Monday, September 30, 2013

Interbike '13: A Review

Surprised that there wasn't more of this...

Okay, now that my little rant about gravel bikes  is in the rear view mirror, I wanted to write about what was cool at Interbike this year. If you'd rather listen than read, you can check out Mountain Bike Radio's "Guitar Ted Show" for my take. Otherwise, read on.....

The three big things: Fat bikes, Gravel bikes/stuff, and 27.5"ers/enduro- were not surprises going in and that was exactly what was a big deal this year. Now.....whether or not you agreed with all of that, that was what was up for debate and what the chatter was all about at the show. In fact, the show was a lot less about a bicycle, component, or trend, and a lot more about debating issues concerning trends. Evolutionary changes were evident, for sure, but was there anything "big" that everyone was buzzing about?

No. Not really.

In a year when Greg LeMond announces he's going to sell bicycles under his name again, and in a year when we're all supposed to go gaga over another wheel size, the news on the show floor that captured everyone's attention was how bad it was to navigate the show floor.

Yep. Navigation of a new convention center was bigger news at a bicycle convention than bicycles were. That's an indication of how uninspired Interbike has become.

I wasn't surprised there was a lot of this....
That said, here are a few quick observations on the show:
  • I was surprised there wasn't more 29+ action. Last year the Krampus was an unqualified hit. I figured somebody would follow that up with a new addition to the 29+ platform. Besides Velocity USA's Dually rims, there really wasn't anything going on with 29+ outside of Surly's new ECR. (But of course- we all knew about that since July....)
  • I wasn't surprised that more gravel oriented stuff was on display, like the Surly Straggler, the Raleigh Tamland, and Giant's Revolt, because......well, we all knew and had seen  that stuff ahead of Interbike.
  • There was a ton of fat bike carbon fiber stuff everywhere, and even more tires and aluminum framed complete models all over the show. But once again......all of it had been revealed ahead of Interbike. 
Notice a pattern there? Yep......there really wasn't anything new at Interbike we all have not already seen before. That is the reason why the show floor layout was a big deal. That is why folks took to debating whether or not we've heard too much about enduro, whether fat bikes are stupid, and why on earth we need a gravel specific bike. It was all about the minutiae of  ideas. Nothing about how cool this certain bike was. Well, that isn't 100% true. .......there was one thing that stood out.

Steve Hed explaining his adventure rig
 There was this bicycle in the HED Wheels booth and it turned out to be probably the coolest bicycle at Interbike. First of all, it was a big surprise to see such a rig in HED's booth. Second of all, it was a custom design by Eric Noren of Peacock Groove. Essentially, this was a NAHBS bike discovered at Interbike. Yep....a custom bike show happened at a lackluster bicycle convention. 

Not that there weren't some darn impressive things at Interbike. Who can deny that the carbon fiber fat bike stuff is not awe inspiring and jaw droppingly expensive? Who can resist looking at all the cycling paraphernalia on display if you are a bike nerd like me?  I do have to also make a shout out to the super cool single speed cross bike in Twin Six's booth that belongs to Jesse La Londe.   That was a stealthy, cool bike.

I know a lot of you out there would just have loved to have been prowling the floors of Interbike, but I am also betting you would have walked away talking more about cycling stars and Industry wonks you met than you would have talked about cycling products or bicycles. I'm pretty sure that would be the case. Why?

Because you would have seen all the stuff on the Internet before the show. That' s why. But I could be wrong about that. So, other than the HED bike, you could have seen and read all about almost everything seen at Interbike before the show. Maybe there were a few other things like that HED bike to be found, but I probably missed them trying to find my way around the show floor.


Angoraknitter said...

GT, any thoughts on the two new Velo Orange frames, which look right up your alley? Or was the convention layout so bad you didn't see their booth?

Guitar Ted said...

@Angoraknitter: Well, yes I missed the Velo Orange booth, but as with all the other stuff, I did see the frames before I-Bike on the Velo Orange site. I think the head angles reflect the Velo Orange ideal for front loading on a touring bike ala the French camping rigs and porteur bikes.

In my opinion, having seen very little, (maybe none if memory serves correct), front loaded rigs of any sort on any gravel grinder, I feel the Velo Orange bikes are not optimal for the type of riding I observe and take part in.

Ari said...

In an ever hungry information society it does not surprise me that everything in interbike was already old news. I have a feeling that tradeshows will dissapear into the past someday and we will just sit home and see all new product from the comfort of our computer screens. Our convention center McCormick Place in Chicago has seen a huge drop in attendance and companies willing to drop thousands of dollars for a spot on the floor.

Michael_S said...

GT, while I respect your opinions on the bikes you do ride, I'm not sure you have spent much time on a a low trail or FCR as you label them. When I 1st tried such a bike off road It took some time to get used to the quicker steering and responsiveness. Now that all my bikes are configured that way going back to the "mid trail" bikes you prefer I find them sluggish and overly stable. I prefer the low trail bikes so much I'll never go back!

BTW the VO bikes are not really low trail. They are more like the 80's Treks like your Mutts, Sport tourers with lower BB's.

Guitar Ted said...

@Michael_S: When I am going 40 mph down a gravel hill and hit loose gravel, the last thing I want is a bike with quick handling.

But if you like those mid-trail/low-trail bikes, have at 'em.

When I am dead tired and plowing through a patch of fresh gravel, the last thing I want is a quick handling bike, but again, if you dig that, go right ahead.

If you never load up the front of your bike, there is no need to have quicker handling or lower trail, but if you do, there are plenty of bikes for that.

I could continue, but I think I've made my point clear.

Michael_S said...

well, actually the low trail geometry changes the steering, not the handling. My experience, and many others is that the bike is easier to handle at high speeds on gravel. Easier to steer around objects or correct your direction. But,as you say, ride whatever makes you happy.

Guitar Ted said...

@Michael_S: You have precisely described exactly why you wouldn't want a bike with low trail geometry for gravel. Thank you.

Changing direction quickly is definitely not a good idea, (at least where I ride in the Mid-West), because if you do that, you will most generally crash. Our gravel is loose, and a bike with less stable geometry, (and therefore less stable handling- the two go hand in hand.),is more difficult to keep on line, because the front end is harder to keep from steering you in unwanted directions due to the rough rocks we ride on.

To wit: I have, in fact, ridden several mid to low trail bikes on gravel, and they are inherently less stable bikes. (Low trail = less stability)The lowest trail I have used was on a bike with a 74° head angle and a 51mm offset fork. While it was definitely something "you could get used to", it was a handful and not fun for very long.

Steering is part of the handling of any vehicle. How you can separate the two is unimaginable to me.

This commentary you make is not making sense to me at all. If what you say is true, then Paris Roubaix bikes would be "low trail" bikes, as an example, but they are not. Mechanics often switch forks to those yielding more trail for better handling. The looser, the rougher the terrain- the more stability that is (generally) desired, and this goes for many disciplines of riding. See cyclo cross bikes as another example.

You have experienced a bike you like. which is great, however, you may want to consider the following: I am going off my experiences on several different bicycles, from what I have observed by being involved in gravel racing for 10 years, and from the input from riders and folks in the industry. I have yet to receive any comments asking for low to mid trail bikes for gravel riding. Yours would be the first.

I'm not saying you are wrong. I am saying yours is definitely a minority opinion in my view.