Opinions – New improvements for marginal gains

It seems like every year now some company somewhere comes out with some brand new revolutionary change to frames or wheels or suspension or handle bars, or any other part of the bike, that make the bike we bought two years ago obsolete, and/or impossible to buy replacement parts for.  Whether it’s boost spacing, plus sized tyres, electronic bikes and gears, or some new coloured fork were all supposed to fall in love with, it just seems like the guys working for the bike companies are taking us for a ride.

Anyone else remember overdrive stems?  Giant thought they had cracked the enigma code with that one.

Now personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of change; I find something I like and I stick with it.  At my local Singaporean restaurant, they don’t even bother giving me a menu, they just bring out the salty fish fried rice. Even if my life depended on it, I couldn’t tell you what any other dish tasted like at that establishment I so often dine at.  So when Rockshox announced this year that they were no longer producing non-boost spaced forks, designed to fit plus sized tyres, I wasn’t particularly impressed.  Why fix something that isn’t broken?  Is an extra one centimetre between my fork lowers really going to improve my life that much?  Has mountain biking innovation stalled so much that widening our frames is all these billion dollar companies can come up with?  Anyone else remember overdrive stems?  Giant thought they had cracked the enigma code with that one, and they annoyed everyone by making them buy different forks and stems, but then three years later, it’s no where to be seen.  Now I know Sram tells us that boost spacing is a god sent, or is it just another marketing ploy, until the next big innovation, let’s call it boost plus, comes along, and screws us all over again.

I’m not alone in thinking this either.  Pinkbike recently ran a poll, rating the most impressive to the least impressive mountain biking innovations in recent times.  Unsurprisingly, products such as long travel air sprung forks and dropper posts came in as the most impressive, and winning the most overhyped and disappointing category, by almost 1000 votes, was boost spacing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against companies coming up with new technology and rolling it out to the public; I’m all for better bikes, but I just want the improvements that I’m forking out for to be actually noticeable.  Hydraulic disc brakes, air sprung suspension, dropper posts, all things that when I add to my bike I get a tangible improvement ot my ride.  I’ve ridden boost space bikes and plus sized tyres, and found with each of those, the difference was unnoticeable, or just simply different: not necessarily worse, but definitely not better.

…and winning the most overhyped and disappointing category, by almost 1000 votes, was boost spacing.

Has mountain biking become too much like road riding, where instead of focusing on the big picture, every year all we get is the same bike that is supposedly slightly stiffer, or inconsequentially more aerodynamic?  I think so, but what can I do about it?

What do you think about these seemingly insignificant improvements?  Are they giving us marginal gains, at best?  Or do they really give you something to write home about?  Let us know in the comment section!

Categories: Discussions

1 reply »

  1. Whilst it doesn’t look like much of an improvement to the naked eye. I believe boost spacing is a strong move forward. It allows the spokes on a 29er wheel to be built up as strong as 27.5 or 26″ wheel. It also allows for wider tyres to be fitted to the frame whilst still shortening the rear chain stays for better geometry. The annoying thing for consumers is that no standard frame or wheel set can be updated to boost and requires the purchase of a new frame and wheels. MONEY MONEY MONEY!

    Liked by 1 person

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