So, the road.cc picture of a crystal ball has been dug out and the team are going to attempt to channel their predictions for 2011s big cycling stories and trends through me, Gypsy Rose Tony… in the interests of accurate channeling I'm writing this wrapped in a fringed shawl while drinking dry gin out of a cracked tea cup so I think we can promise you something approaching 100 per cent accuracy.
Our predictions for the year are 10 in number… although some may contain extra bonus predictions in the manner of a Russian doll or such like. So without further ado let us consult the picture of a ball which is swirling promisingly, let's start with sport…
1. Andy Schleck will make Tour de France history by winning the race twice in one year. That's because barring some miracle Alberto Contador, the man who beat him in 2010, is going down for that failed Clenbuterol test at last year's Tour, snagging himself a disqualification from the 2010 race and getting a mandatory two year ban from all racing in to the bargain. Of course, even if Contador isn't there that second Tour title isn't going to be a piece of cake for Schleck; in fact, no Alberto could actually make it harder. With Contador out of the running there's a slew of dangerous riders that might well see this year's race as a once in a career opportunity to win Le Tour. Names in the frame are the likes of Dennis Menchov, Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans.
Bonus prediction: we'll see a season of gripping sprint action with Mark Cavendish fronting up against his erstwhile team mate Andre Greipel, now of Omega Pharma Lotto, and Garmin Cervelo's Tyler Farrar/Thor Hushovd combo. Some feisty finish line action is less of a prediction and more of a promise.
2. 2011 will be a year of consolidation for Team Sky. We'll hear less about ants and chimps, fancy team buses and breaking the mould. Word is that Team Sky didn't make themselves any friends in the peloton last year, and while pro racing is no popularity contest having the respect of your peers is like money in the bank; expect them to start earning that respect in 2011. In Edvald Boassen Hagen they have a genuine class act who if he can stay injury free has the talent to win big and with team time trials at the start of the Giro and on the second day of the Tour Sky will also have the chance to put a man in the leader's jerseys of both those races – we expect them to give it a good go.
It's all gone swirly again… could be the gin, maybe I shouldn't be drinking it from a cracked cup. Okay, something big is coming through as I channel the mystical powers of our tech team and TR McGowran's knees apparently 2011 is going to be the Year of the Gear… hmm, hasn't pretty much every year since about 1904 been the year of the gear? Wait a minute there's more coming through… apparenty "year of the gear" is simply a handy journalistic peg on which to hang a number of gear-related predictions for the coming year. And those predictions are…
The interweb has been abuzz lately with rumours and speculation that Shimano are going to announce an electronic version of their Ultegra groupset. In 2011 we predict that these rumours will be proved true, for two very simple reasons. First Shimano didn't invest a lot of time and treasure into producing Dura Ace Di2 just to keep it at the very high end – that's not where they will get a return on their investment.
Like every other ground breaking technological development, in cycling or elsewhere, Di2 technology was always going to be a high end product to start with and then be trickled downto more affordable price brackets. The really difficult part was making the technology work in the first place – since Di2's launch Shimano have proved that it not only works but that it works very well. The tricky part then becomes finding ways of making it cheaper which in part comes down to economies of scale; that isn't something that a company like Shimano will have any trouble figuring out.
So that's the first reason we think it'll happen, and the second? When we asked Shimano if Ultegra Di2 would be out this year they said "no comment". Stands to reason, If it wasn't on the way they'd have just said "no". Eh? Sharp us in no way adding one and one together and getting 11.
Of course much as we really like Di2 gears there is one potential downside – home fettling probably won't be an option, it'll be off the the Shimano Service Centre for regular servicing.
Bonus prediction: We'll hear a lot more about Campagnolo's Special Edition Electronic Super Record groupset. We do know that it will be raced by Movistar in this year's Giro D'Italia. Both Campagnolo and Shimano have spent years working on electronic shifting systems but Shimano won the race to market - now is the time for Campag to catch up.
Last year we got Shimano Alfine 11-speed, this year we reckon we'll get an 11-spd drop bar lever to go with it, although that's not quite going to be the game changer we hoped. Not yet, anyway, because Alfine 11-spd is still a bit of a lump in the middle of your back wheel for a performance oriented machine... an early 2012 prediction is that it will get lighter. However it's not Alfine that is exciting the road.cc crystal ball this year, it's other gearing systems. Chief amongst these is the NuVinci continuous drive system that we've reported on in the past – in October NuVinci launched their new improved N360 hub and it is being specced on a number of bikes and e-bikes for next year - mainly of the cruiser/commuter variety. The N360 improves on the original NuVinci design by being lighter, with a wider range. Maybe we'll see the technology get lighter still in 2011.
We also predict that the growth in urban, utility and e-bikes will lead to further developments in such systems as Nicolai's bottom bracket mounted gearbox, which would seem to have all the advantages of a hub gear without the disadvantage of hanging all the weight at the back of the bike. And just as NuVinci are attempting to solve the problem of always being in the right gear with their Continuous Planetary Transmission, we'd expect others to come at it from the other direction with cadence sensing gear shifters. The technology exists - we rode some Shimano automatic cadence sensing shifters years back - and we'd expect to see more of these again on urban, and utility machines; plus, the need to make e-bikes as efficient as possible will also drive developments in both gearing and shifting.
Our final gear related prediction is coming soon, once we've been able to decipher it over the creaking of TR's knees. For the moment though our ball is going dark…
We're resolutely glass half full types here at road.cc but… More potholes, less spending on repairs, road safety budgets being cut, and council budgets and transport budgets being squeezed all round – It's going to be tough on the streets in 2011… and the roads, avenues and boulevards for that matter too. 2011 could well be the year in which the combination of winter damage to already poor road surfaces combines with government cuts and the ending of the 'war on motorists' to make Britain's roads less safe for everybody. Chief Police officers have already warned that switching off speed cameras will cost lives, and the growing number of potholes on the roads are a particular danger to cyclists. Ironically the government's economic policy could act as a counterbalancing force but only if it proves so ill judged that it tips the country in to another recession thereby cutting the amount of traffic on the roads which is hardly a silver lining.
Bikes shops full of snow tyres for next winter but they won't really handle in the persistent mild drizzle that will cover the land from October to March, thus bike shops will be empty of winter tyres when the UK is once again blanketed in snow and ice in 2012. Yes, the unpredictable British weather will win every time.
What's happened to the ball?!! My eyes! My eyes. Ah…
We're conflicted on this one - we like bright colours on bikes but when it comes to clothing we're not so keen - even Jo draws the line at any colour that isn't pink. The warning signs were there at Eurobike and we expect to see lots more luridly bright colours in 2011 on bikes, clothes, shoes (remember the lime green Specialized podium shoes?). Well, put yourself in a bike or clothing company's podium shoes for a moment, in these austere times It's an easy win to brighten things up by digging out and updating some choice items from your back catalogue, plus there's a whole generation of cyclists that don't remember cycling's fashion crimes of the early 90s.
And speaking of brightly coloured kit, here's a prediction that's just whizzed across our ball from left field. Copper-plated bikes will be the thing amongst fashionable urban types expect to see growing numbers of them in the latter part of 2011 along the lines of the Wilier Gioiello Ramato. Well, it could happen.
Back to gears… this is the year of the gear for urban bikes. How do we know? TR's knees keep asking us to send him geared bikes to test, and his knees seem to be uncannily in synch with the way the wind is blowing, if you'll forgive the mangled metaphors. Don't get me wrong, we're all big fans of fixed and singlespeed bikes here at road.cc – we've got enough of them between us all – but for all their advantages they do also have their limitations. Hills and distance are the primary ones for most people, plus if you've only got one gear it needs to be the right one. Gears widen the range and speed of riding you can do and you don't need loads either. We've got the latest version of the Marin Ignacio in on test. Last year it was fixed/ss but this year it it has a Sturmey Archer S2 kickflip two speed hub. Even that one extra gear makes all the difference on a hilly 60km ride around Bath on a fixed cog.
In the last year we've also seen lots of fixed/singlepeed styled bikes that are actually sporting anything between 3 and 8-speed hub gears. These bikes combine the clean lines and minimal maintenance of a singlespeed with the advantages of gears, we expect to see plenty more of them in 2011 and beyond. The urban fixed is definitely here to stay, but just as with the mountain bike all sorts of variations on the urban bike are being spawned by it and just as with mountain biking lots of people that started out on one sort of bike will over time get on to others too.
Finally, in 2011 freestyle fixers will complete their evolutionary journey and finally turn in to rigid mountain bikes (check out the Identiti Persona above)… evolution has moved with remarkable speed on this one, they've already gone to fatter tyres and some are making the final leap, as it were, to 26in wheels. There's a double irony here in that many of the company's making these bikes, like Identit, made their names making jumpy hardtail mountain bikes.
A challenging ride plus cake…mmm sounds good. Much as we like a good sportive and we really do, (we'll be posting news of the Original Mint Sauce Mountain Mayhem Sportive in association with road.cc soon), we think this is the year that many cyclists will discover the delights of audax riding.
Plenty are aware of them already of course, Audax UK is the biggest long distance cycling association in the world overseeing long rides that are definitively not races all over the country. Typical distances are 100 to 400Km but they can go much, much longer than that. If you're lucky the feedstops might be courtesy of the local WI, but often where you get your fuel is down to the individual rider. Some sort of cakey comestible is pretty much compulsory somewhere along the route; well, they are when we ride an audax. The routes usually combine both good scenery and a fair challenge, the fields aren't too big and the idea is simply to get round – there are maximum and minimum finishing times. There are also loads of them happening every week of the year often organised by local cycling clubs and even individuals who've had their routes validated by Audax UK, they are also jolly inexpensive to enter. Be warned though, audaxing, like cake can be seriously addictive.
That's it, my ball has clouded over for the final time so that's yer lot. Although if you have any predictions for cycling trends and the like in the coming year feel free to fire them in below, maybe you've got your own picture of a crystal ball to get mystical inspiration from… although you're quite welcome to use ours.
Happy New Year!
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.