Celebrate the end of the decade by looking back at the best bits of the decade, whether they’re bikes, tech, racing, or riding stories
Part one looking back at the most important MTB moments of the past decade. The last 10 years have provided us with a tumult of trail highlights.
Mountain biking never stands still, it’s constantly changing in almost every way, from the bikes and technology we use, to the trails we ride and the influences on us from events and races. Over the last 10 years we’ve seen such flux in our sport it’s become very easy to get used to it, blasé about the amazing evolution happening right under our noses.
The greatest mountain bike moments of the decade: no’s 11 to 18
18. Wheel sizes
We started the decade with 26in wheels, went to 29, then reined it back to 27.5in. But the engineers weren’t done there, 27.5in Plus added extra width and circumference to the tyres, and then 29ers came back in vogue again as more and more influential riders began using them. and just when we thought it was safe to hang up our tape measures, mullet bikes started to pop their funky heads up: 29in up front and 27.5in in the back. All of which means that, like vinyl records, 26in is due a resurgence.
If we had to pick a specific moment that defined wheel sizes in the past decade it would have to be either the 2013 Eurobike Trade Show (where the death of 26in was pretty much confirmed) or when the whole Santa Cruz Syndicate team showed up on 29ers at the opening round of the 2017 World Cup DH.. and proceeded to smoke everyone in qualifying.
17. “Remember to like and subscribe!”
Yes, mountain biking has not been immune to the rise of the influencer and the vlogger. Instagram and YouTube are overflowing with content as a result, which is both good and bad, as among the sea of mediocrity there are some genuinely entertaining, talented and engaging personalities that have risen to the surface. For the next generation, it’s also likely to be the only way they engage with mountain bike content.
16. The rise of the direct-sales brands
Canyon , YT, Rose, Radon, Vitus and the rest did something a little different to the big brands: they cut out the bike shops, rented and warehouse, set up a website, designed some bikes, got them made in Taiwan and sold them to the public at knock-down prices. At first, direct-sales bikes boasted little more than great value and tempting specs, but after a few years they started to dial in the suspension and optimise the geometry. At which point they began to win media awards, take market share and put the cat among the industry pigeons.
15. The Fest Series
How far is it possible to jump on a mountain bike? The Fest Series has been redefining our assumption in this regard, bringing long-haul flying top two wheels. You know a jump is truly colossal when you need a motocross bikes to figure out how fast to go.
14. Steve Peat wins The Worlds
This happened 2009, so technically shouldn’t be included in our list, but what the hell, it’s too important to ignore. Peaty won everything going in the two decades before winning the Worlds, but the big one eluded him again and again. So when he finally won the rainbow stripes on a controversial course in Canberra, Peaty was ecstatic, along with the North of England and everyone else for that matter. Best bit? When he sprayed himself in the face with champagne on the podium.
The most controversial two words in mountain biking: e and bikes. But they are finally winning hearts and minds. Growth from e-bikes far outstrips conventional non-assisted bikes, while some can even see a future where there is some kind of motor in every high-end mountain bike. The benefits to older, less fit or disabled riders are obvious, but to ghettoise them is to miss the point; e-bikes let you get in twice as much riding, explore new terrain and generally turn the fun factor up to 11. We love naturally aspirated bikes, but we also love e-bikes – at the end of the day, you still have to pedal them.
12. Bike parks
2013 was an important year because a venue with a big future called BikePark Wales opened at Gethin Woods in South Wales. For the first time, there was a bike park in the UK dedicated to trail riders rather than downhillers, offering them all the thrills of a descent without the effort of riding back up again. Everyone lapped it up, and within a few years loads of other venues begain springing up – from Leeds Urban Bike Park in the North to Black Mountains Cycle Centre in South Wales. Bike parks were to the Teens what trail centres were to the Noughties, at the cutting edge of trail development and popularity.
11. The Eagle has landed
More important even than droppper posts, SRAM’s single-ring drivetrain development has completely changed the bikes we ride. It began with the 11-speed XX1 drivetrain in 2012, and took a giant leap forward with Eagle in 2016. Both brought simplicity and security to the crucial act of changing gears. Suddenly you could ride a trail without dropping your chain, and get a greater range of gears without the faff of figuring out which chainring to use. Eagle also allowed for less cluttered bars, which really helped when dropper posts came along too, chopped weight off your bike and gave frame designers greater flexibility to optimise suspension designs.