QBP Senior Buyer Dave Larson talks MTB trends, technology, and what’s changed during his 25 years in the sport.     

If you ride MTB, odds are you’ve been there:
One minute, you’re hammering down the trail, catching air, mud flying—the next minute you’re coming to. Fortunately, when QBP Senior Buyer and avid mountain biker Dave Larson hit a tree on Schultz Creek Trail (Flagstaff, Arizona), he was with his best friend. “I woke up to my dog, licking my face,” he says. “She stayed by my side the entire time. I hopped back on, and we finished the ride down to the car and drove home. Just another day on the trail, I guess.”

A 25-year veteran of the sport, Larson can take his lumps. He raced 12- and 24-hour events for 10 years. In 2007 he and a friend took third place in the duo class of the 24-hour Mountain Bike National Championships held in Wausau, Wisconsin. “I was never very good at the shorter events,” he says. “I’m better at those races that come down to everybody being in a lot of pain. I have endurance, and I’m mentally strong.”

Currently off the racing circuit, Larson now enjoys some of the more pleasant aspects of riding. He gets out West at least once a year, riding throughout Colorado and Utah, or visits his favorite destination, Downieville, California. “It’s so different from what I ride in the Midwest,” says the Minnesota native. “It’s in the Sierra Buttes so big mountains and extremely rocky. The scenery is stunning.”

More often, however, you’ll find him exploring the more than 300 miles of trail in and around the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Cable, Wisconsin, where he owns land. The remote wilderness area, dubbed the “Singletrack Mecca of the Midwest,” hosts the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival race each fall and the American Birkebeiner—the largest cross-country ski marathon in North America—each winter. (Incidentally, the latter recently added the Fat Bike Birkie to its event roster to give winter bikers a chance to ride the snow-covered trail.) “I love being outside in the woods,” says Larson. “Whether I’m alone or with a good group of friends, biking helps me relax and get away from everything else I have going on in my life.”

Like most of us, this includes work, and yet, as a bike enthusiast, he obviously made a wise career choice. Larson has worked in the industry for nearly two decades and at QBP for the past 12 years. He cites a flexible schedule and an emphasis on work/life balance (which, of course, affords more time on the bike) as the main reasons for his long stint with the company. As a senior buyer, he works on some of QBP’s biggest accounts, including WTB, DT Swiss, Continental, Brooks, fi’zi:k, and Selle Royal. “They trust me spending money,” he laughs. “It’s a good gig. I see a really broad part of the market, which helps me better advise vendors as to what products they should go for.”

At the moment, he’s got his eye on the 1 x 11 drivetrain by SRAM. “Obviously you can get more [flexibility] with a double or triple setup,” he says. “But the fewer gears you have, the fewer you have to replace when things break. The 1 x 11 is hot right now, and I think the 2 x 10 will remain popular, but fewer people will want the triples.”

As for the great MTB wheel-size debate, Larson is partial to a 27.5". “I’m not a tall guy so that midsized level allows me a bigger wheel that doesn’t compromise my standover height on the bike,” he says. “It depends on your part of the country. The 29er has been a good technology for larger, taller riders who live in the flatlands. I think the 26" wheel won’t be as popular going forward.”

Larson admits his predictions have a short shelf life when it comes to the MTB category. “The technology is changing so fast,” he says. “When I started mountain biking in 1989 the bikes were much harder to pedal with bigger gear ratios, no suspension, and rim brakes. Things have changed dramatically. Now, of course, most mountain bikes have full suspensions and disc brakes, and it seems like all the parts are being made of carbon fiber.”    

Modern technology has made for a nice ride. “Today’s bikes offer much better control, they’re easier on the body, and they’re definitely lighter,” says Larson. And it’s just getting better. “There’s so much good product development coming out of the manufacturers right now,” he says. “I want them to keep at it—keep raising the bar and keep competing with one another to make faster, stronger, lighter bikes for us to ride.”  

Count on Larson to keep a close eye on the MTB landscape and keep you well informed on all the latest and greatest in new trends and technology.  

The Hot List

Larson sees a lot of MTB trends come and go. He predicts these five may have some staying power. 

Tubeless-Ready Tires: It’s no secret that tubeless-ready tires have taken over as the bestsellers in the mountain tire market. They allow riders to run lower pressure, which provides better traction and braking, as well as added comfort. Not to mention: No more pinch flats and the ability to seal some cuts and punctures.

That said, riders who don’t want to deal with sealant hassles and those who change tires often will still use tubes. While UST-certified tires are still the toughest tires out there, sales are dwindling for many models.

Dropper Post: Even though I live in the flatlands, I’m addicted to my dropper! I didn’t think I’d use it as much as I do and miss it when I ride my other bike. These seatposts are one of the hottest segments of mountain bike components right now, and they are not going away. Durability can be an issue, but I’m confident this will be continually improved.

Color Matching: While the days of flashy components from Kooka, Cook Bros., and SUNringlé are behind us, color is more popular than ever. Complete bikes are spec’d with components that match the frame graphics, or consumers can assemble custom builds to show their individuality. I think this trend will last longer than it did back in the ’90s, but there will always be riders who prefer silver and black.

Bottom Bracket Options: Press-in bottom brackets and adapters have seemingly taken over and will continue to dominate due to their added versatility for frame designers and engineers. Broadly speaking, they are lighter and stiffer (with a 30mm spindle) and can provide a narrower q-factor. Frankly, I want the simplicity of a thread-in bottom bracket, which is harder to find these days.

Frame Materials: My guess is that carbon fiber will trickle down from high-end to mid-frame levels and begin to displace aluminum alloy as the material of choice.

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