Once in awhile I peer into my greasy crystal ball in the basement of Guitar Ted Laboratories and give you my prognostications on where 29″ers are headed in the future. Here’s my latest thoughts on where the wagon wheelers are going.

WTB Vulpine
The WTB Vulpine will have lots of company come springtime in the racing tread category!

Racing Tires and Wheels: Much like single speed 29″ers were about three years ago, we are about to witness a glut of racing bred rubber and probably a few more weight weenie wheel sets to go along with them. Shoes from Schwalbe, Continental, Bontrager, and Geax are all about to be delivered to the market. By spring time, you should not have any trouble finding a race specific 29″er tire and some wheels to go with them. Remember when they said 29″er wheels and tires were too heavy? Not anymore!

Wanting A Little Meat On That Carcass?: But having said that, the trail/AM crowd should see some developements in 2009 on tires as well. I know that Bontrager is currently testing some tires, one of which is said to be a trail tire with a radical new tread design. I know of the Maxxis Ardent in a wider size, an offering from Geax, and at least two other “behemoth” tires that may see the light of day soon, if not before the end of 2009. Add to this a proliferation of true tubeless ready UST and plain ol’ UST tires in 29 inch sizes and I think you will see at least as many new tires just on the trail/AM side as we saw in 2009 in all categories put together.

Carbon “Fork” Print: There will be a couple of radical new carbon forks coming out that I know about with a possibility of more that I don’t. This is going to be an area of development due to the lack of high end road bike sales. That carbon technology has to go somewhere, and 29″er folks have already shown an affinity for the carbon rigid fork. Look for Niner’s carbon fork to bow soon, maybe as early as this spring. The Soul Cycles carbon fork shouldn’t be long in appearing either.

Carbon fiber will most likely be starting to show up in other places on 29″ers too. Linkages on rear suspensions, suspension forks, and obviously on frames. The economic situation may delay some of this, but it is coming.

Raise The Standard: The Niner W.F.O.9 and the tapered steer tube Marzocchi 44 29″er fork should be showing up in 2009. Niner’s Chris Sugai told me at Interbike that he is sure that all major 29″er fork makers will be on board with the tapered steer tube soon. Fox is already there and Rock Shox, Manitou, and White Brothers are all expected to make the leap to tapered steer tube products for 29″ers. In my opinion, it is a smart move for 29″er front and full suspended bikes.

The BB30 bottom bracket standard, developed by Cannondale, is now a reality on 29″ers with the 2009 Cannondale line. I suspect to see more companies jump on board with this as cranksets become available on the mountain bike side in greater numbers. There also is a BB90 standard with- you guessed it– a 90mm wide bottom bracket shell and “internal external” bearings that is compatible with current two piece cranksets. I do not fore see this becoming widely available though. What I wouldn’t be surprised to see is Shimano coming out with something different along these lines soon to compete with the move to oversize bottom bracket/internal bearing set ups.

The move to this sort of technology will be utilized to market product said to be stiffer and less likely to become contaminated, as outboard bearings are prone to do, with a free spin that outboard bearings can not rival. 29″ers might benefit from a bigger area for down tubes and chain stays to attach to. (Although I’ve been told that this would be a minimal gain for all the trouble.)

Reba with Maxle Lite The Rock Shox Reba with a Maxle Lite: The beginning of the end for QR’s on 29″ers

Stick A Thru-Axle In It! 2009 is the year that the quick release for mountain bikes is going to start to die off. With the widely available Reba with the new Maxle Lite, 29″er freaks are going to shun QR’s like the plague. Especially after they use one of the Maxle Lites on somebody elses rig. Look for this option to spread to the rear on full suspension bikes first, and eventually hard tails. Will it be the 20mm or 15mm through axle that wins out? Well, I don’t think that will matter if hub makers can keep both camps happy with one hub that features swappable end caps. (My vote is for 20mm though, just so you know!)

Stump Pullin’ Gears: I also look for some new cassettes that feature a 36T low gear. 29″er freaks will not be the only ones looking at this option either. 2 X 9 26″er riders will benefit, as will any rider using a 2X9 or 1X9 set up. Additionally, I see more options popping up on the crank side as well.

She’ll Be Comin’ Down The Mountain: I fore see a long travel fork coming out of one of the big three fork makers soon too. White Brothers have had this market all to themselves until now. With bigger rims, tires, and frame sets hitting the market soon and in bigger numbers, it is going to be just a matter of time before one of the bigger companies pulls this off. What will finally turn the tide? A big OEM contract for a long travel fork for a bigger company that will be bringing out a long travel 29″er AM bike, that’s what. Hold on! It is going to happen, and sooner than later!

Frugal Frames: Already in early 2009 we are seeing some down right el cheapo frames hitting the market. I predict even more will show up before the year is through. With the current popularity of 29″ers and the down turn of the economy, I see some folks jumping in on this market big time. Even full suspension 29″er frames and/or complete bikes will become available.

Bigger companies will also start to offer more sub-grand 29″ers than before too. These bikes were always good sellers when times were good. Now they will be even more attractive. Look for several new additions in this category by Interbike time next fall.

That’s my take, what is yours? Add your thoughts to the comment section. You never know who is reading, and it might become reality some day!