Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Interbike Predictions

I can do this because I'm not an authority on cycling. Just some Cat 3 with some opinions and such. This means that if I'm wrong then it's no biggie, but if I hit something unexpected everyone will say, "wow, he really knows how to read the market."

Anywho... I am going to be at Interbike and I have certain expectations, I want to put them down on paper. Or computer. You know, record it in some way to see how things pan out. I actually think that this year will be a relatively significant one, with a few expected "cool things" and a few unexpected "cool things".

The expected cool things are the hum dee dum stuff like:

1. Campy 11 speed everywhere.
2. Shimano Di2 (electric shifting) everywhere else.
3. Felt AR bike (aero road bike)
4. Various bike celebrities making the rounds.

Whatever. If those weren't there, it wouldn't be Interbike.

Things I don't want to see:
1. Another super light carbon brake caliper. Why?
2. More decals sliding off of frames. Or wheels. It's cool to have your logo on your equipment in a straightforward manner. Really.
3. Another "lightest bike in the world" which has a lot of weird non-production parts. I figure it'll have to be under 5 pounds for the (single speed) bike now, but it would be a real sketchy ride. At least I know one thing: it will have Aerolite pedals on it. In titanium, of course, and drilled out Turcite sleeves.

Unexpected things...

The unexpected things are deep secrets right now to everyone but the ones organizing them, but I think we'll see certain things at Interbike. Okay, if we don't see them at Interbike then we'll see them in the next year or so.

First, aero road bikes. I think this is a big deal. At first aero road bikes (think that aluminum frame Cervelo, or, prior to that, the various Shimano Dura-Ace/600 AX bikes) came with a weight and rigidity penalty, sacrificing both in order to make for a slimmer profile. However, with today's carbon fiber knowledge, it'll be relatively straightforward to make stiff but aero frame tubing which has a reasonable weight. It may not be the sub 800 gram frames shoved down our throats in the last year but maybe a 1000 gram creation.

I think such frames will be available, in the next year or two, for under $2000 for the frameset and whatever aero ancillaries it needs (post, headset, fork).

Second, cheap and light aero wheels. With a lot of second tier wheel manufacturers making their presence known, it's only a matter of time before the aero wheel industry is commoditized. Okay, yeah, there will be a few companies at the cutting edge, and they'll get their $2500 per wheelset. But aero wheels will be like computers - once the basic shapes get accepted, smaller companies will work on cutting costs to become more competitive. There are a slew of $1000 50mm aero wheelsets out there, and some are as low as $700 or so (tubular, carbon brake surface). I figure we'll see a continuation of that trend. If the prices don't actually go down (due to oil, war, storms, etc), they'll be lower relative to the rest of the bike.

As an aside we'll see much more of the carbon braking surface, simply because it'll be easier to make/produce, especially for tubular wheels. With good carbon brake shoes available, carbon braking surfaces don't have the "I can't stop" stigma they had 15 years ago.

Third, BB30 bikes. Okay, that's not as innovative, but I haven't seen a lot on BB30 lately - it flies under the radar. However, it makes for lighter and stiffer bottom brackets, and a couple (large) companies are committed to it (Cannondale, Specialized, even Zipp). We'll see more BB30 frames and compatible bottom brackets. Heck, even Campy has made an adapter (complete with sweet tool) for BB30. BB30 is here to stay.

Update: FSA and SRAM now have BB30. Yeah, baby. Add "Lots of BB30 bikes" to the first list of hum dee dum stuff.

Bottom bracket based electric assist power for bicycles. Virtually invisible. Compatible with, say, all BB30 and "old fashioned" outboard BB24 bottom brackets. Low power - maybe 100 watts, maybe 200 watts. Makes commuting much more bearable. Also makes motorpacing workouts possible without a motorcycle or a car, and it even looks legal since it's just a bunch of cyclists riding down the road (in single file no less).

A flight of fancy:
I hate to say this but BB130. Not BB30, BB-one-30. Yes, the chainrings bolt on directly to the bottom bracket. Standard 130 BCD rings. Wait, change that to BB110. This way you can use compact chainrings. Plenty of room for power measuring things, power assist, spare tube, etc. Mongo stiffness. And an excuse to fair in a lot of stuff in the very complex BB area, so it's really aero looking. No incremental steps like BB30 (from 24) or BB50 (Look is doing this, from BB30). BB110 is where it's at. Remember you saw it here first.

Um.... okay, now I'm out of really innovative things I expect to see at Interbike.

More humdrum things include the SRM/Garmin pairing, maybe others (SRM/iBike?). Quarg power cranks. Maybe a new low buck powermeter in the cranks or the BB (low-buck means under $1000 retail). All this due to the Ant+Sport thing (heretofore known as "the Bug") that has set a standard for communication between personal sporting devices. Maybe we'll see basic cyclometers with this set up - so you can get cadence and heart rate in downloadable format for $50. Maybe even a personal data recorder that listens for the Bug so that you can have a cyclometer that simply broadcasts and a $50 SD card equipped recorder that snatches your data out of the air.

Now maybe I can list a few things I hope to see.

Custom carbon framesets available from a mid sized company that has a wide range of available geometry, lower cost, and less lead time. Aero, or somewhat aero, of course. BB30 is an option. 1000 grams or so. Stiff as all heck (as an option).

Yes, I have a BB30 SRM crankset.

Aero wheelsets under $500. Rims available for $500 per pair. Aero, in this case, means 50 mm minimum height.

Yes, I want a 50+ mm wheelset.

OEM type manufacturers making some products that have been discontinued for a long, long time and which have a healthy demand on sites like eBay: Campy NR/SR brake lever hoods, Campy NR/SR bottom brackets, and, ahem, criterium bend bars and 21 spoke Campy Eurus rear rims.

Okay, okay, I want more crit bars, and I have a Eurus rear wheel which needs a rim.

Tubeless clinchers for road that I can try out.

SRAM has Red Plus (or something). Even lighter than Red, and stiffer, and more serviceable, etc etc.

(That's a bone for SRAM users, of which I am not one. With the BB30 update the Red group is now under 1900 grams. Wait, you say, now that my bike is really underweight, what should I do with my carbon brake calipers?)

NiteRider has an LED conversion kit for everyone who owns a halogen NiteRider. Maglite has one for their flashlights. Or NiteRider offers an HID conversion kit, which Maglite does NOT have. Anything to get rid of the halogen bulb.

And, yes, I admit that I do have a halogen NiteRider and I'd rather have an LED or HID light.

Down Low Glow is available to bike dealers at a discount so that the dealers can stock them on their shelves.

This is because, based on the comments from all the folks I ride with, everyone wants a DLG, but there is no dealer info on their site.

Okay, now that I covered that, I'll also cover what I expect to see. Sort of.

Johan Museeuw announces that his bike company will sponsor a big pro team. I don't know who, since most of them already have bikes, but it will probably be Belgian. Maybe a continental team for this year, but his goal will be ProTour or whatever it's called in the future. At the very least he'll be distributing bikes in the US starting, um, September 23rd or so. He will also announce that he will be selling taller (50+ mm) profile rims, even though he doesn't think they do all that.

(Update: I just read about his flax bikes. He really, really has to sponsor a pro team, get feedback, and decide if he wants to win awards or win races with his bikes. Flax bikes may be cool but the reviews are less than stellar. A pro team will straighten up the functional part of the whole thing pretty darn quick and make sure that the bikes are efficient. And yes, although he rides on cobbles a lot, the reality is that much of the US is not cobbled. Therefore a bit of rigidity won't be a bad thing for one of the big markets of the world.)

And finally, because everyone is talking about him...

Lance Armstrong and Johan Brunyeel announce the formation of the LiveStrong Pro Team. They will be sponsored by Trek, Bontrager, Oakley, Giro, Nike, and there will be some serious defections from other teams (okay, from Astana) to man this team - Levi, Contador, some others, leaving a severely gutted Astana. Whatever, LA and JB need to dump Astana and the negative image of the steely eyed blonde haired guy in the Astana outfit hammering away on the BMC bike. Perhaps George Hincapie will be lured to the team as well. This will be the anti-Cervelo Test Team team. Some ex-FSB agents will try and hunt down the Astana defectors but Lance's Belgian bodyguard Serge will defeat them all. Movie in 2010, books shortly afterwards. TV series in 2011, but with a guest appearance on CSI first (Interbike is in Vegas after all). Subaru ads coming this fall.

And yes, they'll be on BB110 bikes.

Note: since I'm not in the bike shop world, I don't know if some of these things came down the pike already, but I have a feeling that if they did, someone would know about it and post it on the internet.


Anonymous said...

The SRAM RED group will weigh less than 1820 grams (we got 1814) with BB30, steel bearings and standard cranks, lighter with Compact and ceramic bearings.
Michael Z - SRAM

Anonymous said...

I say there will be more belt drive utility bikes. Hopefully the price will also come down too.

Aki said...

Michael - Thanks for the comment and clarification. It sounds like the group will be under 1800 with compact/ceramic. Hm.

anon - I realized when I read your comment that I am race oriented in my thoughts. I'm afraid it's hard for me to think outside that box at the moment, but I think that belt drive, if it's allowed to propagate (i.e. share technologies) then it should help those who don't want to deal with greasy or noisy chains, external derailleurs, corrosion in the drivetrain, etc.

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