Well, with Interbike 2009 bearing down on us, it's time to start making some calls. Last year I was off on pretty much everything, so this year I'll try to improve on that. It shouldn't be hard since all I have to do is get one thing right to improve on last year's predictions.
I had to hurry up this post because Interbike for me won't start for 2 more days, but for others it's starting right now as they set up the Outdoor Demo booths. So as to keep things honest, I have to post today.
My calls for 2009:
1. Aero mass start helmets that still offer ventilation.
I think that with the emphasis on bike aerodynamics, it's only natural that the powers-that-be tackle the most unaerodynamic part of a bike racer - the racer itself. On the racer the most unaerodynamic parts are the head and feet, both of which coincidentally wear shapeable gear.
2. Along those lines, some aero claims on shoes.
Forget those shoe covers, if you have wind-slick shoes, you're on your way. I figure they'll be TT specific but usable in a mass start race.
3. BB30 bikes and frames, lots of them.
This is my safety prediction, like my safety college application. Really a no-brainer, but it's the only BB standard that offers any improved function. It retains a narrow frame (68mm), is an open standard, and allows the use of aluminum BB spindles. It's big enough that I will post on this later (it's in draft stage... I need some pictures).
4. Sub-$500 60mm aero wheels.
The minimum profile for significant aero gain seems to be about 60 mm. There are a number of 58mm rims, and a few in the 66-69mm range. The biggest sticking point - price point. In order to get used to racing on such wheels, one must train on them. Therefore it would be good to have an inexpensive pair of training wheels with a similar profile. My $500 price point is extremely aggressive and lowers the likelihood of such a thing showing up. Big sacrifice? Weight.
5. Aftermarket "blade" fork/stem units.
I'm referring to the forks that sit in front of the head tube, fairing it from the wind. I figure someone will be selling something that combines the fork, stem, aerobars, and perhaps the front brake. It could even be mass start legal. This would allow racers to configure a much more aero road bike and still use the wider, stiffer, lighter headtubes in vogue (1 1/8" upper and 1 1/2" lower). It would also make room for things like computer mounts, Di2 batteries (already done by one of the Cannondales), lights, things like that.
6. Related to the above, we'll finally see a vertical blade fork, one that drops straight down to the hub axle.
A vertical surface is the most aero, and there is no engineering reason to have any slope on a carbon fork. You can tune such a fork using lay-up techniques, so the shape becomes less important. There's no reason for a non-vertical fork if you're using a blade design fork (like above). The only exception is if the UCI thinks it's not legal.
Things we aren't seeing:
1. Tubeless clinchers. Aluminum non-aero wheels cost as much as aero wheels, they require some initial pressure to seat them, they require an expensive tire, and they don't have any truly significant advantage.
I haven't ridden them so I actually don't know, but if they were so good, we'd all be switching over to tubeless. For riders to do that, tubeless needs to come down dramatically in price, and manufacturers need to offer competitively priced wheels. That means $40 tires, $500 aluminum wheelsets, and $1200 60mm carbon faired wheels.
2. Electronic shifting. Okay, yeah, it seems to work fine. But is the difference worth a couple thousand dollars?
If the price delta drops to maybe $500 for a group, you're good. For not needing trimming in the front, who cares? With Campy you can trim to your heart's content, and it's pretty much automatic. Only indexed front shifters have trim issues.
That's it for my predictions. A bit weak this year, but other than the normal stuff everyone expects (yet another light bike, yet another 900 gram wheelset), I can't think of any world shaking stuff.
If someone does show something like that, though, I'll be the first to admit that it was a good idea.