By Jim Langley

Interbike is one of the two most important international trade bicycle shows every year. The two-wheel extravaganza returns to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas September 21-23.

Organizers are projecting 1,400 exhibiting brands for 2016. Plus, this year, there’s even a day for consumers, dubbed Customer Appreciation Day on Friday, the 23rd, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance here http://www.interbike.com/attendees/customer-appreciation/

As we do every fall before the show, John Marsh and I have been discussing and predicting what we might see, and a funny thing happened. We both expressed concern that it might be an uninspiring show, like the last couple we’ve attended.

Last fall, for example, the runaway best new product in our eyes was SRAM’s eTAP wireless electronic shifting. However, some saw it as simply a refinement of existing e-shifting systems already available. And, there weren’t any other products in Vegas that blew us away.

Then, coincidentally and by chance, I recently picked up a copy of The Wright Brothers, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough. It’s the most detailed account I’ve yet read about Wilbur and Orville, the incredibly resourceful, innovative and dedicated bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, who invented flight.

I wonder where today’s Wright Brothers are?

Not that the bike industry needs to invent something that revolutionary. But it would sure be nice if we could come up with new bikes, components and/or accessories to excite the masses about our favorite pastime and help jump-start the current depressed bicycle market.

It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

Interbike and the industry shows that came before (the first Interbike took place in 1982) have produced smash hits that changed cycling in major ways and helped fuel boom years. That was during the early '80s to early '90s. Those of us who were there keep waiting for another run of innovation like that.

To remind you of what a heady period of innovation that time was, here are more than a dozen game-changing products that came out back then – innovations that became so successful they’re taken for granted today (they’re not in chronological order, and this certainly isn’t a comprehensive list):

  • High-performance folding clincher tires
  • Resistance indoor trainers
  • Index (“click”) shifting
  • Cycling-specific eyewear
  • Lycra clothing
  • Aerodynamic low spoke-count wheelsets and carbon aero tri-spoke wheelsets
  • Featherweight, well-vented helmets and aero helmets
  • Aero handlebars/clip-ons
  • Full aero bicycles
  • Full aero component groups
  • Clipless pedals
  • Shifting brake levers
  • Light-action braking
  • Carbon-fiber frames and components that finally performed as well or better than aluminum, steel and ti

Not surprisingly, back then you couldn’t wait to get to the show to see what awesomeness would be revealed by Shimano or Campagnolo or even some small company or inventor you never heard of, like Look with their clipless pedals in 1984.

Today, it seems we’ve lost our way.

Instead of soaring with Wright Brothers’-like outside-the-box thinking, our industry’s top minds seem to be grounded, stuck in a rut. We don’t need more bicycle subcategories, failed old ideas brought back, additional bottom bracket standards and wheel sizes. We need exciting new stuff that everyone’s just got to have.

And with today’s crowdfunding, supercomputers, 3D printing and a new generation of engineers, the technology and talent is out there. So, fingers crossed that 2016 is the year the trend changes!

Come showtime we’ll be looking far and wide for great new stuff. And if we find it, we’ll let you know – and stop whining, too.


Jim Langley is RBR's Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his "cycling aficionado" website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim's full bio.

Related Topics Tech Interbike

The Latest VIDEOS & PODCASTS (check main navigation Categories at top of page for more videos)