Is 160mm travel the new black?

Everybody owns one, if not everybody needs one, don't they?? A 160mm travel dual suspension mountain bike ready to shred the local trails near you.

Today I spent the morning riding with mates on some amazing trails, the sun was shining, the trails were buff, what else could you possibly need or want? 

We headed out on a very sociable lap in the Victorian bush, we stopped regularly, we chatted, at one stage me and a riding buddy even swapped bikes (we both own hard tails, but with very different set ups and frame sizes) it was chilled, and it was fun. There was some climbing but nothing to lung busting and some really fun non technical descending.

A classic Mountain Bike.

A classic Mountain Bike.

On one of our very regular stops we were chatting about bikes, and what was the perfect bike for the trails. We came up with the answer...a hardtail or mid travel XC/trail bike, we agreed and continued rolling at our none to express pace. We climbed and traversed until we made it to the final downhill. It was a couple of km's of fast flowing, bermed trail with some jumps along the way (there were B lines), it was fun!

We arrived back at car park to find it packed, (thanks to the local government for giving us a public holiday for a game of AFL football!) and the large amounts of riders gathered in their groups either getting ready to ride or pack up and head home. As we rolled toward a spare spot on the lush grass to chat about our ride, people were staring at us, and it was not for our good looks! It was because 2 of us were, well were on... hardtails! Yep out of 40 or more riders at a very XC type loop we were the only guys on hardtails, even our 3rd mate who was on a 120mm dually felt out of place.

What did we miss? Obviously we didn't receive the memo about the definition of a Mountain Bike. That it had to have 160mm of travel front and rear, 150mm may be acceptable in certain situations!

Is this the new definition of a modern Mountain Bike?

Is this the new definition of a modern Mountain Bike?

Now, I have no issue with people riding 160mm travel bikes, there are people that ride areas that need that much travel, plenty of guys are giving enduro racing a go, some dudes just like to go big, and that is all good. But in a carpark of 40+ riders I was amazed that overwhelmingly the bike of choice was the above mentioned.

This got me thinking on the way home. Is suspension and frame technology that far advanced that these bikes pedal as well up the mountain as they go down? Maybe Enduro racing is having that big of an impact on the MTB world that people are embracing it like nothing that has gone before it?

OR. Maybe people are getting caught in the hype. Plenty of magazines and online sites would have us thinking that everybody needs a big shiny dually. When the reality is a nice light, efficient hard tail or less travel dually would easily do the job for the potential buyer and where they ride.

People are guided by those around them, be it friends or a riding group, maybe even a local shop. The question buyers need to ask themselves is simple. Where am I going to do the majority of my riding? What bike is best suited to that area. 

This is not a debate about the best bike or style of bike to buy or ride, just merely an observation on the possible changing landscape of the definition of a Mountain Bike.