If you’re a cycling junkie, the announcement of the annual Interbike show tends to unleash primal imperatives. Like those that draw lemmings haplessly over cliffs. Any early waffling you may have about taking time to attend gets overcome by an urgency to go, and it gets stronger the closer the event looms.
Yes, there’s a lot to see. There’s swag. You can bank on finding an irresistible deal on something… and it’s usually in Las Vegas, which means there’s a nod-nod-wink-wink expectation of bad behavior being tolerated, if not encouraged.
This year, thanks to a really robust mobile app, you could manage your appointments, practically GPS your way from booth to booth, and get critical MMS updates. Like notifications when and where a panoply of cycling celebrities were going to be signing posters; critical, minute-by-minute updates where baristas for hire were drawing espressos; and which vendors were cracking kegs (Happy Hour begins now! And “Now” is well before lunch).
(Do shops buy more when they’re loosened up? Now that would be a good investigative story. It would have to be more interesting than all the endless and breathless Kardashian-related reportage. Weren’t they villains in Star Trek (TNG) and DS9? Oh: that was the Cardassians. Well both entities always seem to be in black, but I’ll bet only one has a signature clothing line at Sears. But I digress.)
There were aisles upon aisles of booths (and a secondary Fitness exhibit with more bikes and accessories on another level).
Everwhere you walked, you’d be surrounded: by bikes, hard goods, clothing, accessories, nutrition, training devices, and manufacturers of OEM components (often the stuff you find on bicycles that looks the same as what you get in the store but isn’t quite, exactly). More offerings than the shrimp recipes ticked-off by Bubba Blue in “Forrest Gump.”
And there’s a set of each for road bikes, mountain bikes, tri bikes and lifestyle enthusiasts.
Lots of loud music, in an array of genres; if you don’t like what you’re hearing, walk a few feet. This year there were more electric bikes than ever, and the consensus on the floor was this market would grow, especially, according to Currie Technologies’ Ned Ganz, as batteries get lighter, longer lasting and eventually cheaper.
Road Cycling Highlights
For road bikers, expect more offerings of Speedplay-specific soles. In the next few months the options will at least double, with Sidi offering two models, and Northwave jumping in with an extremely light shoe that deftly lets you use 4-hole Speedplay mounts or 3-hole standard cleats. And on the subject of shoes, expect to see expanded offerings from last year’s new kids on the block, Fizik and Giro.
Fizik is also pushing saddle technology into new areas with its Kurve saddles (three models, an evolutionary expansion of the DNA you know in Antares, Aliante and Arione). The new saddles feature a one-piece aluminum rail that loops around the rear, connecting at the front with a block that can be changed to “tune” the flex stiffer or softer (an idea borrowed from Brooks, Fizik’s sibling). The tops are comprised of three-layer composite constructs, with thin padding and microfiber top. The effect? A sense that you’re more suspended by the saddle than sitting on it. With luck, demos at local shops should be available by year’s end.
Finally, here’s a quick note about what’s new from a few local (California, loosely-interpreted) companies:
- Shimano’s second electronic shifting gruppo will be on bikes that may already arriving at shops. Ultegra Di2 actually one-ups Dura Ace Di2 with improvements in wiring, weatherproofing and range of adjustment, at around what mechanical DA costs. There’s also a very cool computer diagnostic application for diagnosing problems within the system.
- There’s a completely redesigned MTB pedal from Speedplay called the SYZR. Looks like they left the road products alone: it’s got to be hard to improve on the elegantly simple design that swept the Tour de France podium (as did Shimano).
- Felt Bicycles now has a Custom Paint program, and some of the most eye-catching celebrations of the art and fun of bikes in its cruiser line-up.
- Campagnolo has jumped into the aero clincher wheel wars with a double-twisting back flip and landed on both feet. The new Bullet clincher series combines the best attributes of aluminum and carbon, with options in rim depths (50 and 80mm in the standard Bullet, plus 105mm in the Bullet Ultra) and bearings. Bullet and Bullet Ultra wheesets are built in standard and tubeless compatible 2-Way Fit configurations. Availability? Mid-2012. Whither Electronic Campy? According to Campagnolo North America, “We’re waiting for an announcement from Italy.”
- Arriving at the show with its first bikes delivered, the Volagi team gave a glimpse of what to expect by next spring. They’ve adopted the TRP Parabox system to add hydraulics to the braking (and, according to both Volagi’s Robert Choi and TRP, much better brake feel and adjustability). The one-off model on display had a Shimano Dura Ace Di2 group sporting a full-gloss white frame and an-almost-ready-for-production carbon wheelset. Current plans are for the production version to have Ultegra Di2 and internal wiring. Looks like the Parabox system should be pretty easy to retrofit to bikes with mechanical disk brakes, too.