It always takes a while to recover from the Interbike trade show but, once we did, three of us who oversee Bicycle Times sat down to discuss trends we saw at the show, what we’re excited about and what we think the near future holds for bicycles and cycling gear. Basically, give us each some casual leather cycling shoes and a frame bag and leave us alone, racer boy.
Katherine Fuller [online editor]: Are you guys hard to impress after so many years in the bike industry? Or are you still swayed by the shiny? Because I’m still swayed by the shiny.
Adam Newman [Bicycle Times editor-in-chief]: Wait, is this off the record?
Eric McKeegan [tech editor]: I entered the media game pretty jaded already. At this point I am grumpy about almost everything.
Fuller: Let’s talk about what we saw in abundance and what you thought. For example, I was totally broke when I got into cycling, so I liked seeing so many “all-purpose” bikes around the $1000 price point. There’s not much you can’t do on a steel frame with wide road tires, upright geometry and an abundance of rack mounts.
Newman: The thing that impresses me most after doing this job for a few years is seeing how things evolve. Trends come and go; fashions come and go; “standards” certainly come and go. But that keeps things fresh every year. The cynic in me says it’s just so brands can sell more stuff, but the tastes of riders change quite a bit each year, too. The thing I noticed right away were the multitude of brands talking about visibility in terms of safety. Everything is reflective now, from helmets to panniers down to shoes. Bright colors were front and center. I even chatted about daytime running lights with some brands.
It also seemed like every bike at the show had an e-motor and 4-inch tires. Not sure if those are trends or just wishful thinking by companies that they will become trends…
McKeegan: People releasing fat bikes right now are on the wrong side of that trend. Fat bikes will go back to being special purpose bikes. I think “plus” bikes (2.8-3 inch tires) will become the bike of choice for beginner and intermediate riders looking for extra traction and the comfort provided by the visual of a big tire leading the way.
Fuller: I definitely saw the “wider-is-better” trend on adventure touring bikes. 700×40 seems to be the standard for fitting onto any bike that’s not a dedicated skinny-tire road machine. I even saw several cross-style bikes with 29×2.0 setups.
Newman: Absolutely. I think 23c tires are pretty rare at this point. Most bikes come with 28 or so, which makes much more sense for “regular” riders. You know what I didn’t see: much talk about road racing or race bikes. Other than a few European brands, no one made any mention of going fast or winning races.
McKeegan: It’s about damn time. This is the first year that it seems racing is finally losing its stranglehold on the bike industry.
Fuller: Interbike was definitely a stoke-fest for people who want to load up a bike and disappear for a few days. It felt more like an every-man thing without the race focus.
Newman: You can race yourself, though. I saw at least a few setups where you could ride simulated courses on a home trainer. Some even connected to the internet so you can race friends. There are a ton of gadgets and gizmos you can use now to record and share your ride, too. Seems to be a bit at odds with many folks I know who want a simpler ride experience, not more complicated.
McKeegan: I just keep walking when I see that stuff. I would rather look at gear to get you outside year round that stuff to keep the torture of riding inside at bay.
Fuller: All of that i-generation equipment, plus the e-bike orgy at the indoor show, definitely sat in contrast to the adventure-focused companies that had lots of wood and fake fires in the booths and waterproof, life-proof gear on display for thrashing around in nature on your bike. It felt like a big rift with the typical stuff (road race bikes and trail bikes) kind of getting ignored.
McKeegan: I think road racing (and cross-country racing in mountain biking) will become more and more niche as time goes on. Sort of like how Formula 1 racing for cars is interesting, but the tech involved has little to do with what most people drive, although it does trickle down.
Fuller: Do you think this move away from super-techy stuff will continue? Can you feel good about your steel bike with thru axles and disc brakes?
Newman: I think stuff like disc brakes and thru-axles are a good example of technology trickling down. Those things make bikes better for everyone, even if you don’t ever need to push the envelope.
Fuller: What would you buy if you wanted a one-stable bike but are worried about your stuff becoming obsolete soon?
Newman: I wouldn’t worry about it, actually. Technology changes but it rarely disappears. You can still find plenty of parts for bikes that were new 20 years ago. Find a bike you like and don’t fret over “compatibility.” If you need to replace something you will be able to.
Fuller: Any must-haves from Interbike? Anything you want right now that impressed you? Inexpensive MIPS helmets get my vote.
Newman: The leather Giro Republic shoes are drool-worthy. I love seeing all the clipless “crossover” shoes like the Republics. They are SPD compatible but look like regular shoes. Shimano has cool hiking boot ones, too. (Side note: Newman only wears hiking boots.)
McKeegan: Frame bags for everyone; tubeless, all-road tires; helmets that don’t look like parasitic alien insects on your head. I really want a road bike dropper post, too. I always end up off road on my drop bar bikes. But even for long, fast descents on paved roads, dropping my center of gravity isn’t a bad thing, ever. I predict a dropper in the pro peloton in two years or less.
Newman: The line is really blurring between “road” bikes and “mountain” bikes…
Fuller: Anything else left to comment on?
McKeegan: I noticed lots of bike bags of all types, which is another good thing.
Newman: You need to have a way to carry your #coffeeoutside.
McKeegan: In a Styrofoam Dunkin’ Donuts cup, right?