Every year brings a new wave of bikes, components, and gear vying for our attention. Here are some of the big gear moments and tech trends of 2022 that stood out.
A dropper post wins Milan-San Remo
OK, so Matej Mohorič actually won Milan-San Remo this year, but from the buzz surrounding the way he did it, you would be forgiven for thinking that an inanimate object rode itself to a monumental victory.
The Slovenian came into the sprinters classic with a very specific game plan, and the tech to back it up. Borrowing a dropper post normally used in mountain biking that give more control during descents by collapsing the seatpost out of the way, Mohorič bided his time until the final kilometers then attacked and deployed the secret weapon, allowing him to open a gap in a daring descent down the Poggio.
Hearts sank as he nearly skittered off the road, riding the tarmac to its absolute limits around corners. But it was enough to claim victory.
And then all anyone wanted to talk about was the dropper post. For anyone up on their ‘90s Simpsons references (probably not most people but I digress), it’s like when Homer saved his malfunctioning ship on a space expedition by locking a malfunctioning door with a carbon rod, which then got all the credit for the heroics.
Will we see everyone lining up with a dropper post in 2023? Probably not. Anyone bold enough to copy the strategy will likely be well marked; their plan will hardly be a secret with the visual giveaway right under the saddle.
Still, it’s exciting when an innovative use of tech, combined with daring riding to back it up, works out.
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Shimano 105 makes the leap to Di2
Electronic shifting continued to fall in price in 2022, with Shimano joining SRAM in bringing the tech to its third tier of road components.
Shimano 105 Di2 is allowing more people to enjoy the consistent, crisp shifting of electronic shifting. The usual third tier tradeoff of extra weight is still there, but the shifting performance competes with the top shelf stuff.
However, even if the new group is cheaper than Ultegra Di2, its retail price of around $1,800 is much more expensive than its mechanical 105 counterpart, fueling another trend in 2022: the increasing expense of bikes and components.
Bikes are (still) becoming more expensive
Bicycles have been becoming steadily less affordable, and it’s more than just supply chain shortages, inflation, and the other woes of the last couple years at work.
MSRPs for traditionally entry level categories, not to mention high end bikes, are steadily marching north.
Alloy road bikes with mechanical builds that only about five years ago cost under $2,000, or in the low $2,000 range, can now cost $3,000 or more. There are even high-end road frame builds being offered with 105 Di2 for over $8,000, a price point that not too long ago would have gotten you mechanical Dura-Ace, or at least Ultegra with some very nice wheels.
However, there might be some deals to be had in 2023, though not for ideal reasons.
The global forces that have kept product off of store shelves the past couple years are now reversing, and severe overcorrection means bike stores are becoming inundated with previously ordered stock just as demand from the pandemic is waning. There will be some deals with the glut of stock, but it’s going to be tough times ahead for local bike shops as they figure out what to do with all of it.
Rim brakes sing their swan song
Anyone who has purchased a bike in the last few years or so already knows that disc brakes have taken over. Finding a bike with rim brakes has become akin to searching for a manual transmission car. They’re out there, but good look finding one.
For high end road bikes, rim brakes are history. Tadej Pogačar was one of the last big names to start 2022 still on rim brakes, though only for mountain stages. By the Tour de France, even he had gone full disc.
Many high end road bike manufacturers have stopped even designing rim brake versions as they roll out the latest generation of race bikes. And the rise of gravel bikes, with their wide tire clearances, has been made all the more possible by disc brakes.
Soon, groupsets will follow bike frames in abandoning rim brakes. Shimano has already started the process by making the new 105 Di2 group disc only.
Bikes are becoming simultaneously more complex and simpler in their approaches to comfort
Bike compliance took some interesting turns in 2023.
Trek simplified its IsoSpeed decoupler system on the Domane, the brand’s flagship endurance/ spring classic model. Whereas before it was an adjustable system allowing riders to tune the comfort level, it is now fixed because Trek discovered that most people weren’t adjusting it.
The front IsoSpeed decoupler is now gone too because Trek says wider tires provide enough comfort to negate the benefit. That means less weight on the bike and a similarly smooth ride as before. Likewise, the brand has also ditched adjustable IsoSpeed on the latest Madone aero road bike.
Meanwhile, Specialized went in an opposite direction for its gravel bikes with the new Diverge STR. It introduces rear Future Shock, with 30mm of active travel at the saddle and an eye-catching design that departs from conventional bikes. It is quite effective at adding comfort, but with more weight and more cost.
More so than ever, bike design is in flux. Where things go in 2023 will be interesting to see.