I'm just back from the Interbike Bike Show in Las Vegas. Here are some of the cool things I saw:
I've been very enthusiastic about the Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub, and now Shimano is doing a higher end model, called "Alfine." (Pronounced: "Al FEE nay" as in the Italian phrase "al fine", "to the end.")
This system is intended for high end commuter type bikes, and is Shimano's first internal-gear hub designed for disc brakes. The Alfine brakes are hydraulic discs. Crankset is a Hollowtech 2 design. This system will not likely be available in the U.S. any time soon, unfortunately.
When it does become available in the U.S., I hope and intend that Harris Cyclery will be among the first to offer it.
The "Coasting" series is intended as a marketing plan to get non-cyclists on bikes, which are being presented as no-hassle, no-maintenance bikes. They intend to offer the simplicity of a classic one-speed cruiser, but with a 3-speed automatic transmission.
The Coasting rear hub is a 3-speed internal gear, shifted by an electronic system located in a frame-mounted box. The system gets its power from the front hub, a variant on the Nexus generator hubs, so there are not batteries to be concerned with.
The Coasting rear hub requires a special fork end to accommodate the anti-rotation hardware of the coaster brake (there is no visible brake arm.) The axle nuts are covered by decorative "hubcaps" and there are a lot of other styling features that characterize this group, even a rather cool looking special "streamlined" chain!
Shimano plans a major advertising push for this line. Currently "Coasting" models are offered by Giant, Raleigh and Trek. I'm not very enthusiastic about this, seems to me to be mainly about style over substance. I'm particularly unhappy with the fact that all three of the Coasting models shown so far have lacked a front brake. I do not consider it safe to ride a bike on the street if it only has one brake.
I didn't get any photos of it, but I'm really excited about the 2007 version of the Breezer Uptown 8. I've been a big fan of the previous version of this bike too, between the Nexus 8-speed gearing and the built-in Nexus/Busch & Müller lighting, but for the 2007 model year Breezer has added the finishing touch, a full chaincase! This is as close to a perfect out-of-the-box urban commuter bike as I've seen at an affordable price.
Brooks has some new saddles and grips. Flyer Special, similar to the current Flyer, but with hand-hammered rivets, skived (beveled) edges. This model will be replacing the Conquest and Countess models.
B.17 Champion Sprinter is a re-introduction of a classic design, originally for track racing. This is an ultra-narrow saddle, titanium undercarriage.
B.135 is similar to the B.130, with compound springs, but with the same smaller top as the B.66-B.67.
The Brooks "Aged" saddles have turned out to be quite a bit softer than the standard models. Targetted at lower-mileage riders who don't care to take the time to break in a standard Brooks. Some of the early "aged" models had a tendency to get too soft and too wide, so now they are all coming with laced-together adjustable skirts.
Brooks handlebar grips are mad up of a stack of leather discs, set edgewise and held together by two metal caps and three spokes!
The fact that the leather is edgewise is supposed to give a better grip. They look pretty coarse when new, but after considerable use the surface should wear smooth and pretty.
The Calfee booth showed a cool bike, appears to have a bamboo frame, wooden rims and genuine cowhorn handlebars!
Kinda disappointed in Bianchi this year. They continue to believe that disc brakes make sense on singlespeed bikes. This year they've got three different singlespeed/disc mountain bikes and a singlespeed/disc cyclocross bike as well!
Using a disc brake means you can't use a flip-flop hub, so you'll be stuck with only a single gear option.
Also, as the chain wears and you move the wheel back in the axle slots, the relationship between the disc and the caliper will change, which is a Bad Thing.
If you combine a disc brake with an old-fashioned rear-opening fork end, as is currently fashionable, you have to undo the caliper just to fix a flat tire!
Nobody rides a singlespeed in terrain mountainous enough to actually _need_ a rear disc brake.
There's no problem running a front disc if you prefer, but I'd strongly advise going for a rim brake in back.
They've also cheapened one of my favorite Bianchi models, the Volpe, which now comes with 32 spoke wheels instead of 36 as in previous years, also cheaper rims (no eyelets.)
Saw the Renak generator hub, notably smaller than other generators, but couldn't get any details on it. Looks pretty good aside from the cheesy quick release skewer. I suspect, however, that it contains internal gearing to make up for the smaller size, which would likely lead to lower efficiency.
Walked by a plastic Pinarello frame that appears to suffer from varicose veins... ;-)
I was very favorably impressed by the Jamis Commuter 3.0, a very affordable, very well set up commuter bike featuring my beloved Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub.
The Schwalbe Kojak slick tires look like a good item, especially since Avocet has given up on making slicks in the 559 mm (26" decimal) size. It's available in 35-559, 50-559 and 35-622 sizes.
Also saw a very cool rear-steering tandem, looks like it would be a lot of fun with a live kid in front. The builder is Brown Cycles in Grand Junction, Colorado, no relation to me.
Nice cutaway hub at the Rohloff booth. Note the roller bearings in the planet pinion!
Shimano's 2007 Tiagra brifters have a built-in gear indicator. I would look for this to be incorporated in other models in the future.
At the Phil Wood booth, I learned that Race Face is going to be using Phil Wood grease in their own products in the future, sounds like good news for both companies.
Quality Bicycle Products/Problem Solvers was showing a pre-production prototype of the "Sheldon Fender Nut." This is a peice of hardware I invented to facilitate mounting fenders on bikes with recessed brake hardware. The Sheldon Fender Nut is a longer version of the standard recessed nut, uses a 6 mm Allen wrench instead of the usual 5 mm. It has the threads extended outside the fork crown to permit a separate bolt to hold the fender to the nut.
This allows the front fender tab to be mounted on the back side of the fork crown, where it belongs. It also permits removal of the fender without disturbing the brake caliper. I'm very proud of this little doodad. They should become available in January or February of 2007.
While I was in the Problem Solvers booth, I ran into both Grant Petersen and Jobst Brandt. It was nice to see my left coast friends, i don't get out there as often as I would like.
I'm having a lot of trouble walking these days due to a mysterious nerve condition, would not have been able to do the show at all if it weren't for the electric scooter I rented for the occasion. The scooter carried me and my accumulation of literature and schwag without complaint. I might have been the only person there without sore feet! ;-)
I didn't take any photos at Sram, but their new road group looks very promising, and it has been speced by several OEM manufacturers for 2007. The brifters are very pleasing aesthetically, and shifting was excellent and quite intuitive on the demonstrators I tried.
I'm disappointed that it currently only supports double chainring setups, but presumably that deficiency will be remedied in the future.
A fair amount of buzz about the iMotion 9-speed internal gear hub, looks like a winner to me, but currently, only the coaster brake version is in production, and even that model is not yet available in the U.S.
I always look forward to the Surly booth, never fails to have something interesting and useful.
The big deal this year was their dedicated Xtracycle frame. This is a long-wheelbase frame designed to act as an Xtracycle, using all of the Xtracycle rack attachments, but on a purpose-built frame. It is reputedly lighter and stiffer than an Xtracycle attachment on a standard mountain bike frame. This item is currently in the prototype stage, but was well received, and should be a fairly popular item. The biggest issue with it is shipping, because there is now way it is UPS-able due to its length.
Possibly even more exciting is Surly's prototype crankset. This unit uses a 58 mm BCD spider to attach a larger spider for the outer rings. It is anticipated that you would be able to built this up as a 130/58, 110/58 or 94/58 triple. Since 58 mm BCD chainrings come as small as 20 teeth, this crankset should find great favor with touring cyclists and other fans of extremely wide range gearing.
The crank is a three-piece system, but intended for outboard bearing bottom brackets.
I was a bit disappointed to learn that it is initially only going to be available in 170, 175 and 180 mm lengths. I did mention to the Surly folks that the recent long-crank fad seems to have pretty much run its course, and that there's a real need for shorter cranks. They replied that the tooling they're using will permit the production of shorter versions fairly easily if there is a perceived demand for them.
Surly also showed prototypes of double fixed-gear sprockets, three different pairings: 19-19, 17-20 & 17-21.
Surly is also coming out with stainless steel singlespeed chainrings in a good range of odd and even sizes from 30 to 38 teeth, and three different bolt circles: 94 x 5, 104 x 4 & 110 x 5.
Quite a few interesting developments in tools this year, from a couple of companies I was previously unfamiliar with.
BBB offers some nice stuff, including a couple of very good looking tools for splined bottom brackets and cassette lockrings.
BBB also had some interesting looking handlebars, including a "trekking" or "butterfly" bar, and drop bars with calibration marks as an aid to getting the brake levers evenly adjusted.
Unior is a company based in Slovenia, and offers a very large line of tools, including a good looking combined chain-whip/lockring wrench, and a device similar to the long extinct Hypercracker. I'm told that they're also the vendor who actually made the classic chrome-vanadium pedal wrenches formerly sold under the German "ELDI" brand name.
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