mountain bike trends for the year.
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1. XC racing continues to get radder
2020 was set to be a big year for cross-country, with the Olympic Games scheduled and updates of classic bikes such as the Specialized Epic and Cannondale Scalpel. Then, well, we all know what happened next.
However, looking ahead to this year, the trend seems to be a continuation on the theme of XC race bikes getting radder and more capable every year.
Take the Specialized Epic. The most recent update has a reach of 470mm in a size large. Not long ago that would have been seen on a trail bike, but now you’ll find it on a pure World Cup race machine like the Epic.
As for the Cannondale Scalpel, that has a relatively slack head angle of 68 degrees, making it far more capable than XC bikes of old.
And, if you want your XC bike to be even more trail-friendly, Specialized and Cannondale have the Epic Evo and Scalpel SE versions of their flagship race bikes.
Both feature a 120mm fork and mountain bike geometry that makes them just as fun on the downs as they are on the ups.
Those with their finger on the pulse of the cross-country world might be aware that radder race bikes are not the only trend for 2021, but you’ll have to read on to find out what we’re talking about.
2. Electric mountain bikes become cool
Just like every other type of electric bike, it’s safe to say e-mountain bike sales are going to increase in 2021.
However, the trend in question is not the increase in sales, but the perception of the bikes being sold.
Just like most new technologies in mountain biking, ebikes weren’t always embraced with open arms when they first hit the mainstream.
Phrases like ‘ebikes are not for proper mountain bikers’, and ‘ebikes are only for old timers or people who want to cheat’, were often seen in the BikeRadar comments section.
Fortunately, this perception has started to change, and electric mountain bikes are beginning to carry the same kudos as regular mountain bikes.
This is partly down to something we call the Santa Cruz factor, whereby anything Santa Cruz does immediately becomes cool in the eyes of all mountain bikers.
And, as Santa Cruz has recently released the new Bullit, it means e-mountain bikes are now officially cool.
Now, we’re clearly jesting, but the sentiment has some truth to it. New technologies can sometimes be slow to catch on, but once a critical mass of companies with high cultural capital jump on a trend, we start to see the perception shift.
So with brands such as Specialized, Santa Cruz, Cannondale and Scott all pushing e-mountain bikes hard, we think 2021 will finally be the year they gain more widespread acceptance in the mountain biking community.
3. Budget bikes getting better
From expensive e-mountain bikes, we now head to a more affordable trend, with the ever-increasing quality of beginner and budget bikes.
It’s no secret that at the top end, bikes are incredibly expensive, with many sailing comfortably past the 10k mark. While these are lovely to look at, very few of us can actually afford them. So, it’s fantastic to see affordable bikes becoming more capable every year.
The Voodoo Bizango Carbon is a great example. For £1,000 you get a carbon frame and sorted geometry, which, matched with capable components, meant it received a near-perfect score in a recent BikeRadar review.
If you want full suspension, the Calibre Bossnut comes in at £1,100 and also received 4.5 stars when we tested it.
However, with the impressive performance and excellent value of these bikes comes soaring popularity, meaning they are often sold out or difficult to find in stock.
So we recommend moving fast if you are thinking of buying a budget mountain bike in 2021.
4. Downcountry is now a thing
Following on from the radder XC race bikes we mentioned earlier, downcountry is now a thing, and with the travel on offer, good geometry and solid specs, these bikes are incredibly capable.
Yes, if you were hoping 2021 would be the year we don’t see another new genre of mountain bikes, then you’ll be disappointed because it’s time for downcountry to shine.
If you’re wondering what downcountry is, it’s a kind of woolly, hard to define category of bikes. They cover ground incredibly quickly but sacrifice very little when it comes to heading downhill fast.
Perhaps you could class them as XC bikes on steroids or, even, fast short-travel trail bikes. Or, as we’ve already mentioned, downcountry bikes. As you can see, it’s hard to define what they really are.
One thing we can say for sure is these bikes are quickly winning favour among bike testers and riders the world over.
Both these bikes are based around the respective brands’ XC platforms, but have longer travel forks, bigger tyres and burlier brakes, which make them ideal for those all-round fast rides where you plan on hitting some gnar as well.
While we’d like to take credit for inventing the name downcountry, we must thank our friends over at Pinkbike for coming up with it first, so hats off to them.
You can check out our list of the best downcountry mountain bikes and buyer’s guide to find out more about this burgeoning category of bikes.
5. Enduro bikes are getting more travel
Another area where travel seems to be on the up is enduro.
Enduro bikes must cover a wide variety of terrain over long days, and in the right hands they’re some of the fastest mountain bikes on the planet.
So, to handle the kinds of speeds we see at the top end of enduro racing, we’ve naturally seen new bikes coming with more travel.
Take the Evil Wreckoning. With its big wheels and relatively long travel, it arguably changed the enduro game for the better when first released in 2016.
The latest 2021 model has upped the travel again to 170mm at the front and 166mm at the back.
Elsewhere, you have something like the Specialized Enduro, which features a whopping 170mm of travel front and rear, meaning it can swallow just about anything in its path.
Because they ride so well, we can’t imagine longer-travel enduro bikes are going away anytime soon, so expect this trend to continue in 2021.
That’s it from us, but if you have any trend predictions of your own then we’d love to hear them. Let us known in the comments below.