It’s hard to imagine what the next significant step-change in mountain bike tech will be; we’ve got decent suspension, grippy tyres, powerful brakes and gears that just seem to work without too much TLC. But, while 2019 might not see any massive advancements, there are plenty of smaller development strands that continue to push the envelope of what defines a market leading mountain bike.
Here are five of what we think are the most important to look out for in 2019’s cohort of bikes.
1. Short fork offsets
Mountain bike geometry can seem like a dark art. Removing a degree here and adding 5mm there might sound like tiny tweaks, but they can make a huge difference to how a bike rides. The tweak de-jour seems to be shortening fork offset.
Moving the wheel axle closer to the steering axis of the bike gives more stable steering in steep, bumpy terrain, boosting confidence when the trail gets gnarly, without resorting to silly head angles.
2. Fun XC bikes
Cross-country is evolving, and courses are getting ever gnarlier, demanding more from the riders and bikes each season.
In response, bike designers are making a concerted effort to shake off XC’s road-bike heritage.
2019’s roster looks the raddest ever with extended reaches, longer travel, slacker angles, dropper posts and tyres that might not puncture at the faintest wisp of a sneeze.
If your riding consists of crossing fair distances at high speed, but you still actually enjoy having fun, then you should keep an eye on the XC genre.
3. Bigger mid-size rubber
The perennial wheel- and tyre-size debate never seems to disappear, and we reckon for 2019 it will still feature heavily over a post-ride drink.
While fat tyres seem to have largely disappeared, and true plus widths never quite caught on, from the 2019 bikes we’ve seen so far it looks like 2.5in and 2.6in rubber might just make its mark.
Wide enough to offer bumper levels of grip, but just about narrow enough to keep handling quick and fun, this mid-plus tyre size may well have the legs where wider tyres fall by the wayside.
4. Steeper seat angles
We’ve had longer and we’ve had slacker. Save for a few brands still pushing the boundaries, most designers seem to be pretty settled on geometry these days.
Except in one area. Seat angle. In 2019 we think the most progressive brands will be looking at where your weight sits over the bike.
Thanks to the combined effects of gradient and suspension sag, seat angles decrease rapidly when you’re going uphill, making front ends more prone to lift.
Steepening the seat angle therefore means better climbing handling, as well as improved positioning of your weight between the axles when on flatter terrain. We think 76–77 degrees is likely to emerge as the new normal.
5. Electronic integration
You may not like the idea of electronic components compromising the simplicity of your hydraulically suspended, carbon-fibre superbike, but 2019 will see a raft of new electronically optimised products coming on to the market.
If you’re happy for suspension, drivetrain and tyre tech to make your life easier on the trail, why not let electronics improve that even more?
Suspension that reacts almost instantly to trail conditions, dropper posts that don’t need fiddly cables to operate and gears that work all the time, every time. What’s not to like?
We’re sure you’ll tell us in the comments.