I recently assembled a new bike (yes I do my own bike), there are glaring new technologies that are now part of the check list for consideration that were not on the list a few years back. Its amazing that bike technologies continues to evolve even if we think we have exhausted every angle there is to improve on. But of course there were golden eras where technologies jumped sky high but even on the lean years, there were still pockets of improvements. We can argue that some of these improvement were driven more of marketing- a need to sell new stuff but in the end, its still us consumers that will benefit and we will still have the last say if a given technology would succeed or will just be another part of bike’s evolutionary history.
Maybe some of these technologies were already existing years before it got mainstream but it is more evident for consideration in building bikes lately as those technologies matured (i.e. gravity seat posts)- here are some of those items:
- Tapered Head Tubes and Tapered Fork Steerer (for both the bike frame (head
tubes) and the fork (steerer)). The normal head tube/steerer measures at 1 1/8 or 44 mm diameter all throughout. A tapered system has 44 mm top and 56 mm bottom diameter. This is designed to Improve rigidity in this critical area which translates to less wheel deflection and more control. Also in most frame designs, larger head tubes gives room to fit a massive down tube that joins the bottom bracket to become the burly heart of the bike. The tapered head tube offers a noticeable advantage and the frame is still compatible with traditional 1-1/8” steerer tube forks with the purchase of a crown race adapter, but a tapered steerer fork serves up a significant increase in rough terrain tracking and stability. Using a non tapered fork on a tapered frame is like getting only half of the advantage of the tapered system in the first place.
- Wide handle bars. When it comes to mountain bike handlebars, wider (to a certain extent) is better (i.e. 750 mm). They offer you more control, easier breathing and better positioning for balance. This makes you more stable and slower to fatigue. But of course in Manila, if you often do urban rides, consider the downside of wide handle bars- getting entangled in the busy streets of Manila.
- 15 mm or 20 mm Through Axle (for both wheel set and fork).
The advantage of a QR 15/20 through axle system is the stiffening of the fork and also of the front wheel. The latter won’t flex so much, especially on turn. The clamping becomes extra safe because for QR 9 axles, a minimum risk of breaking open still exists but with QR 15/20 you can simply forget about it. It is because the axle is mechanically clamped to the fork lowers, so the chances of breaking open is basically zero. Also the QR 15/20 axle construction is more rigid. QR 9 can bend in heavy operating conditions, practically tearing itself apart in the middle. Due to the fact that QR 15 is hollow, it is stiffer and more resistant, regardless of riding conditions. This system is already prevalent on forks/ front wheel set but on some bikes, the rear wheel set are already using the same set-up especially for all-mountain to downhill bikes. For QR 15/20 wheel sets, adapters are available to use it with other platforms (i.e. QR 9).
- 35 mm Diameter Handle Bar (for both stem and handle bar). In the early days- 27 mm is the standard. Then comes the 31.8 mm and it quickly replaced the standard. That was already considered as oversize handle bar. Nowadays there are 35 mm handle bars that of course, would need 35 mm stems. According to Easton- Because of the bulked up center section they managed to decrease the weight while making the bar wider and stronger.
- 1 x 11 Drive train. The concept of this is based on the fact that there are redundant gearings on the other systems especially in a 3 X 9 set-up. The only important thing is that you have the basic gears especially the lowest and the highest covered. This follows the notion of less is simple, less is beautiful. Coverting to a 1X11 would be costly as you need to replace a lot of stuff so the in-between solution is converting the 2X10 or 3X10 to a 1×10. There is a separate article in this blog that explain how to do the conversion.
- Gravity seat post. This has been in existence for a long time but only became mainstream when new technologies made this design more practicable (i.e. light weight, suspension technology and remote lock-out). Nowadays high end “all mountain” bikes has this seat post as part of the standard set-up. Not all are still convince this is needed (like myself) but there are still people out there that considers this as part of an all mountain set-up.
- Fork Offset. Nowadays forks for 29” wheel platform offers two kinds of offset – 46 mm and 51 mm. Although in actual, these offset would mean a minimal (in mm or cm) increase in wheel base, this is critical in 29’ner systems as the big wheels in this set-up usually causes narrow distance between the two wheels which may cause the foot to touch the front wheel when the wheels are turned. As mentioned, the added millimeters would be of big help to clear the wheels when turning.
- The choice between 27.5 and 29 wheel size. Is 26 passe ? Is in-between better? You be the judge.
But there are more coming up- like the Di2 technology which are now available in the mountain bike platform after the release of the XTR 2015. And this is not as simple as the drive train only- there are now bike frames that are specifically designed to accommodate this Di2 set-up (i.e. internal battery compartment and internal wiring). And talking about frame designs, also worth to note is that recent frame designs already have internal cable routing guides brought about by the flexibility of using carbon technology. This routing also made a cross over to traditional aluminum frames as some already have internal routings. The tubular (not tubeless) technology is also being introduced in the MTB segment and lets see how it progresses.