Mountain biking and technological change

In my daily job as a researcher, I study how technological advancements spur changes in the structures, skills, and practices within industrial firms, as well as how humans and organizations can effectively adapt to make use of new technologies.

Words by ambassador Jon Bokrantz

Mountain biking is no different, with plenty of technological change occurring in the past few decades. Many innovations have had far-reaching implications on the daily life of mountain biking. In this article, I will write about five technological advancements that have drastically changed my own mountain biking experiences in recent years. 

1. Dropper posts.
Oh my god, how could we ride without dropper posts? I remember when they first appeared on the market and most people seemed hesitant, thinking “that can’t be particularly useful”, or “they are so costly and unreliable”. Seriously, I used to ride with an Allen key in my pocket and stop to manually lower the saddle height before a fun descent. Well, after trying a dropper post for the first time, you never go back. It’s another world!

2. 29” wheels.
You’ve all heard the classic saying: “26” is dead”. But that hasn’t always been the case. When I started mountain biking, big wheels were unreliable, the geometry of bikes with larger wheels was just off, and tire development was severely lacking. However, once the industry got the hang of it and pushed the transition towards 29” wheels in the enduro/trail segment, it finally took off. When I made the move to a 29” enduro bike, I simply rode so much faster. It was a leap forward in terms of stability and raw speed. Since I suck at cornering anyway, I didn’t mind the extra work required to rip the bike around tight switchbacks. 

3. Dedicated clothing.
Mountain biking has a history of taking inspiration from Motocross, and the foremost fashion for many years was long sleeve jerseys and bulky, padded pants. Fortunately, when single track mountain biking gained popularity, the development of purpose-designed clothing quickly followed. I was a part of developing and introducing the first fjørå line more than 10 years ago, and mountain biking clothing has continued to evolve since then. Today, clothes have a better fit, are lighter weight, more ventilation, breathing material, and smart systems for pockets and zippers. There are tailor-made options for any kind of mountain bike activity. 

4. Affordable power meters.
Being fit makes mountain biking a lot more fun, and a power meter is probably one of the most effective tools for improving training quality. Power meters used to be an exclusive luxury item for road bikes. However, in recent years, there has been a dramatic reduction in quality-adjusted prices at the same time as a massive increase in accessibility. Finally, reasonably affordable power meters are now available for mountain biking. With a power meter, you can plan your interval sessions according to your own physiological profile and make sure that you always hit the right numbers. This allows people to objectively evaluate their training efforts, find inspiration in beating their own numbers on segments or intervals, and easily track improvements over time. 

5. Smart trainers and software.
Winter training used to suck. Big time. Cold, muddy, and miserable. Indoor riding was even more miserable. Just spinning the pedals on a stationary bike at the gym whilst staring straight into a wall. The consequence of this motivation drainer was a huge loss of fitness over winter, effectively making you start all over again with dedicated training in the spring. Nowadays, this winter misery is just a distant memory thanks to smart trainers and software like Zwift and RGT. Virtual riding is quickly developing into its own discipline, but for the everyday mountain biker, it represents the most effective and efficient way to endure the darker months. I have a dedicated trainer set up in my kitchen and do races, interval sessions, and group rides throughout winter. My personal favorite is to arrange a private session with a few friends, pick a tough interval session, make a group call, and push ourselves together. Almost like riding together in real life! Almost…

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