Interbike, Day 3 (or so)

For all the talk of electronic shifting at this year’s Interbike, the overwhelming winner was Shimano’s Ultegra group. My media contacts confessed a few weaknesses in the Dura-Ace system (such as the fact that it wasn’t 100 percent waterproof) and stressed that Ultegra Di2 corrected for any perceived issues, even if it was roughly one pound heavier.

It’s fair to ask how I define a winner. The answer is simple, really. Nearly every bike company of note had at least one bike spec’d with Ultegra Di2. From Bianchi to Specialized, the stuff was easy to find, which indicates it’s in real production. And despite its reported price tag, I happened to notice this bike below:

The German brand Focus is best known as the brand that Milram rode before the sun set on their sponsorship. What they are less known for is spec that kills at the bike’s given price point. This Cayo was equipped with Ultegra Di2.

Big fat hairy deal you say. Well, the bike has a suggested retail of $4300. I didn’t see a bike with Di2 carry a lower suggested retail while I was at the show. It’s possible that I missed something (I missed a lot, including—quite deliberately—the entire Taiwanese Pavillion), but almost every bike I saw that was spec’d with Ultegra Di2 had a suggested retail of $5000, so $4300 is a pretty big discount.

This Pashley display took the verisimilitude approach to marketing the brand. It caught me less for how evocative it was of the brand heritage than for its apparent authentic the appearance was. I found myself looking at details to judge just how correct they were. It was a fresh take on the use of booth space. Next year they should do a collaboration with Brooks. I’d pay an entry fee if they erected an English country manor inside the Sands Convention Center.

The best jersey I saw at Interbike. Full stop.

This is Mark Cavendish’s bike from the Tour de France, at least, it was his bike for those stages he raced following when he assumed leadership of the points competition. I see lots of bikes that were raced at the Tour, but this was interesting because unlike most bikes, it shed a little insight on the rider who raced it.

Cav’s Venge was interesting for the fact that he was actually running Dura-Ace Di2. You might be surprised how often I receive press releases about something a sponsored PRO is allegedly riding, only I don’t see it in any of the images of said rider I receive from John Pierce. Hmm. Cav’s bike featured the outboard shifters mounted high in the hooks of the bar and just protruding through the tape.

For all the talk we hear of Specialized lending its sponsored teams the genius of their in-house fit guru, Scott Holz (literally the best I’ve ever seen in action), it hasn’t been hard to guess that some riders reject objective knowledge in favor of old-school Euro fit stylings. Cav’s 52cm frame paired with this monster 14cm stem belongs in the hall of fame on Slam that Stem. Very PRO, though not particularly agile. It does, however, confirm something Chris D’Alusio told me he learned about Cavendish from riding with him: The rider does generates all his power and steering from below the waist.

Assos, in their inimitable Swiss style showed me a cornucopia of items I lusted for. Unfortunately, of the offerings I was most interested in (below) I never got a real look at.

I mean, what the hell is this? Why don’t I know more about it? I got sidetracked by a new offering I can’t discuss until mid-November; well, that and a gin and tonic.

 

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10 comments

  1. Calaris

    Pedraig,
    Just curious, what was the reason for skipping the entire Taiwan pavilion? Other than that, appreciate your observations from Interbike.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Calaris: It’s difficult to explain the Taiwan pavilion or why one might skip it. It’s entirely out of step with the segment of the bike industry in which I practice my trade. Perhaps it can be summed up by the fact that many of the salesmen there sit at their tables and smoke—in a decidedly non-smoking facility. The products are often cheap knockoffs of other products of questionable value. If your visit to Interbike isn’t surreal enough just by being in Las Vegas, there’s always the Taiwanese pavilion.

      Champs: There were some bikes at the show that you’d appreciate; they just aren’t in the majority. Specialized showed a ‘cross bike that would be dynamite for bombing dirt roads. There was some “handmade” stuff in other booths that looked Straight Outta Portland (apologies to NWA).

      Burns: I cast off that comment with a bit a cavalier nonchalance. To appreciate the meat of D’Alusio’s observation requires something like a graduate seminar on bike physics. What he was referring to—in broad strokes—was how Cav uses his weight on his bike. This isn’t the sort of thing that stem length can define. It’s more symptomatic. Think about how many ways you can countersteer a bike (there are multiples) but most people think of the process in terms of hand pressure on the bar. This is a bit of an oversimplification, though.

      Dan O: You’re right. John (Neugent of Neuvation) serves up medium pizzas for the cost of a slice. The thing is, consumer-direct outfits like John’s function outside the traditional business model of manufacturers and dealers served by Interbike. They are, by their very nature, a reaction to the perception that one could find more value elsewhere. Focus competes less against Neuvation than Trek, Specialized, Giant, etc. Put another way, my posts concerning Interbike don’t address what Neuvation does, for better or worse.

  2. Champs

    “On the nose” might be the only way to describe the fit and kit that Cavendish runs, but it doesn’t really matter if he wins at will.

    I’d really like to see bikes suited for more weather conditions. Out west, 25-28mm rubber, fenders, and disc brakes just about cover the ragged roads and rain we come across out west. There’s an alternative to dirty kit and grinding down expensive rims with inferior brakes and road grit.

  3. Burns

    “It does, however, confirm something Chris D’Alusio told me he learned about Cavendish from riding with him: The rider does generates all his power and steering from below the waist.”

    As a recreational racer, this comment has me very interested (and concerned). I’m about Cav’s size(5’9″ 160)and I also ride a 52 tarmac with a 130 or 140 stem. Is Chris D’Alusio above suggesting that others riders generate more power by having a shorter stem relative to a longer stem? Would Cav, or me, be giving up power with the longer stem, but gaining… what exacatly? Better aero positioning in the sprint?

    I’m wondering if I’ve been missing something. Thanks.

    Burns

  4. Sidamo

    My local LBS showed me Giant’s 2012 model RRP list, with one of the TCR Advanceds I think, having an RRP of AUD$3999 w/ UDi2

  5. mark

    Cav’s setup seems just about right for how he sprints. A 54’s headtube would leave him sitting up too high. A shorter stem wouldn’t leave him with enough room in the cockpit.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Mark: A spot-on observation. The interesting thing is how much lower Cav’s position is in the drops compared to many of the great sprinters of the last 20 years. He’s a good deal lower relative to his height, though it can be explained to some degree due to his track background. Most guys can’t recruit enough power to sprint properly with their bar that low. Neat trick, huh?

  6. CAT4Fodder

    Padraig:

    this is exactly why I am saddened to see the bike industry turn into nothing more than the equivalent of the computer industry. Cycling is a sport that demands healthy lungs, yet the bulk of the products are now designed and manufactured by people who smoke (a lot). It is why people are saddened by the demise of the small time European bike industry….they were craftsment, who loved the sport. I get the feeling the Taiwan/China reps and workers are just in it for a buck. Hell, if not bikes, maybe they would switch to toasters, just as long as they can pay substandard wages to their workers, and sell to the West.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Easy there Cat4Fodder. One cannot substitute my comments on the Taiwanese pavilion for any sort of representative picture of the industry as a whole. The Specialized lunch ride is literally the fastest group ride I’ve ever done. It was a take-no-prisoners sufferfest. I can attest that the product managers and other staff at most of the bike companies I’m regularly in touch with ride plenty as well. As to your assertion about the European bike industry: I’ve seen plenty of photos of those craftsmen smoking as they worked.

      Smoking may not be good for cycling, but it is possible to be both a fine craftsman and a smoker. Just check with Dario Pegoretti.

      At the end of the day, it’s an industry, like any other. There are people who do jobs because it was all they could find and then there are other people leading companies that aspire to be the two-wheeled equivalent of Apple. As soon as we paint the whole of the industry with the same brush we miss the opportunity to see flaws for what they are and gems for what they offer.

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