While many of the technologies introduced in the last five years do offer tangible benefits to riders, the speed with which the cycling industry is turning over tech, introducing new and standards and scrapping old ones, can be maddening. Worse, it's turning people away from the sport.
My eyes were recently opened to this when discussing bikes over a few beers with a pair of friends. They’re not friends I would consider 'cyclists'; they don’t race, they certainly don’t shave their legs, and they only ride few times a month. If I were to categorize them in terms of hobbies, the term 'outdoors bros' seems to fit.
They ride bikes, but it’s not an all-encompassing passion or identity. They also rock climb, fly fish and ski. So while they think cycling is cool and they enjoy having high-end bikes (albeit somewhat dated), they have garages full of outdoor gear to manage. Bicycles are just one slice of the pie.
Both of my friends were in the market for new mountain bikes, as theirs were four and six years old, respectively. We discussed options and they were both dumbfounded by the quagmire of choices they had to wade through. I did my best to explain all the changes that mountain biking has gone through in the past few years.
It didn’t go well.
“So quick-release axles are out; everything has thru-axles now,” I explained.
“Speaking of axles… we’ve gone wider front and rear. It’s probably something the industry should have done the minute everything went to disc brakes for the sake of wheel stiffness, but it’s just now happening.”
“No, it didn’t happen when companies switched to thru-axles, so there are two different front and rear thru-axle standards at the moment. Well, three, actually, if you count the ‘super boost’ spacing Pivot uses on its new long-travel 29er — other companies may follow suit.”
“Also, 26in wheels are dead, 27.5 and 29ers are the options these days. But actually, 26+ is starting to become a thing, which brings us to the whole ‘plus-size’ option. There is 26, 27.5 and also 29+. They’re smaller than fat bike tires, but larger than the mountain bike tires you're used to.”
“No high-end mountain bike comes with a triple crankset anymore. Heck, even 2x drivetrains are fading away since SRAM and Shimano now have wide-range 1x11 drivetrains. SRAM has even gone to 1x12 with a huge 50t granny gear on its latest high-end group!”
It was about this time that I realized I had lost them, and so did the cycling industry.
The result of my failed attempt divining reason from the rapid-fire changes in the bike world was that one friend bought a new fly fishing rod and reel. The other is saving his money for a season ski pass and a new snowboard.
Does this sound familiar to you?
Have the embarrassment of choices and the din of marketing become too overwhelming to make sense of? Has the pace of change in the cycling industry turned you off to the sport?