What a year it has been for cycling, we've seen a lot of new bikes and kit and heard some juicy rumours too, so it's time to stand back and look at the emerging trends and rate those rumours.
Disc brakes are the biggest trend on road bikes. Of course, disc brakes have been around for ages but their widespread adoption is new. They’re everywhere and Shimano are the big winners, but first let's have a rumour.
We're pretty certain this rumour has legs. Magura have fantastic expertise producing hydraulic rim and disc brakes for the mountain bike and hybrid/e-bike market, so it would be straightforward to produce a road-specific disc brake. They'd probably bring something interesting and different to the market too.
The problem for Magura is that they're a brake specialist, so partnering with Rotor, who produce chainsets and could develop the necessary shifter and derailleur components, shouldn't be too difficult for them. This could be an interesting partnership if anything does materialise.
We already know Cervelo designed their latest frames with future-proofed cable routing expressly with hydraulic hoses in mind, and Cervelo use Magura's hydro rim brake on their time trial bikes already.
road.cc plausibility-ometer: 7
Oh, all right then, do. Lots of top end bikes are sporting Shimano’s hydraulic brakes paired with both Di2 and mechanical levers, probably more of the latter. While most manufacturers have gone with 160 rotors, some are taking Shimano at their word and going with 140s front and back - Cannondale use 140s on various carbon Synapses and Bianchi do the same on the Infinito CV Disc which has finally arrived more than 18 months after its launch - possibly some sort of record. Now that its here, it certainly does look cool.
From what we saw at Eurobike, SRAM appear to be paying the price for their hydro brake recall earlier this year. On my initial canter around the halls I only spotted two bikes with SRAM hydraulic brakes - both on the Cannondale stand.
Word is, though, that the combination of high demand and long lead times from Shimano is forcing some manufacturers who’d planned to go with Shimano back towards SRAM - there are certainly plenty of SRAM hydro equipped bikes heading towards bike shops right now. And let's not forget that barring that unfortunate lapse in quality control, the original versions of SRAM's hydraulic brake were very good, and they reckon they've made the new version even better (we have some in on test so we'll let you know on that).
Not all disc braked road bikes have hydraulic discs though. There are plenty here with cable discs and on those Avid BB7s rule the day - good, well tried brakes in plentiful supply. Bianchi have gone down the cable route with both there new cyclocross bikes the Zurigo and the Zolder and on the new Impulso Disc too.
Right that’s enough disc braked road bikes. So what else is big?
They may not sell in massive numbers in the UK yet, but in other parts of the world e-bikes and fat bikes are all the rage. At Eurobike, such was the proliferation of e-bikes of every type that there might well have been more fat e-bikes than plain old fat bikes.
e-bikes aren’t the only bikes to blow up like a barrage balloon - we spotted a fat recumbent at the Eurobike demo day (very good at rolling over kerbs) and Felt had taken the opportunity to dig some of the chunkier cruiser bikes out of that warehouse on the outskirts of Dusseldorf where they’ve been gathering dust since 2009… well, that’s our theory. That’s not all, Santana have an e-tandem (which makes sense). Philippe Starck is even attempting to introduce a designer cool to the scene with his own range of e-bikes.
One thing we haven’t spotted so far is a fat road bike - although Austrian outfit Haibike have come close with a chunked up flat bar bike with deep section wheels, discs and power assist. The fat bike concept - bikes designed for rolling over rough terrain in maximum comfort - is something that could be applied to road bikes - given the state of the roads in Britain and many other countries, although the Surly Steamroller could lay claim to having been such a thing for the last decade.
If the professional peloton are going to switch to disc brakes in the near future, then Campagnolo are going to need a disc brake, and you can bet they're busy working on one as you read these words. They've even confirmed to road.cc that they are developing a disc brake for 2016.
When Colnago released their C59 Disc three years ago, before Shimano and SRAM had unveiled their hydro discs, the Italian company used Formula disc brakes with their own brake levers, using adapted Campagnolo EPS shifter internals in their own hood. They've proven it's possible to package Campagnolo's EPS shifters with the necessary hydraulic reservoir.
road.cc plausibility-ometer: 8
Well it is if you match it up to an 11-spd cassete. 52 - 36 chainsets have been around for a few years now - with pros like David Millar being a fan, but the advent of 11-speed groupsets has brought the configuration in to it's own. In fact there's a good argument for saying that it makes that 11th cog more than just a bigger number than the last one for component manufacturers to shoult about in their markeing blurb.
You're going to see a lot of top end bikes and mid-range bikes from now on sporting a 52-36 set up it's the default gear set up on some manufacturers 2015 ranges.
What's good about it? Well combined with an 11-spd cassette it should give you all the gears you want or need - a low enough bottom end and a much higher top gear than you would get running a compact. Team Sky for instance run a Dura Ace d12 52-36 set up and one of the team mechanics told us that they'd run with with an 11-28 for every race because it gave the riders all the gearing options they needed.
Shimano also offer a 12-28 Dura Ace cassette, and for big strong types an 11-23 and an 11-25. Look down the lofty heights of Dura Ace though and things get even more intersting - with both Ultegra and the new 11-spd 105 offering 11-32 rear cassetes. Match those up with a long cage rear mech (which Dave did on the Kinesis Tripster he reviewed recently) and you've got a bike that should be capable of going up anything while still having a big enough gear to give you a proper turn of speed on the flats. If SRAM is more your thing than Shimano, they offer similar set ups too, we're currently testing a Rival 22 52-36 wifli set up (that's it pictured above).
Did I say there were no fat road bikes? Not strictly true. One aspect of fatness that is coming to the road - relatively, at least - is wider tyres. The majority of performance machines now come with 25mm tyres as standard and thats a trend that’s set to continue. The pros are already starting to run with 28 and even 32mm road tyres - lower rolling resistance, bigger contact patch (so more grip), and far greater comfort.
So look out for fatter tyres on road bikes coming soon. One major tyre company told us they were already getting requests for a performance 32mm road tyre from some bike brands looking to fit them as original equipment on their 2016 bikes. The advent of disc brakes on road bikes also makes fitting fatter tyres less problematic.
Tubeless tyres are a bit like disc brakes in that they’ve been around on mountain bikes for years, they work, everybody accepts they just work to the point where they are now the default system. You don’t find many people mourning the demise of the inner tube, just as mountain bikers don’t get all misty eyed about v-brakes, if they can remember them at all. Like discs on road bikes, you might think ‘what’s the point?’ until you ride some and then you really get it: lower rolling resistance in a virtually puncture-proof format.
So why isn’t tubeless technology appearing on more road tyres? Lack of tyres, is the simple answer. We spoke to a senior figure at one bike company who told us they were ready to go and there were enough road tubeless wheels now available to make them viable as original equipment but the only thing holding them back was a lack of affordably priced tyres.
At the moment tyre choice is limited to Schwalbe or Hutchinson. Continental still say they have no plans to make a tubeless tyre, they question the benefits too - which to us has echoes of SRAM’s insistence that electronic shifting would never catch on and mechanical shifting was the way to go. Five years later they are bing forced to play catch up.
One other reason we heard mentioned for the slow progress of road tubeless to market was the need to make sure you had a tyre that wouldn’t roll off the rim. That’s a fear that rim manufacturers seem to have conquered resulting in the increasing number of tubeless or tubeless ready road/cyclocross rims available.
We’d also point out that Hutchinson’s tubeless system has been around for more than five years now, and Schwalbe’s getting on for two. A tubeless road tyre rolling off the rim would be messy in every sense of the word, so if it had happened in any meaningful numbers the bike world might have noticed by now.
Our guess is that Schwalbe will produce a tubeless version of their mid-range Stelvio and that if it’s half decent
(which we expect it would be) they’ll clean up.
Gravel bikes may be big in the USA but at Eurobike there were a few, but then again, too few to mention… Oh, all right then, Norco were showing their Search. Plus, there were the GT Grade ‘all road’ bikes. GT had four Grades in both aluminium and titanium builds, dividing opinions as to whether they’d been touched by the cool or ugly sticks.
Power meters are hot stuff at the moment with more flooding onto the market all the time, and the entry price gradually falling. SRAM is the only one of the three groupset manufacturers to offer power, having purchased the Quarq company a few years ago. Now Shimano could partner with a similiar company, but the rumour we're hearing is that they're developing their own power meter, and it'll be integrated into the chainset.
Given Shimano's track record of innovation and rapid trickle down to the lower groupsets, this could be a huge game changer for the power meter market, and it would probably wipe out some of the current options. We've no idea if there is any truth in this rumour, but we reckon it's plausible.
road.cc plausibility-ometer: 5
By 'super commuter' we mean well-specced bikes for riding to work fast all year round. At last, there is a recognition that for a lot of cyclists commuting is a form of training either for general fitness or for racing, and that plenty of riders that don’t race still want a bike that blends performance and utility.
These bikes come with disc brakes for more control and better performance on crappy roads in crappy weather, mudguards as standard for better weather protection, 25mm tyres for extra comfort and performance too, lighter frames.
The super commuter is something of a British trend with UK brands are leading the way, although they’re not the only ones to be involved. It’s the logical next step in the development of the sort of all rounder bikes that the likes of Genesis, Charge, and Pinnacle have been making for the last few years. The new super commuters are basically those bikes with lighter frames, better discs, and carbon forks.
But that’s not all, with the Cornwall, Whyte have gone the whole hog and produced a complete carbon performance bike with the commuter and year round rider in mind.
Always quick to spot a trend, Cannondale have also got in on the act with the Synapse Alu, which was turning heads at Eurobike with its close fitting colour co-ordinated mudguards and hydraulic brakes. The word is that Evans snapped that one up as a UK exclusive. A smart move, we’d say.
This isn't so much a rumour, but a fact. How do we know? We've even seen photos and videos of the new groupset being tested in the US.
The question is, when is it coming to market and how much will it cost? There's clearly a lot of pressure on SRAM to nail this release following the disc brake recall saga. Wireless and Bluetooth technology is well proven in other applications (I'm listening to the radio through a Bluetooth speaker and surfing the web on WiFi right now) so in theory it should be fairly simple.
This groupset has big implications for the future of the bicycle, at least for the next 20 years. It could free up bicycle designers from having to concern themselves with cable routing, something some manufacturers still struggle with. And there's all sorts of connectivity potential with smartphones, wearable tech and handlebar-mounted computers. The home internet untangled itself from the humble ethernet cable and we all now use wireless networks. Could the same happen to the bicycle?
road.cc plausibility-ometer: 9
More than one manufacturer had lighter/stiffer/more complaint/all of the above/delete as applicable new carbon bikes that looked exactly the same as the bikes they replaced and, we’re guessing, probably came out of the same moulds. The improvements, they claimed, were achieved due to big advances in carbon layup technology that the bike industry has gotten its hands on in the last 12 months.
Better still, one manufacturer told us the new production methods enabled them to use less high modulus carbon in the layup so the frames are cheaper too - a saving being passed on to consumers.
Which brings us on to…
The combination of new production technologies and favourable exchange rates means that this season’s bikes should not only be better, and better specced, they should also be cheaper.
Bike companies will be announcing their prices in the coming weeks so look out for a stream of stories announcing price cuts. For instance the Shimano Ultegra equipped BTwin pictured above is likely to sell for somewhere well under £2000 - word is it will be closer to £1500. The only possible downside we can see is for end-of-season bargain hunters who will have the unusual dilemma of deciding whether to grab a bargain now or hang on and grab a newer bargain in a few weeks' time. That might also be a downside for shops who’ve got 2014 bikes to shift. Of course, that assumes they've got any left to shift.
CycleOps, who are well known for their hub-based PowerTap that has been around for years, were showing a bunch of early development prototypes at Eurobike. These included a pedal-based system, a shoe sole system, and a crank power meter.
CycleOps told us these were simply the results of the development team experimenting with different systems, purely to see what might work and what won't. We tried to prise some more info out of them but they would't budge. We later heard something else that leads us to think they might actually be close to launching a pedal-based power meter.
road.cc plausibility-ometer: 3
road.cc plausibility-ometer: 10
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.