Nico Vouilloz and Fabien Barel Discuss 29ers in DH

Strolling around the Lourdes paddocks on the morning of race day, we caught Nico Vouilloz and Fabien Barel having a little chat behind the Canyon pits. We took the opportunity to ask these two legends of downhill what they think of the arrival of bigger wheels in the World Cup, and whether or not the UCI should take a look at putting in place some rules or regulations regarding wheelsize in DH. Check the audio below to find out what they had to say!

Sadly, the weather threw a big spanner in the works and robbed us of getting a few more answers here in Lourdes. Troy Brosnan's run was ruined - he still sent the gully gap though, as the true shredder that he is.

Loris Vergier was looking calm, collected, and FAST in morning practice, ready to back up his fastest qualifier with a race win, to really put the big wheels on the map. It wasn't to be, he was last man down the hill and had to ride in a monsoon.

Want more? -> All Things Lourdes

  • ElPapiDelFlow

    5/4/2017 3:32 PM

    2:00 "I was the first to fight for long frames" - Barel

    big statement indeed

  • bizutch

    5/3/2017 9:45 PM

    If I were A 2018 World Cup course designer , I'd take it as a personal challenge to put as many hairpins, switchbacks, chicanes and cork screws in the courses just to see if 29ers could even make it around the turns. You can make the tracks defeat the bikes.

  • jeff.brines

    5/4/2017 8:20 AM

    Food for thought, Greg C always seems to crush tight, twisty, awkward EWS aboard a 29" steed. The old school "29" bikes can't corner in tight stuff" belief is sort of a theory from yesteryear being perpetuated forward IMO.

    Bikes are already long and slack as hell. That, more than anything, is going to impact its ability in the mega tight stuff.

    My opinion anyway...

  • bizutch

    5/4/2017 9:11 AM

    I still say"Do It!!!"

  • Monstertruck

    5/3/2017 1:45 PM

    I think part of the reason for all the frustration about wheel size and standards evolution is due to the past 20+ years of stagnation, followed by rapid progression. The bike I started riding on in 198? Was not different from my last hard tail which was in 2000. Then in 2000ish I got a Turner XCE which was quickly warrantied for a Horst Link 5 Spot. Then I kept that bike until the Santa Cruz TBLT came out. I had wanted to get something newer and fresher, but there was not a better trail bike released between the early 2000s until something like 2012. I went through forks and 9 speed drive trains and wheels but kept the bike because nothing was newer or better for 12 years. The lack of new standards during that time was not because the standards we had were the best, or even good. It was due to a lack of progression.

    Since 2012 I've been having a blast riding new bikes and new technology. The bikes finally do what we always wanted them to do. Are new standards a PITA? Yes. Are new wheels sizes difficult to factor into DH racing- sure. But I'm ok with it all because I get to ride an Evil Wreckoning rather than a Horst link 5 spot with a 69 degree HA and a 15" reach.

    I'll take all the new standards they throw at me rather than ride the same bike for 10+ years when that bike does not do what I want it to do. We need progression. This sport is so fun, such a great way to spend a life. But the bikes need to be better. The Wrecker is rad. But The STA is too slack, the reach is too short and the seat tube is too long to let me size up and still run a 150 dropper. The HA is still too steep. I don't know if the chain stays are too long or too short or just right; but I'm willing to try other sizes out. I rode bullshirt bikes for 25+ years. I'm getting old. I want to ride a bike that does in reality what they do in my mind before I'm out of the game!!!

    So 29 wheels in DH. Hell yes. 33", 36, 48, 54 sure. At some point they will suck. We don't even know what that size is yet. Let's get this show rolling!

  • Raymond

    5/3/2017 6:36 AM

    100% agreed with Fabien when he says 29ner is for taller rider. FloPayet will rock on this bike!!

  • lister_yu

    5/2/2017 10:06 PM

    I don´t think it would be good that the UCI would step in and rule what wheel size should be used. Both wheel sizes work for all the girls and boys racing EWS so why shouldn´t that be the case in DH. Like the commentators on Red Bull TV use to say - it is the pinnacle of the cycling sport and like Formula 1 and therefore just use/or roll on whatever makes you happy as a team.

    I think it is a bit strange that both want the UCI to rule in that case.

  • jeff.brines

    5/3/2017 7:14 AM

    Don't forget, both are still affiliated with brands so you aren't hearing something completely unbias.... (EG: If Canyon doesn't have one in development of course Fabien is going to be more bearish on the wheel size...)

  • bizutch

    5/4/2017 3:58 PM

    I think what you're actually hearing is two guys who know the sales figures of the companies that they represent and all the other manufacturers who are sitting there with frames they can't sell Wheels they can't sell it cetera

  • bizutch

    5/4/2017 3:59 PM

    And I'm not referring to just their company's it's all mountain bike manufacturers. None of them have any idea what to order what to design or what to build in the current market

  • funkyfunpuff

    5/2/2017 10:03 PM

    I know that wheel size is a bid deal and could give someone a slight advantage, but I am curious why no one is concerned or up in arms with the fact that there are different rear travel bikes in DH? I am curious why we are all focusing on one aspect of the bike. Ya might say that brake rotors should have a limit in size too. Just tossing out ideas as I am frustrated with all wheel discussions.

  • mat prior

    5/4/2017 6:54 PM

    This is actually a great point. Other sports where equipment is subject to regulation or standard don't just focus on one part, motor racing for one. Its the sum of a whole host of specs that collectively level the playing field, or in extremes where they all race the same chassis/platform and just slip a different body over top (for better or worse). I think either leave it alone entirely, let the brands decide their own development path or standardise majority of it: brakes, travel, etc. Personally I prefer keeping it open, Group B glory days anyone...?

  • bizutch

    5/4/2017 8:01 PM

    To add, in other motor sports, some regulations are to safety (NASCAR regulator plates keep people from floating away at 220mph) and a select few are to prevent billionaires from out-teching the millionaire. But we have NO unobtainable technology that is vastly unfair to competition. This was simply a "we raced it first" wheel which will be quickly mimicked.

    Where the problem lies is not in the competitive advantage or any safety concern. It's quite literally that our industry is filled with small, medium and large companies with a glut of inventory in every bike category and no clear definition of what the consumer is going to DEMAND.

    It just shows as a pre-cursor of a contraction of the industry. There is way too much supply, far too many choices and now we will have to wait to see where the demand is. Companies are going to have to fold/collapse/contract for a few years now. THAT is why 27.5 & 29" drive came along AFTER the economic downturn in 2008. Bike businesses folded and consolidated to the point where Specialized & Giant could say "Lets push this market segment hard and let the out of demand size keep trickling away"

  • Lighthowler

    5/2/2017 3:37 PM

    It obviously stinks compared to all other wheeled sports that are in essence a timed race from start to finish. Road cycling hasn't stifled development the rules have been successful in ensuring a more fair and even playing field.
    Downhill just isn't as professional or as organised and it doesn't reflect well in my eyes.
    If I was a team manager I'd get payet on the team and develop 35inch wheels and leapfrog the whole 29 thing.
    Wonder if that would change people's mind tuning in to see florent take 5 secs off the field, soon get boring like the women's at present.

  • ThomDawson

    5/2/2017 10:42 PM

    I don't think it's as simple as that. Developing a 35" wheel would take years and tonnes of money. And when you're done the huge negative side of such a massive wheel probably won't be quicker than a 275 or 29 wheeled bike.
    The bike doesn't automatically get faster the bigger wheels you put on it. The most successful team will be the one that makes the right decisions over which size to use for which race and for their riders - just like tyre choice, etc, etc

  • easton

    5/2/2017 10:28 AM

    I ride a 29er. I love technological progress in bikes.

    But I have one concern: If bigger and bigger wheels prove more and more advantageous, at what point will tall riders have a overwhelming advantage by riding equipment shorter riders can't possibly use?

    One of my favorite parts of DH racing is that most sizes of human can compete-- to see Danny Hart and Troy Brosnan level with Minnaar and Payet is awesome.

    But if people keep pushing the wheel size, and Payet sized people come to dominate on, you know, a 33in wheel in 2020, and short riders are pushed out of the sport like it was basketball or something, it would be a real shame.

    For this reason I am fine with the UCI capping wheel size at a max of 29.

  • dd

    5/2/2017 10:42 AM

    It is not certain that larger wheel sizes are less beneficial for shorter riders.

  • russthedog

    5/2/2017 1:15 PM

    When riding downhill the tyre hits your arse

  • ThomDawson

    5/2/2017 1:26 PM

    I don't think it's as big an issue as people make out. I never got buzzed but I only had 150mm travel, Luca said he got buzzed but didn't seem to give two shits about it, same as getting muddy - just a fact of riding a bike

  • groghunter

    5/2/2017 1:56 PM

    Well, right now, on the only 3 29ers to see WC level competition, the riders on smaller frames have less rear wheel travel than Greg does.

  • ThomDawson

    5/2/2017 12:06 PM

    I'm 5'6" and never had an issue riding a 29er. I don't k ow why everyone assumes that small riders can't ride them or even why tall people think they fit them better than a shorter rider.

  • Maverickdh005

    5/2/2017 1:33 PM

    Well that's realitive to skill level, anyone can ride anything, but can everyone ride it well, or at the same level given the same variables! Fabian said it best can someone like Troy ride a 29er as well as Florian Payet, tall riders have been riding std wheeel sizes for ever, in fact pre 2007 tall riders dominated DH and many tracks were reffered to as a big mans track, only in recent times with bikes having lighter weight better suspension gears etc etc has that balance become even, I'd argue at the moment in 27.5" guise DH has never been more competitive or balanced!!!!

    Btw I ride 29ers and wouldn't go back to a std size wheel, I'm 6'.0"

    But like most Professional competions, as Nico says who also raced WRC so he has an even better understanding of true global World Championship racing that they're are rules to allow progression and standardised rules for all teams to follow!

  • Lem0n

    5/2/2017 6:51 PM

    But... what if Payet was always in a disadvantage because he was riding a bike that doesn´t suit him?

    I don´t know, I am against any regulation. Track builders has to take some time to thing about this issue to. Are the WC tracks the best?? are demanding every aspect in terms of skills? or is just about to stay away from the breakes?

  • Inclag

    5/2/2017 7:11 PM

    Guess what rider is able to move his COG over a greater distance between wheelbases? A taller or shorter rider? I'm tall and am considering a 29er for my next bike but I'm in favor of regulating wheel size for downhill since shorter folks can't physically manuever their weight between two points as much as a taller rider. The problem I see is that we approaching a point where we are reaching the limit for some body types and not others. Since force vectors are what they are this means that those that can handle larger wheels will do so with less cumulative opposing wheel force than those riding smaller wheels. At a professional level where seconds actually matter I think that is crap. This isn't rocket science and this is going to be a thing because the UCI allowed it to be.

  • lev

    5/2/2017 10:06 AM

    I think two good points were made by Loic and Brendan in the dirt walk around. If everyone gets 29ers, it's the same race, just on bigger wheels. The only people that lose are the amateurs who now have to buy, new frame, new fork, new wheels, new tyres. It's not really progression, it's a variation. Bad Santa Cruz.

  • ThomDawson

    5/2/2017 12:15 PM

    That's the worst point that keeps cropping up. The exact same thing happens whenever a new innovation or improvement hits the circuit - carbon frames and components, somebody develops a glue-like tyre compound, somebody develops a super controlled damper (that smooths out terrain just like a 29er wheel btw). Etc etc, eventually everyone develops (copies) their own carbon frame, their own tyre, their own dampers and everyone's back on the same page...until the next thing comes along. It's precisely how competition drives innovation.
    Besides that your (and Brendan's and Loic's) argument assumes that a 29er wheel will be faster and we simply do not know that it will in competition. Getting the right combination of wheelsize and bike set up for a given rider on a given track is what's fastest, we don't know that will always be a 29er for every track and every rider.
    Good Santa Cruz. Would you rather nobody tried because "29ers are..."

  • groghunter

    5/2/2017 12:33 PM

    Except that isn't what happens. What happens is a bunch of brands leave the sport temporarily, since they can't compete. Look at how many brands fell off for a few seasons after 650b. Except this time, the cost/benefit analysis looks a lot better in favor of just putting more money towards the EWS. Look at Devinci, who I'm sure knew this was coming. Santa Cruz could have come to the UCI, brought if forward as an option, & then discussed it with the rest of the teams,

    Instead they made a change that could have far reaching impact on both the sport, & the DH segment as a whole, & left everyone else to scramble, in the name of having an advantage for a few races.

  • ThomDawson

    5/2/2017 1:28 PM

    They were all scrambling. SC just got there first.

  • jeff.brines

    5/2/2017 2:39 PM

    ...and in said EWS 29" bikes are allowed. With no clear consensus as to what is faster. Don't forget that.

  • groghunter

    5/2/2017 3:10 PM

    While that is true to some extent right now, 29ers are surging pretty hard in EWS this year, with the new Trek, Evil, & other brand's bikes. Second, Enduro has a more "run what you brung" ethos, at least right now. DH emphasizes velocity much more than other disciplines , & if 29 is faster, the tracks & other facets will be modified to suit in ways that wouldn't happen in Enduro or XC.

  • jeff.brines

    5/2/2017 3:45 PM

    I don't disagree 29" enduro steeds are the new hotness, but again, I go back to Richie (see my other comments). He has had the option to ride one of the best 29" enduro weapons on the planet and sticks with the 27.5" steed. There are others who have also had the option to run the bigger wheel and chose not to. This speaks volumes to the reality of the situation. I really believe you'll see a mix, dictated more by comfort than anything else. I also think its not too far out of the realm of "crazy" to think that with some really clever design and an adjustable headset, that a bike couldn't accommodate both 27.5 and 29" wheels...

    I do contest that enduro somehow is less about velocity or something. It stands between XC and DH by most people's measuring stick. What is working in XC? 29". So if DH is sure to be dominated by 29", than it would make 100% sense that enduro would be getting crushed by 29" too.

  • groghunter

    5/3/2017 7:02 AM

    One rider is not a trend, it's an edge case. Richie is riding the bike he likes best of those available to him, & the 5.5 is only 140mm of travel. It's not equivalent to the new crop of 29er race bikes, nor was it designed to be a thoroughbred race bike. This holds true no matter how much you may like Yeti.

  • jeff.brines

    5/3/2017 7:54 AM

    ...and the v10 is only 190mm of travel for those not riding an XXL. Seems like an apples to apples analogy to me!

    To add, I have had the unique privilege of interviewing the founder of the company regarding the SB 5.5c in which he point blank said it was designed as a race bike for the EWS. (it was actually designed for an ex Yeti racer who now rides for a company with lots of red in their logo. This racer may be the best racer of all time.... )

    That said, I can offer more...

    Sam Hill rides the 27.5" Nukeproof, but he has the option of a 29" that is almost identical. Cody Kelly too swaps back and forth from the SB6 to the SB5.5c depending on the track, what he's feeling comfortable on etc.

    Norco has the option of either too, with Blenki (who is 6'1") and Joe Smith both going 27.5" in New Zealand...

    There are too many data points suggesting 29" wheel is great, but its more to do with preference than gospel. If it was set in stone "always faster", all these top level athletes who have the choice, would always chose to be on the bigger wheel. Remember, its their JOB to win. Fun comes second...

  • Maverickdh005

    5/2/2017 1:37 PM

    I'd argue it drives cost, not innovation, it will take another 2 years of development to get 29ers to where 27.5".

    I'm a 29er fan, but Ai don't think it's nessacikry a good move for DH from a competition point of view or for tracks that DH racers will be raced on, and that's a big fact people are not taking into account.

  • ThomDawson

    5/2/2017 2:04 PM

    You don't want the tracks to get gnarlier?

  • groghunter

    5/2/2017 2:07 PM

    Ah, the "what's the matter bro, too much of a *ussy?" defense. What enlightened times, these, when discourse has risen to such stratospheric heights.

  • Lighthowler

    5/2/2017 2:52 PM

    Tracks have been getting smoother and easier for years, Lourdes seemed less gnarly this year as it's been ridden in. The canyon to hip or gulley took out loads first year looked easy this year. Same with the wall section it's no longer about the ability to handle the terrain it's just about holding speed. I don't know why they use leogang when schladming is round the corner, val di sole vallnord are the only exception and they get flatt sections with a few jumps just to look good on red Bull to.

  • beerguzlinfool

    5/3/2017 2:56 AM

    It's funny. Riders and fans want gnarlier tracks but we keep seeing the wheel size increase which smooths it out.. kind of hypocritical if you ask me.

  • jefedelosjefes

    5/3/2017 9:24 AM

    Nobody with any power here actually cares about the sanctity of racing. They care about the show. Shows need drama... and here you go.

  • mikeymierk

    5/2/2017 8:02 AM

    26 is dead. Sam Hill went enduro. And 29 is in DH. Who cares? Get. Over. It.

  • jeff.brines

    5/2/2017 7:59 AM

    Wow. I'm pretty shocked.

    I figured both Nico and Fabien would love the bigger wheel as they both seemed to do whatever was needed technologically to eek out more speed.

    Larger riders have disadvantages in places, advantages in other places. Bigger wheels will be the same way.

    Limiting wheel size is like limiting bike fit, skewing things to benefit a certain type/size of rider.

    As far as it being a bummer for the industry, cmon boys! Its not like the wheels, tires, and 29" trail bikes weren't already in production this year. To add, I could see a few smart companies *maybe* finding a way to build a 29 and 27.5" bike from very similar molds (EG, same rear end, same front end, different links).

    Why should some riders have their bike fit them better than others?

    (scroll down for more thoughts)

  • Oz_Taylor

    5/2/2017 11:29 AM

    Why should some riders get an advantage because they are taller than average?

    27.5" is a good average wheelsize that can be made to work for riders at both ends of the height range. There are enough possibilities with frame sizing to make one wheelsize work for all competitors.

    Greg Minnaar and many other racers have been going longer in search of stability. One thing I found interesting is that Gregs 29" V10 is the same size as last years bike, so switching to big wheels wasn't about bike fitment. It's purely about the advantages of a bigger wheel with more momentum, stability, rollover and grip.

  • ThomDawson

    5/2/2017 12:20 PM

    What's the wheelbase of gregs bike? Is he not already at an unfair advantage by your logic? I mean Brosnan isn't gonna be able to pilot that thing 29" or not. Gregs height means he can utilise a more stable bike than shorter guys, he should be banned from competing cus he's too massive.

  • Oz_Taylor

    5/2/2017 1:01 PM

    From what I've read and heard, his wheelbase is 1300mm. Last year he rode a XXL V10 with longer shock links (+17mm I think), so around 1295mm in total.

    You could say Greg's set up is one of the more extreme in terms of length. Even Peaty didn't go that long and he is an inch taller than Greg. But anyway, I'd say the length of Greg's bike is in proportion to his height. It would be interesting to look at the ratio between wheelbase length and rider height.

    Danny Hart rides a large Summum with a 1250mm wheelbase. At his height of 1.78m, his wheelbase is actually longer than Minnaars relative to his height (Greg is 1.9m tall).

    I understand that wheelbase is just one measurement on the bike, but it's a good number because it takes into account the head angle etc.

  • jeff.brines

    5/2/2017 2:32 PM

    Do you think certain riders get an advantage because they are taller? I'd argue there are just as many advantages as disadvantages. I'd also argue "welcome to sports" where certain body types have advantages over others. Tall guys do well in the NBA. Light guys do well in horse racing and road cycling. Sporting events, in general, aren't fair. Hell, life isn't fair.

    But here is the thing, one of the awesome parts about DH is I'm not sure one body type is better than another. Guys of all heights have won. And even when I think I have it figured out (no small guy will win at Ft Bill for instance), I'm proven wrong (Troy).

    Greg is finally riding a bike that fits him. And those wheels match on a proportional basis.

    Another point nobody is making here. If XC is best on 29". And DH is all of a sudden best on 29". Why are all the top guys in Enduro not on 29"? I get there are 29" wheeled bikes near the top but Richie has the choice (Yeti makes top notch 27.5 and 29" steeds), and sticks with 27.5", doesn't that say its a "different stroke for different folks" type of thing? A bike fit thing? A comfort thing?

    To those that think this is going to cause all sorts of extra expense I again challenge you to reconsider. Tires, wheels, etc - have in some capacity existed for years. Making the frame work could cost some money but I'm not sure its going to be as ungodly expensive or as disruptive to "the industry's health" as everyone thinks to produce something with slightly bigger wheels. Also, don't forget, maybe a company will sell more bikes because they are able to offer something to the customer that attracts them to said item. Maybe a guy (like me) who wasn't going to buy a DH bike does, because he's intrigued and wants to check it out again. This is good! We aren't talking about essential items in the first place after all... Darwinism. Capitalism. Giving the people what they want. All good things.

    Rants aside, one thing is for certain, its given us an exciting narrative to follow this year.

    I'm personally psyched!

  • Lighthowler

    5/2/2017 2:57 PM

    Yeah sports favour certain body types no point going for NBA if your 5 ft no point going for sumo if your thin but these sports don't make changes they stick to their standards.

  • Oz_Taylor

    5/2/2017 3:05 PM

    Speed in most cycling disciplines is about power to weight, and how long a rider can sustain that power. Troy might be short but he's a powerful guy. He placed 5th in Pietermaritzburg a couple of months before his win at Fort Bill. I like the fact that different sized guys can win, although mental preparation, confidence and a huge dose of talent can win races too.

    I dunno, I'm generally in two minds about this whole thing. Love the sport, Minnaar is my favourite rider, Syndicate my favourite team, yet it's those guys who are taking the sport into a place that doesn't feel right to me.

  • jeff.brines

    5/2/2017 3:51 PM

    @Oz - go on as to why this doesn't feel right? Curious - have you ridden a long travel 29" trail bike? Is there something you are hung up on that doesn't feel right - like somehow the big wheels aren't somehow as cool? Like they probably suck in the air and you can't get sideways and "have fun with them"?

    I used to share this mentality until last season. I was faster, had more fun, and owe a little of this to my switch to 29" wheels in a longerish trail application.

    In the end, we are arguing about 1.7". I'd suggest we backup and reconsider all the other changes that occurred over the last 20 years in the sport that were maybe bigger that nobody balked at. They have happened, but maybe a bit more quietly. (suspension development being the big one)

    Food for thought.

    (PS, RAD comments by all! Only way this could be better is if we were all at a bar screaming at each other with beers...ha)

  • Oz_Taylor

    5/2/2017 4:28 PM

    I ride an Enduro 29 Carbon. It's the fastest bike I've owned. I can get it sideways (just), it rails turns, it climbs, it ploughs. Haven't used my DH bike since I bought it.

    What doesn't feel right to me is that at present, the Syndicate have an advantage over all the other teams. I know the advantage is debatable but my own experience of riding 29" bikes leads me to believe that they are faster (and Lourdes quali kind of confirmed it too). They will carry that advantage this season and over most other teams into 2018. They announced it late as a marketing stunt. They kept it under wraps so that the other teams couldn't react in time. They have access to exclusive tech from their suppliers which has allowed them to be the only team to bring this to the table.

    I don't care what the wheelsize is, as long as it's fair for everyone involved. At the moment it's not a level playing field. Whether smaller riders can ride them with the same amount of travel etc will depend on how the bikes are developed.

    I don't think wheelsize can be compared to other tech such as suspension. Wheels are a fundamental component of the bike and are a defining component. Just as BMX is 20", road is 700c etc. The wheels make such a big difference to the characteristic of a bike, I think that it's important that this component is a constant. If it settles at 29" that's fine, at least we'll have a level playing field again, if the bikes fit smaller riders without any compromises (less suspension travel etc). It's a shame that we only saw 2 years of WC level development on 27.5" wheels before the jump to 29".

  • jeff.brines

    5/2/2017 4:39 PM

    All fair points! You will see more 29" DH bikes soon btw (Fort Bill according to the rumors - 2 more teams)! So the field will be (more) level if in fact it is the advantage some are suggesting. Again, I dig the conversation. Cheers!

  • Zoro

    5/3/2017 5:59 AM

    @Brines, Isiah scored 53 last night and he's a generous 5.8! JK, I know he's an outlier, but had to point it out!!!

  • jeff.brines

    5/3/2017 7:04 AM

    What a boss.

  • matmattmatthew

    5/2/2017 1:10 PM

    I agree, I didn't think I would hear that from Niko. Didn't he essentially go out on his own and create the V-process because he wasn't happy with other frames. He had radical geometry and technology that was ahead of everyone else and won a ton of races. Seems like a pot/kettle situation.

  • Lighthowler

    5/2/2017 3:17 PM

    When 27.5 came out the smartest thing the companies did was make sure they were not compatible with 26 with the exception of Scott Rocky Mountain.
    People don't realise that the big companies have business analysts and strategy men who advise to ensure constant renewed business these analysts and advisors aren't even into bikes. Electrical companies test to ensure failures after a certain period for this exact reason.
    Bikes due to safety and brand reputation ensure the renewed 2yr cycle of repeat business by changing standards and eliminating backwards compatibility.

    All this waste and nonsense will be at the customers and fans expense while the industry laughs.
    Not so much wolves in sheeps clothing more wolves in shepherds clothing.

  • jeff.brines

    5/2/2017 3:58 PM

    Just to point something out, what you are suggesting goes against free markets and capitalism as a whole. Although "engineered" failure is kind of a thing (edit, outside the bike industry), failure/needing to upgrade generally has everything to do with cost/benefit/lifecycle than it is a "lets build this so they have to buy more". If its the latter, this is where a better company steps in to fill the unmet needs in the market with a superior product.

    What I'm saying here is the bike industry is too small and too competitive for there to be some underlying conspiracy to keep us buying stuff we don't want or breaking stuff that otherwise wouldn't break at the same price point/weight/performance level.

    As far as forcing us to buy new stuff based off legacy, last I checked I can still buy 26" tires and wheels. In fact, my last 26" bike is still kicking just fine. The same will happen with 27.5" if 29" does prove to be the advantage, which I'm still not sure is universally true. I've also refurbished a number of old bikes (threaded headset anyone?) with zero problems in terms of compatibility.

    Innovation means you have to step outside the lines to find and edge. Thats what this is about, finding an edge to put a rider on top, and frankly - its one reason why I love racing.Nobody ever said every component that is engineered has to be reverse compatible.

    Reminds me of video game systems in a way.... If you forced every video game to be reverse compatible with old systems the whole industry would come to a grinding halt.

    and just cause something new comes out, that doesn't make super mario any less fun to play...

  • Lighthowler

    5/2/2017 4:13 PM

    Heard of Dyson vacuum cleaners? Check your local recycling centre and you'll see a pile of em yet people still buy them and at greater cost than their competition.
    Saying bikings a small industry isn't true, how much was Santa Cruz sold for.
    Recent purchase of chain reaction by wiggle should be enough to show there is enough room for the conspiracy.

    Sorry about the long post. Taken from wiki key points are making things unfashionable or less efficient i.e. 29 ers in downhill.

    The industry knows people will follow time after time after time

    Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design and economics is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete (that is, unfashionable or no longer functional) after a certain period of time.[1] The rationale behind the strategy is to generate long-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases (referred to as "shortening the replacement cycle").[2]

    Producers that pursue this strategy believe that the additional sales revenue it creates more than offsets the additional costs of research and development and opportunity costs of existing product line cannibalization. In a competitive industry, this is a risky strategy because when consumers catch on to this, they may decide to buy from competitors instead.

    Planned obsolescence tends to work best when a producer has at least an oligopoly.[3] Before introducing a planned obsolescence, the producer has to know that the consumer is at least somewhat likely to buy a replacement from them. In these cases of planned obsolescence, there is an information asymmetry between the producer – who knows how long the product was designed to last – and the consumer, who does not. When a market becomes more competitive, product lifespans tend to increase.[citation needed] For example, when Japanese vehicles with longer lifespans entered the American market in the 1960s and 1970s, American carmakers were forced to respond by building more durable products.[4] A counterexample is Moore's law, stating that the rather competitive electronic industry plans for double computer capacity every 18 months, and the software industry plan for new program versions that require double computer capacity every 18 months.[5]

  • Lighthowler

    5/2/2017 4:23 PM

    Producers that pursue this strategy believe that the additional sales revenue it creates more than offsets the additional costs of research and development

    That's a key point knowing Santa Cruz will sell enough to offset r and d the point is the smaller brands don't sell enough to offset r and d therefore it's a possible strategy to " starve the competition" by continually changing standards.
    This IS capitalism

  • jeff.brines

    5/2/2017 4:27 PM

    Relatively speaking, the cycling industry is not big. Sales are somewhere around $6.1B per year. To put that in perspective, United Technologies (UTX) posted sales of $13.8B last quarter. Santa Cruz isn't a small company in the bike world, but it was sold for millions, not billions. In the grand scheme of things, it'd still be considered a "small cap" company.

    I whole heatedly do not believe any manufacturer we we regard as "good" would ever do anything to artificially limit the life of their bike or force you to upgrade due to design. Maybe stuff will break, maybe better stuff will come to market, but that has more to do with the company doing their best to find a balance between weight, performance and price all driven by a hyper competitive market where razor thin advantages keep you in business or push you into bankruptcy.

    As far as a 29" wheel on a longer travel bike somehow making other bikes obsolete as part of what you suggest, I again, say "no" simply based off the fact you can still get 26" parts. Nobody is forcing you to upgrade. If you race, well, by and large the idea of racing is all about going fast and finding an advantage. Again, nobody is forcing you to race either.

    As your wiki article implies, you need an oligopoly for this to work. The bike industry is the opposite of this, with small manufacturers always willing to crop up simply because its such a fun sport (or so it seems!).

  • Lighthowler

    5/2/2017 4:41 PM

    Wow 6 billion hardly small is it,

    There's also a massive mark up on frames.

    The oligopoly is provided by the consumer believing the new development is a must have and an increase in performance. 26 may not be obsolete but it's definitely no longer fashionable hence the lack of availability of new 26 inch bikes.

    Industrial tricks within the psychology of consumerism usually rely on a naive consumer

  • erik saunders

    5/2/2017 5:19 PM

    oh boy... you guys are just about to go down the rabbit hole... the things i could tell you... i can say however that there is no nefarious "planned obsolescence"... the so-called additional sales revenue comes from people who just cant stop themselves from buying stuff... true story... the rest, you'll have to catch me for a beer and i can explain to you how the bike business works for real...

  • Lighthowler

    5/2/2017 5:32 PM

    It's not hard to imagine a business consultant walking into one of the bike manufacturers offices and his jaw dropping when he's told proudly "our bikes are lasting 10-15 years"
    "Dont you realise you could quadruple your profits if you make them last 3 years?"
    "We can't engineer them to break!"
    "Mmmmm how about continually changing the standards?"
    "Yeah we could do that , get fox and maxxis on the phone!"

    I think there's definitely signs of technological creep that suits the manufacturers rather than big jumps that suit the consumer, rather than making big changes like jumping from 26 to 29 let's make a standard in between!

    I know a bit about the sharks that swim in business that's for sure!

    Maybe it's not as sinister as I say but it could be, 20mm boost is this weeks new standard roll up roll up!

  • jeff.brines

    5/3/2017 8:09 AM

    Again, we'll always disagree here but my 20 years of adventure sports experience says otherwise. My education in economics and dayjob in finance also says otherwise. You are arguing against how innovation works and how markets work.

    Bigger companies can throw their weight around and cause a bit of turbulence for sure (Trek with boost for instance), but being a number of my close buddies are engineers within the space, they all say the same thing.

    "Don't buy it if you don't like it, nobody is forcing you to upgrade".

    Simple as that.

    Nobody is forcing you to buy anything in the sport. Nobody is saying "to ride down this here hill you need 29" tires, boost, XXmm axles, XXmm wide rims etc.

    Progress comes at the expense of change. A company must introduce something new, or die. And some of those innovations mean new standards, new wheels, new this or new that. "Progress" and "New" often go in the same sentence.

    If its not worth the squeeze, we don't have to bite. What is incredible is the industry will continue to make legacy product. Maybe 10 years from now you can't buy the new XYZ fork for your 26" bike, but you can still buy a suspension fork of similar caliber for the era your 26" bike. Nobody is forcing you to buy anything new *unless you want something better*. I believe having something better is not a right, its not something you are entitled to.

    Remember, in most any other technology driven sport, there is no standard. Period. You can't just take a Honda motor and swap it into a KTM chassis. Hell, you can't even take a wheel and swap it. I can't put my Polaris sled skis on my buddies Cat (without a bunch of modifying). I can't put fuel injection on my CB650 (well, I can, but it costs a ton).

    You have to accept new standards or we have to accept little to no progress.

    No conspiracy other than the fact the bike industry is (and always will be) populated by a bunch of nerds (like me) looking for an edge over my more talented friends. And I'll buy it if I have to...

  • Lighthowler

    5/3/2017 8:21 AM

    Yeah Jeff we will always disagree,
    I owned a successful engineering business for 18 years we shipped products worldwide, our products were for the offshore oil industry so I'm not without experience and insight myself. If you think these companies just employ bike fans you clearly have a naive view of the world.

  • JMHV

    5/2/2017 6:39 AM

    After hearingJose Gonzales great summation about the state of standards, I can't even listen to guys talk about limiting progression without them sounding like little old ladies. But I still love all the old kooks.

  • traildog

    5/2/2017 8:02 AM

    agreed, but I also think these guys were pretty candid about not being concerned with the "fairness" of new tech but rather the potential for the industry to self-destruct through too many options. it's the same argument for the tire width restrictions in CX- not that a wider selection of tires isn't beneficial, but that the small teams simply can't afford to have all the options glued up at once, so regulation is necessary to create a level playing field. I'm not particularly passionate either way, but do think there's got to be a balance between showcasing R&D while also creating a level playing field.

  • erik saunders

    5/2/2017 8:21 AM

    I think you really have made the right point here... a great example is the UCI decisions to limit the development of aerodynamic bikes in the 2000's and the decisions that all race bikes need approval and have to be available for sale to the public... before these rules, bikes were getting so expensive and specialized that athletes from poorer nations were not able to compete at the same level only because they lacked equipment... this was especially prevalent on the track where the bike makes such a difference that its impossible to win without the latest tech... thats a bad thing for the sport because its no longer a contest between athletes... you would have some nation like Ukraine getting smashed in the face in team pursuit by Italy or Australia because they were on steel round tube bikes... no chance to win just because of equipment... I dont know if DH is there... i think the equipment parity right now is good between privateers and full factory riders... the difference is in management of resources i would think... not in equipment... but if DH ever looked like track cycling in 2002 it would be terrible...

  • groghunter

    5/2/2017 10:08 AM

    I made a similar point in the "should there be a 29er class" thread, but I focused a bit more on the industry consequences. DH is not road biking. At the end of the day, there will still be enough people willing to pony up cash for pro road teams to get decent field at events like TDF. & road bike R&D is cost positive, in that they sell enough of those bikes to break even, before considering racing.

    DH is a cost negative for many brands. They don't sell enough of these bikes to justify making them, they have to rely on them as halo product to drive sales of other bikes in their lines. But DH isn't the halo event it once was. EWS has taken a big bite out of that apple, & has more participants, & is raced on bikes that actually sell well, to boot. Look at a brand like Rocky Mountain. After a long time not sponsoring a racing team, they have people on their bikes this year. If they need to now scrap a fairly new frame design, & do all new molds for a 29er version, they have to take a look at the cost/benefit of doing that, vs investing more in EWS. Arguing for spending on WC racing in that light is pretty hard. Heck, look at Devinci. If we're finding out about this in the last few months, they had to have had at least a rumor of it when they decided not to field a WC team this year.

    But worse than that, DH is already weak, compared to road. They lose 3-5 teams, & some real competitive riders don't have a sponsor. Not a healthy outcome for the sport.

    I mean, the UCI put their foot down on skinsuits, gearboxes(Honda team) & different wheel sizes on the same bike. This is obviously detrimental to a segment that is just rebounding from all the brands that couldn't justify leaping to 650b right away, where are they here?

  • Lighthowler

    5/2/2017 1:26 PM

    I wonder how much money will be wasted collectively by canyon, propain, radon, Saracen plus others who have just finished developing a design plus norco who have only just finished a prototype that was due to enter production.
    It will be interesting to see if Santa Cruz offer a rear triangle linkage upgrade to existing owners, my guess is they will make changes to ensure all the sc fanboys have to buy total frames.
    It looks like the best and most likely action for teams is to cobble 29 frames out of existing 27.5 and use angle sets etc to correct geometry hardly the technological advancement everyone's raging about.
    Also road cycling has a rule stating a frame cannot be developed to suit 1 rider. No wonder minaar was begging loris to go 29.

  • russthedog

    5/2/2017 3:28 PM

    I'm not sure ews has actually taken much of a bite out of it? By comparison I can really see ews is participant driven (for the rider), but its not even close to dh in terms of glitz/glamour/ personalities/ attractiveness/ coverage etc etc etc. If you want to run a test look at ews athletes social media popularity compared to dh athletes - its not even in the same ballpark! Coverage is important. I don't know anyone that's stopped following the world cup events since the ews started, and many of the don't follow ews at all. Lots of them only race enduro events.

    Personally for me having a good dh bike and team means I pay attention to the brand ad have trust you can make a bike that is competitive and durable. Marketing has worked on me! If I was to think about what I think about something like rocky mountain, I don't believe any of their bikes are cutting edge enough for me to get a performance advantage (not saying its true, just assessing my feelings). But spesh, mondraker, yt, canyon, trek, Kona, commencal, polygon - I feel they know how to make bikes that genuinely perform well. Again, just my feelings.

    Once last addition from me is that I think the dh bike is the only MTb made without compromise, and that part of why it influences me so much. Handling and control are everything. As soon as you have to go up and down you have to compromise something....although not according to the marketing spiel out there lol.