To business. The ball is out and it’s time for some 2014 cycling predictions - a bit later than usual cos we didn’t see that Christmas lurgy coming… although we should have foreseen the New Year hangover. As is their wont the road.cc team have pooled their mystical powers to rend back the veil from the near future, read the runes, etc and so on.
Our predictions are… er, many in number, and cover many aspects of cycling; some are serious, some are not so serious, some are rather random… but that’s what happens when your chosen method of divination involves pouring a half a bottle of cheap scotch over your crystal ball and setting fire to it then drinking the other half while looking at the shapes in the flames. It seems to work for Vecchiojo but I predict the annual expenses claim for new curtains can only be days away.
Anyway. The mystical clouds part…
Prediction: More “Are you doing the Tour de France?” comments
The Tour de France is starting in Yorkshire this year, you may have missed that bit of news. It’s quite exciting. Unfortunately this means that anybody who knows you ride a bike will ask you if you’re doing the “ride”, so you better get used to it. That and “Come on Bradley” as you ride along.
…and Vecchiojo is gone, leaving behind the faint smell of burnt Christmas pudding, to be replaced by Mystic Simon MacMichael who has been alternating between casting the runes and gazing at his navel ahead of the biggest year yet in terms of top-level cycling in the UK, the like of which we have never seen, and it will attract the crowds to match.
Cycle sport in 2014
Prediction: Vincenzo Nibali will give it his best shot, but we’d expect Chris Froome should retain his Tour de France crown, the Giro will see a Colombian battle, and Boonen and Cancellara – if they remain injury free – will treat us to fireworks over the cobbles at Flanders and Roubaix.
Prediction: In his final season, David Millar will pull out the stops for one final push at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where he defends his Time Trial title, but Alex Dowsett may well have the edge… and if our hunch about the identity of the men’s World Road Championship is correct, the winner had best steer clear of Twitter for a day or two afterwards.
That’s just a pithy appetiser for Simon’s more in-depth look at what the 2014 racing season has to offer which will be along just as soon as he gets back from walking the dog (not a euphemism - he really is walking his dog).
Last year the tech boys eschewed their company issue crystal balls in favour of what they reckoned was the very cutting edge of mystical technology - two aero helmets covered in silver foil connected by string. It helps increase the laminar flow of the mystical particles by up to 17%. This year they’ve added an 11-spd cassette to the ensemble - always on the move, the cutting edge. Take it away boys…
Bikes, gear and cycling technology
Prediction: The UCI will set up a review of the tech regulations governing sanctioned racing. The 6.8kg minimum bike weight limit is long overdue a change; every manufacturer can easily produce standards-compliant bikes below that weight now, so it’s an anachronistic obstacle to bike development. The UCI will take steps towards reducing that figure (but they’ll actually make the change effective from about 2099 for reasons that will never be explained). They’ll simplify the tech rules generally making them easier to implement and less open to interpretation.
In the meantime, manufacturers will integrate everything because that’s one of the few ways they can move bike design on without reducing weight – and because integration looks cool. There will be more brakes incorporated into forks and stays, more fork crowns integrated into the shape of the head tube, seat clamps hidden within the frame, cables and batteries hidden internally more than ever. It’ll be a year of hiding stuff.
Prediction: We’ll see the first carbon road bike with a Di2/EPS wiring loom integrated into the frame. That is, actually within the carbon layup. Really, it shouldn’t be that hard, just a few ribbon wires that can take a bit of heat and pressure and bob’s your uncle. It’s the next obvious step and a much better solution than wireless.
Prediction: SRAM will launch an electronic groupset – because they just have to or they’ll miss the boat entirely. Campagnolo need to introduce hydraulic disc brakes for the same reason, although they say that’s going to be in 2016 rather than 2014. SRAM going electronic is an easy prediction to make cos we’ve already seen pics of an electronic groupset being tested by a rider plastered in SRAM logo’d kit suggesting that it’s well on the way. However, given their recent hydraulic disc brake debacle they are going to want to make sure they get this one right… so maybe 2015 then.
Prediction: Hydraulic shifting. It makes sense: if you’re putting a hydraulic master cylinder in the lever to take care of the braking, why not use hydraulics to do the shifting too? Combine it with an electronic management system and in theory you have a super-effcient shifting system - theoretically it should be pretty good even without any extra electronic gubbins.
Hydraulic shifting technology already exists. A system for mountain bikes was developed in the Nineties by a company called Safe Products. Well, not so much a system as hydraulic lines that simply replaced your existing gear wires. In 2011 German outfit Acros produced another mountain bike system, the A-GE MT, and at last year’s Eurobike they were showing off a prototype road system the A-GE RDA - paired up with Formula RR1 disc brakes.
It’s a concept that a number of bike designers we’ve talked to over the years have been keen on - Marcus Storck is a fan and so too it would seem are the designers at Cervelo. As we reported in September there latest range of bikes comes with what they’re calling ‘future-proof’ cable routing: not only can their bikes run cables for all the electronic and mechanical systems available they can also take hydraulic cabling too. Whether that’s the Acros system or a-n-other the mystic forces do not say.
Prediction: Tubeless goes big (finally). Less punctures, lower pressures, improved ride feel, road tubeless has been a technology threatening to bubble over into the mainstream for many years, since Hutchinson first launched the open standard Road Tubeless in 2006 in fact. As with most new technologies in the road cycling market though, the delay has been caused simply by a lack of choice, wheels and tyres. Now though there is plenty of wheel choice, but there are still far few tyre manufacturers hopping aboard the bandwagon. Schwalbe recently launched the Ultremo tubeless, an excellent tyre in both tubeless and tubed, and quickly followed it up with the One, a tyre they reckon in tubeless form is the fastest they’ve ever produced. It remains to be seen if the other big tyre manufacturers like Continental and Michelin follow suit. We hope they do.
Hmm… sounds like more of a wish than a prediction: you sure those psychic helmets are working?
Are we going to say anything about disc brakes? It is traditional… Oh, all right then
Prediction: We’ll spend another entire year umming and aahing about discs on road bikes. 2014 was pencilled in as the year that everyone stopped debating the very obvious merits of discs for normal people and just got on with making bikes with them on, but the SRAM Red recall has put paid to that. Instead we’ll have a year of people suggesting that the abililty or otherwise of a third party manufacturer to make seals in the correct material is somehow the terminal death-knell for discs, instead of seeing it for what it is, a rather embarrassing and costly mistake.
Embarrassing product recalls aside the disc brake revolution has happened. They may not have found their way on to your bike yet, but chances are they will. Campagnolo are working on a road disc and at this year’s Eurobike every manufacturer either had a road disc frame or was eager to tell us about the one they had in the works. The last piece in the jigsaw is wheel choice, Here there is clear evidence wheel manufacturers are adding disc-specific wheelsets to 2014 ranges, either as simple updates to existing models or complete new designs. We haven’t yet seen any indication of really exciting wheel development, utilising the simple elimination of the braking track to elicit weight savings and aero gains.
Speaking as we just were of embarrassing product recalls…
Prediction: Product recalls. With companies continually trying to out-do each other with being the first with whatever is the newest and lightest and shiniest and bestest there seem to have been more product recalls than usual of late. As the market gets more and more competitive and the scrabble to be first intensifies expect more, or stock up on 9-speed.
Shades on for this next one, we don’t want any retinas getting singed...
Fashion prediction: Aaargh my eyes! Call it Hi-Viz, call it Fluro Yellow, call it Chartreuse, but neon yellow has made alarming inroads into clothing this year. After years of subtle clothing bright colours are creeping back, by the end of the year we’ll be in acid yellow tops, neon pink shorts and Kermit green headbands, just like 1985. Probably. Still, anything’s better than another black/red/white combo eh?
State of the cycling nation 2014
Prediction: Payday loan outfit Wonga to take over from Barclays as sponsor of the London cycle hire scheme and cycle superhighways. The good news is that there is no need to repaint the bikes or the roads – a proposed deal with Yell.com falls through at the last minute when TFL belatedly realise Yell’s corporate colours would necessitate painting enormous yellow lines down some of London’s busiest roads. No such problem with Wonga and Barclays as they use the same corporate colour - trust me I’m a banker blue.
Unluckily Wonga insist that after the first half hour hire bike charges are linked to their interest rate. An unexpected consequence is that the price of a kidney for transplant plummets.
Prediction: New rules # come in to force. Our balls say that in the future there will be no rule #5, rule #8 or any other rule # but rule #1 - Just ride your bike and don’t worry about the bleedin’ rules #
Prediction: More good, more bad. More cyclists across the country, more women cyclists, more cycling casualties as investment in the right sort of cycling infrastructure lags woefully behind the numbers of cyclists who need it. Don’t get us wrong: riding a bike still is, and will continue to be, an inherently safe thing to do but for the medium term at least we predict you are going to be slightly more at risk of injury – though not death – while doing so.
Looking in to the future we can see two possible ways this could go…
The dark scenario is that an increase in cycling casualties leads to an increase in fear of cycling which puts new cyclists off and sends people back to the ‘safety’ of their cars and that there is a downturn in cycling numbers just as new and improved infrastructure becomes available - giving politicians the excuse not to invest in any more ‘cycling white elephants’.
The more hopeful scenario is that the popularity of cycling gets another significant push from the visit of the Tour de France this summer, and that an even greater sense of urgency is instilled in politicians both local and national to get cycling infrastructure in place in our great cities: civic leaders in London, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Birmingham and other towns and cities up and down the country have made the right noises - large sums of money (by cycling standards) have been promised. If those promises can be delivered up on before the lack of infrastructure starts to become a problem then investment in cycling will prove its worth and politicians will be emboldened to spend more.
There is a hopeful coda to even our darker scenario - as London has proven, even when you start a ‘cycling revolution’ and don’t provide enough infrastructure to keep cyclists safe, they will still come, and keep on coming. Once you’ve tried riding round a city you soon realise it's the best and easiest way to get where you want to be.
The tech mystical interfaces still seems to be firing them out, maybe that extra cos really does add something…
Prediction: Bottom bracket gearboxes. Driven in part by the e-bike market we’ll begin to see a step change in urban bike design with manufacturers starting to move the gearing from the hub, where it shouldn’t be, to the bottom bracket, where it should. There may be tentative negotiations towards some kind of standard, although the first systems will certainly be proprietary and the tech won’t really gain any traction for another few years.
Prediction: Keep your eyes on the sky. no, not the team – well, them too – but the London SkyCycle thingy. Last year we predicted it might have legs… and it’s collecting powerful backers. Apparently there just isn’t enough road space in London for proper segregated bike lanes, what with all those cars with one person in ‘em taking up all the road space. Perfect solution for Boris, it’s big, it’s bold. Let’s not forget this is a man who built a cable car across the Thames just for TR to use now and again.
Tis done! The ball has gone cloudy and this mystic shawl isn’t so breathable. One last prediction… we’ll get out balls and shawls out again next year. Probably.
road.cc’s 2014 predictions were brought to you by the combined psychical powers of: Mystic Simon MacMichael, Mystic Mat Brett, Mystic Dave Arthur, Mystic John Stevenson, Gypsy Rose Vecchiojo & Mystic Tony Farrelly.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.