Photo: Matt Miller

When we interview athletes we often ask them what piece of their bike they value most. The query allows them to chat about how and where they ride, and how their favorite bikes make that riding better. Most often their answers vary between a few components, including disc brakes, tubeless tires, dropper posts, coil shocks, and occasionally handlebar widths, and for good reason. Several of those innovations, coupled with continuing leaps in frame and suspension technology, have significantly improved the way we all get to enjoy our bikes.

We want to know which components you treasure the most. If all but one of the bits that are bolted to your frame were relegated back to 1990 technology, which modern piece would you keep?

# Comments

  • macstevens

    good quality tires, whether they are wide or tubeless, they need to provide the grip you need. All else is minor if you have inferior grip.

    • ninjichor

      Can have everything else on this list, but if the bike had tires off the wal-mart shelf, instead of anything legit, the bike would tremendously limit how and where I ride. This is a dramatic drop in riding opportunity and potential fun. There’s not really much I can do to compensate for the inadequate tires’ limits.

    • SKeen

      I still have a panaracer fire xc on a semi retired Cannondale from the 90s and it does just fine on the occasions when I do take it out. It’s all about a smooth pedal stroke!

  • Plusbike Nerd

    For me, it’s a combination of three things happening simultaneously.

    1. 1x drivetrains are so much better than the old 2x-3x setups and 1x got even better when the 1×12 wide range 500% drivetrains came out. A 600% 1x drivetrain would be nirvana.

    2. Wider tires and rims improved perfomance immensely. Before Plus we were all riding 2.2-2.4in tires on inner width i20-23mm rims. Now, we’re riding 2.4-2.8 tires on i30-35 rims. The original Plus 3.0 tires on i45 rims was just too much wheel but 2.8 tires on i35 rims can be amazing. I would like to see all Trailbikes come with i33 rims and have frame/fork clearance for up to 2.8 tires. With that setup, you could use reasonably use any tire from 2.3 to 2.8.

    3. In terms of geometry the Enduro craze has changed Mountainbikes for the best. Modern geometry has given us bikes that not only descend well but also climb well. I think that even XC bikes benefit from progressive geometry. Something like a 66.5 degree headtube angle and a 76 degree seattube angle seems to be the Trailbike geometry sweet spot.

    Just a few short years ago, Mountainbikes were sketchy, twitchy, descended poorly, and required a skilled pilot. Now, even a beginner can ride confidently on technical trails. It’s hard to fall off of the modern Trailbike!

    • SKeen

      As much as I love the idea of wide tires I have to admit going from 2.6 back to 2.35 front and rear made me faster on the climbs and descents alike.

  • mongwolf

    As amazing as components are today — dropper posts, disc brakes, 1x drivetrains, front forks, rear shocks, wide bars, tires for whatever your riding style and condition — I agree with Plusbike, it is the changes in geometry/suspension that probably makes the greatest difference. The accumulated improvements of all is pretty quite amazing. What will the next 20 years bring?

  • ZipHead

    My choice is disc brakes.

    I remember riding fully rigid coaster brake bikes down some sketchy lines back in the day, and what it was like to upgrade to center-pull. Then upgrading to side-pull. When those rims got wet, and your pads were smoked because you couldn’t afford new ones every few weeks, and we were hucking to flat on wet leaves in thick brush because trails didn’t exist, and we were trying to impress each other because we were idiots, and the trees were much harder back then, even though we cut our bars down to 300mm to clear them,…well disc brakes are the shizz.

  • iliketexmex

    Fat tires. Year-round riding has made me grow to love being outdoors in winter. Prior to that it was months of misery.

  • hnetsrik

    The most important component in my eyes, is the rider him/herself. Anyone can buy a multi thousand dollar bike and go ride. I feel it takes a good rider to turn any bike, regardless of components into a great bike. I’ve been mountain biking since 1989. My first bike was a Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo, I’ve ridden everything from that to the latest F/S rigs and in between. My current ride is a fully rigid karate Monkey. I have as much fun on this as I have had on anything else, no suspension or dropper post, massive tires needed. The rider will make the bike and ride, not the other way around. in my opinion.

  • Tom gale

    A good attitude
    I’ve been riding since early 90s and I’ve had some of my fondest memories on my 92 rigid stumpy.

  • vapidoscar

    I had to go with 1x but disk brakes are very close. I’d be interested what the editors choices are.

    • Brian Gerow

      Thanks for sharing your favorites!
      Vapidoscar, I am not the editor but the writer, and maybe our editor will share some thoughts as well.

      I would have to choose tubeless tires first. As someone mentioned above, without good traction, the rest isn’t worth much. I think a dropper post and disc brakes are tied for my second pick, followed by wide handlebars, suspension forks, and 1x drivetrains. A lot of these components work far better together than on their own, but if I had to choose only one it would be modern tubeless tire tech and tread.
      Fortunately, it’s hard to find a new bike that doesn’t have all of these elements surrounding fantastic geometry and kinematics numbers that make it all more fun!

  • guggino88

    How could this not be front suspension? The last time I rode fully rigid on trail, I went right over the handlebars at the first rock. Forget needing brake power, it’s hard to have speed on anything but smooth terrain without front suspension. I ride a hardtail and don’t miss rear suspension (thanks to fat tires, geo, and dropper). I used to ride a stiff dual suspension with 2.1 tires and managed. I owned a single speed and loved it (although I had to give it up when I moved to Colorado). Can’t imagine going back to fully rigid though.

    Of course after saying all that, I’ll probably buy fat and gravel bikes next year and will swear off suspension forever. Gotta love all the new variety.

  • rmap01

    How can this not be either disc brakes or front suspension??? When I started riding I used an old school fully rigid steel “hybrid” with rim brakes, 26″ tires that were <2" wide, a 3 x 7 drive train and a crappy set of (tubed tires). Geometry? Let's just call it boxy… Lol. The only thing that it had from the list above were a (terrible) set of flat pedals. After riding a full squish for several years I took that bike out just for the sake of nostalgia. Let's just say it was a humbling experience which clearly points out how much less room you have for error and how modern technology has transformed the riding experience where virtually anyone can ride beginner+ trails fairly safely today. But of all the modern technology advances this bike didn't have the ones that were most noticeable by their absence were disc brakes (you really notice braking power when you don't have it) and front suspension. Without wide tires to soak up some of the vibration you feel every root, rock and trail imperfection throughout your hands, feet and entire body and it's everything I could do to try to keep my feet from being bounced off the crappy flat pedals. Not sure how a dropper post could be listed first. Don't get me wrong, I love my dropper and use it all the time. But you can definitely ride without one especially since the seatpost can be lowered/raised manually during the ride. You can't do anything on your ride to improve your braking power or add suspension.

  • Brad Beadles

    Droppers are SOOOOO overrated. they are ONLY a convenience. remember those quick release seat post clamps?? yeah, they do the same damn thing.

    best technological advances ranked:
    1. disc brakes
    2. tubeless and wide, grippy tires
    3. suspension forks

    @ me

  • m.krupp

    So only one component. Wide tires would be my choice. They provide better traction, allow you to ride in more conditions, can be a shock if pressure is set up right and they contact the ground.

    If I get a second choice it is wide handle bars so I can pilot my bike where I want it to go.

    I think if you had to get rid of most of the modern tech/components a rigid plus or fat bike with wide handle bars allow you to ride most anything. Yes slower but with modern geometry they do it all.

    My opinion. I am not veteran some of you are but if I had to choose just one wide tires.

  • Oldandrolling

    It order of importance:
    1. A frame that fits
    2. Good gripping tires and the proper wheels for the terrain
    3. Smooth shifting high performance drive train
    4. Good brakes
    5. A good suspension fork
    6. A good fitting saddle

    Everything else is fluff

  • david977

    For me it’s stopping power. I remember as a teen using my foot/shoe and wedging it in the back of the fork and applying pressure to the front tire to slow and stop when my cantilever breaks wouldn’t do the job. Mom was infuriated when I chewed through the sole of a brand new pair of Nike Air Cross Trainers after one 20 mile ride.

  • Evan Toth

    I think one of the most underrated things in terms of mountain biking is shoes. A solid flat is useless with the wrong shoes. Learned this the hard way by riding with Vans.

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