Shoes have a new fastening system taking over. Dials, be they from Boa or imitators, are now gracing the pro-level shoe offerings from just about everybody. Specialized and Lake and Scott have been on this for years, but now they’ve been joined by Diadora, DMT, Gaerne, Louis Garneau, Northwave, Sidi, Vittoria and Pearl Izumi. Izumi was, amazingly, one of the first to bring the Boa dial system to market, dropped it, and is now back.
Shimano, owner of Pearl Izumi, is sticking to the two straps and buckle system. The ranks of holdouts include Fizik, Giro, and Mavic. Strikingly, all claim high technology to be their calling card. Giro, for one, is still standing firm with their retro-cool lace-up Empire shoes.
Orange is the New Black
Last year, fluo green was the hot color. This year, it’s orange. Mostly fluo orange, but not entirely. Poc totally rocked the orange; the color is tied to their brand identity. But there was plenty of orange to go around, particularly for shoes and helmets. Shoes, preferably in shiny, perforated microfiber, are going orange at Giro, Northwave, Lake, and others. In helmets, Giro is joining the orange crew that Lazer and Rudy Project already started.
Wide Rims are the New Black
At first, it was a trickle. Now it’s a flood. Starting with Hed’s C2 and moving to Zipp and far beyond. Wide rims are just about everywhere. Easton has the Fantom rim, on their EC90 Aero 55 clincher and tubular. The new EC90 is really wide, 28mm, and, a more blunt nose, and the clincher is tubeless compatible. Easton has also redesigned their EA90 SLX into a wider, tubeless-compatible aluminum rim. And the new Easton wheels sport new hubs, the Echo, which relies on standard straight-pull spokes. Ritchey is debuting a wide, shallow-section aluminum clincher, the Zeta II and is tubeless-compatible. The roll on Phantom hubs, which look flangeless but have internal flanges so that the wheels are built with J-bend spokes.
For the people who long for wide rims to build into their favorite hubs, American Classic is now selling a wide, shallow, tubeless compatible rim. The AC RD 2218. Being American Classic, the rim is light, 375g, and currently available in 24 and 28 drilling.
Classic Bars are the New Black
Classic-bend drop handlebars are coming back. The long loopy drops of old are being updated with short reach and shallow bends. Zipp and Ritchey have newly-designed classic bends, taking a similar route to Shimano’s classic bend bars. On the other hand, FSA’s, and 3T’s, and Deda’s longstanding classic drops are plying the older, longer and lower bends. Also of note is that cable grooves seem to be disappearing from aluminum bars. A Ritchey rep told us it was what the pro’s requested because it adds more to grip on the tops. A Zipp rep told us it allowed them to make the bars lighter and stiffer.
Massive Data Integration is the New Black
SRM came to the show with their new PowerControl 8 head unit, set to be released in 2014. A slick touch screen that has sensors rather than relying on warm fingertips is just the beginning. The unit is also working with GPS where you can tune the accuracy by selecting the number of satellites, or turn it off to increase battery life. And they’re adding the metrics popularized by Allen/Coggan—normalized power, IF and TSS. And more. It will work with all ANT+ power meters and connect to both Bluetooth and WiFi. It will be waterproof, and even have a small speaker.
Wahoo Fitness is also expanding its offerings. Their smartphone-based software company is going in a zillion directions—using your smartphone to record and push data to social media, to training programs, and integrating it with a trainer. At the Wahoo booth, they had a Wahoo-based trainer, the Kickr, hooked up to a software partner, Kinomap, where you can watch a geolocated video (quick, get a Virb) that has the elevation data interpreted to resistance and sent to a trainer so you can ride what you’re watching—and even try to keep up or exceed the pace that the person filming it did. You can also use the trainer to ride or race Strava segments.
Topeak is also working the Bluetooth/smartphone angle with their PanoBike App and system, which also includes handlebar- and stem-mounted cases, Bluetooth transmitters, and an app that not only serves as the computer, but a diary and can work with a bike computer.
Bluetooth-transmitting heart rate, speed, cadence sensors, is also a path PowerTap is starting to follow. They’ll have the same, including a PowerTap hub that transmits a Bluetooth signal. This way your smartphone and other Bluetooth-enabled devices, like laptops and tablets, can pick up the signals. CycleOps (part of the same company as PowerTap, but spun into its own division) is also debuting Virtual Training software. Theirs combines both indoors and outdoors, with a heavy social media component and even video. For the indoor, you need one of their PowerBeam or Indoor Cycle units or Wahoo’s Kickr hooked up to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and logged into their Virtual Training site.
CycleOps’ system combines a training dairy with your trainer and social media. Ride routes you’ve done, ride routes others have done and shared, race people on created routes, compete with others on time, mileage, whatever metric you want. And if the one site isn’t enough, your data can easily be shared with social media sites and other training software.
Taking integration in another diretion is BikeSpike. It’s a GPS transmitter that currently is housed in a water bottle cage. The transmitter turns on and sends out signals telling its location. Mate it with your smartphone and it’s a bike computer, it sends the ride BikeSpike’s social media platform, an anti-theft device, and a crash-alert system. If you like keeping tabs on loved one’s riding, you can set a perimeter, and get alerts when the device goes beyond. The device can also tell how the bike is oriented to the ground, and that can work into their platform to a visual that shows how the bike is leaning.
Road Tubeless Tires are not the New Black
Despite the rapidly-increasing number of road tubeless rims on offer, the same cannot be written of road tubeless tires. The choices for tires are not expanding, nor did it seem that the companies selling road tubeless tires are dramatically expanding their offerings.
Road Rotor Disc Brakes are not the New Black
Here, too, there is lots of talk, but little action. Shimano was touting theirs, but it was hard to find a road racing bike equipped with them, other than a Colnago that Shimano was carting around. SRAM seemed a bit more measured, coming with a fleet of Specializeds, but focusing on their Hydro-R, hydraulic rim brakes, rather than their Hydro-D, hydraulic disc brakes. Most of the road bikes that were equipped with discs were of the “gravel grinder” variety, save the BMC GF01, which is kind of a racing version of a gravel grinder, carbon-fiber but with a beefy fork and massive chain stays.
The final day of Press Camp was an unfortunately abbreviated affair for me as I had a plane to catch to get to yet another media event, this one a continent away. I began my final day with one of my most eagerly awaited appointments—the U.S. team behind Ridley. While the brand has interested me for some time, I really haven’t devoted any editorial to them because I simply haven’t had a relationship with anyone who worked for them. This was a chance to begin rectifying that.
While I got a great tour through the entirety of their line, I have to admit that there were two bikes of particular interest to me. Top of my list was the Noah. I’ve found this bike to be one of the more interesting takes on an aero road design in the peloton. This owes, in part, to the integrated F-brake which is incorporated into the fork and seatstays.
There’s little doubt that it improves the aerodynamics of the bike; Ridley claims that the Noah will save you 20 watts over a conventional road frame. That’s a pretty colossal improvement; even 10 watts for me would be appreciable. And welcome.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll reiterate that engineers at several different brands have all told me the same thing: All the real gains to be made in the future won’t be in weight. To the extent that we get faster due to strictly technological advances, they will all come in the realm of aerodynamics. I wasn’t so sure I believed them until I had a rider who wasn’t as strong as me drop me on a flat road while riding his TT bike. I simply couldn’t stay in his draft.
The Noah uses a seat mast, which is a feature I’m not sure I’ll ever come to love, not in any frame. While I respect that this contributes to the frame’s overall aerodynamic slipperosity (new word, you heard it here first), every frame I’ve ever ridden that used a seatmast design was less comfortable than similar frames spec’d with a 27.2mm seat post. Regardless, I hope to ride a Noah some time soon.
Also on display was a new version of the Helium. With a slightly sloping top tube, tubes with squarish profiles and string bean seat stays, this thing could be a cousin to the Cervelo R3. This sense is reinforced now by a redesign in which the seatmast has been replaced by a conventional 27.2mm seat post. Hooray!
The Helium is a simple, clean design unencumbered by superfluous contours that cause so many frames to look like an early ’60s Corvette and weigh nearly as much. As it was put to me, the new Helium finally gives Ridley a truly pro-worthy climbing bike, and one that will be a good deal easier to travel with. I was surprised to learn that one of the big drivers for doing a traditional seatpost on this bike wasn’t ride quality; rather, it was the ability to pack the bike more easily for travel. Go figure.
Also worth mentioning is the new women’s bike, the Liz. It won’t be any woman’s first road bike, but it will be a great bike to upgrade to after that first under-spec’d road bike.
Of all the brands at Press Camp, Knog is one that’s been on my radar, and I could easily have made a request to review some of their stuff, but I was never really certain how their offerings would go over with the RKP readership. Our reviews have skewed toward performance items for serious roadies, but thanks in no small part due to the FGR, we’ve learned that a great many of you ride early, ride late, run errands on your bikes and in short do things that don’t require being the leader of some Strava segment. Oh, and that you’d like to live to see your next ride. As a result, you’ll start seeing some mentions of Knog product here and there. They’ve got a zany, irreverent sensibility—think Greenpeace at a rave—that meshes well with the fact that their products are as green as possible and easier to use than a Coke machine. Let me add that when they decided to call their LED light series the Blinders, that wasn’t hyperbole. I looked directly into one and my retinas are still on strike.
My stop at CycleOps was unforgivably brief. The pending arrival of my airport shuttle had me blowing through their suite like a starving man at a buffet line. I was interested in it all, but didn’t have the time to sit down and really learn much. The most exciting news, so far as I was concerned, was the announcement of the new Joule GPS. So now you can have all the functionality of the Joule bike computer with its ability to allow you to examine your wattage on the fly combined with GPS tracking of your route which may not be that important to you while you’re on the bike, but will be very handy when it comes time to upload your ride to Map My Ride or Strava. You’ll still need to upload the route to two different pieces of software as neither MMR or Strava enable you to examine your performance the way that CycleOps’ Power Center or Training Peaks does, though.
CycleOps has also partnered with Enve to offer high-end wheelsets. For those looking for an aerodynamic set of wheels that will also allow for wattage reading, this partnership offers a terrific solution.
And while you’re not going to care a whit about this in June (why should you?), I saw the CycleOps Virtual Trainer, which combines indoor training with the challenge of real-world training routes. Tacx has had a product that works along these lines, but CycleOps adds a really significant wrinkle to this equation. You have the ability to upload video you’ve recorded (say, via a GoPro camera) along with a GPS route to give you a significantly simulated training experience. The trainer will increase the load to simulate climbs and ease it for descents. The one thing your training won’t fix is that if you got dropped on the ride you shot, you’re still going to get dropped next winter. Oops.
I’ve wanted to attend Press Camp since the event’s inception four years ago. It took a while for both the event and RKP to grow enough that we received an invitation. Honestly, it was even better than I had expected. The event is exceedingly well organized, but that didn’t surprise me. The driving forces behind the event are Lance Camisasca and Chris Zigmont. Camisasca is the former director for the Interbike trade show and Zigmont is the former general manager for Mavic and Pedro’s. Zigmont also ran Mavic’s neutral support program here in North America for many years. He has a talent for providing logistics for herded cats.
It’s worth mentioning how much fun it is to interact with my colleagues. I had the opportunity to meet David Bernstein of the FredCast, Byron from Bike Hugger, as well as spend time with friends like Ben Edwards at peloton and Nick Legan over at Velo.
It’s no secret that the Interbike trade show has been suffering the pains of an entity whose business model is in decline. Suppliers want the show to happen earlier so they can place preseason orders, while retailers want the show to happen later so that they don’t have to take their most important staff out of the store for a week during peak selling season. In metaphoric terms, she wants to get married and he’s not ready to give up his little black book. It’s a relationship destined for the rocks.
Press Camp gives the media access to a bunch of brands that are interested in media coverage; and while you might think that is everybody, not every brand out there cares if Road Bike Action, LAVA or RKP writes a word about them. From the brands’ perch, this is a chance to have the same conversation over and over, which can simplify a day. Surprisingly, the 45 minute sessions go quickly. It’s amazing how little you can cover in 45 minutes, even though it’s a great deal more than you can cover in 15 minutes at Interbike.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Interbike. While I hate Las Vegas the way a teenage girl hates acne, I’ve come to accept that it’s a place anyone can get a reasonable airfare to and even the unemployed can afford a hotel room. I know; I’ve done it. I love the way it brings together a big swath of the industry, though I prefer the way it used to bring together the whole of the industry. But that’s the thing about Press Camp and Dealer Camp: They aren’t so much a response to Interbike as they are a response to the big dealer events hosted by Trek, Specialized and Giant. The success of those dealer events is because of the intimate (sometimes pronounced “captive audience”) setting where dealers don’t just get specs and pricing, but education.
Trade shows were speed dating before speed dating was cool. The problem is that as the bike industry has become more sophisticated, the grocery-store model of strolling aisles has ceased to work for most people. Next time I go, though, I plan to schedule fewer afternoon appointments so that I can actually get out for a ride. It felt silly to leave Park City without having gone for a single ride.