2017 has not been an innovative year in the mountain bike industry.
Oh sure there have been a few advancements, but as press releases have trotted through my inbox this year, I’ve been vastly underwhelmed by the hype over so-called “revolutionary” products. Apparently, so have the readers of Singletracks.com. In fact, in our 2017 gear survey, out of 1,250 response the #1 highest-voted innovative product was overwhelmingly SRAM’s 1×12 Eagle drivetrains… which was also voted the most innovative product last year!
I wanted to disagree. I wanted to say that the results were wrong. But honestly, I couldn’t come up with a more innovative product, either. And Shimano has yet to answer back with a 12-speed drivetrain of their own.
Despite the mountain bike industry appearing to go through a period of consolidation, if we look below the surface there are still innovative bright points to celebrate.
While no other single product came close to beating might SRAM’s Eagle drivetrains, taken collectively the results could be categorized into three major areas of innovation: drivetrains, suspension, and dropper posts. Tires take 4th place, but they’re a long ways off of 3rd place. This seems very astute of our readers: the 27.5+ hubbub has settled down, and while 29er downhill bikes got a nod from some voters, if you’re not a World Cup downhill racer that impact seems minor.
Without further ado, here are the 5 most innovative products of 2017.
Eagle again dominates the results, garnering 209 total votes–about 4 times the number of votes that the second place product received. While most readers simply voted for SRAM Eagle XX1 1×12, others called out SRAM’s new GX Eagle drivetrain specifically, and still others voted for “affordable drivetrains” and “wide-range cassettes.” SRAM’s 1×12 drivetrains are checking all of those boxes, and Shimano still has not answered back.
The ShockWiz began life as a Kickstarter project. SRAM saw the benefits clearly, acquiring the project and putting it under their Quarg umbrella. “ShockWiz is a tuning assistant for air-sprung mountain bike forks and rear shocks,” according to SRAM. “It combines hardware, software and finely tuned algorithms to improve suspension set-up for different terrain and riding styles. ShockWiz is compatible with most air-sprung suspension forks and rear shocks, from many different manufacturers.”
Quarq ShockWiz Black, Standard
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Basically, this little gadget lives on your bike and evaluates how your suspension is performing, and by communicating that data to an app it gives you advice on how to improve your suspension tuning to optimize the bike for how you want it to ride.
3. Shimano Di2
While Shimano does not yet have a 12-speed drivetrain of their own, many survey respondents recognized Shimano’s Di2 drivetrains as revolutionary, with some other respondents simply voting for “electronic shifting.” However, like SRAM’s 12-speed drivetrains, Di2 and electronic shifting are not new for this year–although the price of entry continues to drop, with Di2 now available at the XT level.
OneUp Components EDC Gear Straps Grey, Pair
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The EDC tool from OneUp Components can be stashed in your steerer tube, and our article about it went pretty viral… especially considering that this is, after all, a multi-tool. To our readers’ credit, creative ways to store gear and tools on and in your bike has been quite a trend over the last couple of years–from frame bags, to Specialized’s SWAT compartments, to tools in your hubs and your handlebars… but the EDC is probably the most innovative solution that we’ve seen yet.
RockShox Bleeding Edge Tool, Reverb 1x Remote
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RockShox’s 1x lever for its hydraulic dropper post, the Reverb, claims spot #5 on our list. While 1x dropper post levers are nothing new, the Reverb is possibly the most ubiquitous dropper on the market and it is high past time for a lever that works like a standard shifter.
Will new product launches at Eurobike and Interbike turn 2017 around with more innovation? Maybe, but I’m not optimistic.