It’s the time of year when we at road.cc leave our secret underground lair and head for Eurobike, the world’s biggest bike show, in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
What you need to know about Eurobike is:
a) It’s massive.
b) Most of the bike world is there.
We spend a lot of time visiting different brands throughout the year, but Eurobike allows us to see thousands of bikes, components and accessories in the space of just a few days, giving us the chance to judge the various directions in which the bike market is moving.
Here’s some of what we expect to see this time around (plus a gallery of some of what we saw last time out), oh, and for some extra fun here's a link to our predictions from last year - pretty respectable we'd say.
Aero road bikes
There have been huge developments in the aero road bike market over the past few years, and that looks set to continue. The UCI’s 6.8kg minimum weight limit for racing means that manufacturers can’t battle it out for an advantage on the scales – they can all hit that figure easily enough – so they need to improve performance elsewhere, and that means reducing drag.
We know that Time are launching a new aero road bike called the Skylon at Eurobike to replace the ZXRS.
We’ve given you a sneak peek of the Skylon already and we have been told that the bike features new technology that has never been seen on a road bike before. That sounds exciting, but we can’t tell you exactly what that technology is. All will be revealed next week.
Canyon have updated their Aeroad by taking design cues from their sleek Speedmax time trial bike. It was unveiled just before the Tour de France and had a rather successful debut, bagging two stage victories at the hands (well, legs) of Alexander Kristoff.
All in all, it has been a busy time for aero road bikes lately and we expect to see more developments at Eurobike. It’s quite unusual for a major bike brand like Time to launch a new model at a big show because they’re competing with thousands of other bikes for publicity in the media, but there will doubtless be more new aero road bikes from smaller brands.
Disc brake road bikes
We’ve been saying that disc brake road bikes are going to be the next big thing for at least the last couple of years, probably longer, but we really mean it this time! Surely, we’ve reached a tipping point.
The whole disc brake thing has been held up by product recalls, most notably by SRAM, and also by the fact that the pros aren’t yet allowed to use disc brakes on the road – and, whatever you think about it, what the pros ride has a big influence on the market.
Over the past few months, though, we’ve heard about a disc version of the Scott Solace, Giant’s all-new Defy range where the carbon frame is disc-only, a new Focus Cayo with a disc option, a new Felt Z4 Disc, Trek Domane’s with discs... Nearly all of the big players are offering disc options for the road now.
Perhaps most significant is that Specialized have unveiled their new Tarmac with discs as an option for the first time. The Tarmac is a full-on road race bike in a low and stretched geometry rather than an endurance bike like the already available Roubaix Disc. Most of the other disc brake road bikes that are available have been endurance-type bikes – still race bikes, in many cases, but in a more relaxed geometry.
Could the fact that Specialized are now providing a version of the Tarmac with discs be a sign of things to come? Maybe the other big brands will start to offer all their race bikes with discs as an option regardless of if/when the UCI allow them in the pro peloton.
Traditional quick releases or thru axles?
We can safely say that disc brake road bikes are here to stay but in what form exactly? Some brands are still using traditional quick-release skewers on open-ended dropouts but some have shifted to mountain bike-style thru axles (or ‘through axles’, if you prefer) to handle the forces associated with disc brakes.
Essentially, this means that the dropouts are closed and the axle is pushed in from one side of the fork, though the hub, and it threads into the dropout on the other side. Proponents argue that thru-axles are stiffer than quick releases and more secure.
A thru-axle system usually makes wheel changes a little slower although Focus’s very smart RAT design is super-fast.
Trek and Focus have both gone with thru-axles. Specialized and Giant, on the other hand, are sticking with standard quick releases on the new Tarmac and Defy respectively.
Of course, there’s nothing to say that one format will flourish while all others will die, but does cycling really need any more ‘standards’? Time will tell.
Cyclo-cross bikes with disc brakes
It’s not just road bikes and gravel bikes (see below) that are getting the disc brake treatment, more traditional cyclo-cross models are being upgraded across the board with disc brakes.
Disc brakes at UCI World Cup races have been legal for a couple of years now but we’ve not seen the adoption by the pros on the scale that some might have imagined. That’s not stopping manufacturers from putting disc brakes on more of their cyclo-cross bikes, though. Recently, both Felt and Specialized revealed that their 2015 ranges will predominantly feature disc-equipped ’cross bikes.
We can expect to see even more evidence of disc brakes taking over from cantilever brakes on cyclo-cross bikes in 2015.
The gravel bike sector has been gradually getting bigger over the past couple of years and that looks set to continue.
We reviewed the Nine RLT 9 here on road.cc earlier in the summer and Specialized recently launched the Diverge series with clearance for up to 35mm tyres. Spesh don’t actually call the Diverge a ‘gravel bike’, they describe it as an endurance bike designed for ‘the road less travelled’, probably to broaden the appeal.
‘Gravel bikes’ is a loose term but it tends to cover bikes that are suited to non-tarmacked roads courtesy of a fairly relaxed geometry, clearance for big tyres, and disc brakes. Sometimes they’re more like cyclocross bikes (indistinguishable in some cases), and sometimes they’re more like adventure bikes. We were expecting to see plenty at last year’s Eurobike but they were fairly thin on the ground. Maybe things will be different this time.
Integration has been big in cycling lately and we can only see it getting bigger at Eurobike. Essentially, we’re talking about taking a couple of things and turning them into one thing!
What’s the point? First, integration can help with aerodynamics. Second, it can make everything a bit ‘cleaner’. We’ll give you some examples of what we’re talking about.
There are plenty of bikes out there with front brakes integrated into the fork. The Noah Fast, for example, features an F-Brake that is neatly incorporated into the carbon fibre structure of the fork, relying on the flex in the carbon to deliver the necessary range of movement, and the Boardman AiR/TTE has a brake positioned within the fork crown/legs.
Look recently did something similar with the brake on the brand new 795 Aerolight road bike. The brake arms sit flush with the fork legs.
Look have taken things further by having the stem flow almost seamlessly into the top tube, a rubber shield filling all the gaps. You might not be in love with the appearance but the idea is to smooth the airflow in order to reduce drag.
Look also hide the Shimano Di2 A-junction box within the frame. It sits in a little hollow at the front of the top tube. We’re surprised that more manufacturers haven’t yet done something similar.
Most Di2 batteries have already disappeared inside bike frames, most manufacturers using the seatpost mounted option now. We’d be surprised to see new bikes arriving with external batteries.
Integrated handlebar/stem combos like the FSA Plasma have been around for years and they’ve had plenty of fans, but they’ve never taken over from separate units because they’ve not offered benefits in terms of weight or stiffness. Though, that said, we did spot more of them at the Tour de France this year than last year.
Bontrager have recently launched into the market with a new XXX Integrated Bar/Stem at £399.99. It’s 100% carbon fibre and weighs as little as 218g (90mm stem, 400mm width). Bontrager’s XXX VR-C handlebar is £229.99 and weighs 183g in a 400mm width, while an XXX 31.8 stem is 113g and £149.99, so buying the integrated design is lighter and less than £20 more expensive. We’ll be interested to see whether this kickstarts more activity in this market.
Canyon have a new Aerocockpit CF integrated handlebar/stem too, with a small recess on the underside of the stem where the Shimano Di2 or Campagnolo EPS junction box can be fitted, keeping it out of the airflow.
Another example of neat integration is the Lazer LifeBeam helmet which we first saw at last year’s Eurobike. It features a heart rate sensor that works on your forehead so you don’t need to wear a chest strap. We wonder whether anyone else will do something similar, perhaps with clothing or a watch.
There are already wrist bands that can read and transmit your heart rate and SMS Audio recently launched earphones that use an optical sensor to record your heart beat and transmit it to a smartphone.
Kask unveiled their new Protone helmet at last month’s Tour de France where it was worn my members of Team Sky, and it’ll get its official launch at Eurobike.
“The Protone was developed in close collaboration with Team Sky’s riders and sports scientists, undertaking computational fluid dynamic modelling as well as rider position and behaviour analysis,” according to Kask.
“It has one of the lowest drag coefficients (cx) of any ventilated helmet, and among the fastest rates of heat dissipation too.”
Kask will also unveil “a brand new and radically different helmet design” at Eurobike. They say that it’s their first move into a new market.
Oooh, ’citing! Kask already make road helmets, mountain bike helmets and time trial helmets, so what could it be? Perhaps a full-face mountain bike helmet (they don’t currently make one), a triathlon-specific helmet, an urban lid, or perhaps something entirely different. We’ll have to wait and see.
Giro are promising something exciting too: “The international debut of a major step forward in the evolution of helmet design.” We’ve already seen the new Synthe road helmet so we’re guessing it’s something more urban/commuter orientated, in line with Giro’s New Road clothing.
Most pros now use 25mm tyres for racing for more comfort and grip, and ever more brands are speccing them as standard. We’d expect 25s to outnumber 23s on road bikes at Eurobike. Lots of brands are giving scope for wider tyres than that on all-rounder bikes.
Another tyre technology that has so far failed to gain widespread acceptance is tubeless, despite the potential never to suffer a puncture. While it’s a mature technology in the mountain bike market, it’s less so in the road world and there isn’t yet much choice.
Most wheel manufacturers are now offering rims that are tubeless ready, so there is more wheel choice, but there aren’t all that many tyres yet. Schwalbe are one of the most notable brands offering a race-ready high-end tyre in the One Tubeless. Will we see any other tyre manufacturers like Michelin, Mavic and Continental offering tubeless options at this year’s Eurobike?
Expect to see Disc brakes. Everyone knows that they’ll be used in the pro peloton at some stage so more and more manufacturers are going to try to get in on the ground floor.
Want to see Cheaper powermeters with strong technology. Clever integration can make bikes and equipment a whole lot cleaner. I’m all for it as long as it’s not at the expense of function.
Expect to see Disc brakes are going to be the big trend this year, particularly on road bikes but also on cyclo-cross bikes and the new breed of gravel and Audax do-everything bikes. We’re starting to see some really interesting bikes that boast so much versatility that you really could own a single bike capable of racing, touring, commuting and cyclo-cross (both racing and general riding). That’s an appealing prospect. With aerodynamics also being a huge trend, I’ll be interested to see what new products the clothing companies have to offer.
Want to see I want to see more tubeless tyre technology. I’d like to see a definite move towards one wheel axle system for disc road bikes, but I doubt that will be the case. Will Campagnolo sway into the disc market with something? I’d also like to see some serious developments in eBikes: lighter batteries that last longer and build into stylish bikes that would make people actually want to ride them, not the ugly ducklings they are currently.
Expect to see: top end race bikes with disc brakes, they're already on everything else, also given the delays in getting the actual hydraulic brakes themselves from Shimano and Campagnolo I wouldn't be surprised to see other component manufacturers making a bid to capture a slice of the pie.
Want to see: For purely selfish reasons I'd like to see a few inch and an eighth, all carbon, disc brake cyclocross forks. Mainly because they would be a very handy upgrade to all those steel and alu all-rounder road bikes currently running non-tapered, cyclocross length forks. I'd also like to see more coloured components - handlebars, stems and the like, and some good urban/commuter bikes that don't weigh half a ton.
Expect to see: lots of fluoro red. Eurobike always has a dominant colour, that’s my pick for 2014. There’ll be lots of discs or course, right across the board. Shimano’s mech/hydraulic levers and SRAM’s Rival22 disc will be everywhere. The continued rise of the high-end alloy road bike: with mature technologies available to build a race-ready frame at around the 1kg mark, Aluminium is an appealling option for racing.
Want to see: More integration with electronic shifting. Just lobbing a battery on seems pretty basic, how about a micro-generator charging a small power source that’ll do a small nuber of shifts? How about cadence-sensing and an auto-shift option? that’d be especially good on a 1x11 drivetrain. Every year I say I’d like to see bottom bracket gearboxes on urban bikes, and every year I’m disappointed, but I’m an optimistic kind of a guy. They just make so much sense.
Click here to read all of our stories from Eurobike 2014 - the world's biggest bike show
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.