Who among us hasn’t longed for a technological fix at one time or another to help us overcome cycling’s inherent challenges? An extra cog or three to get up the hill easier? Double the suspension to help us blast through rock gardens more smoothly? A motor? While overcoming the limitations and physics of the bicycles we ride are a big part of cycling’s appeal, new technology is, without a doubt, the driving force that propels cycling forward; even single-speeders all want belt drives these days. With that in mind let’s take a look into the future of our sport, which might be a lot closer than we think.
Magnetic Suspension—Every year we get forks and shocks with better seals, slicker coatings, and optimized spring rates, all intended to minimize friction and maximize tire-to-ground contact and bike stability. Unfortunately, there is no getting around the fact that the better a seal works, the more friction it creates. Also, if you hit something hard and fast enough, your fork or shock will bottom out. Someday, seals will be unnecessary thanks to magnetic suspension components, and we’re not talking about dampers filled with run-of-the-mill magnetorheological fluid. Oh no—we will eventually witness the harnessing of magnetic repellence to create truly friction-free, impossible-to-bottom-out, plusher-than-the-links-of-Turnberry squishy forks and shocks. Actually, why stop at suspension? In the future you will be able to carry your deconstructed bike in a backpack, dump it out at the trail head, and at the push of a button, magnets will pull the bike together and you’ll be ready to rip.
Predictive/Adaptable-Size Wheels—As the wheel size debate rages on, the benefits and drawbacks of each diameter—26″, 650b, and 29″—become more clearly defined. For responsiveness, “fliclkability,” and tight corners, nothing beats Old Faithful. If smoother trails and increased traction through drawn-out turns is what you need, the 29er will deliver. If you want what bigger wheels offer but still think 29ers aren’t cool, the consolation prize of 650b is available. Instead of losing sleep in order to create mental pie charts of how much of our favorite trails are suited for each wheel size, why can’t we have wheels that transform from 24″ to 31″ in diameter, with everything in between? Someday, our wheel size will be perfect for the trail we are on, the line we have chosen, and the turn we are in—at any point on a ride. Wheels of the future will feature hubshell-ensconced gyroscopes to calculate trail gradient, wheel angle, and rate of lean. This info will control acceleration or deceleration of centrifuges, which will shrink or grow the diameter of the extremely-malleable-yet-incredibly-impact-resistant wheel/tire system which is made of an exotic combination of materials—probably recovered from an alien spaceship crash, grown in a lab, and patented by Specialized.
Nutrition Patches—Transdermal patches—the type used to keep a steady stream of nicotine flowing into an addict’s bloodstream—will someday take the place of the closet-full of powders, bars, and gel packs in your house. Not only will this save space, but it will save time as well, as long as you buy the Smart Patch model. Simply program your ride goals, such as length of ride, intensity, or calories burned, and the Smart Patch will take care of the rest. Continuous monitoring of environmental conditions and your blood profile will allow the Smart Patch to provide precisely what your body needs to keep moving. Fast-acting, high-glycemic carbs will be available as soon as you start a long climb, and three hours into a five hour ride, extra fat and protein will be released for a long-term fuel source. Bonking will be a thing of the past, and instead of pockets stuffed to the brim with bulky nutrition items, a week’s worth of muscle juice will fit nicely right next to your phone in your jersey.
Affordable Carbon Fiber—Although it seems that current trends are moving opposite this prediction, there will be a time when carbon fiber, the really good military-grade stuff, will cost less than burlap. One-pound mountain bike frames will be spit out of our 3D printers whenever we scratch the stickers on our previous frame. Road bike frames will weigh under one hundred grams with material costs under one hundred bucks, all while exceeding the stiffness levels of today’s beefiest bikes. Unfortunately, this is probably the most far-fetched prediction on the list.
Do It Yourself Frame Design and Manufacturing—3D printers, easy-to-use design software, and the above-mentioned affordable carbon fiber will finally enable the commenters of BikeRumor.com to create a bike worth riding, since it’s obvious nothing currently available meets the high standards of said populace. All kidding aside, how much fun will it be when we are able to print up five frames with slightly altered geometry and pivot points, test them ourselves, and finally settle on a design that is perfectly dialed-in for our personal preferences. You will finally be able to have that downhill-recumbent-tricyle-tall bike, or the rear suspension only-36″ wheel-folding-fat bike for exploring the underground flood channels of Los Angeles. And don’t worry, the democratization of bicycle manufacturing will ensure that there will always be someone with a more ridiculous bike than you…