As Jim Langley mentioned in passing in our report last week of our Top 10 Products from this year’s Interbike show, the 2017 version was the smallest show either of us had seen. Many big companies that regularly exhibit were no-shows, and the tenor of the show was decidedly low-key and less energetic than any previous show. That’s not to say there still weren’t hundreds of interesting, cool, novel and noteworthy products and trends on display.
In my Best of the Rest article today, and Jim’s, we’ll relate some of the other things we took note of at this year’s show.
The Year of the E-Bike
Depending on your perspective, either the most depressing or acceptable trend this year was the utter dominance of e-bikes. In previous years, the e-bike area of the show seemed like a growing novelty, with various clunky-looking e-bikes from Asia competing for eye-share with a few from European big-name makers.
After all, e-bikes are wildly popular on both continents, as cycling, in general, emcompasses all forms of transport, and sport. From commuting to work, riding to school, running errands, getting around town, moving and delivering goods to riding the road for sport and recreation, cycling is much more broad-based and an accepted part of society.
Which, of course, is exactly what e-bike makers want for the American market. Let’s not forget that Interbike is a trade show designed for cycling products makers to show their goods to bike shops, primarily, in hopes that the shops will sell their products at retail.
And bike companies worldwide see e-bikes as something of a “great hope” or potential savior for lagging bike sales, especially in the U.S. So expect to see more and different types of them into the future.
They’re Fun to Ride
Every year at the indoor portion of the show, there’s a test track on which you can take bikes for a spin. This year, the only bikes you could ride were e-bikes. But, lordy, what an array of e-bikes: there were tandems, numerous commuter and city bikes, mountain and cross bikes, near-road bikes, bikes of different types with motorized wheels (like the Copenhagen wheel, see photo), cargo bikes, and even an ice cream delivery bike. The test track was like the United Nations of e-bikes! And the riders were a decidedly smiling lot.
As I had never ridden an e-bike, I wanted to get an idea of what it was all about, so I availed myself of that U.N. test track and took a few for a motorized spin (including models by Bosch, Stromer, and a few that used the Copenhagen Wheel, and the Electron Wheel, both of which can make any bike into an e-bike).
Almost all models have typically 3 levels of “assist,” including what’s usually called “turbo,” the top level, that kicks in with just a little pressure on the pedals. Most of the bikes feature typical gearing and shifting for that specific type of bike, along with disc brakes, by and large.
I have to admit, riding those bikes was fun, just for the simple pleasure of the near-instantaneous acceleration and quick speed available. Most of them top out at anywhere from 20 to 29 mph, but in turbo mode, you can get there pretty quickly. The feeling of speed and moving through space is something I utterly enjoy about riding, so it’s no surprise e-bikes ticked that box for me.
But What’s Their Place?
But, to get this discussion back to the road cycling community, the couple of almost e-road bikes I rode (one was a real road bike with a Copenhagen wheel; the other a more streamlined e-bike set up with handlebars and a saddle to resemble a road bike) both were more difficult to handle and a bit clunkier than at least a couple of the city bikes I rode. My favorite ride of all was a very decent city bike set up with the Copenhagen wheel. It handled much better than the traditional big-framed e-bikes that could easily weigh upwards of 60 pounds. And the Copenhagen wheel has regenerative braking, which served to juice the wheel while riding.
The one true e-road bike on display at Interbike, the Focus prototype Y-Project bike I wrote about last week, was not among those available for a test.
If the Focus e-road bike hits the market as tipped sometime next year, then road riders who have – by virtue of aging or injury, etc. – reached the point of severely diminished capacity to ride a traditional road bike, there will be a legitimate choice to make for them: buy more gearing, or buysome power.
As I mentioned last week, the idea of more e-bikes on the road (especially those “mixing” with road cyclists) is a topic for debate. It’s a debate we’ll be having fairly soon in RBR Newsletter. Stay tuned for that.
Garmin Edge 1030
The dominant player in GPS-based cycling computers for years has rolled out its newest top-of-the line, fully functional, integrated touch-screen computer, the 1030. Its launch is nearly in tandem with Garmin’s new Vector 3 power pedals, which I wrote about last week.
The 1030 includes such features as traffic-avoidance capabilities, popularity routing (finding and riding routes based on how popular they are among fellow cyclists, based on billions of Garmin Connect rides), rider-to-rider messaging (canned messages that can quickly and easily be sent between 1030 users, and incident detection and reporting. (Those last two could be valuable safety features on, respectively, group rides and solo rides. If, for instance, you get separated from the group and are in trouble, you could easily communicate with them. On the flip side, if you’re out on your own and something happens to you, the unit can notify a pre-selected contact with your GPS position and a message.)
The unit syncs with all Garmin devices, as well as Training Peaks and Strava for pre-planned training and route comparisons, and it also allows the user to respond to missed calls or texts with pre-written messages, like “be home soon.”
With customizable screens, 20 hours of battery life, USB connectivity to computers and wirelessly downloadable functionality, the 1030 has an optional mount that carries an external battery pack that feeds the unit through the mount – doubling its battery life. That’s a feature that could definitely come in handy on some tours, which are notorious for the scarcity of electricity, on occasion.
The Garmin Edge 1030 sells for $599.99 and is available online and at retail outlets. https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/567991
Oakley Jawbreaker Apparel Line
In addition to launching its first-ever line of helmets at the show, which took the top spot in my Best Of list last week, Oakley also launched its first line of cycling apparel. The new Jawbreaker Road line, made for Oakley by a Belgian maker, will feature both high-end race gear with aero material in both jerseys and bibs, and more recreational-inspired gear (see below; jerseys $120, bibs $120-$140). It looks like Oakley has invested the same level of attention to detail in its cycling apparel as in its helmets. That’s good news for roadies. The new line is set to be available early in 2018. http://www.oakley.com/
Smith Network & Squall Helmets
Smith had two new helmets on display that caught my eye for different reasons. Both will roll out next spring, around March. The Network is another affordable MIPS helmet that features Smith’s Koroyd staws material in the outer perimeter of the helmet but leaves the top uncovered by Koroyd (perhaps a nod to the fact that some testers – included us – have noted the airflow reduction of the straws). Photo below.
The other Smith lid that I noted, a new colorway for the Overtake helmet called the Squall, features a black-and-white, Zebra-like “disruptive” pattern on the shell, designed to catch the eye in partowing to the pattern and the contrast inherent in black-on-white coloration. Smith will also feature other new colorways (as new colors are called in the industry) in it’s venerable Overtake helmet next year. http://www.smithoptics.com/us/Root/Men%27s/Helmets/Cycle/c/1420?akamai-feo=off
Lazer Bullet Aero Helmet
I saw the prototype of this helmet at last year’s show, and it’s now widely available. It looks like a fairly typical aero helmet, but the cool feature is the “airslide” system, basically a wide slide mechanism across the top of the helmet. When closed, the wind simply skates across the top of the helmet. When open, a series of baffles opens up to let the air flow into the helmet. The lid comes in both non-MIPS and MIPS versions, around $259/$289. http://www.lazersport.com/product/bike-adult-road/bullet-mips-matte-black
POC SPIN Technology
While nearly all the other big-name helmet makers continue to employ MIPS, POC announced in August that it was ditching MIPS for its own new tech called SPIN (which stands for “Shearing Pads INside”). While POC did not display at this year’s Interbike, the company did have reps on-site during the media preview event to show a couple helmets utilizing SPIN.
It turns out, those “shearing pads” are seemingly not much more than high-tech padding similar to what you find in a traditional helmet. The secret is the gel material inside that allows the outer part of the pad (the part touching your head) to effectively “shear” or slide over the inner part when your head contacts the ground or other object. In effect, POC has built the safety technology into the helmet pads themselves, thus mitigating the need to add the MIPS liner to the helmet. (That thin plastic liner does exactly the same thing upon impact.) POC said it will use SPIN in helmets including the Octal X SPIN road helmet and the Tectal Race SPIN mountain bike helmet (each will sell for $250). http://www.pocsports.com/us/home/
Landyachtz Heat-Moldable Saddle
Last year’s Interbike featured the launch of the first truly custom saddle, manufactured to the individual rider’s unique “butt impression” using top-quality materials. I review the MELD Custom Saddle earlier this year.
This year’s show featured a similar take on that concept by a Vancouver-based skateboard and ski shop know for its long-board skateboards. One of the founders took up road cycling a few years ago and decided that ski boot technology could be used to help make a more comfortable saddle. The Landyachtz saddle features thermal moldable plastic inside a leather cover rubbed with bees wax, on a carbon sheel with carbon rails. The weight is claimed at 215g, and the seat will come in 3 different shapes. Price will be $299 in the U.S.
To get your saddle molded to your own distinct body geometry, you’ll need to go to a bike shop dealer, who will plug in a heating element to warm up the plastic while you pedal on a trainer for about 4 minutes. Then the plastic sets up, and you’ve got your molded saddle. Landyachtz looks to have the saddle on the market in 2018. http://landyachtz.com/us/
At the Vittoria booth, I had an insightful conversation with the Italian brand rep, whose knowledge of shoes and the evolution of design and trends was as interesting to me as Vittoria’s beautiful and high-tech shoes. The top-end Velar (below) is one amazing-looking shoe, with a top-end price, to be sure ($499), but an array of tech-driven features to make it lighter, stronger and fit better than your average shoe. It utilizes “forged” carbon technology (basically carbon fiber that is pressed into its final form, not layered using sheets), allowing for the sole to be thinner in spots and thicker in others to both maximize the stiffness and fit while making it overall lighter. The uppers are matte metalic Italian microfiber for a unique look. Interestingly, Vittoria dropped its own proprietary closure system in favor of BOA, and it employs a double-BOA closure in a unique offset pattern that routes inside the upper part and more closely balances and pulls together the top of the shoe, over a thinner-than-normal tongue, for a dialed-in fit.
The insightful conversation centered on the fact that Vittoria, like other shoe makers, of late has made shoes with a wider forefoot and toe box. The reason, I was told, is based on measurable changes in the shape of the human foot over the past couple of decades, especially, based on the types of shoes so many of us commonly wear (sneakers and similar type “comfort” shoes that allow our feet to spread out over time, in effect).
Another insight offered by Vittoria is that women still have higher arches, on average, than men. So it’s women-specific shoes are really a function of the insole, not the overall shape of the shoe. http://www.vittoria-shoes.com/
Noosh Almond Butter
Often at Interbike, nutrition products can tend toward the gimmicky. So I was pleased when I stumbled upon Noosh, a California company that packages almond butter (in regular and chocolate flavors) in cycling-sized pouches. As someone who loves almonds (they’re my late afternoon get-me-to-dinner snack of choice; and they’re healthy), I’m glad to see an alternative to the other typical gels out there – probably all of which may taste good and work OK, but the flavors and ingredients are most certainly artificial.
I’ve tried both the original and chocolate Noosh, and both taste great. Moreover, true to the tagline on the package “smooth and silky,” the consistency is pretty thin and smooth. I’ve had other peanut butter-based nutrition products aimed at cyclists, and I can’t say the same about them. Noosh sells online at the company site, 20 packs of either flavor for $19.99. https://nooshbrands.com/collections/all
In June, Ridley Bikes bought Eddy Merckx Cycles to create a combined Belgian brand that will be called Belgian Cycling Factory USA in the U.S. I met with the U.S. brand manager at Interbike, who told me the the Merckx brand will become the more premium brand in the combined company, with higher end road bikes from about $2,500 and up, with Ridley becoming more of an all-around brand while still offering its own premium road machines as well.
Both brands will have customization options across spec and colors, etc. The company is establishing a new dealer network in the U.S. Ridley has new-for 2018 models including updates of its Helium and Fenix lines, as well as the Noah, an aero road bike that features Ridley’s FAST technology (photo below). https://www.ridley-bikes.com/en/
Polar Zipstream Insulated Bottle
I was impressed by the new Polar Zipstream bottle, which features the same double-walled insulation as past Polar bottles mated with a new Zipstream high-flow, self-sealing cap. The new nozzle easily pulls up a couple millimeters to open, then pushes back down to close. The nozzle also easily comes off for cleaning.
All in all, it’s a vast improvement over the old “bite it with your teeth and yank it open” type of nozzle that Polar and other bottle makers have used.
I’ve been using a couple of samples Polar provided since Interbike (from their new Color Series), and I like everything about the bottles. Not only does the Zipstream nozzle work well (it could flow just a bit better, but it’s still quite good), I really like the harder shell of the 24-ounce bottle, which goes into and comes out of my cages better than other, softer-sized bottles. And the inside of the bottles is the same white plastic, no matter the outside color, which makes it easy to clean in that you can easily see any residue against the white color. I’d say Polar has a winner on its hands with this new bottle. $14.99 on the Polar site and elsewhere online. https://polarbottle.com/product/bottles/insulated-sport-bike/zipstream-24oz/