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Bike Perfect 2023 MTB predictions revisited – were we on the money or not last year?

 Cotic Jeht 2 cornering hard and high.
Cotic Jeht 2 cornering hard and high.

Having just published Bike Perfect's 2024 MTB tech predictions, I thought it would be worth having a little look back at our 2023 prophecies to see how right, or how wrong, they were.

Last year Tech Editor Guy Kesteven rubbed his MTB crystal balls to enlighten us on the MTB tech and trends that 2023 had in store. But how right did he get it? Let's take a little look back at his predictions to find out.

Want to read about the things we think are coming over the next year, check out our top six MTB tech predictions for 2024.

Close up of bike with SRAM Eagle Powertrain
Close up of bike with SRAM Eagle Powertrain

1. SRAM will release a new drivetrain and auto-shift motor - correct

Guy was pretty much bang on here although we can't credit his crystal ball for this one, rather the wealth of patents, industry whispers, and spy shots that were floating around.

In 2023 SRAM made a big impact on the MTB world with the release of its T-Type hangerless Transmission drivetrain and the SRAM Eagle Powertrain. The release of T-Type could be the catalyst that fundamentally changes the connection between derailleur and frame forever. Quickly following the Transmission release both Shimano and TRP reacted by publishing patents for their own hangerless designs. Whether this is just them keeping their options open or a sign that they are falling in line is still to be seen.

SRAM's Powertrain was another significant release for the brand. The Powertrain is SRAM's first e-MTB motor and while mechanically it's just an evolved Brose motor, it's the auto-shifting functionality that rewrote the book for Guy when he later tested the system proclaiming "I don't want to ride an e-MTB without it ever again!"

The Shimano EP801 motor and e-MTB groupset
The Shimano EP801 motor and e-MTB groupset

2. Shimano won't release any new groupsets - wrong

While the workaholics at SRAM have been busy with their soldering irons, Shimano hasn't been sitting on its laurels either. Guy was certainly correct that we wouldn't see a return of Di2 to MTBing, however, Shimano had three significant drivetrain releases in 2023.

Firstly Shimano completely restructured its budget MTB drivetrains as Shimano Cues. Replacing Altus, Acera, Alvio, 10- and 11-speed Deore, the new Cues is built around Shimano's Linkglide technology.

Shimano then dropped the updated EP801 and EP60 motors featuring Auto Shift and Free Shift shifting modes, beating SRAM to the punch on e-MTB automated gear-changing tech.

The biggest miss in this prediction was the release of the new GRX gravel groupset. Shimano's gravel groupset got a long overdue update to 12 speed, plus several other genuinely useful upgrades that should revitalize the Japanese brand's long-running gravel offerings. Although it came in a few performance levels, mechanical is still the flavor of choice with no Di2 options.

Beyond the big two, both TRP and Microshift released new groupsets although neither of these out-innovated SRAM or Shimano this year.

Berria Mako leaning against a stone wall
Berria Mako leaning against a stone wall

3. More integration - correct

It has not been a radical take over but integration in MTB seemed to be a continuing slow-burning trend for 2023. From tucking cables through headsets, hiding suspension components, or just giving you a space to store your snacks within the frame, there is no getting away from brands trying to streamline the experience of riding a bike. Even if the subsequent mechanic has the very opposite experience when it's time for a service.

E-MTBs are at the forefront of integration with more messy cables to hide, batteries to tuck away, and motors in the way of suspension. Don't think it stops there, brands like Pinnion and Intradrive are integrating gearboxes into e-MTB motors now too. This has the huge advantage that it simplifies a lot of things and makes bikes more durable too, but also makes them an absolute pain to fix if something does go wrong.

Specialized Chisel Project
Specialized Chisel Project

4. The line between gravel and MTB will blur - wrong

It appears the industry at large is still keen to sell gravel bikes with the fallacy that you can ride everything from singletrack to road on a single "quiver killing" (shudders) bike. In reality, lots of the 'gravel riding' in the UK, and the rest of the world, is nothing like the adverts and can be a bit rough and uncomfortable on a skinny tired drop bar gravel bike. So unless you have miles upon miles of actual gravel, you might be better with a lightweight XC mountain bike rather than a gravel bike.

Guy may be shouting into the void a little with this prediction considering most of the gravel world has still to notice there are now two distinct ends to the gravel bike spectrum. He isn't the only one who has seen the light. I lumped praise on Canyon's Exceed CF7 hardtail not because it was a great XC race bike, it simply was the perfect tool for fast, fun, and efficient big milage off-roading adventures.

Gravel is still young and one day people will realize there are a lot of scenarios where a lightweight 29er hardtail is just as fast and a whole lot more capable, but probably not for a few more years yet.

World Cup downhill racing
World Cup downhill racing

5. Improved race coverage - debatable

Race coverage was a hot topic and a rollercoaster of emotions in 2023. While there were a few gripes and complaints, particularly around the new DH format, quality of commentary, and occasionally nausea-inducing drone footage. For the most part, initial teething problems were resolved and coverage was pretty OK. The addition of Junior racing was a step forward too, giving up-and-coming riders some deserved screen time.

Has Discovery/Warner Bros investments in coverage inspired new riders to hit the trails? I would be willing to bet it hasn't as most Elite coverage was locked behind the GCN+ paywall, with GCN+ now a thing of the past even the most dedicated viewers are now left wondering how they are going to watch World Cup racing if they don't have a Eurosport subscription.

Did 2023 bring Enduro, E-enduro, and Cross-country Marathon into the mainstream? Considering the future of these disciplines now hangs in the balance the answer sadly has to be no.

Orange Factory Racing rider putting the Switch 7 team edition to the test in Wales
Orange Factory Racing rider putting the Switch 7 team edition to the test in Wales

6. There’s a big cull coming - correct

2023 hasn't been a kind year for many entities in the bike industry including Wiggle/CRC, Orange, Planet X, Moore Large, 2Pure, Islabikes, Stanton, Machines for Freedom, Kitsbow, Guerrilla Gravity, etc. While some of these brands are currently in the process of or have successfully pulled themselves back from the brink, not all were so lucky.

There are loads of brands weathering plummeting profits or keeping the administrators from the door by downsizing too. It's not just manufacturers and retailers either, race teams and MTB media are also feeling the pinch. Simply put, there just isn't as much cash flowing around as there was pre-covid.

While it's not great that hard-working people are losing their jobs, hopefully, we see the industry bounce back stronger. As Guy proclaimed recently in his Bespoken Word column, "the mountain bike industry is dying, long live mountain biking".

So will Guy's predictions for 2024 have a better strike rate than last year, time will tell, if you're feeling inspired to get out riding then over on our New Year bike sale bargains article, you'll find our carefully selected best mountain bike deals that we've found in the January sales so far. There is a wide range of bikes and kit from the best mountain bike helmets to MTB tech, clothing and consumables all with fantastic discounts.