New standards = new bike? UN-Standards, Innovation and Change

Is there really a demand for constant new standards? Or is it a made up industry need that we must adapt to?

You know when or how I’m buying an e-bike? I’ll buy my first e-bike the same way I bought my 27.5. The same way my next bike will most likely have boost standards. Exactly the same way as my future bike will probably have metric shock standards. Not because I want it, not because I see the need for it or the “great advantages” presented. But because that’s pretty much the only option left for me to purchase a new bike going forward.

When I felt I had outgrown my 26 first full suspension bike and needed a change, 27.5 were getting into the market as the latest and greatest rage. I tested them, didn’t hate them, liked them, but failed to see all the hype. Yeah, I was a little higher, but pretty sure the better ride was a combination of my growing skills, improved geometry, longer travel and not just a taller wheel. But here I was deciding whether, to buy a new 27.5 bike or get another 26 (used or the diminishing new stock).

Incorporating improvements, most always means new standards

It really didn’t take much to move me towards 27.5 new standard, instead of retro-grouching and clinging on. But I was not a fully sold camper. I bought the 27.5 thinking parts would be easier to acquire than if I stayed in 26. Time proved me right, but not for want, or need to have, but for necessity. To be able to get 4, 5 years out of a purchase before another large change in the industry made my bike obsolete. Hi Boost!

There was no real personal need for 27.5, the true necessity was for a bike that matched what style I was riding and where my riding was going. The market pushed me into a newer wheel size if I wanted to remain current and have near future options. Had I stayed in 26, how many wheel options are available today?

Fixed gear bike on a fountain curb, Very little standard changes on fixie bikes, simple bikes. One gear, all metric sizing.
Very little standard changes on fixie bikes, simple bikes made for fun.

What is it with all the constant change?

That’s what’s happening with e-bikes, boost, metric, etcetera. It’s not the search for some magical untapped market, or huge performance gains. No, it’s to keep the industry from getting stagnant. If standards don’t change then you are pretty much on par slowly upgrading your frame and components from time to time and calling it a day. Alas, while that’s a very consumer friendly way, it’s not an industry profitable way. The industry way needs a constant stream of new money to continue. Look at how long 26 wheels and 3×9 gearing were around; great for us, as used, swappable and alternative brands lowered prices, but a costly lesson for top tier manufacturers that they are certain never to repeat.

Innovation is good, forced change leads to “Meh”

Now, I don’t hate change and I’m far from being a retro-grouch. We have to push for change and embrace it when it comes paired with great innovation, not just corporate financial benefit. It gives us really cool things like dropper posts, long and slack, short stems and progressive full suspension. It also gives us things to cringe and laugh at like URT, brake shifters and suspension stems. Innovation is good, even when the result is bad and quickly left in the dust. It’s just that forced change for the sake of extracting a few extra bucks from my wallet, isn’t my cup of tea. It really makes me say: “Meh, I’ll ride my current bike longer till it falls apart.”

MRP is a great example, really cool company, really like the forks they offer and would love to have one on my bike. It’ll probably be on my next bike, but not an upgrade on my current one. Why? Well, they are only making boost forks and the adaptor kits aren’t available for my hubs. So I will have to spend on a new fork and hubs, or buy a bike specced with the fork whenever I feel it is time for an updated ride. I choose the latter and spend less now.

Mountain bike perched atop a rock outcropping looking at a foggy valley.
With simple updates like new brakes and 1×11. My 3 year old bike is still kicking strong.

What does the future of UN-standards look like?

The solution to all of this is industry forced change is simple, resist. No, we don’t need a new bike every year, nor a new fork. We can get plenty of years out of our current gear if we shop or build right. Choose something that lasts over something that’s nice, flashy or in vogue. Not spending on every industry standard whim, means companies earn less profit and that scares them. You can’t future proof against every constant industry standard change (UN-standards let’s say). But you can get something that outlasts a lot of changes and sees you without the need to change to the latest new UN-standard.

Boost, will probably remain, it’ll allow us to keep thicker non plus tires and fit 12+ gear systems better. Although I still think it would have been better to use the DH Standard. Then again, that means less industry profit. Plus tires, will just move to regular 29. And metric will hobble on but ultimately depend on all shock manufacturers joining. To close this out, I will quote Dennis Miller “Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Don’t fret the new stuff that won’t fit and don’t fret the new stuff that seems useless. The market has a way of weeding out those products. Keep what you got, ride what you got until the wheels come off!

2 thoughts on “New standards = new bike? UN-Standards, Innovation and Change

  1. You are right, a new bike never will give you the skills to be good biker.

  2. Muy Bueno, solo no Conozco la palabra “specced” …

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