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Eurobike 2013: Taking the Kevorkian Option

- In an attempt to solve the age-old conundrum of getting more people out on bikes, the 2013 Eurobike trade show illustrated a time-honored approach to problem solving. It’s burning the village to save it. Apparently the best way to attract newcomers to our sport is to eliminate all exercise from it. Electric bikes, or e-bikes, were the rage.

eBike battery size

To be clear, there wasn’t a new generation of the city-minded e-bikes on display at manufacturers’ booths. The fat-tired, fendered, grocery basket-hung beast that conjures visions of Grandma-on-a-bike has been au courant for awhile. Instead, sitting front and center were full-fledged Enduro mountain bikes with batteries the size of Gordon Gekko’s mobile phone and a transmission that appeared identical on every bike across all brands. Not only is the industry removing the notion of physical effort from cycling, it’s eradicating creative differentiation between brands as well. Nary an original design idea could be found. Instead the Messe was one big promotion for Bosch, the ubiquitous motor supplier, whose technical requirements clearly permit just one solitary frame plaform.

It’s debatable whether Grandma’s townie e-bike should be allowed on urban bike paths. They’re unbelievably fast and if mismanaged at speed potentially have pipe bomb-like properties. What’s unarguable, however, is that this new generation of motorized mountain bikes has no place on singletrack. In their noise and their otherworldly speed, they’re more akin to motocross than mountain biking. If e-bikes are the cure for our industry’s economic ills, this is the Kevorkian option. Why? Because e-bikes aren’t our industry. They belong to the powersports industry — the realm of Honda and Kawasaki.

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- Other highlights of Eurobike included Speedplay’s confirmation that its special Paris-Roubaix road pedal system will finally come to the masses next year. It will be known as the “Zero Pavé”, it will have all the adjustability of the Zero, it will come in both titanium and stainless versions, and it will be quite expensive.

Speedplay Pavé

POC is coming out with road apparel. Just as Ryder Hesjedal’s POC eyewear may have been the most memorable highlight of the 2013 Tour de France, the POC short sleeve jersey with its mouthwatering use of white and flouro orange may have been the most memorable highlight of Eurobike.

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Can you believe there’s never been a camo-painted road frameset before? Thankfully, Saarto had one in its booth and it was a gem.

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The sexiest bike of the show was the Giant TCX Advanced cyclocross bike. The carbon finish was an antidote to a hall full of glossy paint. It was raw with no sheen, but it wasn’t quite matte — what I’d describe as an almost powdery finish. The 700c carbon Shimano XTR wheels were a tasty for-PROs-only touch, and the Dura Ace hydraulic brakes felt like XTR.

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Some day I will buy an FA Bike because it will morph along with my tempestuous moods. Some days I’m a roadie. Some days I’m a commuter. Some days singletrack sounds amusing. One FA Bike frame can turn into any of the three — a road racing bike, a single speed city bike, or a hardtail mountain bike. The only downer is that it uses cantis and not disc, but I’m sure discs will come soon.

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Other trendspotting: The Euros were notoriously slow for picking up on the 29″ trend. It seems that they’ve made up for it with their embrace of 27.5″. That being said, we saw very, very few 5″ish bikes (that would compete with the amazing Santa Cruz Solo Carbon.) Instead we saw a ton of 6″+ bikes — the sort of longer travel bikes where market traction for 29″ is lowest.

Hydraulic road disc brakes weren’t as widespread as expected. Just as 29″ (and now 27.5″) is fueling meaningful sales growth in the mountain bike market, the road market is starving for significant evolution. Will the next big thing for road be anything but hydraulic disc? Seems unlikely. Which is why it was a bummer to see the lack of a widespread presence of disc road bikes.

Coolest team bike on display? It was a tie. One was a gloriously unwashed 2013 Team Katusha bike, frozen in time from Paris-Roubaix. The other was Viatcheslav Ekimov’s 1992 Team Panasonic.

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Three cheers for neon.

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Three cheers for dubious product names.

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Three cheers for Mr. Kotter.

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Welcome back Kotter - Sweat Hogs  #44 1976

Three cheers for the beauty of German cemeteries and apple orchards. Las Vegas, this ain’t.

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