The Soul of Mountain Biking: Does Electronics Remove the Human Element?

Exploring the Impact of Electronics on the Essence of Mountain Biking

In the ever-evolving world of mountain biking, technological advancements have revolutionized the sport. From electronic drivetrains to suspension control systems, bikes have become more efficient and sophisticated. However, as technology continues to permeate the industry, some riders question whether these advancements come at the cost of the soul of mountain biking. This article delves into the debate surrounding the influence of electronics on the human element of riding.

1: The Rise of Electronics in Mountain Biking

Over the past two decades, mountain bikes have undergone significant transformations due to technological advancements. The integration of electronics into various components, such as drivetrains and dropper posts, has become increasingly common. While these innovations offer benefits like robustness and rebuildability, skeptics argue that gratuitous wirelessness adds unnecessary complexity, weight, and cost. The question arises: can innovation exist without electronics?

2: The Role of Electronics in Removing Human Input

One of the concerns regarding electronics in mountain biking is the removal of the human element. Systems like Fox Live Valve and Shimano’s Auto Shift aim to eliminate or reduce rider input by making decisions on behalf of the rider. While these technologies may find utility in cross-country racing, some riders believe they strip away the essence of mountain biking. They argue that the imperfect nature of the sport, where each trail and ride is unique, is part of its charm.

3: The Lack of Soul in Electronic Components

Beyond the debate over the necessity of electronics, riders also express dissatisfaction with the lack of soul in electronic components. The tactile feedback and mechanical engagement provided by traditional shift levers, for example, cannot be replicated by electronic buttons. This lack of connection with the bike diminishes the art form of riding and removes the joy of making choices, even if they result in mistakes.

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4: The Need for Choice and Diversity

While there is a place for electronic innovations in mountain biking, riders argue for the importance of choice and diversity. They advocate for the availability of high-end mechanical drivetrain options alongside electronic ones. By limiting options to electronic shifting, riders feel forced into a singular direction, potentially eroding the soul of the sport. They emphasize the value of analog experiences and the freedom to explore alternative avenues of innovation.


As technology continues to shape the landscape of mountain biking, the debate over the impact of electronics on the soul of the sport persists. While electronic advancements offer undeniable benefits, some riders argue that they remove the human element and the imperfect nature that defines mountain biking. The key lies in striking a balance between technological progress and preserving the essence of the sport. Ultimately, the future of mountain biking will depend on the industry’s ability to cater to diverse preferences and maintain the soul that makes it a truly unique and exhilarating experience.