Mountain bike industry veteran Guy Kesteven asks if new always means better, or should we be more reserved about jumping on the latest bandwagons?


Is new stuff all it’s cracked up to be? Veteran mountain bike journalist Guy Kesteven wonders whether bikes are good enough now to stop the constant churn.

It’s not a question we’ve had to ask for a while. Between Covid-19, wedged boats, wars and all sorts of other issues, getting our hands on any bikes or parts has been a challenge. Let alone brand new ones with exciting new tech.

But while we’re still regularly seeing launches getting pushed back from planned dates, we have seen some really interesting introductions this year. There are plenty more in the pipeline and they’re certainly great news for filling pages in magazines, on websites, and giving marketing departments something to push.

But is new always better, or should we be more reserved about jumping on the latest bandwagons?

Photo Trek Fuel EXe bike showing app

Trek’s Fuel EXe (and the new BMC Fourstroke AMP LT LTD, which uses the same TQ motor) have potentially pressed ‘CTRL ALT DEL’ on the existing e-bike market. They deserve serious props for introducing something really new to bikes that had been using the same base motors for a while, rewarmed with new head units, bigger batteries and smarter electronics.

Equally, they could become the Mazda RX-7 of e-bikes – iconic, but a load of old Wankel under the bonnet.

On the subject of electronics, was the introduction of Flight Attendant by RockShox earlier this year a moment we’ll look back on as a significant step in the evolution of mountain biking? Or will we just add it to the ‘I remember further back than you’ parade of similar ‘game changing’ remote control suspension systems that started with K2’s Smart Shock last century?

Detail showing RockShox Flight Attendant System control unit on Canyon Spectral 125 CF LTD

I certainly haven’t been asked about it much since it launched, and rumour has it that Mondraker won’t be as MINDful with their 2023 range as they were in 2022.

But is new always better, or should we be more reserved about jumping on the latest bandwagons?

Has your life significantly improved since Vittoria put Graphene in its tyres, Santa Cruz added doors and windows to its frames, or Scott followed Bold into playing hide and seek with its shocks?

I can tell you for nothing that no mechanic who has had to change a headset on one of the latest generation of bikes, where the cables and hoses run inside the bearing races, is a massive fan of that particular ‘innovation’.

And while there has always been a continual stream of ‘improvements’ in my thirty years of riding, I feel like my current scepticism about the latest ones is actually a really positive sign, simply because it means that the basics of bikes are extremely well sorted right now.

The basics of bikes are extremely well sorted right now

There’s obviously some tweaking and adjustments going on, but suspension is basically really bloody good on any bike with a reasonable brand of damper on.

One piece carbon handlebar and integrated tool on the Trek Fuel EXe eMTB

The one-piece carbon handlebar and stem with tool storage on the Trek Fuel EXe

Geometry might still be coalescing to a slacker-is -better norm for the cross-country crowd, but I reckon we’ve seen the extremes of reach and low BBs explored enough to satisfy everyone for a while. 27.5in wheels are happy just having a party out back, very few people make a truly awful tyre, and even most dropper posts work reliably now.

And because there’s been such a stasis of new stuff recently, that means you won’t see a massive difference in ride quality between a great bike from 2019 and a great one from 2022. The only massive difference you will see is in price, and that’s far more significant to most of us right now than Buttercups, Bosch power ups or half a degree of head angle change.