Eurobike tech roundup 3: Pinion, Supernova, Lupine, Brompton, Rapha and more
Eurobike always throws up plenty of new stuff, even when it's more of an incremental year like it was this time around. The rise of the 29er meant that lots of big companies were devoting their energies to MTB development, and road bikes maybe didn't get so much love even so, there was loads to see. If you missed part 1 and part 2 then they're definitely worth a look. Onwards with part 3...
German cogmeisters Pinion were proudly showing off their bottom bracket gearing system at Eurobike, and we think it'll be an emerging trend over the next few years. Hub gears are great for utility bikes and MTBs but they have some serious drawbacks. It's hard to get the rear wheel out if you suffer a puncture, and more importantly you're adding a bunch of rotating weight to the rear of the bike.
Enter the BB gearbox. Essentially it's all the gubbins you'd associate with a hub gear, shifted to the bottom bracket so that your pedals don't directly drive the chainring. This is a great idea for a number of reasons. For a start, you can have all your gearing sealed against the elements, and it's in a place where it's pretty neutral in terms of handling. On top of that it makes whipping the rear wheel out no more difficult than on a singlespeed. Everyone's a winner.
So why hasn't the BB gearbox taken off? Mostly, we'd wager, because it requires a frame manufacturer to create a specific frame. You can't just bolt a gearbox on to a normal 68mm shell, after all. But now that frame manufacturers are having to make specific frame designs for crank-powered pedelec bikes, maybe they'll embrace the BB gearbox too. Here's hoping for a useful standard from the off, eh...
Anyway, back to the Pinion system. You get 18 gears, and a bottom-to-top range of 636%. That's an enormous range, much bigger than a Rohloff or an MTB triple. Our back-of-the-fag-packet calculation suggests that assuming the gaps are equal, that's about an 11% jump per ratio which should be perfect for touring or mountain biking, if a little jumpy for pure road work. That's not where the Pinion system is aimed, anyway; the current system weighs 3.7kg, quit a bit more than a derailleur groupset. Were Pinion to come up with a lighter system with a bit less range, it might be an option for the road...
Supernova were busy showing off their new hub dynamos, both of which are well worthy of mention. The bigger of the two, the Infinity 8, isn't the lightest unit you'll find at 660g but it does have a rather special trick up its sleeve: you can turn it off.
There's a rotating ring on the side of the Infinty 8, which affects the magnet inside. Unlike normal dynamos which use a series of magnets attached to the hub body to produce the current, the Infinity 8 has a single circular magnetic core, which Supernova claim is more efficient (65%) than even the best standard hub dynamos. Flick the switch and the magnetic core rotates with the hub, adding a tiny bit of rotating weight but importantly turning off the power and hence the magnetic resistance. Clever, eh?
The Infinity S doesn't have the on/off gubbins but it's the lightest hub dynamo you're likely to find, weighing in at a sliver under 400g. In spite of that it's plenty powerful to run all of Supernova's dynamo lights and also their Plug USB socket, which they've licensed from Tout Terrain. List price for the Infinity 8 is €199, with the S model €10 cheaper.
Remember when the 4 D-cell Maglite was the king of torches? Well those days are long gone now. Lupine lighting systems have long been knocking out some eye-sizzlingly powerful bike headlamps, this year they're even brighter and also available as torches, on top of the two-pack systems.
Lupine's website suggests that the torch range starts with the 1,100 lumen Wilma TL, but they definitely had a Betty torch too; this year's Betty pumps out a claimed 2,600 lumens. Ouch. The 550 lumen Piko comes in three flavours of torch with different sized batteries, and it'll probably be that unit that'll be of most interest to road riders. Each of the single-pack lights comes with a screw-on bike mount so that you can use it on your bars, and you can remove it so that you've got, well, a really cool torch. Run times are about 2.5 hours on full for the Betty and Wilma, and from just over an hour to three hours depending on what Piko you get.
Anyone remember the Copenhagen Wheel? Basically, it's a bike propulsion system where all the bits necessary for driving the bike are contained in the rear wheel. "Why would you want to make the battery rotating weight?", you might well ask, and we'd scratch our heads at that point too. But anyway, it lives, in the form of the GreenWheel which was on display on a number of bikes on the MTB Cycletech stand.
Okay, it does have some advantages. For a start it's fairly simple to retrofit to pretty much any bike. And though you end up with an 8kg rear wheel (ouch!), 8kg isn't that much for a full electric system. It's not just the wheel; the full system includes a motor controller that fits to the down tube or seat tube, and can communicate with your smartphone via bluetooth to control the bike. There's a separate handlebar-mounted controller available too, and a magnetic sensor on the bottom bracket to send speed information to the system. Lastly you can fit brake levers with switches in to cut the power; if you backpedal the motor will also disengage.
GreenWheel claim a 30km range for the system, which isn't that far but could be just right for a daily commute. We didn't get to have a go on the bike (there was a big queue at the demo day so we rode the Stringbike instead...) but we'll certainly look to get one in. GreenWheel are working with MTB Cycletech as well as folding bike specialists Montague and, erm, ugly bike specialists Puma.
Brompton were busy showing off their Eurobike-award-winning Oratory jacket, which is a fine garment indeed. The cotton jacket features a completely waterproof coating, lapels and cuffs that turn up and down to reveal reflective highlights, and a stowable tail at the rear to keep your rear dry. When it's not being bikey and useful, however, it transforms into a classic cotton jacket. Very nice.
Brompton also had a new bar on display, the H bar. If you're familiar with Brompton's offering you'll probably be thinking, "Hang on: isn't that just the M bar?" to which the answer is yes, nearly. The difference is that the H bar has an extra section at the bottom, making the position more upright. It's aimed at Europe where they favour the sit-up-and-beg style of bike, but it'll also appeal to taller riders.
Round every corner at the Eurobike show there's something odd. How about this pedal-based locking system we found on one trawl through the halls? Basically the idea is that you have a locking dock fixed to your seatstay, and when you want to secure your bike you whip the pedal out of the crank (it's quick release, you don't need your pedal spanner) and lob it in the dock, where it sits across the wheel. A bit like a nurse's lock, but with the added inconvenience of having to manhandle a greasy pedal into your spokes. Thanks, but no thanks.
Not exactly tech, but we went to the Rapha coffe van and their coffee tamper was made from a machined Aluminium billet with a Chris King headset for a handle. Classy. And the coffee was good, too...