The latest affront to eight-speed hoarders is a rumor of Sram’s (supposedly) impending 12-speed group. Allegations seem to be based on images that a Spanish retailer posted of Sram’s 12-speed “Eagle” group, before they were almost immediately taken down for breaking embargo. Upon questioning, Sram responded; “[We] can’t comment on any future releases…” which we leave up to you to interpret as you wish.
Higher cog count is a foregone conclusion; at least until an industry-standard gearbox is adopted. And, besides aesthetics, there is no viable argument against having more range on the cassette as long as your bike still performs like a bike. Yes, a quick perusal of any online forum reveals a staggering amount of bikes that “work just fine,” as if that was reason to stop the wheels of progress and remain happy with what we have instead of creating an even better riding experience. After all, hardtails and elastomer suspension “worked just fine” once. But, Drunk Cyclists aside, there aren’t many of us who would trade today’s highly-tuned superhero bikes for an elevated-chainstay Alpinestars frame and a Rock Shox Judy “fork.”
Returning to the matter at hand; no matter what the luddites among us say, eliminating the front derailleur is arguably the best thing to happen to mountain bikes since the introduction of hydraulic disc brakes. Yes, I believe dropping the front derailleur is even cooler than adding an up-and-down seatpost to your ride, and I really love my dropper post. The only reason to have a front derailleur these days is if you live in the Rocky Mountains and multiple-hour climbs are par for your course. With the (alleged) introduction of a 12-speed, superultraradical range cassette however, the difference in range between the nadir of a single-ring crank’s and a triple crank’s gearing is less than one click on your shifter: no appreciable difference. Even the most die-hard members of the “I Need Another Gear Club” club won’t notice the change after two rides.
There are things I miss from my mountain biking past, like 120 millimeter stems on 550 millimeter wide handlebars with bar ends installed, but not front derailleurs. Simplicity, weight savings, and cheaper long-term costs are pretty tough arguments to beat.