Every week, my feed is filled with articles about new bikes or gear. Most of the time, I read, then promptly forget them. But sometimes, a new product is so exciting or groundbreaking that I just can’t stop thinking about it. There have been a few of these in 2021, seven to be exact. This is my list of the best new bike products of 2021. I’m keeping an eye on all of them and hoping some will show up at TPC soon so I can get my hands on them!
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Shimano 12-speed Dura-Ace and Ultegra
Electronic shifting is the best thing to happen to bike drivetrains since the invention of the derailleur. Shimano paved the way with Di2 (before the vintage nerds come at me, yes I know about Mavic Zap), but if you’ve ever had to build a bike with Di2 wiring, you’ve probably torn your hair out in frustration. SRAM changed the game with wireless drivetrains. Just bolt everything on, pair it, and you’re good to go.
With the move to 12 speeds though, Shimano has finally given wireless a go… sort of, with its new “semi-wireless” Dura-Ace 9200 and Ultegra 8100 drivetrains. The levers are wireless, while the derailleurs remain wired directly into the central battery using new, thinner Di2 wires. This should provide the best of both worlds. Installation will be easier thanks to the wireless shifters, but you still get a long battery life thanks to the large central battery and quicker shifts due to the wired connection between derailleurs.
The biggest news seems to be that there is no mechanical version of Dura-Ace or Ultegra coming, which means Shimano is also committing to electronic shifting for its top-of-the-line drivetrain offerings. I’m all for it.
Did you think SRAM would let Shimano get all the new drivetrain hype? Think again. SRAM has made a few big moves this year with a more affordable GX Eagle AXS MTB drivetrain and its RockShox Flight Attendant system which automatically adjusts suspension in real-time. But the product that really excites me is its new XPLR AXS 12-speed wireless drivetrains.
XPLR (as in “explore”) is available in RED, Force, and Rival trim, and it is 1x specific. As a vocal 1x lover, that’s music to my ears. XPLR is designed around a new 10-44T 12-speed cassette that provides a wide enough range for tough climbs while maintaining tight jumps between gears for fast riding on the flats. Though it’s marketed for gravel, you might find me putting it on my road bike next year. I’ve got my flame suit ready for all the haters.
Plus, XPLR isn’t just a drivetrain. The full XPLR collection also gives us the new RockShox Rudy gravel fork, Reverb AXS XPLR dropper, and Zipp 101 XPLR wheels. Basically, if you want to kit out your gravel bike with the latest and greatest tech, SRAM XPLR is the best way to go.
Continental GP5000 S TR
For over a decade, my go-to tire was the Continental GP4000. It was fast, grippy, and light, everything I wanted in a road bike tire. But times have changed. Now, I’m fully committed to riding tubeless on the road.
So of course, I was excited when Continental announced that the successor to the GP4000, the GP5000 TL, would be tubeless compatible. There was one massive problem though. Printed on the sidewall were the words “Mount Only On Hooked Rims.” But wait, all the fancy new tubeless road wheels I have are hookless. For the last few years, I’ve ridden different tire brands and haven’t found anything I love as much as my old Contis.
Thankfully, Continental listened to riders and released the tire I’ve been waiting for: the GP5000 S TR. This new tire is compatible with the latest hookless rims and has the same incredibly low rolling resistance as the original GP5000 TL. I’ve already ordered a few sets so expect me to smash some Strava PRs next spring.
ENVE Custom Road Bike
Do I need another ultra-expensive boutique carbon road bike in my life? Heck yes, I do! Especially when it’s the gorgeous ENVE Custom Road Bike. I’ve long been a fan of ENVE wheels, so I’m excited to see the Utah-based brand throw its hat into the framebuilding ring. Like its rims, the frame is made in the U.S.A. and riders can get a custom-fit based on two geometry configurations: Race and All Road.
Photos: ENVE Composites
The bike fits 35mm tires (though the Race geometry is tuned for 25-31mm tires), is aerodynamically optimized to work with ENVE wheels (of which I own several sets), and it includes ENVE’s new SES AR bar and stem. Best of all, there is a smattering of custom paint options to personalize your build. If you want a custom carbon bike that is made in America, can do everything from fast road rides to gravel, and stands out from the crowd, this bike is it. It does feature ENVE pricing ($7,000 for a frame; complete bikes start at $9,950) but it’s worth it if it’s the last drop-bar bike you ever buy. Better start saving.
Santa Cruz Blur 4
Santa Cruz has always sat at the cool kid’s table. Do you want to shred, shralp, or send? Santa Cruz has got you. But the one area where Santa Cruz has always lagged behind is cross-country. That all changed this year with the release of the new Blur 4.
Santa Cruz shaved 289 grams off the previous version to create its lightest full-suspension frame ever. Its new Superlight suspension system gets credit for most of the weight savings. This is a single-pivot design with flex stays instead of VPP. The geometry has also been modernized, with a slacker head angle (68.3 degrees) and longer reach to help riders tackle gnarlier racecourses.
Photos: Santa Cruz Bicycles
There’s also a burlier Blur TR, which increases travel from 100mm front and rear to 120mm front and 115mm rear. And finally, both Blurs have room for two bottles inside the front triangle and one under the down tube for big days in the saddle. It’s literally everything I look for in a cross-country bike, and I quickly called the new Blur 4 a “must buy.” It also saw major race success this year under pro riders like Keegan Swenson, who won Leadville 100.
Scott Spark / Spark RC
If Santa Cruz sits at the cool kid’s table, then Scott sits over with the mathletes. But let me tell you something, nerds make the most amazing bikes. Just look at the new Spark RC, which has been completely redesigned with a hidden rear shock. The silhouette is stunning, like a bike from the future.
With input from World Cup XC champions Nino Schurter and Kate Courtney, Scott made the daring decision to design a cross-country race bike with 120mm of travel front and rear and a slack 67.2-degree head angle that can be adjusted with reversible headset cups. The more trail-oriented Spark (not RC) gets a longer 130mm fork and even slacker 65.8-degree head angle. These numbers make the Spark RC and Spark the most progressive XC bikes I’ve ever seen, and Schurter has proved its performance this year with a World Championship win.
Photos: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool
I was super excited about the new Santa Cruz Blur, but then Scott seemed to come out of nowhere with an absolute banger. Now I don’t know what to choose. It’s a good time to be an XC rider!
Yeti is mountain biking’s most iconic brand. While other brands began dropping e-bikes left and right like Soundcloud singles, everyone wondered: Would Yeti follow suit? For a while, it seemed like they’d stay acoustic, but this fall they finally went electric with the new 160E.
For the haters, this is the beginning of the end. I don’t think e-bikes are going to destroy mountain biking, but the fact that a core MTB brand like Yeti has taken the plunge means e-bikes really are the future of the sport. But that’s a debate for another time.
Photos: Yeti Cycles
What’s really interesting about the 160E is that Yeti calls it an E-MTB “for racing.” With the 160E, Yeti plans to dominate the EWS-E, a brand new international e-bike enduro series, much like it did the EWS throughout the last decade. I expect great things from this bike, especially with its new Sixfinity suspension system which is more tunable and provides increased traction and better big hit absorption for heavier e-bikes. Yeti’s Switch Infinity suspension system has been around for a while, and I have a feeling that the ultra-tuneable Sixfinity system might trickle down to Yeti’s other long-travel superbikes.
So that’s my list of the best new bike products this year. Maybe you agree with me, but I kind of doubt it! So what did I get wrong, or what did I miss? Let me know in the comments!