A cadre of bike industry journalists and more than two dozen industry manufacturers are currently gathered in Park City, Utah, to look at new product. Some of this stuff won’t hit the market until summer of 2016—which gives you some idea of just how far out some product managers have to work—while other companies are introducing product that has just begun shipping. It makes for interesting conversations, that can go like so:
“That’s amazing. So when will this start shipping?”
“It’ll be with retailers in late May … of 2016.”
“Um, okay. Well, when can I get a sample to review?”
“Probably late spring, say April.”
The good news is that I can’t say I saw anything today that is the result of a manufacturer trying to ram new product down consumers’ throats. I’m always wary of a new model year that does nothing more than change colors.
Of the stuff I saw today, one of my favorites was GT’s move to offer the Grade in two women’s models as well as add two sizes to the aluminum frame, 50 and 48cm. There’s also a more aggressively spec’d $1999 retail bike and features more off-road worth tires and a cyclocross-racer friendly spec. The women’s models include anatomically appropriate touch-points and fit for women riders including a wider saddle, shorter stem, narrower bar and shorter crank arms; these vary depending on size, but the 48 gets a 36cm bar. GT’s road product manager is a woman, so it’s fair to say she has a wealth of knowledge and is fully vested in making serious bikes. It’s worth noting that this is a return to GT’s past, in which the company offered a very full line of women’s bikes.
Ridley arrived with a new version of its price-point Fenix model. The Fenix is a pretty traditional road bike; put another way it’s a classic all-’rounder. No vibration-absorbing dampers or ultra-light layup; it’s just regular road bike bike with clearance for 28mm tires; under the right circumstances you might get something just a bit larger in; Lotto Soudal ran 30mm sew-ups at Paris-Roubaix. This is the bike that the big punchers at Lotto Soudal rode in this year’s Classics campaign.
I had a chance to briefly ride the Ultegra-equipped Fenix 30, a $2750 machine. In my experience, the biggest failing of most bikes in this price range is that to keep the cost down so much inexpensive carbon fiber is used the the frames end up riding with all the personality of road kill. The Fenix was plenty lively and had plenty of stiffness for out-of-the-saddle efforts. It was also comfortable enough over broken pavement, in part due to the fact that the rear end of the Fenix is borrowed from the Helium.
Ridley also showed off a bike that I’ve been hearing about for more than a month, their entry into the multi-surfance road category, call ed the X Project. We’re under embargo on all the crucial details on this bike, so there are details that I know that I can’t yet report.
I did get a brief ride in on pavement aboard a 28mm tire and the bike had the calm demeanor of a touring bike but was still adequately maneuverable for rolling single track. I can’t wait to review this bike.
Stan’s showed off a few new products, beginning with new hubs, the Neo and the Neo Ultimate. The Neo features a four-pawl design and a move to oversize bearings. The hub shell is manufactured through a 5-Axis CNC machine process for perfect bearing alignment and longer-lived wheels. Freehub engagement is just 10 degrees. The Neo Ultimate substitutes titanium in some crucial places, like the forged/machined freehub body. Like the Neo, the Neo Ultimate features a 5-Axis CNC machined hub body, but adds two pawls to the freehub body for a nearly immediate 5-degree engagement. Both hubs feature tool-free maintenance. Both hubs are compatible with any existing road axle configuration.
The new hubs feature in a new road wheel, the Avion, which uses an all-new carbon fiber rim. In development for 2.5 years, the Avion displays Stan’s latest thinking on wheels. WideRight is their view that it’s important to match rim width and tire width so that you maintain proper sidewall support and don’t roll on too much of the tread. As a result, the Avion’s rim is 28mm wide (outside) and is optimized for tires in the 25 to 40mm range. The rim is 41mm deep and features a fairly round spoke bed for improved aerodynamics without sacrificing handling in crosswinds. The new rim meets Stan’s requirements for its BST-R—the higher pressure road version of its Bead Seat Technology.
The Avion is available in two versions. The Team uses the Neo hub and a 24/28 spoke build, Sapim CX-Sprint spokes, and Secure-Lock alloy nipples, and goes for 1729. The claimed weight is 1610g for a set. The Pro substitutes the Neo Ultimate hub and Sapim CX-Ray spokes and is said to tip the scale at only 1520g and will set you back $2249. Both sets are available with Campy or Shimano freehubs; they come with axle end caps, skewers, tape and valve stems. These are arguably the most interesting multi-surface road wheels I’ve seen. I can’t wait to ride them.
Of the many Ebike systems out there very few of them can be retrofitted to a bike easily. The BionX system is robust enough that it’s getting OE spec with a variety of manufacturers, but simple enough that it’s been a way to take an existing bike and add the system to keep an older or injured rider on the bike. I saw a number of bikes that used the BionX in a creative way, none moreso than this Bike Friday cargo bike.
The Haul-a-Day sticks with Bike Friday’s taste for 20-inch wheels but adds a telescoping seat tube and main tube. It can fit riders who would otherwise ride bikes ranging from 48 to 60cm. The main tube can be set to one of four positions that roughly equal the fit of a 48, 52, 56 or 60cm frame. With the BionX hub, low stand over and 20-inch wheels, I’m told the Haul-a-Day has been popular with cargo bike shoppers because it’s so easy to handle and pedal.
With the addition of the new D-series motor, BionX has increased the possible range for bikes equipped with their system to a whopping 80-miles, while upping nominal torque to 25Nm and max torque to 90Nm. A complete system with wheel, battery and head unit plus cables goes for $2499.