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MARKDORF, Germany (VN) — Like a flock of seagulls diving down on a child’s bag of bread crumbs, the entire cycling industry hones in on two very different towns this time of year. First up is sleepy Friedrichshaffen, Germany, home of Eurobike, the largest cycling tradeshow on earth. Less than a month later, we all pack up for Las Vegas and Interbike — smaller, with more North American brands, but equally wild.
The technical melodies that manufacturers will play over the next year are all present at both, offering up an opportunity for the industry to hone in on the themes and concepts currently shaping the market. Marketers compete to sing their own version of these themes louder than all the rest, and members of the media work to bring the most relevant and interesting to the public.
This year, here’s what we’ll be listening for.
Stopping, in new and intriguing ways
This year, it’s all about stopping. Or brakes, to be precise.
This is odd, because the cycling industry is more tuned into marketing forward motion, rather than its opposite. We wonder, actually, what sort of adjectives they’ll be throwing at us with the usual quiver of synonyms for speed no longer being suitable. ‘Snail-like power and modulation’ just doesn’t have a great ring to it.
Road and cyclocross disc brakes are the headline. We’ll be looking for solid, beautifully integrated drop-bar disc options from a number of different brands, most notably SRAM, which is set to debut its hydraulic road levers. Some of the early innovators and bandwagon builders, like TRP and Formula, may have updated offerings as well.
More important than the who, though, is the what. Regardless of who it comes from, we want some substance — just because it’s a disc doesn’t mean it is automatically and spontaneously better than current options. If you have read any of Lennard Zinn’s recent columns on disc brakes, you’ll know that the VeloNews tech crew isn’t entirely sold on discs and skinny tires. It’s not that we don’t see the potential for greatness — we absolutely do and believe widespread disc use is imminent — it’s just that we don’t believe the technology has quite arrived. Yet. Perhaps this tradeshow season will change that.
Tires and rims, hug and be friends
Wind tunnel testing seems to be showing tighter and tighter races between aero wheels. The gaps in performance are shrinking, with computational fluid dynamics aiming most manufacturers towards rather similar rim shapes.
The next leap, it seems, is in tire integration. Bontrager and Mavic are leading the way, with the former pushing its Aero series tires and the latter recently introducing its new CXR80 wheel and Yksion CXR tire combination, and the little rubber wing strips that go with it.
We’re hoping to see similar integration from other major brands. Zipp already has its own tires, but they are a simple, rebadged tubular with dimpled rubber — not the level of assimilation we’re looking for. Perhaps something else will pop its head up this week.
Rotor will be officially debuting its power meter cranks this week, though we saw an early version last year at Interbike that used sensors inside each crankarm to measure torque. That means the units will provide left/right figures, and should be extremely durable. Excellent news.
The Garmin Vector power pedals are now approaching vapor-ware territory, as we look back on the platform’s original release date much like we reminisce of the first moon landing: all in black and white, asking our elders to tell us what it was like back then. We don’t expect the units anytime soon, and neither should you, sadly. (Though we would be chuffed to bits if Garmin proved us wrong!)
We’d be remiss to leave out Brim Brothers, plugging away like a diehard indie band just waiting to sell out. Truthfully, it seems likely that if the platform progresses far enough, a larger company could buy Brim’s cleat-based model, much like Garmin bought the Vector. That might speed things along — and we hope it does, because Brim’s cleat-based system is our favorite, at least on paper. Nothing to swap between bikes, just throw on your shoes and go.
The wild and wonderful
Last, but certainly not least, we’ll have an eye out for the generally wild and wonderful. Unscrupulous and insatiable tech geeks all, the VeloNews crew loves beautifully brilliant engineering, solutions to problems that may or may not exist, and just about anything shiny and/or light. We’ll have our eyes peeled and our cameras at the ready, bringing you the curious, the beautiful, the sleek and the strange.
So check back on VeloNews.com, and keep an eye on our Twitter feeds as well. You can follow Nick Legan @Nicklegan, Lennard Zinn @Lennardzinn, and me @Caleyfretz.