The best of Eurobike 2014: bikes and wheels
CyclingTips’ roving reporter Dave Everett has just returned from the world’s biggest bike expo, Eurobike, and is currently sharing some of his highlights. In part two of this series, Dave talks us through some of the bikes that caught his eye.
Be sure to check out part one in this series, about the helmets and shoes of Eurobike 2014.
In a venue the size of a small town and with thousands of brands displaying their wares it’s a challenge to stand out. You can lay out all your new bikes, components or clothing in the nicest of ways but there’s a ton of other companies doing exactly the same. For a few though they manage the trick of drawing a crowd to their stand by producing prototype items that demand to be seen.
At this year’s Eurobike show BMC, Canyon and Lightweight pulled that trick off with outstanding success. Word of each of these brands’ prototypes spread amongst the halls quickly and it become a chore to fight the crowds at their respective stands to get a good look at the prototypes.
BMC had an Impec concept road bike that certainly drew the crowds. Talking with one of the marketing guys at BMC I found out that the bike wasn’t just a show piece though. The whole concept was a practice in seeing what could be possible with future frames. The bike as it was would have been a ridable demo if the driveset was complete — the rest of the items on the bike are all working and in many cases being tested on some of BMC’s other bikes in house.
The Impec concept project was started a little over five months ago. Many of the ideas are there as a test bed to see what they can carry over to future bikes.
Canyon also had a road bike that looked like it was from a 2000AD comic. Canyon feel they are currently at a pinnacle of producing a bike that is both super aerodynamic and lightweight. The next challenge is producing a bike that adapts to riding styles and road surfaces.
The circular pods placed on the fork and downtube have what Canyon claim is a gel-type solution. This is in conjunction with a frame design that involves leaf springs in the front axle and seat stays — a carbon layup that allows flex could act as a suspension unit. A full 15mm of flex would be possible from frame flex.
That though isn’t the ingenious idea for the bike. The gel could work with a CPU sensor from Deutsche Telecom to sense road feel or riding style and adapt the gel’s state to either stiffen the ride or allow the flex to come in to play. So, for instance, if the bike was to hit the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix it would automatically soften the ride up. Once off the cobbles and in sprint mode the frame would become a full-on rigid structure. How long we need to wait to see if this technology is to become even a viable product is yet to be seen.
Thirdly there was Lightweight, known for its super light wheelsets and, more recently, a lovely looking carbon frame. The company had two interesting prototypes on their stand.
First up was the Smart wheel, a wheel that had multiple circuit boards stuck to it, each varying in size. Sitting next to this wheel was the finished item. What first looked like a small, roughly two centimetre square chip was stuck on to a standard lightweight wheel.Underneath the carbon rim lay multiple sensors and wires.
The whole system, when linked to a smartphone app, could tell you a number of parameters about your wheel’s performance. From pressure of the tyre to the heat that the braking surface was generating. This last set of data was displayed on the phone in what looked like a miniature rev counter — the hotter the braking surface became, the closer the needle got to the orange and then the red zone. This could eventually help people who may not be the smartest with braking, especially when descending climbs like you find in the Alps or Dolomites.
Also on the Lightweight stand was what at first glance looked like a very fancy electric bike. This year at Eurobike the whole electric bike scene was a huge draw for many — it’s a trend that is definitely going to be big in the coming years. Large international companies like Bosh, Samsung, Yamaha, and Panasonic have ploughed huge amounts of R&D and money into developing the market and the items that will drive this market.
Lightweight, though, had a bike with a drive system that these multinational companies must wish they had thought of. The bike (obviously a slick looking carbon machine) had the back wheel powered by a magnetic field, much like you’d find on the bullet trains in Japan, albeit on a much smaller scale. As a road cyclist I’d be the first to admit that I’m a snob when it comes to the whole electric bike scene, but this lightweight bike was a highlight of the show for me. It was even more impressive then either the BMC or the Canyon. Lightweight again had thought outside the box.
Elsewhere in the show smaller brands had items that either followed trends that have slowly been gaining speed or been dominated by companies who have had the funds and resources to already have products on the shelves. One such trend was the aero road bike.
Pretty much every bike company now has an aero road bike, with rear brakes tucked away under the bottom bracket or even integrated into the frame. Aero is now the new lightweight.
The road disc craze has only just begun. A huge number of disc-ready bikes were on display (and many of them weren’t that ugly). Wheel manufactures of course have to keep up with this new development, and most of the major brands had wheels ready for the market.
Mavic have two road wheels ready, a disc version of both the Ksyrium and Aksium are ready. Ritchey, American Classic, Reynolds and Shimano also have several wheels ready to accept discs. One noticeable brand that seemed to have omitted a disc-ready wheel was Fulcrum. They do have a new version of the popular alloy Racing Zero though, and a new flagship Racing Zero Carbon was also on show. Both Fulcrum racing 5 and 7 get a wider rim profile too.
Caam Corse is an Italian frame company that I’d not come across before but that caught my eye, not due to their “Italian” paint schemes but due to the carbon they were using. The frame builders exclusively use a carbon composite that is derived from F1.
The material is a honeycomb kevlar structure sandwiched between two carbon layers. The claims are enhanced torsional rigidity both longitudinally and laterally. Also on the stand they had a road bike with a single-sided fork, made of this material.
This year a few brands were displaying wooden bikes. As a material for racing on I’m still not sold but as a piece of craftsmanship you couldn’t fault the guys from Basque company Axalko. I’ve seen a few wooden bikes now but the Bat2 made of ash was gorgeous. It’s a small co-operative of four guys that originally started as a hobby. We are hoping to get a closer look at their workshop and bikes at a later date so stay tuned for that.
To be continued …