Eurobike 2010: Merckx, Milani, BMC, Cipollini & not forgetting Cervelo
It's art v science and craft v computers in our fourth Eurobike road gallery
Our latest Eurobike gallery features some of our favourite bikes from the show. Two marques with very different approaches to bicycle making feature prominently: Milani, famed for their high craft approach to building frames in a variety of materials, and BMC whose latest Impec model more or less cuts humans out of the manufacturing process in favour of the high precision approach of robots and computers.
Certainly not there to make up the numbers are two other cycling companies headed by former legends of the sport, Mercx and new kid on the bicycle building block, Cipollini… Mario's new bike company boasting two high end models that really blew our socks off.
Not in any way going out on a limb BMC hail their new Impec – the world's first machine made carbon bike – as having a frame "that is nothing short of perfection". It's so good in fact that it "achieves an entirely new level of perfection". So they think it's quite good then. Indeed, Impec stands for impeccable bike and BMC boffins (suitably white-coated we hope) have been working away on the project for a years - BMC even built a new factory to make the bike. Blimey.
BMC do have a reputation for engineering excellence and innovation: both the Time Machine TT bike and the Team Machine road bike were (and still are) ground breaking bikes. With the Impec they've taken things to a new level. This is a bike that is completely built in Switzerland; they even weave the carbon tubes using a robot which, says BMC, means they can manufacture tubes for each part of the bike that are woven to deal with precisely the loads they will have to deal with and they can do that for every frame tube for every frame size. BMC already tailor their carbon tubes and bottom brackets to each model size – they call it the Integrated Skeleton Concept – as do many others these days, Orbea call their approach the Size Specific Nerve. The process used to build the Impec takes things to a much higher level of precision, though, and BMC claim that because it is automated it removes the scope for human error.
It also opens up the scope for really fine-tuning the ride characteristics of the bike, no doubt using input from BMC's "Excitement Research Team" which sounds like the best job in the world and made choke on my küchen when I saw it written on the Impec's seatstay (BMC considerably up the ante on the marketing techno-babble front with this baby too: wait till we get on to SNC). Actually this is a high falutin' way of describing their sponsored riders… and if you've got the likes of Cadel Evans and George Hincapie riding your bike it would be crazy not to take their feedback in to account.
So tell us about those carbon lugs, I hear you ask. Those aren't lugs: they are shell nodes, I think you'll find. And the difference is…? Erm, you'll have to bear with me on that cos up close they looked like lugs to me and did seem to perform a lug-type function. BMC says they are manufactured from light weight composite with a high carbon fibre content and they are structural connecting all the tubes. Interestingly too they are two piece affairs. They double up as a key design element of the bike and, says the BMC info, "[mean] that the Impec is visually distinct from any other racing bike" …the Verenti Rhigos is still a rare sight in Switzerland then.
Joking aside the Impec is a technically very impressive bit of kit. BMC reckon their in-house manufacturing process puts them 3 years ahead of the competition and if its performance in any way matches up to the process that created it the Impec is going to be a very formidable piece of kit indeed. Could the future of carbon be "nodes"?
Bonus BMC pic and another contender in the for the Eurobike "Tron" award this very cool looking Team Machine, also check out the pics of the really rather handsome 2011 Race Machine in our gallery - a bike built using the same design principles as those applied to the new Team Machine so it's all about comfort and performance.
Not so very far away from the BMC high tech Swiss HQ, but a world a way in approach, is Milani - they're after perfection too but their route very much involves the human touch.
We did some video on Milani's 2010 range last year, and truth to tell it hasn't changed much for 2011… so? It's still worth another look. Standout bikes for us this year were the Accacio Puro - Mr Milani's Columbus XCR stainless steel road-going confection and one of his biggest sellers. We also liked the look of two other very different machines (okay we liked the look of everything but…).
The Fango Puro is another steel beaut, a fast tourer/audax bike made from Columbus Brain triple butted chromoly. Its lines are classical, although the frame is TiG welded rather than lugged. This is a practical do anything bike with canti brakes and plenty of clearance for mudguards and 28mm tyres. It also opens up the option of some weekend cross action too, take the guards off and you'd have plenty of tyre clearance for knobblies. Maybe you'd want to swap out that elegant steel fork, or is that just me being squeamish after years of looking at fat-bladed carbon ones. To see more pics of the Fango Puro check out our Touring bike gallery.
Different again was the Isotta, "designed by a woman for a woman' says the Milani catalogue. What we liked about this is the attention to detail that's gone into a little aluminium town bike, leather grips, Deda Newton stem, comfy looking retro San Marco saddle - we doubt there are many Shimano Sora equipped flat bar bikes with internal cable routing. You can see more pics in our Urban bikes gallery.
When it comes to the bikes that bear his name sprint legend Mario Cipollini is not messing about. No doubt he could have licensed his name to any old bike manufacturer and done very nicely thank you. Instead he's dived in and had a go himself teaming up with designer Federico Zecchetto to produce two bikes, the RB1000 and the RB800. "think Ferrari F1 car and top of the range Merc" was how the nice man on the MCippollini stand put it.
I'll put my hand up now: these were probably my favourite Italian bikes of the show, not just because they were a bit different (all the Italian bikes are a bit different) but they really look to be the result of someone who knows exactly what they want from a bike sitting down and designing something to do just that - that the someone was Mario Cipollini is a bonus.
The RB1000 is the bike Cipo says he wished he'd had, a "competition tool" dedicated to harnessing as much of the awesome power the man is still capable of producing and shoving it out of the back wheel as rapidly as possible. The MCipollini stand had a video on continuous loop of their man stripped to the waist and whacking out nearly 2000W on his new RB1000. Not sure why the stripping to the waist bit was necessary, you'd never guess he's got a clothing line to sell too.
Sculpted is the word that best describes the RB1000's monocoque frame: this is definitely from the aero school of road bikes. The downtube is almost recessed behind the bulbous headtube, which as the fashion goes these days is asymmetric though not many people are going from 1/1/8 at the top to 1/1/5 at the bottom. We can see that it makes sense if you are going to be putting Cipolliniesque amounts of power through a bike. It's no surprise either that MCipo has opted for a BB30 bottom bracket.
Aside from its striking looks there are other neat touches that set the RB1000 apart from the crowd: the integrated carbon dropouts front and rear, and my favourite, the unique front mech mount that allows for quick and easy changeover from a standard chainset to a compact without having to take the mech off. "Nobody else has this, Mario thought of it himself" the man on the stand told me in an awed tone which betrayed just the hint of surprise that told me it must be true.
MCipollini uses a blend of different carbon fibres to put strength and rigidity where the bikes need it most. It's all good stuff; interestingly there's no super high modulus carbon in the mix but if it can cope with Cipo and his 1800 watts it can cope with the likes of you and me. Oh, and straight from the blocks the RB1000 started winning races - Giovanni Visconti riding one to the 2010 Italian national championships.
Sizes go from XXS right through to XXL with a medium frame weighing a claimed 1050g and various frame or complete bike packages are available, including ones with Shimano Di2 and Campag Super Record both built up with Lightweight wheels.
While the RB1000 is all about raw power, its stablemate the RB800 is a sleeker beast, which sort of undercuts the Merc analogy. I'm thinking of it more as the Cervelo R5* to the 1000's S3: comfort gets a look in as well as performance. It shares the same features as the RB1000: integrated carbon dropouts, BB30 bottom bracket, asymmetric heatube and headset and it's made from the same mix of carbon fibres - just in this case there's a bit less off it, though not as much as you'd think: 80g is the claimed weight difference between the two bikes. The medium RB800 weighs a respectably light 970g in a medium. This is more of a real world machine and is the one I'd be more interested in riding, but you can tell from the catalogue where Mario's heart is: the RB 800 in all its paint options and build packages gets about 20 pages, while the RB1000 gets almost 50.
The RB800 is available in sizes from XS through to XXL and the same super-high end build and paint options are available too. As far as we know MCipollini have no UK distributor as yet, somebody please change that soon!
In a way the MCippollini bikes bridge the gap between Milani and BMC. Mario's bikes are built in Italy, Florence to be precise, with an emphasis on high tech performance and human craftsmanship - to their way of thinking what might be taken as slight imperfections in the carbon top layer are details that only add to the lustre of the finished bike. Engineering and art, or engineering and science, you pays your money…
Of course you could have art, science, and engineering all in one package with a dash of Belgian pragmatism backed up with a racing heritage even more illustrious than the great Cipo's. We really like Merckx. The Great man didn't have anything earth shatteringly new to show this year but he did have some damn fine looking EMX-5s decked out in the colours of the Tour de France yellow, points and KoM jerseys which were variously held by Quick Step riders.
He also had his original cyclocross bike on show and a very fine track iron too - check 'em out in our cyclocross and Fixed & Singlepeed gallerys.
* There's also a set of detail pics of the new Cervelo R5 in this gallery, all super thin seatsays (they won't get much argyle on there) and chunkier than you'd imagine everything else, essentially a super-stiff, super-light platform with some very thin stays for a bit of the old v**t*cal compliance – both it and the Impec won design awards at Eurobike – again, very different approaches to bike design. Also check out our Road bikes 3 gallery which features loads of stuff from Specialized, Fuji and Be-One including one of our fave bikes from the show the Specialized S-Works carbon tandem with shaft drive.