Some conclusions after roaming the halls of the 2010 Eurobike trade show in Friedrichshafen, Germany —
– Color of the show: Lime green. It was everywhere, like one show-wide tribute to Liquigas or ISD. Lime frames, lime components, even lime Conti GP 4000 tires. Where do these meetings happen — where the big guns of manufacturing converge and vote on the haute hue for the upcoming season? Lime green? I don’t know what they were thinking, but I do know what they were drinking.
– Brand of the show: Cube. They have no presence here in the US yet. But based on the acreage of their booth, the fact that walking through it was akin to squeezing through a rush hour NYC subway car, and their comprehensive kids bikes to Di2 bikes product range, it’s easy to see them going toe-to-toe with Trek and Specialized sometime sooner than later. (Definitely in Europe, and maybe someday in the US.)
Yes, they’re a German company, which surely pressures them to put their best foot forward at a German trade show. And, yes, their bikes are purportedly made in Germany (somehow I don’t think I heard that right) — a fact that, if true, puts them at a massive disadvantage sine last I heard German union labor is a wee bit pricier than Chinese indentured servants. Still — the vibe at Cube was electric and unlike anything else on display at Eurobike. Bet long on them.
– Bike of the show: Not a new model, but a fabulous new color (not lime green!) — a yellow Wilier Cento1. It’s probably the most underknown amazing-to-ride race bike on the planet. It was always lovely, but it’s now available in molten gorgeous, making me think hungry thoughts I usually only reserve for women’s tennis.
– Surprise of the show: One of the frustrations of Eurobike is the daily hellish commute. There are no hotels within walking distance (or even taxi distance). For most attendees the one way drive time is 30-45 minutes from the tiny hotels scattered in the vicinity. The flip side, though, is that every year brings the chance to stay in a new town — each sort of the same since the general area was obliterated by the US Army Air Force, yet each unique because they’ve had 1,000 years to accrue character that no carpet bombing can erase.
This year’s town, Bad Waldsee, proved to be my favorite ever for a single reason: The city cemetery. One part arboretum, one part sculpture garden. They heavy gut check of intimations of mortality — the power of it was matched by the overwhelming beauty of the setting.
As cyclists, our sport overfixates us on death — the consequence of asshole drivers, triathletes in the paceline, sprayed-white ghost bikes chained at the intersection. The hors categorie peace resonant in that special bit of Bad Waldsee — for an hourlong stroll it made death a less fearsome thing.
– Sentimental moment of the show: Deda introduced a new stem clamp standard at Eurobike: 35.0mm. How much is a performance enhancement, and how much is an easily-marketable means to exceed the brutally tough CEN handlebar durability standard? Your guess is as good as mine. What I do know, however, is the red version of the bar looks mouthwatering and brings me back to over a decade ago — turning wrenches at our shop in the era when Easton unveiled the first widely marketed carbon road bar, the EC90. Since the beginning of time bars had only been black or silver, and I remember one special customer who insisted on no handlebar tape since the EC90 red matched his bike — no matter how bad it looked with the housing electrical taped to it. God love the mechanics of the world. Sometimes I think they’re like lap dancers — paid to make fantasy true, paid to see the scary side of people with some money.
– Custom paint of the show: Jurgen van den Broeck’s Canyon. Its oceanic theme was reminiscent of an NHL goalie mask or the airbrushed celestial glory of Paolo Salvodelli’s Saeco Cannondale from like 2002. As rich as the paintjob was, slapped over it was a cheesy Poseidon decal — a buzzkill, but not totally killing. The paint was too luscious, and the frame is too sweet in & of itself.
Speaking of Canyon, we ran into Erik Zabel at a fabulous BBQ hosted by Canyon. As a quick glance at the Canyon website will show, Zabel is a close advisor in terms of product development for Canyon, and his son (an accomplished junior bike racer) is part of Canyon’s Young Heroes program.
Given that Andre Greipel is transferring to Omega Pharma next year (so he’ll be riding a Canyon), and that Zabel also moonlights as Mark Cavendish’s sprint coach, will 2011 be the year of conflict-of-interest for Zabel? Isn’t it inevitable: Choose Greipel, via his relationship to Canyon and thereby Omega-Pharma; or stay loyal to his old T-Mobile-now-HTC-Columbia professional roots via Cav? What we know for sure: He can’t go both ways.
– Apparel of the show: Hear me loud and clear — the new Giro shoes are the very real deal. In appearance and feel it’s as though they’ve been around for a decade. They’re gorgeous. Thanks to their obsession with last development (and for the fact that it comes with multiple footbeds with different degrees of arch support) the fit is spot-on. The pricing makes perfect sense. And they’re damn near Rocket7 light. We can’t wait to get a warehouse-full of these in Spring 2011.
Currently, the shoe market is made of two main players: Specialized rules supreme. By all accounts their shoes are excellent — with the central downside being that you need to buy them from a Specialized dealer. Depending on geographical happenstance, that may be a deal-killer. Chaos Theory can be proven by the wildly varying customer experience at different shops who, at least cosmetically, appear to be similar. The other main player in the shoe market is Shimano, though their insistence on Easy Bake Oven molding technology has its detractors. Then Sidi, DMT, Bont, Northwave, et al, fill in the minor marketshare gaps. Giro is poised to step into the breach to give the market a widely-available 3rd legit option next to Specialized and Shimano.
As tantalizing as Giro shoes were, we were equally underwhelmed by Fizik’s entrée into the shoe market. Perhaps they were only showing samples, but they had the sort of haggard ‘hand crafted’ look you don’t want to see from mass produced goods. It reminded me of D2 or Lust shoes — where your foot is the last and the shoe is basically made by wrapping them paper-mâché-style in NASA-grade microfiber. Fizik’s shoes had a similar paper-mâché vibe, but it was a familiar mix of their Microtex bar tape and saddle covering. The consensus of everyone we spoke with was the same: Fizik’s was a rough cut — and seemingly a rushed one at that. Perhaps a test ride sometime soon will change a lot of minds.
And we need to give a runner-up award, by the way, to Kask helmets. Hitherto unseen in the US market, and known only because it’s what’s worn by Team Sky. They look sleek, light, well-ventilated, and PRO. Their TT helmets are especially interesting. Love that magnetically-attached visor.
– Comeback of the show: Fuji. The Footon-Servetto team is riding their 2011 bikes in the Vuelta — bikes that look like the handsome love child of Wilier and Cervélo. We laid hands on 2012 prototypes — yummy bikes weighing Project California light. Fuji is owned by a company called Advanced Sports, who in turn are owned by a Taiwanese frame manufacturing behemoth called Ideal (purportedly the 3rd biggest factory in terms of carbon frame output.) They have some serious dough, and some serious capability for in-house R&D.
Take the family tree and match it to the fact that next year’s PRO superteam, the Italian Team Geox with their rumored $50 million team budget. Then top it off with the fact that they now have Steve Parke (long of Ritchey Design) as their Global Sales Manager, Fuji seems to be poised to rocket up the charts in terms of high-end legitimacy, not unlike what Giant did nearly a decade ago in the ONCE era.
– Hype we didn’t bite for: ago The Look/Polar powermeter. Forget about the fact that Speedplay is devouring the global road pedal market. Forget about Polar’s previous embarrassing foray into power. Forget about Polar’s legacy of horrific product support & customer service. The real reason our interest in this system lasted so briefly was its price: $2500. — roughly 10% more than a Quarq/Garmin 500, the costliest powermeter set-up the market will bear if it isn’t labeled SRM.
Once the initial burst of media interest wanes, will it prove to deliver a breakthrough package of technology and durability, giving it hope to wedge into the firmly-established powermeter triumvirate of SRM/Power Tap/Quarq? If history is a guide, we’re doubtful. And especially given that all samples were locked in plexiglass cases — nary a bike on a trainer to check it out — we suspect this is Metrigear, chapter 2: Fodder for breakfast chit-chat before we go ride our Quarq-equipped bikes.
– The biggest highlight of all: That’s easy. It’s called home.