Two-wheeled travel has always been a lightning rod for innovation. Steel tubing, ball bearings and pneumatic tires can all trace their origins to bicycle applications. By the late 19th century a full one-third of all U.S. patent applications were for bicycle-related designs, according to the Franklin Institute. Some interesting ones we found include a sail-powered bike (Patent No. 6932368), a double bicycle for “looping the loop” in circus performances (No. 790063) and a wild one-wheel bicycle with the rider sitting inside the wheel (No. 325548).
Get a copy: You can order Bicycle Times Issue #40 here.
Of course the bicycle builds on inventions that came before it. The wheel is seen as perhaps the greatest invention of all time, and its creation is a far more complex tale than the bicycle’s. In this issue we excerpt a portion of Richard W. Bulliet’s book, “The Wheel,” that documents how there are actually three distinct types of wheels, each with its own origin story.
Since the “ordinary” design with two wheels of the same diameter was introduced in the 1870s, the bicycle has largely rolled along an evolutionary path. But now with the introduction of so many new technologies so quickly, will the bicycle be radically transformed from the simple, mechanical form we know it as today? And how will our experience interacting with it change? See some of the interesting examples that could represent the future—or failure—in this issue.
And what about the bikes themselves? How are they changing? We got our hands of one of the most distinct bicycles in years, the new Cannondale Slate, for our lead product review. Its unorthodox and distinctive suspension fork is derived from mountain bikes, and it might take you places on a road bike you could never go before.
The best thing about technology is that it is always expanding. Old technologies are rarely lost. Bicycles are still being ridden that are generations old, but still bring a smile to our faces and wind across our cheeks. Whether your interest in technology celebrates the new or the old, the bicycle has something for everyone.
In this issue
Inventing the wheel
The history of wheeled travel is diverse, opinionated and often circumspect. In this excerpt from “The Wheel,” by Richard W. Bulliet, we learn how something as ubiquitous as the wheel isn’t as simple as you might think.
Wear with care
Proper cycling apparel is an investment, and if you want it to stay functional and comfortable for the long haul, you need to take care of it. We discuss textiles and apparel care with the experts.
Bikes in paradise
On the tiny Marshall Islands there are no private vehicles, so bicycles are the only way to roll. And just as Darwin would have predicted, there they have evolved some distinguishing characteristics all their own. By Jordan Vinson.
Bike to the future
The cycling industry has always drawn entrepreneurs and innovators. Take a look at some of the ideas that could change the way you ride. By Adam Newman.
How LED Lights Work
Learn how these tiny diodes can emit such powerful light. By Karl Rosengarth.
Catching up with Charlie Kelly
- Cannondale Slate
- Felt V55
- Scott Sub EVO 20
- Faraday Porteur
- GT Traffic 1.0
- Bike lights
- Commuting gear
- Shoes and pedals
Wheels from Rolf Prima are always easy to spot, but the latest limited-edition hoops from the Eugene, Oregon, based brand are sure to get noticed. The new, polished Vigor Alpha wheels are the brand’s most popular model and uses the unique paired-spoke design that sets them apart.
The rims are made and hand-polished in Eugene, and then hand-laced with Sapim spokes to American-made hubs with ceramic bearings and a titanium freehub body. Developed nearly two decades ago, Rolf Prima says the paired spoke design is more aerodynamic than traditional spoke patterns. Briefly owned by Trek, the brand is now fully independent and expanding its U.S. production capabilities.
The Vigor Alpha wheels retail for $1,399 a pair and are available now.
We rode the cyclocross-oriented VCX Disc wheels from Rolf Prima earlier this year. Read about them here.Tweet Print
Thanks to their unique paired-spoke design, the wheels from Oregon-based Rolf Prima are hard to miss. Developed nearly two decades ago, the paired spoke design is more aerodynamic according to Rolf Prima and requires fewer spokes, which reduces weight. Briefly owned by Trek, the brand is now fully independent and building nearly every component of the wheels in the USA, including sourcing hubs from California-based White Industries and rolling many of its own rims in its Eugene, Oregon, facility.
The VCX Disc wheels ($1,099) are the more robust version of the classic Vigor model, especially built for cyclocross, adventure racing and touring. With a claimed weight of less than 1,700 grams, they won’t be keeping you off the podium. They are available in both clincher and tubular versions, with a proprietary hub built by White Industries with a titanium freehub body. There are 20 Sapim CX Speed spokes per wheel, set in pairs of course, and are built by hand in Eugene.
Since more and more cyclocross and disc road bikes are sporting thru-axles, the VCX Disc is built to accommodate with hubs that can be set up in any axle format. Just let Rolf Prima know which style you need when ordering. The freehub can also fit 11-speed cassettes, such as the one on the Niner BSB 9 RDO test bike I’ve been using them with. The hubs also use a proprietary design that has a much larger flange on the non-drive side, transferring some of the drive load onto that side for equal distribution.
I recently visited the Rolf Prima facility and was immediately impressed with the quality of the products and the passion the employees have for them. The paired spoke design is not just a gimmick, and Rolf Prima has done plenty of testing – both by machine and in the real world – to back it up.
I’ve put a couple hundred miles on the VCX Disc wheels myself, and while they might sacrifice a small amount of lateral stiffness to 32-spoke wheels, they have been trouble-free and strong performers. I’ve been racing on them (albeit not to any podium finishes) and have been ripping them down some singletrack trails with zero issues.
Watch for my long-term review in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times and order a subscription today to make sure you don’t miss it.