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2022 mountain bike trends to watch

What to expect from new bikes this year (and what our crystal ball got right - and wrong - last year)

SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed cassette Photo by: Matt Stetson

Mountain bikes are always evolving but that progress is not always linear. In the endless search for a better bike, there are all kinds of side roads, diversions and good ideas  on paper that didn’t quite pan out in the real world. The days of revolutionary chance are gone – mostly – but it’s still fun to look back at what changed in the last year and what could be coming down the pipe in 2022.

2021 was the year of high pivots and high tech designs, like Norco’s Virtual High Pivot suspension linkage. Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

2021: Hits and misses

We looked into our crystal ball around this time last year, too. The picture then was of bigger, more durable and more complex bikes. Many of those predictions ended up panning out, though we did miss some things. Here’s a quick look back at where we thought 2021 was going, and what ended up happening.

More storage? Yup. Specialized kick-started this with SWAT boxes. Giant followed with their own design while Trek expanded the feature to more bikes this year. Better eMTB? In spades. The range of eMTB continues to grow, and improve. Who knows how far designers can go in making charged bikes feel like their meat-powered bikes, but better. More wires and more integration? Unfortunately, yes. RockShox introduced Flight Attendant, Fox updated Live Valve, SRAM introduced GX-level AXS and rumors of Di2’s return to dirt continue to swirl. Like it or not, batteries on bikes are here to stay.

RELATED: Top 6 long travel trail and enduro bikes for 2022

Durability over weight? Some brands are taking this road, like Norco’s impressive Range, Specialized’s alloy Stumpy. Others, like Giant and Canyon, continue to produce lightweight bikes even for more aggressive riding. So basically, there’s options for everyone.

Enduro’s going big, but many XC bikes added travel in 2021, too. Canyon Lux Trail only added 10mm, but it made a difference.

There’s also more suspension, both in big bikes and cross country racers, more frame adjustment options and more mixed-wheel or mullet bikes. And, though we could not have predicted how long the supply chain issues would last, bikes are most definitely more expensive.

What did we miss? Well, we didn’t think high pivot suspension would find the mass acceptance it has. The sheer number of bikes rolling out with complex, race driven suspension is astounding. On the other end, the trend of more and more XC bikes reverting to flex stays for suspension is surprising.

2022: Trends to watch
Canyon Spectral CFR
Canyon CP009 integrated bar-stem on the 2022 Spectral CFR. photo: Roo Fowler.
More integration

Internal cable routing is becoming standard. look for mountain bike brands to follow cues from road bikes and start integrating more. Scott’s started us off with the hidden rear shock and Syncros bar-stem. Canyon has its own bar-stem combo. Are we exited about this? Not really. It makes bikes harder to work on and more expensive without adding any real performance advantage beyond “looking cleaner.” Some brands are pushing back, adding options for external cable routing, but the specter of integration looms ominously over mountain biking’s future.

RELATED: Top 5 XC and short travel trail bikes for 2022

Nanaimo’s Wildwood Cycles says single pivot is enough for its Seal Tooth. Will more big brands simplify their designs too? Photo: Wildwood Cycles.
Simpler designs

This may be more of a wish than a prediction, but there are hints it could happen. As more bikes get extremely complex suspension linkages and carbon fibre frames, there are hints of a return to simpler designs. Alloy frames and single pivot designs are gaining popularity in the world of custom and boutique bikes. We hope this makes the jump to bigger brands, where the simplicity could help bring the price of bikes down. Consumers shouldn’t be faced with a choice between superbike complexity and hardtail simplicity. There should be options for everyday riding and people that love bikes but don’t care about racing. Especially when modern suspension is so good that you can have solid performance with even the most basic designs.

2022 Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 1 Fox Live Valve
Giant sticks with the less-is-more approach for the 2022 Trance, though it is a very fancy 120-mm with Live Valve. Nick Iwanyshyn
Less suspension

As big bikes get bigger, with some pushing into the 170-mm travel range, they get less multi-purpose. Expect more bikes in the middle ground to emerge to cover this back. The 130-140mm range, bigger than XC or XC-trail bikes, but not enough for enduro racers, is a sweet spot of efficiency and fun. These tend to be bikes that are just bikes, made to have fun without prioritizing any particular race format.

No race to 13

Shimano’s finally caught up with 12-speed, but we don’t see SRAM escalating the drivetrain wars anytime soon. Instead, the U.S. brand’s shifted the front to wireless shifting, bringing its AXS design down to GX-level parts. Shimano has yet to respond, sticking with mechanical shifting at all price points, for now.