- Next was Interbike. We left with a couple of basic vibes:
(1) Reflecting the state of the American economy, the handmade bike bubble appears to be bursting. After a few years of irrational exuberance in the marketplace for sparkly paint, curly lugs and clever branding a new level of consumer skepticism has arrived. With only a few exceptions, America’s handmade artistes use stock steel tubesets. Inevitably their bikes deliver a stock steel ride. Steel is nice. But now that well-known brands offer decent steel road bikes at half the handmade price, it’s tough to go the handmade route. Examples include US companies like Soma and Co-Motion, as well as Italian companies like Gios and Tommassini . Steel is here to stay, and much of the credit for its goes to the handmade scene. But price is always an object, perhaps never more so than now.
Where steel is likely to have the most enduring impact isn’t in the road racing market, where lightness rightfully reigns supreme. Rather, it’s in the urban/commuter market where there is effectively no high-end demand. But it’s a market where style trumps technology. We’re not talking about hybrids here, but rather something more utilitarian and design-minded like what you see from Charge or Fixie or Public. Practical, tasteful, and not too expensive. This is the future of our industry, and cost-effective Asian-built steel frames are the key ingredient.
(2) And, closer to our hearts here, neon is indisputably back.
(3) We wish we could always see the whole show in a touch over two minutes:
- We wrapped it up with what we do best, banning words and word usage. Consider this your formal notification of our newest additions to the banned list:
It’s not just the near-universal use of these phrases that make us wince. It’s the way they’re used so automatically. They’re the bastard progeny of social media, where the brevity of writings seems to beget a lack of contemplation (arguably both in the process of writing and in reading.) We like Facebook and Twitter because they make communication so easy and efficient. But the hyperviral spread of platitudes there make us think one thing…stop, please.
- All that travel time gave us some reading time. As is nearly always the case as cyclocross season arrives (the same holds true with spring classics season), we found ourselves turning to books about WWI. We lucked upon ‘The Missing of the Somme’ by Geoff Dyer and were awed by everything about it. Is it a travelogue? A meditation? A history book? It’s all three, layered with much more. Dyer’s writing sparkles, and we recommend it completely.
Apropos of ‘cross season, one passage stood out --
‘The mud. There are no good similes. Mud must be a Flemish word. Mud was invented here. Mudland might have been its name. The ground is the colour of steel. Over most of the plain there isn’t a trace of topsoil: only sand and clay. The Belgians call them ‘clyttes’, these fields, and the further you go towards the sea, the worse the clyttes become. In them, the water is reached by the plough at an average depth of eighteen inches. When it rains (which is almost constantly from early September through to March, except when it snows) the water rises at you out of the ground. It rises from your footprints -- and an army marching over a field can cause a flood. In 1916 it was said that you ‘waded to the front’. Men and horses sank from sight. They drowned in the mud. Their graves, it seemed, just dug themselves and pulled them down.’