Saturday, September 29, 2012

Interbike 2012: racing bikes

This being Interbike and all, I was surprised by the relative lack of, well, bikes.

There were bikes, of course, but not nearly to the level as the North American Handbuilt Bike Show, a personal favorite. But to be fair I missed the far better forum for bicycles at Interbike, which is the outdoor demo. We've hit a saturation level in carbon fiber technology, where a light carbon frame is a commody produced in bulk quantities in Taiwan, so the sight of a carbon frame barely draws attention. Hey -- is that a new Bonk Breaker flavor? I'll come back to this bike later.... maybe.

Comments on some of what I saw, starting with pro bikes.

Sagan's Cannondale
Peter Sagan's very cool Cannondale Evo

Two bikes which drew my attention were the bikes in the SRAM booth. Peter Sagan's Cannondale Evo was really nice. Notable was that SRAM showed it with its competitor SRM power-measuring crank; SRAM bought Quarq and so was promoting that. But hats off to SRAM for having the confidence and maturity to show Sagan's bike anyway. I'm not a fan of painting over carbon fiber frames, but I understand pro racing has different considerations, and in particular this frame celebrated Sagan's spectacular winning of the green jersey in the Tour de France this year.

Next to it was Levi Leipheimer's "Wi-Fi" Trek Madone. For some reason I was uninspired to take a photo of this one. It showed off both the SRAM/Quarq crank (which now generates a pedal symmetry number) and the "WiFi" medium-cage SRAM Red rear derailleur. I admit though I have negative associations with Trek, especially since they dumped the LeMond brand.

Ryder Hesjedal's Cervelo from the Giro d'Italia

In the Cervelo booth was Ryder Hesjedal's Cervelo R5 from the Giro d'Italia. Aside from notorious reliability problems (they have a reputation for breaking, then being replaced under warranty) I've always admired the Cervelo "engineering-oriented" design. They don't do things for looks, but rather because they improve the ride. No gimmicks. I also think this year's paint scheme, shown on this bike, looks a lot better than the 2013 scheme which seems cheap: an overt attempt at flash to cover up a boring interior. The most striking thing to me about Ryder's bike, however, is the handlebar drop. I noted this to the guy manning the booth and his response impressed me with its candor: "yes, it's ridiculous". I was impressed. Ryder wins one of the three grand tours and the Cervelo engineer is willing to rip into his bike position. Indeed, Ryder rides with his arms extended downward, looking strained, in contrast to, for example, Alberto Contador who looks balanced and at ease. Hejedal's not as bad as Andy Schleck, at least.

On the topic of the Giro, here's the trophy won by Denis Menchov. I always thought it looked fairly light in photos, but it's made of lead:

Forza Giro!
Giro trophy: very cool

One bike I was looking forward to seeing was the Cipollini line, in particular the Bond. If the bike could escape from criminal paramilitary motorcyclist ninjas, surely it would impress me. Alas, there was no Bond in the Cipo booth. I was surprised at how fat the tubes were on the frames which were there, as far as I could tell the same frames from 2012.

Neil Pryde Bora SL

A bike which I'd looked forward to seeing going into the show was the Neil Pryde Bora SL. However, when I saw it I was disappointed: it was another of the super-fat-down-tube frames which looks like it's designed more to win the Tour Magazine competition than to be a good ride. To be fair, I've not ridden this frame, but I'm far more attracted to the concept of "tuned stiffness" espoused by such frames as Calfee, Crumpton, AX-Lightness, Rolo, and Parlee than to the "stiffness to the max" school which seems designed to produce impressive numbers in magazine tests. So I spent only enough time here to snap an out-of-focus photo, then moved onward.

Dimond triathlon frame
Dimond triathlon bike

On the triathlon side (also okay for US domestic time trials) is this Dimond cantilever bike. This remainds me an awful lot of the old Zipp bike of similar design. I asked about aerodynamics, expressing my concern the head tube looked too fat and cylindrical. The best time trial frames all seem to pay a lot of attention to the head tube, which is after all the leading edge and especially prominent at low yaw. They said they were planning on going into the tunnel soon for testing.

China Pavilion

China Pavilion consisted of a series of companies selling OEM parts and OEM frames. This one is representative. They didn't get enormous attention, it seems, but then they don't need a huge number of customers to make the trip worthwhile. Slap some decals on these bad boys, add 200% mark-up to wholesale price, and you're in the bike business. "Low-Key Cycles": I like it!

Specialized S-Works Allez
Specialized S-Works Allez

Last and best, here's the Specialized S-Works special edition Allez (see description here). The thing glistened in the lights: really fantastic looking. It's an attempt by Specialized to compete with the high-end Cannondale CAAD-10 bikes. Cannondale has been honing it's high-end Al for decades, however, while Specialized has for years relegated it's Al line to entry-level status. This bike may look fantastic, and the component spec is nearly perfect, but reports I've seen on Weightweenies forum claim the Cannondale is a smoother and overall superior ride while being at least as light.

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