Predictions for the 2020s

Predictions for the 2020s

Happy New Year and welcome to a new decade, the 2020s!

Ten years ago (above), Bicycle Quarterly predicted that wide tires would become commonplace, that all-road bikes would replace racing bikes as the most popular genre, and that riders would soon venture off the beaten path and onto gravel. All that seemed unlikely in 2010, and we had to wait more than half-way through the decade for these predictions to become reality.

Now we’re heading into the 2020s, and I’m thinking about what the next 10 years will bring. As in 2010, I don’t claim to be able to see into the future; it’s just what makes sense…

Wide Tires are here to stay

It’s not just their comfort and the ability to go on backroads and gravel – on pavement, wider tires offer more grip and more feedback. Bikes with wide tires are simply more fun.

There is a disadvantage, though – at least from the perspective of the industry: Wide tires last a lot longer, which will cut deep into tire sales!

Gravel Bikes will be replaced by…

No doubt the bike industry is already looking for the ‘next big thing.’ Nobody knows yet what it’ll be. Maybe tall bikes? Unicycles? Whatever fad they’ll create, I am confident that it won’t replace the bikes we know and love. And yet, I predict that in ten years, we won’t talk about ‘gravel bikes’ any more.

The ‘gravel’ category straddles the border between road and mountain bikes. In the future, it’ll split more clearly into all-road bikes (nimble handling, road position and racing bike speed) and adventure bikes that are inspired by mountain bikes (tougher construction, more upright position, less emphasis on speed). Maybe the new slogan will be ‘Beyond Gravel!’

All-Road Bikes will move to 650B wheels

The massive stability of huge 700C wheels may make sense on 29er mountain bikes, but it’s not ideal for all-road bikes. Smaller wheels are the answer – the reduced weight and diameter of rims and tires restores the nimble handling riders love on their road bikes.

There’ll be continued resistance to 650B from some bike makers – I’m looking toward Wisconsin here – but the difficulty of fitting a wide 700C tire on a performance bike, especially on smaller frames, will win them over, too.

Road Bikes will have 38 mm tires

Tires on road bikes will keep getting wider, until 38 mm becomes the new standard. With carbon rims and 700C wheels, 38 mm tires have just the right amount of rotational inertia for stable, yet nimble handling. They allow riders to explore backroads and gravel, yet they still feel like road tires  and don’t insulate the rider from the road surface like wider tires do. 38s have the feel of a road bike without the harshness: the perfect compromise!

E-Bikes will become commonplace

In ten years, it’ll be normal for bikes to have an electric motor, not just for commuting, but also for recreational riding. Will pedaling unassisted become as quaint as navigating with a paper map instead of GPS? I don’t think so… There will always be riders who enjoy being one with their bikes, soaring on the climbs, and diving into the descents on a lightweight machine that is unencumbered by motors and batteries.

The good part of e-bikes is that this will make ‘commuter racing’ obsolete. Getting passed on a hill will just mean that the other guy has a fresher battery, not that he’s stronger or better in some way. (Somehow, most ‘competitive commuters’ are men.) It’ll also mean we’ll have to rethink our cycling infrastructure, which is designed for speeds of 5 mph. And that’ll benefit all of us.

The bad part is mostly aesthetic: Bikes won’t look the same. As long as the power available is limited to what we have in our legs, bikes must be efficient to move at reasonable speeds, and that gives them a form-follows-function beauty. Once there is ample (electric) power, anything goes. It’s hard for me to predict what direction bikes will take, but I don’t look forward to this.

STI/Ergo/DoubleTap will become obsolete

Mechanical brifters don’t make much sense any longer: The levers are hard to push, especially for riders with small hands. The many small parts in the levers wear out quickly, especially if you’re a racer who is used to rapid shifts. Electronic shifting already is more reliable and easier to use. Soon it’ll be cheaper, too. Plus, it automatically trims the front derailleur…

For those who prefer more involvement in the workings of their bikes, downtube shifters will make a comeback. There is a joy to feeling the chain move as you pull on a lever, and getting a shift just right is very satisfying. Just like sports car makers are re-introducing mechanical gearboxes, bike component makers will bring back downtube shifters and even a friction option. (Hopefully!)

Fenders will make a breakthrough

After decades of false starts, fenders will finally become an option on many production bikes. At this time of year in Seattle, it’s not necessary to talk about why we need this. The industry finally is realizing that their best customers ride year-round, and fender-ability will become a sales point.

Many modern carbon forks already have eyelets under the crown and near the dropouts. Let’s hope that they are getting it right: not just eyelets, but also bridges that are placed at the same distance above the tire. It’ll be a learning curve until we get fenders that are light and offer good coverage and don’t resonate on rough roads (or even come unclipped like a certain carbon fork maker’s fenders)… but a decade is a long time, and the industry will get it right eventually.

Silver Components will become popular again

Already, tanwall tires have become fashionable. Silver components will be next, at least for anything that’s made from metal. This trend is already official: Salsa recently introduced silver handlebars

Bikes will become more individualized

Way back in the 80s, every ‘respectable’ bike used a Columbus SL frameset and Campy Record components. These days, unless you’re racing or riding in timed events (where one solution tends to work better than others), you’ve got almost infinite choices. How you carry your luggage and water bottles; whether you run a One-By or a compact double (I don’t predict a comeback for triples!); knobby or smooth tires – all those things are governed as much by your sense of style as by the practicalities of where you ride. It’s your bike and your ride, and the industry is finally ready to acknowledge that!

Those are just a few things that I see down the road – but it’s also possible that things turn out quite differently. What are your predictions for the cycling world in the 2020s?

Photo credits: Ryan Hamilton (Photo 1), Natsuko Hirose (Photo 2), Nicolas Joly (Photo 8), Donalrey Nieva (Photo 9).

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Comments (100)

  • William

    +1 for silver components making a comeback. I would love to buy a nice shiny 11/12 speed setup with indexed downtube shifters!

    January 2, 2020 at 5:22 am
    • gps

      I was worried from the lede that he meant components made _of_ Silver. Phew. 🙂

      January 2, 2020 at 10:40 am
      • Pawl Bearer

        I predict many more inventions and products for bikepacking style bags with direct attachment onto bicycles without using full size racks.

        The number of cyclists hit by motor vehicles with distracted drivers will continue to increase and cause more cyclists to avoid riding on paved roads.

        Neon colored cycling clothing and accessories won’t make a comeback.

        Super bright LED light enhanced clothing or vests will become popular to avoid getting hit by distracted drivers.

        The obsolescence of cables by use of electronics and hydraulics will continue and chains will be almost completely replaced with belts on e-bikes. Maintenance requirements of e-bikes will be reduced to attract new users. Plugging in electricity and pumping up the tires will be the only thing most e-cyclists ever do to maintain their e-bikes. (Similar to users of electric cars.)

        The last prediction is also a wish: 26″ knobby Rat Trap Pass tires from Rene Herse with an option for adding studs for wintertime ice riding.

        January 2, 2020 at 10:14 pm
  • marmotte27

    “As long as the power available is limited to what we have in our legs, bikes must be efficient to move at reasonable speeds, and that gives them a form-follows-function beauty. Once there is ample (electric) power, anything goes. It’s hard for me to predict what direction bikes will take, but I don’t look forward to this.”

    Let’s hope that the idea that external power can be unmlimited and thus squandered away through inefficient design and use will very quickly end on the scrap heap of history where it belongs. Our survival depends on it. Do keep up your great work in the bicycle sphere of pointing out what is good, efficient design and what is superfluous marketing hogwash.

    January 2, 2020 at 6:22 am
    • Jan Heine

      Compared to electric cars, e-bikes are incredibly efficient, since they don’t move around a ton of material. The fact remains that humans – even pro cyclists – aren’t very powerful. Adding a small motor makes a big difference. And yet, for many of us, the beauty of cycling lies in the fact that it uses the little power we have so efficiently.

      January 2, 2020 at 7:38 am
      • Mark Weisgram

        Manual transmission resurgence??
        At least in the states, they are going away fast. New Toyota supra, new Porsche 911, new c8 corvette. Porsche will have a manual at some point for the 911, but not yet. It’s sad times!!
        As electric cars take over, it seems manuals won’t even be necessary.

        January 2, 2020 at 8:48 am
      • marmotte27

        ” And yet, for many of us, the beauty of cycling lies in the fact that it uses the little power we have so efficiently.”
        Absolutely. My remark was, why is this principle (and the beauty resulting from it) thrown overboard as soon as the power comes from somewhere outside the system? That’s a fundamental problem we have just about everywhere (even cars could be twice as efficient as they are if the advances in engine technology weren’t use to put ever more power and luxury into the vehicles and making them twice or thrice as heavy as the need be). The answer must be, and it’s just the same for e-bikes, that the makers (and most customers with them) don’t care for whatever reasons. That must change and life will be more beautiful everywhere

        January 2, 2020 at 9:42 am
      • Jon Spangler


        “Compared to electric cars, e-bikes are incredibly efficient, since they don’t move around a ton of material.”

        This may be true, but powered single-occupancy vehicles (SOVs) — including electric or petroleum-powered autos — are an inherently and grossly inefficient way to move lots of people, especially in urban areas. Transit buses use orders of magnitude fewer resources and take up less space on the roadway than SOVs with any power source.

        I think the unassisted bicycle will remain dominant because it is inherently simpler, less expensive, and uses fewer resources than an e-bike.

        January 2, 2020 at 12:05 pm
  • Eric Daume

    What sports cars are reintroducing a manual transmission? Not the Corvette, Supra, NSX, Z4, etc, all of which are automatic only in their latest generation.

    January 2, 2020 at 8:21 am
    • Jan Heine

      I’m no car expert, but Porsche reintroduced manuals on their top sports models, and I read Ferrari is thinking about it, too.

      January 2, 2020 at 9:09 am
      • Mark Weisgram

        I truly doubt ferrari will, they haven’t offered one in years. Porsche only on their GT cars at this point, though they say they will be offering a manual on the new 911, we will have to wait and see. Most manufacturers have a few for their cheaper models, or have none at all. The take rate for a manual is so low now they just are choosing not to offer them. Between emissions regulations, fuel efficiency and quicker automatic performance times, the manual is sadly dying. I think unfortunately the same can be said for down tube shifters.

        January 2, 2020 at 11:11 am
        • Jan Heine

          Funnily, in the car world, it’s the journalists clamoring for manual transmissions. In the bike world, not so much!

          January 2, 2020 at 11:19 am
          • Kirt

            It is merely an anti-theft measure 😬

            January 2, 2020 at 3:36 pm
      • Luis Bernhardt

        My current car, a Jetta TDI purchased in 2012, has a 6-speed manual transmission, but it was a special order even then, and I insisted because I’ve always used a stick – I just don’t consider it “driving” unless I can control what gear I’m in. Sporty cars today seem to have foregone the floor-mounted stick in favor of the semi-automatic (no clutch required) paddle shifters, primarily because that’s what the pro’s drive in F.1. In the bicycle world, electronic shifting seems to be the parallel to the paddle shifter – in fact, you can program e-shifters to mimick automotive paddle shifters! I imagine downtube shifters would be the parallel to the floor-mounted sticks. Me, I’m still perfectly happy with manual/mechanical Ergopower. Recharge the shifter? Why?

        January 2, 2020 at 7:51 pm
  • Robert

    Down tube friction shifters? Yes!
    So what about it Jan ( owner of primo parts design and manufacturing bike company)?
    Why not Rene Herse best down tube shifters ever?

    January 2, 2020 at 8:33 am
    • David Feldman

      As a consumer and an RH dealer, I’d love that! I would like to see two other changes in the industry–a concern for how much waste every “innovation” produces–couldn’t companies care as much about how many miles a chain and cassette would last rather than how many gears are on ’em? And, bike and component companies wouldn’t hurt themselves by taking a cue from the business of making musical instruments. Like bikes, instruments are machines that enhance abilities that humans already have. But, you don’t see Steinway discontinuing grand pianos nor Gibson scraping J40’s or Les Pauls because they aren’t “innovative” enough.

      January 2, 2020 at 9:26 am
    • Raphael

      And best bar-end shifters ever, too?

      January 2, 2020 at 9:58 am
      • Brian L Slick

        bar-ends best of both worlds IMHO

        January 2, 2020 at 12:11 pm
    • Goudurix

      And a certain derailleur please…

      Jan, your last bikes derailleur is nourishing a wish I’m desiring for years now.
      Even if my new Meerglas will (or should) be finished this month, I’ gladly
      put aside one set for another “ultimate” bike…

      January 2, 2020 at 10:49 am
    • Luis Bernhardt

      The best downtube shifters ever made have already been produced: Simplex retrofriction, back in the late 80’s. Nothing ever came close.

      January 2, 2020 at 7:54 pm
      • Jan Heine

        Agreed, at least for single-cable systems. I raced with Simplex levers for 10 years, and they were great.

        January 2, 2020 at 9:17 pm
      • Morten Reippuert Knudsen

        Simplex retrofriction just rules. I had them in the 80’ies – now i have them again on my l’Eroica bike shifting on modern campy 10 speed casette, chain and chainrings.

        shifting is just as fast and as precise as on my ‘modern’ bike with campy 11 speed brifters. the evolution was not indexed shifting or STI/Ergo’s – it was ramped cogs and chainrings and better chains.

        January 4, 2020 at 12:25 am
  • Eli Naeher

    I hope you are right about downtube shifters. Nothing would make me happier. I know they are not ergonomic for all frame sizes and bodies but they are perfect for me.

    January 2, 2020 at 8:34 am
  • Antoine

    What I am wondering is: today, which off-the-shelf bikes and frames are close to fitting this bill. Especially all-road, 650, 38mm and fenders. And steel, of course!

    January 2, 2020 at 8:43 am
    • Alex Nosse

      There are no doubt a number of bikes that fit the bill, but the first one that springs to mind for me (since I own one) is the Surly Midnight Special. I love mine! BQ reviewed it quite favorably a while back.

      January 2, 2020 at 11:23 am
      • Velobuck

        I agree that the width of road tires will increase. As for “racing” bikes I think we’ll see 30-32mm. Especially if we continue to see fast rolling tires with a bit of puncture protection that keep weights down at or below 300-350grams.

        January 2, 2020 at 4:01 pm
  • Forrest Meyer

    I hope bar-end shifters endure in use and popularity. I have them on Albastache bars on an RBW Sam Hillborne, and it is just the easiest, most handy and intuitive shifting. As for mechanical brifters, I have Shimano 105 11-speed on two bikes (one “road” and one “gravel”) and I do not find them hard to shift. And I have small hands.

    Electronic shifting … I will admit a prejudice against, but I am trying to resist that because so many people who know a lot more about cycling and who bike way more than I do sing the praises of electronic shifting, So I am trying to check my bias.

    January 2, 2020 at 8:44 am
  • Bas

    “Surly recently introduced silver handlebars…”…? The link refers to the new bars by Salsa…

    January 2, 2020 at 8:57 am
    • Jan Heine

      My mistake. Now fixed.

      January 2, 2020 at 9:09 am
  • Steven

    I heard more and more people say “cycling can save the world” in 2019. Yesterday, in Alabama, owner of League of American Bicyclist’s 2015 “worst state for cycling” award, I heard a radio ad from the DOT advising all motorists to look for bicycles and give 3 feet of passing space.
    LA has CicLAvia going for years now–amazing!
    I hope the next decade really helps the USA and the world gain some cycling infrastructure and commuting safety.

    January 2, 2020 at 9:03 am
  • Steve

    I recently discovered the delight of riding 38mm tires. As weird as it sounds, 38mm Steilacooms and wide rims are about as fast for me, ON PAVEMENT, as 25mm racing tires. Obviously, they’re much, much more comfortable. The Steilacoom, of course, is a knobby, suitable for dirt, gravel, and sand. That I can use it as a road tire as well, is revolutionary. I feel it defines the term “all-road.”

    In my riding group, I was the first to make the switch from 21mm to 23mm, and then, as chipseal became more prevalent, from 23mm to 25mm. Recently I was the first to skip to 30mm, and now, 38mm. This may be because I’m both more analytical and older than my riding companions. If I can gain a comfort advantage and still ride fast, I’ll take it every time. I think a lot of aging riders will soon be doing the same.

    January 2, 2020 at 9:05 am
    • Jan Heine

      As weird as it sounds, 38mm Steilacooms and wide rims are about as fast for me, ON PAVEMENT, as 25mm racing tires.

      Nothing weird about it. We tested different tire sizes on smooth pavement, and as you report, there is no speed difference between 25 and 38 (or 48, for that matter), at least at the 22 mph speed we tested.

      January 2, 2020 at 9:11 am
      • Steve

        I would love to see the difference in rolling resistance between the Steilacoom and Barlow Pass, at the same pressures on normal smooth pavement.

        January 3, 2020 at 4:27 pm
        • Jan Heine

          We’ve done some preliminary testing, but we need to reduce the noise in the data to get to results that are easy to understand and thus publishable… The difference is much smaller than most riders would think.

          January 3, 2020 at 6:02 pm
  • Dr J

    Bringing back more silver (polished) components would be a dream!

    However, thinking that the integrated shifter/brake levers (STI, etc.) are going away is a bit silly. Yes, there will likely be more electronic shifting in the next 10 years, but mechanical groupsets are here to stay for quite a while, especially as long as we have to pay $700 for an electronic, wireless rear mech.

    The same way I don’t see how downtube shifters would have their big comeback. The reason why shifters are placed on handlebars is their easier access. Downtube shifters are fine… just not for anybody (and definitely much less user-friendly for beginners).

    I’d rather hope for more handlebar mounted shifters for road/touring bikes that are neither electronic nor integrated (STI-like).

    Regarding fenders – it’s a tough one. Cars have them integrated because they are simply part of the body. With bikes it’s much more difficult to make fenders feel like they are a part of the bike. Unless someone comes up with some unique design, I don’t see fenders gaining much popularity all across the spectrum of all bicycle types.

    And finally, 38mm tires in road bikes? Depends on what kind of road bikes we are taking about. Race bike manufacturers fight for everything to be more aero. They may have a problem approving tires that wide (but 28-32mm width in the next 10 years is a lot more likely).

    January 2, 2020 at 9:09 am
    • Jan Heine

      Most of the information about STI/Ergo/DoubleTap going away is confidential and off the record, but it’s obvious that mechanical systems are trying to do something that a motor does much better. There are so many small precision parts in a mechanical ratchet shifter. The big problem is that riders don’t always push the levers all the way, and the ratchets only partially engage, wearing off the edges until the gears no longer engage. Electric motors make every shift consistent. Electric motors also aren’t expensive any longer – all cars now have electrically adjusted mirros (two per car), without the price having increased.

      The comeback for downtube shifters won’t be big – it’ll be a niche product. I suspect makers will offer just one model that works for all their groups.

      As to the tires, wider isn’t significant less aero if the rims are made to match. Otherwise, bikes with wide head and down tubes would be far less aero. It’s of course entirely possible that the retro-grouches at the UCI will set a maximum tire size, as they have for ‘cross. Which would either make riders follow the lead of the pros, or make racing even less relevant than it is now.

      January 2, 2020 at 10:34 am
      • Gert

        The bikes I ride most have 15 year old Campagnolo Centaur “brifters” No problems with them. So I will stay with them and my old polar CS600X cycle computer, where the battery lasts almost a year.
        Maybe when small nuclear powerplants in the downtube are introduced, it will make sense with all the unnescesary electronics. But that will probably not be before the next decade

        January 2, 2020 at 2:47 pm
        • Jamie

          While I’m sure this is tongue in cheek, the idea of riding with a nuclear powerplant between our legs — yikes!

          January 4, 2020 at 9:24 am
    • Sam Joslin

      1) An efficient two-speed hub combined with a cassette will provide 1-by systems with range while keeping jumps between gears to a minimum. 2) The extreme gap between bicycle technology (already sufficiently advanced) and bicycle-friendly infrastructure (widely ignored, misunderstood, misapplied and opposed) will narrow a tiny bit. 3) 1 is more likely than 2.

      January 2, 2020 at 4:51 pm
  • Monty

    We might see 14 speed cassettes with the range required to eliminate 2x , so we get the simplicity of 1x with smaller jumps and the range we need.

    January 2, 2020 at 9:26 am
  • Charles Coffey

    Interesting prediction about mechanical brifters becoming obsolete. I’d partially agree, in that electronic shifters will almost certainly achieve greater market penetration, but I expect many people will still want mechanical just to avoid having to worry about keeping batteries charged (especially tourists and adventure riders). These types of riders would actually be better served by downtube or bar end shifters, as the mechanical brifters are often not field-serviceable,
    anyway. I hope your prediction about downtube shifters making a comeback comes true – as a derailleur collector I felt that friction shifters were just coming into their own when indexed shifters and then brifters knocked them out of the market. Simplex and Campy retrofriction and Suntour ratchet shifters provided simplicity, reliability, and functionality (whereas current systems are complex, less reliable, although functional) and so, to my mind, are not “obsolete,” just unfairly abandoned by fads in shifters. You mention the advantage of automatic front derailleur trimming
    feature of electronic derailleurs, but Suntour actually produced a downtube shifter set which had a mechanical connection between the shift levers that provided automatic trimming of the front derailleur any time the rear derailleur was shifted.

    January 2, 2020 at 9:31 am
    • gps

      So long as electronic shifting requires remembering to recharge by manually connecting them to a power source I don’t see mechanical brifters going away on anything but the expensive premium market end. Solve that with electronic shifting that never needs manual charging and I’ll change my mind. It should be doable.

      Gut feeling: Plenty of mechanical loss in derailleurs already that could be siphoned into a trickle charge.

      January 2, 2020 at 10:54 am
      • jakub

        Charging is usually a red herring. As long as the functionality is good and the price is right, people will put up with anything. Everyone charges their phone sometimes more than once a day!

        January 3, 2020 at 1:30 am
      • John

        Shimano has a patent for a small dynamo in the jockey wheel of a rear derailleur to power electronic shifting. However, based on the reactions I get from the sorts of cyclists who like electronic shifting when I tell them how great it is to never need to charge my dynamo lights, I don’t think they’d be interested in anything which diverts even a tiny amount of power from the drivetrain – they tell me they’d rather just deal with charging their battery lights. But perhaps it will find use in groups meant for bikepacking and adventure cycling.

        Brian Chapman has built bicycles which use a commercially-available USB power supply to continuously top off a Di2 system’s battery from a hub dynamo.

        January 3, 2020 at 2:26 pm
  • Zach

    As the baby boomer generation continues to age, I predict electric-assist recumbent tricycles will become much more popular.

    January 2, 2020 at 9:46 am
    • Andrew

      A reasonable set of predictions….

      … except the mass adoption of 650b.

      All of the arguments I see for this wheel size have basically played out in the MTB world 10 years ago (more nimble, quicker acceleration, better fitting small sizes, more durable). And been found wanting.

      Have a look around now. 29ers dominate across all size ranges, and with disciplines as diverse as XC to DH.

      What I think is more likely is continued materials engineering and refinements that make the 700c size lighter/stronger. Which again, is basically what happened with 29ers.

      January 3, 2020 at 8:35 am
      • Jan Heine

        With mtbs, the extra stability of tall wheels may be desirable. On all-road bikes, not so much. If you want your new bike with 48 mm tires to handle as nimbly as your old one with 25 mm tires, you’ll have to change the wheel size. It’s that simple. Doesn’t mean the industry will adopt it, of course…

        January 3, 2020 at 9:15 am
    • Steve Palincsar

      Have you ever tried to get out of a recumbent trike?

      January 3, 2020 at 7:20 pm
  • Mark Guglielmana

    2 things I’d like to see you comment on:

    1. Low Trail/front loading bikes. This is what got me into credit card touring. I could store most of my kit in a large handlebar bag, and downhills the bike tracked fantastically, uphills I could stand on short climbs or to relieve back pressure on long ones without the “tail wagging the dog” effect one has with a rear loaded bike. It would be great to see manufacturers make lightweight, low trail frames for touring.

    2. Compliant forks (most likely steel). Flying down a rutty forestry road at the 2016 un-meeting I looked down and was shocked at how much my Reynolds 531 fork was flexing on my Peter Weigle 650b converted vintage frame. Tom Ritchey once said something to the effect that carbon fiber forks have to be super stiff – they couldn’t hold up to the amount of flex a slender steel fork can. I understand that once you go with a much fatter tire, such as your Rat Trap Pass, the tire can take up washboard undulations. Coming down Baby Shoe Pass this past summer on 42’s, I was happy to have a compliant fork, however! I understand custom builders can provide a “traditional” fork, but will manufacturers figure out how to make a compliant carbon fiber fork, or will we see steel make a comeback?

    January 2, 2020 at 9:59 am
    • Robert Hill

      @Mark: I think the closest thing to a “compliant” carbon fork is the Lauf fork, which uses carbon fiber leaf springs to add a cushioning amount of movement near the dropouts. I have test ridden on on their own Lauf True Grit, and I was blown away.

      January 2, 2020 at 10:46 am
    • Flemming

      No tail-wagging with good saddle bag, no low trail needed.

      January 2, 2020 at 1:26 pm
      • Jan Heine

        Saddlebags are very useful, because they enable you to carry a lot of stuff on (almost) any bike. But when you ride out of the saddle, any weight on the saddle will wag your bike. For that reason, saddlebags make spirited riding less pleasant, no matter how well they are attached.

        January 2, 2020 at 3:10 pm
        • Garth

          It’s true. The bag and all that’s in it becomes a pendulum that your legs propel one direction and then your hands have to counteract the opposite direction through the mechanical disadvantage of the narrow handlebars and the long top tube.

          Even a bike with high trail and a heavy load on the front forks is a joy to ride compared to the saddlebag, or rear panniers for that matter.

          January 3, 2020 at 2:06 pm
  • Phillip Cowan

    I predict that E-bikes will increase to a point and then there will be a backlash as people realise that the E-bike is the cycling equivalent of the powder blue leisure suit.

    January 2, 2020 at 10:02 am
  • Sven Holzgreve

    Each and every single point you‘re making reminds me of the bamboo bike I built in spring 2018: Not a gravel bike, but a true Randonneuse for the medium low position I like on any ground. Front rack for commuting and other stuff. 650 x 38 B wheels. Inox fenders that don‘t rattle. The rear one can easily be split and taken off. Silver drivetrain (Campy Athena 11 and Sugino Mighty compact cranks 48×33). Silver stem, bars and seatpost. Even a silver inox fork with eyelets for the front rack, that also works for low-rider racks should I go touring. And one more thing: It‘s really flexible and planes for me. Stiffness craze might go the way of narrow tires in the 20‘s… 😉
    Even the role of racing as the model for sportive riding will diminish. It’s nuts for non-racers like us here. Same for 90% of the rest.
    I‘m curious where that bike will stand in 10 years time…

    January 2, 2020 at 10:21 am
  • PStu

    Here, here on fender compatibility and wide tires. Many of the gravel bikes I see will claim fender mounts but have such short chainstays that there is no room for any fenders without running a much narrower tire. For example, my bike can manage 700×40 tires, but only 35mm with fenders. I did a 300-mile gravel ride with it, though, and my frame and drivetrain were pristine compared to everyone else’s.

    January 2, 2020 at 10:27 am
  • Stuart Fogg

    I expect of all your predictions electric motors will be the most widely adopted. Smaller, more efficient batteries could fit in big downtubes and smaller, more efficient motors with regenerative braking in rear hubs. Better controls could unobtrusively magnify torque from the pedals and brake levers. Something under 200W could be pretty inconspicuous (except on the price tag). I can see pure pedal power becoming a fringe product like the aforementioned downtube shifters and automobile stick shifts.

    But with larger numbers of less experienced riders riding at higher speeds crash injuries will became a bigger problem. I predict a proliferation of protective gear. My power is pedal only but after a scary crash I’ve been wearing off-road motorcycle gear on my bike. I’ve found the right pieces are plenty comfortable, though I don’t ride in really hot weather. This could be a huge business opportunity.

    January 2, 2020 at 11:06 am
  • Phil Houck

    I’m fine with downtube shifters and a triple with half-step plus granny gearing. I don’t feel handicapped at all. I’m a bit sad that Shimano discontinued downtube shifters when they went to 11-speed gearing systems but that will make it easier for me to wait for an electronic drivetrain with voice-activated shifting.

    January 2, 2020 at 11:06 am
    • Dann

      Downtube shifters for most people, and bar-ends for the tall guys like me with 60cm+ frames!

      January 2, 2020 at 1:28 pm
  • SteveP

    I have to agree with most of these, except downtube shifters. As the demographics of serious bike riders ages, reaching those downtube shifters becomes more of an effort and even a risk for all but the shortest (less reach) fittest and most athletic. Personally, I’m hoping for more options in mounting and compatibility in use of friction/indexed thumb shifters

    January 2, 2020 at 11:24 am
  • Jon Spangler

    Jan wrote:

    “Tires on road bikes will keep getting wider, until 38 mm becomes the new standard…. (with) 700C wheels, 38 mm tires have just the right amount of rotational inertia for stable, yet nimble handling. They allow riders to explore backroads and gravel, yet they still feel like road tires and don’t insulate the rider from the road surface like wider tires do. 38s have the feel of a road bike without the harshness: the perfect compromise!”

    I am reminded of my early-1970s Peugeot UO-8, which came with 32-35mm (1 1/4 – 1 3/8 inch) tires and wide clearances for fenders, which helped immeasurably in rainy Eugene, Oregon. We seem to be re-discovering the wheel, so to speak, and returning to more sensible and common-sense tire design and frame geometry that was in widespread use and well understood not very long ago. My Peugeot UO-18 mixte town bike, which shares similar geometry and clearances, is among my favorite rides to this day. “There is nothing new under the sun.”

    January 2, 2020 at 12:18 pm
  • Rick Thompson

    If you include “top tube” as downtube shifters for tall frames I agree with that.

    At 61 years old my stable is now 20% electric boost (one e-bike). This thing rarely replaces any of the regular bikes, but it does replace my car for commuting and errands. From the e-bike groups I watch there is such an enormous range of performance, from lightly boosted pedelecs up to basically motorcycles, that I have no idea how the laws are going to keep up. I noticed the first e-bike ad in the Winter BQ, Firefly now offering custom boosted bikes.

    January 2, 2020 at 12:22 pm
  • John Jorgensen

    The e-bike high-take solution has not yet been produced, but it will come and aging or casual riders will buy-in. Not sure when the tipping point will arrive.

    I thought about the fender need, (only briefly as I live in Southern California)

    I see integration of battery storage and the aft region of the “seat tube” of the frame as part of the fender.

    On the negative side, I see more bike companies integrating key components adjacent to the frame and fork that are exclusive to them. Seatposts, stems, some with handlebars, crank sets and bottom brackets and I almost forgot headsets, are on the list to becoming OEM specific.

    The semi standardization that endured for so long, will decline in influence going forward.

    January 2, 2020 at 1:35 pm
  • Hoogle Da Boogle

    “STI/Ergo/DoubleTap will become obsolete”.

    Wow. That might be the boldest prediction on your list. There have been very few actual “game-changing” innovations in cycling over the last 30 years but, in my opinion, brifters are one of them. I’ve used them pretty much since they came out and have never had an issue with one. In fact, I’m still running a set of Shimano DA 7700 9-speed STI levers that more than 20 years old. They still work perfectly through thousands of shifts and through all kinds of riding conditions. Will they outlast a set of quality downtube shifters? Nah…but, I’ll take the incredibly convenience and reasonable longevity over the simplicity and indestructible nature of downtube shifters.

    You could very well be right about electronic shifting and I have heard many recent converts attest to its “awesomeness”. I’ll probably try and hold out as long as I can. One of the reasons I like bikes is for their relative mechanical simplicity and for the escape they offer from the endless proliferation of battery-powered consumer electronics that already dominate out lives. I simply don’t want to “charge” my bike nor do I want to have to worry about running out of juice 80 miles from nowhere.

    The rest of your list sounds pretty plausible to me.

    January 2, 2020 at 2:06 pm
    • Jan Heine

      I’m with you on the aversion to batteries on my bikes. It was nice to ride Paris-Brest-Paris on a bike where I provided all the power, even for lights, shifting and navigation. However, when you open a cable-operated brifter, you’ll see that it’s far removed from ‘mechanical simplicity.’ Riders who shift very deliberately seem to have few problems, but with fast shifts in racing or spirited riding, the parts don’t always engage correctly, and rapid wear can be the result. The Campy Chorus Ergo on my Firefly lasted less than 5000 miles before being beyond repair.

      January 2, 2020 at 3:17 pm
      • Goudurix

        Electric shifting (ten years or so after Mavic) always seemed superfluous to me and I disliked it a lot, the need to care for batteries… unnecessary problems.

        Your latest test of a Brian Chapman bike opened my eyes: If dynamohub plus battery are used like in a car, I no longer have any objections against electric devices. Used that way you’re still supplying all the power with just a little offset.

        Nonetheless my mentioned new bike will have a rim dynamo so no electrics anywhere if not getting dark…

        January 3, 2020 at 11:02 am
  • Brendan

    Why does not someone re-introduce the greatest shifter of all time, the Suntour Command shifter for today’s cog spacings? It is ergonomically better than down tube shifters, every bit as reliable, light, simple, and will outlast any living person. Different internal shifting discs can be cheaply made to accommodate any cog spacing ever invented. There are some Japanese people that make Shimano 9 & 10 speed spacing conversion discs for the Command shifter, proving it can be done.

    January 2, 2020 at 2:11 pm
  • Bill Gibson

    When I first saw e-bikes are now made by the atelier Alex Singer in Paris, I thought it was a joke. But it is a serious new product! I am not attracted to them, but will always welcome them to traffic, and will wave when they pass me going the other way (no doubt they will pass me at high speed going in my direction…).

    January 2, 2020 at 3:23 pm
    • Jan Heine

      At least Rene Herse Cycles will remain committed to pedaling! There’s nothing wrong with e-bikes, but our goal will always be to make cycling under your own power as fast and exhilarating as possible. (That said, at least one long-distance commuter uses our tires to extend the battery life thanks to their low rolling resistance.)

      January 2, 2020 at 3:34 pm
  • Kirt

    Can I suggest that ‘gravel bike’ popularity is partly a result of ever increasingly dangerous, congested roads? Getting away from accidents, near misses, and the new DUI -driving under the influence of Iphones-is so much more relaxing! And safer. I’d like to see a National-level push to jail drivers who cause injury/death whilst texting or otherwise distracted driving. Here in San Fran we have terrible rates of auto-ped and auto-bicycle accidents, and almost never see criminal charges brought.
    And Pinion gearboxes. That’s my next big want.

    January 2, 2020 at 3:46 pm
    • Jan Heine

      I wonder whether cycling really has become more dangerous, or whether we’ve just become more connected and hear about more accidents than we did in the past. Just like many people are afraid of flying because airplane crashes are world-wide news when they happen, but driving a car is far more dangerous per mile traveled.

      That aside, riding on busy roads is just not much fun, and once we’ve discovered the alternatives, there’s no reason to go back.

      January 2, 2020 at 6:53 pm
  • Adem

    Jan, if your “STI/Ergo/DoubleTap will become obsolete” (in favor of electric shifters) prediction comes true, who’s making the mechanical derailleurs for those downtube shifters that you are also predicting will make a comeback?

    Or are you predicting that electronic downtube shifters will be a thing?

    January 2, 2020 at 4:05 pm
    • Jan Heine

      Good point. Perhaps downtube shifters will be a way to sell off remaining stocks of derailleurs, since they seem to last a lot longer than the shifters.;-)

      January 2, 2020 at 6:50 pm
  • Gunther

    My guess: there will be balance bikes (Draisine) for adults. Increases mobility for elderly people without the potential danger of a proper bicycle’s speed and being on the road together with motorized traffic.

    January 2, 2020 at 4:10 pm
  • Kirke Wolfe

    I can’t hazard predictions, but, as part of the aging demographic some posters have mentioned, I can say what I like, while not getting into preferences that may be more idiosyncratic (retrogrouchy?), such as for lugged steel and quill stems::

    Pliant wide tires on 650B wheels, for all the reasons Jan has given.

    Silver components – the esthetic sweet spot.

    Triple cranks, 48 – 36- 24 or thereabouts, with a pretty big large cog in back. I need the low gear to comfortably get up some of the hills in and around Portland. The 46 – 26 double on one of my bikes works OK, but the smaller gear changes that the triple allows are less jarring.

    Downtube shifters for functional and esthetic simplicity. (I’m 6-1 and not especially athletic.)

    Fully self-propelled bikes for as long as I can manage, again for functional and esthetic simplicity, and because getting there under my own power is half the fun.

    Fenders, for riding year around in the rainy northwest.

    Racks and panniers for hauling groceries, plants, camping gear…Hopefully changes among consumers will include an increasing number of people who want bikes they can use as a low carbon alternative for as many functions as possible.

    January 2, 2020 at 4:24 pm
  • Kirke Wolfe

    Oops, I should have said “personally propelled” rather than “self-propelled.”

    January 2, 2020 at 4:30 pm
  • Mitch Hull

    I had to replace my right Chorus Ergo 11 lever body after 25K miles and 250K shifts. For the two weeks wait for the order, I put on a Suntour barend. First significant friction shifting in 25 years. My hand got sore as it took multiple seconds to make and tune each shift of the Shimano 9 speed mech.
    I was glad to get the Ergo replaced (it was easy to do). I haven’t used DT shifters in 40 years (too far to reach—I’m 6’2”—and would not ride a bike far so equipped.

    January 2, 2020 at 7:23 pm
    • Jan Heine

      Glad your Ergo levers worked that long. And yet my short-lived Chorus lever doesn’t seem to be the exception: Our recent OPEN test bike had DoubleTap. The bike had clearly been ridden a bit, but it’s not like journalists put thousands of miles on these bikes. Most of the time, they sit in a warehouse between assignments. And yet the shifting action was sloppy, and the gears didn’t always engage cleanly. I doubt that shifter has another year of life left.

      January 2, 2020 at 7:36 pm
  • Harris

    Jan, I am so curious to hear your thoughts on tire inserts such as Cush Core. They absolutely blew up this year in the MTB world where stiff casings and wide rims dominate the scene. The Cush core product is less about rim protection as it is about “tire suspension” and damping. They now make a “gravel” version and I suspect they will gain some traction in the new year. I prefer a light wide tire paired to an appropriate sized rim but, it will continue to grow I think

    January 2, 2020 at 8:04 pm
    • Jan Heine

      With mtbs, rolling resistance is only a minor concern. A foam insert will make your tires more like an airless tire… which means extremely slow.

      January 2, 2020 at 9:18 pm
      • Francisco

        I guess the inserts Harris is talking about work more like the rubber stops in suspension systems. These cores are just slightly more proeminent than the rim walls and come into play only when the tyre bottoms out.

        January 3, 2020 at 5:55 am
      • Harris

        Interestingly enough, Cush Core sights Bicycle Quarterly while claiming their inserts reduce rolling resistance. Would love to see them tested.

        January 3, 2020 at 2:24 pm
  • Marc

    Very much agree when it comes to electronic shifting, its just so much easier to use, set up and way more reliable. I don’t have a bike with electronic shifting (yet) and every mechanical change of gears that works perfectly is a thing of beauty (looking at you Shimano Dura Ace) but the Double Tap on my gravel bike is horrible to use. Its hard to shift, its constantly out of tune and it sounds like crap. And especially on the gravel bike (I ride many mountain bike trails with that thing) I would love to be able to shift more easily. Electronic Ultegra on my wife’s road bike makes her shifting more and therefore made her riding more efficient simply by always being in the right gear. In saying so, it needs to be wire less (come on Shimano, please!!!) and last longer between charges.

    January 2, 2020 at 8:20 pm
  • T. Nielsen

    As a heavier rider (110kg) I would like to see more robust components. All the gram counting has seemingly driven the industry towards single-season use. Expecting a long and safe life of even simple parts, such as a stem or seat post, is becoming a thing of the past.

    January 2, 2020 at 9:25 pm
    • Jan Heine

      The strong and proven parts still exist – and not that hard to find (hint, hint).

      January 2, 2020 at 9:43 pm
  • Shaul Shecter

    I’m going to go out on a retro limb. I think we are going to see more bikes with smaller wheels. Performance bikes with 406 or smaller wheels, possibly with suspension. Early MTBs, like the Topanga, & ATB Moulton and in road bikes Moultons, Brampton and Bike Friday are examples. In the 60s & 70s small wheel bikes set multiple records.

    January 2, 2020 at 9:29 pm
    • Jan Heine

      Small-wheeled bikes are interesting, and the Japanese minivelos might well be the next ‘big thing’ the industry will need before long. As an aside, I can’t think of many records set by small-wheeled bikes, if you discount publicity stunts like city-to-city records in one direction with huge tailwinds.

      January 2, 2020 at 9:44 pm
  • Tayochi

    Jan, I see the return of the Square taper bottom bracket to simplify things. And it can look quite elegant….Singer style….Am I seeing a Singer style BB on your new Herse, or am I daydreaming?
    Looking at the riders in your Rene Herse book, I also see (wish) the return of timeless cycling clothing so that one looks good on and off the bike….most of us aren`t racing anyway and at some point in life Lycra looks unflattering. Fortunately you are offering some pieces in your shop.

    January 3, 2020 at 1:26 am
    • Jan Heine

      My Herse has an Herse-style bottom bracket with pressed-in bearings. It’s similar to Singer, but uses a custom-machined BB shell with shoulders to locate the bearings more securely. The dust caps are Singer-style, because the Herse style (with wrench flats) are too wide to fit the modern Herse cranks (which are slightly curved for heel clearance).

      January 3, 2020 at 7:49 am

    Regarding predictions I would also look at sustainability and flexibility.

    1. E-bikes batteries : e-bikes sales are increasing every year and are doing good for the cycle industry bringing new customers to stores. The only issue for me is the battery itself. How are they recycled when they are used ? how are they recycled ? where ? by who ? These considerations should also be in a customer mindset while looking for a new bike.

    2. Durability : this one is not going to please the industry. Framebuilders are producing bikes that you keep for a life time (or almost !). And because they are made of steel you can even repair them ! Downtube shifters last longer then any other thing. Etc.

    I do believe that consumers will pay attention to the durability of the bike they are looking for. And also to the range of use of them. Can my commuter bike be used in weekends to ride 200miles and 2 days with friends with a sleeping bag ? And because this weekend we will be travelling on roads only I would rather fit some 700c tires instead of my 650b’s. Therefore I believe :

    1. Disc brakes will become more common. Could we imagine bikes sold with 2 pairs of wheels and fenders ?
    2. Security : a cyclist in traffic jam with a red rear light is invisible. The surface of the light compared to the global visibility a car driver has of the cyclist is ridiculous compared to a car’s ones. Today the yellow vest improves more the visibility then the light. Just have a look to night pictures of Paris Brest Paris this year. I rode it and at night times the first thing I was noticing was more the vest than the lights… The inconvenient of these vest is that they keep you warm even too warm sometimes and the are ugly 😉
    3. Fenders and racks will be common too (i fully agree with one too !)

    Durability, functionnality fit and design : 4 words for a decade !

    take care and safe route !

    January 3, 2020 at 1:49 am
  • George Recker

    To quote my friend
    tom B “ridged rules, friction solves all” My 1981 Bill Vetter 650b and 700c is still one of my favorite rides. Bill built this for me as a gravel tourer. Its funny to me to realize that I’m finally in fashion.

    January 3, 2020 at 10:35 am
  • Pete Chesworth

    Perhaps advances in materials science and surface chemistry will see some different frame materials, or nuances of the current ones. Sails come in a range of composites and have done so for years. Steel continues to be brewed in new and exciting ways, and aluminium is taking new forms these days.

    January 3, 2020 at 12:29 pm
  • Peter Rhodes

    More integration of the whole drivetrain. Personally I think derailleurs will go away and internal gear boxes or internally geared hubs will be the norm. Weight is the issue, but in the long run aerodynamics will make one of the major bike makers give it a shot.

    January 3, 2020 at 3:55 pm
  • Tom Hansen

    Great predictions. Many of the trends were covered by Rene Herse, Alex Singer, Ernst CSUKA and the other great constructeurs 60 years ago. Wide tires, 650b wheels, fenders, lighting, etc.

    After reading the predictions, I realize that I’ll be just fine with all my French beauties.

    January 3, 2020 at 5:57 pm
  • John Duval

    Micro transportation (e-scooters, bike share, ??) growing dramatically, will tend to diverge transportation and sport riding even more than now. The e-bike as we know it will decline. Infrastructure will grow in parallel with micro transit and more urban streets being closed or restricted from private automobiles. The spot bike will be looking even harder for places to ride rather than the slow bicycle facilities. Sport bikes will be like automobiles where the parts are all brand specific. Custom bikes will continue to support standardization on the flip side.

    January 3, 2020 at 6:07 pm
    • Jan Heine

      I like your predictions, except one: Bike sharing is pretty much dead – the last companies are pulling out of the U.S., and the bikes are all landing on the scrap heap. From an environmental perspective, it’s a disaster – probably would have been better for the Earth to drive a V8 SUV.

      It’s simply too expensive to maintain a fleet of bikes for users who don’t care about them enough. (There is also a suspicion that the main reason for these companies to operate was not to make money with renting out bikes, but getting into your cell phones and collecting your data.) We may see e-scooter sharing, as those seem to be easier to maintain – until accidents get them banned.

      January 4, 2020 at 1:00 pm
      • Gunther

        This is quite different in Europe, there are well organized systems like StadtRAD in Hamburg which runs for 10 years now, popularity steadily increasing. O-bike was less than an success though.

        January 5, 2020 at 4:50 am
        • Jan Heine

          Docked bikeshare systems work well in Europe, but they require a big investment – possible only with public subsidies. Velib in Paris is the best example, with custom-built bikes that are strong enough to withstand many rides, and a maintenance team that takes care of them.

          In the U.S., we tried bikesharing on the cheap, by allowing companies to flood our cities with low-quality ‘dock-less’ bikes. Many broke immediately and ended up in ravines, lakes and parks. The others were withdrawn when the companies pulled out or replaced them with e-scooters. The photos of skyscraper-high piles of abandoned bike share bikes in China really broke my heart.

          January 5, 2020 at 4:50 pm
  • Adam Wood

    I think the big omission from this list is the continued rise of cargo bikes, even for people without young kids. Coupled with the increased power, longevity, and hopefully decreased cost of electric assist systems, I think people in bike-friendly cities will flock to smaller cargo bikes with well designed rack and bag systems (like the Tern GSD and xtracycle RFA) to replace their cars. This will include a lot of people who’ve never ridden more than five miles.

    By the way, bicycling infrastructure is designed for 12-18mph speeds if designed to Canadian, US, or European standards.

    January 4, 2020 at 6:00 am
  • Paul Ahart

    Living in the Pacific Northwest, and suffering a bit with cold and numbness in my fingers, I’ve come to love the downtube shifters on my two road bikes and bar-ends on my old commuter/touring bike. All are Shimano, 9spd Dura Ace on the road/rando bikes and very old 7spd bar ends on the touring bike. Lubing them periodically keeps them working like new, so I’m not worried about failure and non-replaceability. The 7spd indexed bar-ends were installed in the mid-1990s and have over 30,000 miles on them. Best of all, these are all on-the-road serviceable.
    My son-in-law, a professional road cyclist, loves his Ultegra electronic shifters, is almost ready to abandon the 11spd Campy Ergo shifters on his other two bikes. As I most often ride with full-finger gloves, I find E-shifting difficult, as I often can’t find the button to push!
    He and I both agree wide supple tires are the future, and full-coverage fenders in places like Washington State. Along with fenders there needs to be more consideration of fender placement and attachment on the part of the large manufacturers, like you said Jan, even spacing of fender mounts; using thick spacers or worse, lack of space for the tire, is terrible, and obviously got little or no thought from the designers.
    I’m sure Ebikes will be more and more popular, especially for casual cyclists, which pretty much are most riders. Whatever….it gets them out on bikes!
    Happy New Year to all!

    January 4, 2020 at 8:24 pm

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