Item #1. The truth liberates. The truth hurts.
If you’re bike geek in the least you owe it to yourself to bookmark the rouesartisanales.com website. It’s run by a gang of crazy Frenchmen, and the prose (charming broken english and all) is far less relevant than their spy shot photos and amazing performance tests. It’s a scoop a day over there, and I don’t know where they get their prototype product photos and other info -- is their bowtie really a camera? -- but it’s where news is broken.
Perhaps no rouesartisanales article in 2008 will have as far reaching implications as their recent 2008 wheelset aerodynamic testing. You’ve gotta check it out. The question they ask is a simple one: At 50kph, how much of your power is consumed through front wheel aero drag? We’re all humanities major-types here, so we can’t comment on the validity of their testing protocol. But to our eyes it looks like real science.
We’ll let the test speak for itself. But our off-the-cuff conclusions are the following:
Item #2. The truth can be a bit boring, but it’s still important.
Here is your official warning: What the bike industry did to the headtube with integrated headsets 7 or 8 ago, they’re about to do again to bottom brackets. It’s not happening in 2008, and it probably won’t happen in 2009, but sooner or later the BB30 standard, as it’s known, will be everywhere.
The BB30 is an open-source (to use software terminology) standard where you essentially press bearings directly into an oversized BB shell. It eliminates the need for external (or internal) BB cups Unlike integrated headsets, the BB30 actually has performance upsides: You get a substantially lighter and stiffer BB. You reduce Q factor. In theory prices should be reasonable since road bikes and mountain bikes will share the same BB design (no more 68 vs 70 vs 73).
The most hyped example of unconventional BB bearings in 2008 was with the new Trek Madone . FYI, theirs is not an example of BB30. Rather, all Trek did was move the cups from outside the BB shell to inside the shell. There was no meaningful weight savings and no consequential reduction in Q-factor. We don’t understand, exactly, why they did this. With BB30 you essentially rid the bike of BB cups. That’s the key. And it’s the future. Ben Delaney of velonews.com wrote a great summary here, and you ought to check it out.
Item #3. The truth sometimes matches the rumors that precede it.
It’s no secret that Shimano will be introducing electronic Dura-Ace (eDA) in 2009. We’ve seen enough spy photos & in-the-peloton prototypes to gather its imminence. Once any product photos, substantive technical data, pricing, or availability is announced, you know you’ll find it here at Competitive Cyclist before anywhere else. Nothing new to report there.
But what IS newsworthy is the recent rumor that there will be a new non-electronic Dura-Ace for 2009. Apparently Shimano has finally recognized that their brake hood shape is terrible (it’s the brake hood equivalent of anatomic handlebars -- they make a bike unrideable as far as we’re concerned). Campy and SRAM both offer shifters with zero curvature on the top of the brake hoods. Our understanding is that Shimano will finally emulate this, which will finally allow cyclists with human hands an added benefit in riding Shimano.
Other alleged changes include completely under-the-bar-tape cable routing, and a continued commitment to an alloy crankset. Yes, someday the Dura-Ace carbon crankset will be released for sale. But Shimano firmly believes that they can build a lighter, stiffer, and substantially less costly crankset from forged alloy, so you’ll still see this as a part of the new DA.
When Shimano releases new high-end componentry -- Dura-Ace, XTR, etc -- it’s a huge deal because they rarely release anything before it’s perfect. And given the quality of their recent high-end releases (their ’08 road wheels, the new XTR, their ’08 road shoes), they’re on a hot streak. We’re more excited for the new non-eDA than we are for the e-version.