The sport of mountain biking evolves at a speed that most sports can only dream about. “Wait,” you protest, “why is this
speed-of-light innovation such a great thing?
It feels like my last few bikes became obsolete
before I could wear them out. You call that prog-
First, nobody has a gun to your head. You don’t
need to buy a new bike every time something new
comes along. There has never been an innovation
that totally obsoletes any mountain bike. If you
own a 1980 Breezer Series II (and don’t you wish
you did?), you could still ride it on any of our local
FOX 15QR FRONT AXLE
Mountain bikes used to use quick-release
skewers and axles borrowed from road bikes.
Downhillers adopted 20-millimeter axles after realizing the obvious benefits of added rigidity and
control, but the axles were heavy and tools were
required to install or remove them.
Fox teamed with Shimano to develop a tool-free,
lightweight, 15-millimeter-diameter thru-axle to
work with its cross-country fork. One ride is all it
took to feel the substantial benefits. Today, even
short-travel forks benefit from the larger axle size,
and the technology has migrated to the rear wheel,
where 12x142 rear axles are allowing the rear of
the bike to keep pace with the front.
INNOVATIONS And how they affect the bike you ride
Innovations That Are Still
Shaping Mountain Biking
trails and have a blast. Second, these innovations
have changed—or are changing—mountain biking,
whether you buy into them or not. Think of innovations as competition that the old ideas have to face.
When a new product comes along that promises a
substantial bump in performance, control or comfort, all the “old” products either have to quit the
game or make changes to stay in the game. That’s
good for all of us.
The MBA wrecking crew corralled 20 innovations
that we feel have changed or are changing our
sport. Take them or leave them, mountain biking will
never be the same.
SPECIALIZED STUMPJUMPER TIRE
There were plenty of cruiser frames around that could
be converted to mountain bikes at the birth of our sport.
If those sources ran dry, like in Marin County, enterprising frame builders like Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey and Steve
Potts simply fabricated updated versions of the classic 1936
Schwinn La Salle from scratch. So what was keeping mountain biking from sweeping the nation and globe? Tires.
While other components could be modified for mountain
bikes, existing bicycle tires didn’t come close.
A guy named Mike Sinyard had started Specialized in
1974, a company run out of a VW van that sold imported
components from Italy. By 1976, Specialized had grown
enough to produce its own tire for touring bikes. Mike
was in the perfect position to use his tire know-how to
develop a high-volume knobby tire for mountain biking. The
Specialized Stumpjumper tire didn’t just jump-start mountain bike tire technology, it jump-started mountain biking.