Advances in mountain bike technology coupled with the constantly changing “standards” can be almost overwhelming at times to a lot of riders. Pervasive marketing and internet forum discussions can make it seem like your 2-year old bike is completely “outdated” and essentially useless on the trail. Electronic droppers, 12 speed cassettes, + tires… It can be a bit intimidating trying to understand it all for sure.
“Oh man, you really need a bike with a metric shock and super boost+, it’ll change your world” – said nobody.
Mountain bike technology has been consistently progressing over the life of the sport, but in the past few years it has seemed like everything has been changing more quickly year after year without any signs of slowing. Long time mountain bikers often get frustrated by this, and understandably so, but the thing is, it is making bikes better. Technology is rad. Go ride a full suspension bike from 2006 vs 2016 and you will see way more than a slight difference! On the other hand, ride a bike from 2014 vs 2016 and the difference will not be as significant. Technology generally takes small steps forward each year, and not usually the giant leaps that marketers tend to present in ads. And that’s ok. The point is that you will notice bigger differences if you take the long view.
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So at what point does it make sense to upgrade your bike? Every year? Every three years? When you can’t buy proper parts for your frame anymore? This is where everyone has their own opinions. Some people are always going to want to be on the latest and greatest bike, period. Others, however, will ride the same bike for several seasons and not really worry too much about it. If you can afford a new bike and you actually want to upgrade, do it. If you are really happy with your setup, it meets your needs as a rider, and the most current trends are not what it is important to you, then keep your bike until YOU want to upgrade. Contrary to what many mountain bike forums and internet comment sections like to think, there is not a giant conspiracy among bike companies to make your bike obsolete. You can still go buy 26” tires and V-brake pads. Of course some things might be a little trickier if you hold onto your old bike– i.e. finding a new high end fork for a straight steer 26” bike. That is simply because the demand is gone. Again, not a conspiracy, that is just the free market doing its thing.
The biggest source of frustration for a lot of riders is the changing hub width standards. Now not only are there multiple wheel sizes, but hub widths as well. At this point, most companies have adopted boost technology. Then all of a sudden super boost burst onto the scene just as we had all gotten comfortable with boost. (Without going too in depth, super boost is essentially the old downhill hub width with wider spoke flanges to build stiffer wheels. So far only a couple of companies have put this standard into use.) Many riders have “invested” in high end wheels with the thought they would be able to use them for years to come even as they upgraded frames, now only to find their “old” non boost hubs are a no go on the latest and greatest frames. So, can you comfortably commit to one hub standard if you are debating buying a set of high-end wheels that you can move from bike to bike over the next several years? Can you commit to a wheel size? Rim width? That is a legitimate question for many of us that cannot afford new high-end wheels every time we purchase a frame. My thoughts: If you are ok with limiting your frame selection based upon your wheelset, commit. If you want to be able to choose a frame without having to factor in your prized wheelset, don’t commit. Again, no marketing conspiracy, just a decision you have to make.
The point of all of this is to simply say that mountain bikes are going to keep changing. And that is a really good thing. Over the relatively short history of mountain biking, technology has advanced crazy fast. There were plenty of terrible ideas that did not stick, but they all pushed the sport forward. I do not know anyone that would trade their modern trail bike for the bike they were riding ten years ago. Do not fear the progression! But also do not let new technology make you feel pushed into the latest and greatest. Ride bikes, have fun, & don’t sweat the small stuff!
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Which would you choose to ride on a daily basis?? 2008 vs 2017