Interbike Day 3

The grand touring category of road bikes is growing, but honestly, some of the bikes handle a cow on roller skates. Not so the Specialized Roubaix. Newly minted is the Roubaix SL3, which I rode at Outdoor Demo. The big change for the SL3 is the fact that the Zertz dampers are secured to the frame with small screws, increasing the dampers’ effectiveness. The new design cuts down on the number of bladders used (four fewer) and simplifies the molds, the upshot being a somewhat lighter frame.

I still run into Zertz non-believers. While I can accept that not everyone wants a frame that dampens vibration that much (I certainly don’t want that experience all the time), there’s no doubt in my mind that no other frameset currently on the market does more to minimize vibration than the Roubaix.

Tube shapes continue to be refined as well. If there’s a bike that better combines incredible power transfer, torsional stiffness and vibration damping, I’ve yet to ride it.

I can virtually assure you than no brand took itself less seriously and more stylishly than Ritte van Vlaanderen. It’s a curious balance, that.

The Ritte bikes are all open-mold designs sourced overseas, but they feature, well, they look authentically Belgian. What else do you need to know?

Be careful if you buy a Ritte bike. You’ll be expected to drink beer after your race is over. And that’s not a bad thing.

I tend to get more excited about the concept of city bikes than actual city bikes. This Breezer comes with dynamo-generated lighting, a rear rack, a chain guard, fenders with flaps, a nearly infinitely variable drivetrain and a built-in lock—the sort that keeps honest folks honest. Oh, and it doesn’t weigh 50 lbs.; rather, it weighs a bit less than 30. I could see myself running serious errands on this thing.

Let’s be honest, calling a set of brakes, derailleurs, bottom bracket and cranks a group is like calling a pair of speakers a stereo. For that reason, FSA’s claims that they make a road group were, until just recently, rather laughable. The crux move of a group is the integrated brake/shift lever. Without that you’ve got a clown car and no clowns. The Vision Metron shifter takes an important step in the right direction, though. Product managers can honestly spec a full set of parts from FSA and Vision now, even if they can only do it on time trial and triathlon-specific bikes. The shifter function is terrific, though one does wonder just how often triathletes will downshift when they mean to brake.

The carbon fiber rear derailleur is amazingly light, as is the cassette. The other manufacturers need to keep an eye on these guys. Should they get really aggressive about OE spec, they could become very dangerous, if not dominant, as they now offer cranks, bottom brackets, headsets, wheels, derailleurs, brakes, cassettes, shifters, bars, stems, seatposts and saddles. Heck, even Shimano doesn’t do all of that.

As a postscript, every exhibitor I spoke with liked the date change to August 8-12. The only concern they expressed was for shop attendance. Surprisingly, some shops did voice support for the date change as well. The shops that did like it said it was easier for them to get away that time of year due to the fact that they had solid college student staffing that time of year, something they lack in late September. However, all but one New England-based retailer I spoke with said they wouldn’t be at the show—no question.

The new location got mixed reviews from exhibitors and attendees alike. For some, Anaheim represents an opportunity to have a bit of a family vacation. But for those who really want to cut loose and have a party, Anaheim is … a buzzkill.

Interbike reports that attendance is up 3 percent to more than 24,000, while the shop count held steady at 4000. Outdoor Demo attendance was roughly the same as last year with 3900 attending. Interbike reports there were 120 exhibitors at Outdoor Demo; figures were not reported for last year, so it’s unknown if that’s up, stead or down from last year. Figures for the number of exhibitors on the Interbike show floor were not reported for this year or last year.

Of course, the great hope is that attendee numbers will hold steady while exhibitor numbers will climb with the return of companies like Trek and Giant. We’ll have to wait a bit more than 10 months to find out.

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  1. Sam

    Very cool stuff from the vision folks. Thanks for the pics. Although your concern about whether triathletes will brake when the mean to shift is unfounded. Speaking as a triathlete, we neither shift well nor brake effectively, but it looks cool, so we’ll buy it!!!

  2. James

    Ever since your last review of the Roubaix I have been interested. In Oregon the vast majority of road repairs are done with the chip seal method (spray heavy oil on the existing roadway and lay down a heavy layer of small rocks!) Riding on chip seal causes a continuous vibration that just wears you out. It’s a constant buzz that hurts your hands, feet, backside and brain!. You don’t really realize how much it takes out of you until you hit a stretch of smooth road. I’m thinking that if the Roubaix can relieve enough of the chip seal vibration it may be worth buying! Anyone have any experience with zertz vs. chip seal?

    1. Author

      James: I’ve done some pretty long rides on the Roubaix, including Mike Sinyard’s somewhat infamous “Big Easy” ride, which takes in some dirt and gravel roads. Short of running 60 psi, the Roubaix is the best response I’ve encountered for dealing with rough roads. Of course, the only way to really find out if you’ll like it is to stop by a Specialized dealer near you and give one a ride. The only serious alternative to the Roubaix may, in fact, be an old Alan or Vitus.

  3. James

    Padraig, Thanks for the info. I don’t think and old Alan or Vitus could handle my size, though I always thought that they were beautiful with the anodized aluminum! I may have to test ride a Roubaix.

  4. blacksocks

    Personal opinion: Anaheim = uninspired in every way. Would have been great to reward a community that is moving forward with the future and the bicycle in mind. Chicago (working to become a green city), Portland (yeah, I know it’s cliche), Minneapolis (amazing bike culture and infrastructure), etc…

    But we go where the best deal is, eh? Maybe that’s the future and I just don’t want to believe it…

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