It’s on – the biggest trade show the self-powered, two-wheeled world has ever witnessed convened in Friedrichshafen, Germany this week. This year, more than ever, it’s set to dwarf America’s annual Interbike trade show. The energy here is unparalleled. It’s clear that despite occasional doping drama at the highest level and malaise in the greater global economy, the sport of cycling is alive, healthy, and just as exciting as ever.
Keeping tabs on every one of nearly 1100 exhibitors is impossible. But over the next few days I’ll try to sift out as many of the more interesting and noteworthy bits of tech I can.
Normally I’m not much of a cyclocross fan (see my column in VeloNews magazine, November 2009). No, it’s not a popular point of view, but looking around Eurobike, clearly I’m in the minority.
Sweet cyclocross bikes no longer hide in dusty corners of company displays. They command prominent display on par with the best road and mountain bikes a builder offers. They’ve also obviously received plenty of love from various engineering departments as they’re now as fully teched-out as the best ProTour road racing bikes.
Just to get everyone all foamy about the coming cyclocross season, here’s an assortment of some of the killer bikes we found in Germany.
Cannondale’s new SuperX may or may not steal this show, but for `cross fans, it’s sure to steal hearts. The company’s newly promoted global product marketing manager Murray Washburn filled me in on how it came to be.
Washburn related that Cannondale star `crosser Tim Johnson borrowed a Flash carbon hardtail to do some mountain bike riding. If you recall, it’s an ultralight rig made from ballistics-grade carbon fiber and sophisticated tube profiles to present a compliant but stiff and efficient ride. Upon returning the bike, Johnson asked, “why can’t we have ‘cross bikes made this way?” Washburn said that Johnson loved and still loves the original CAAD 9 frame that carried him to several victories, but his query prompted the company to dig in and build a competitive carbon ‘crosser.
The result is a frame and fork that weighs less than 1400 grams in a 56cm size, according to Washburn. The SuperX uses loads of engineering developed for the Flash and brings a few elements of the proven SuperSix series as well. Starting with their impact resistant, ultra-strong BallisTec carbon fiber, Cannondale strategically added more brittle but stiffer high-modulus carbon to improve rigidity. As with the other elite carbon frames, the carbon tubes are laid up individually so they’re optimized for the loads of their location on the structure. The frame is then built via tube to tube construction overwrapped with additional carbon. A highlight of this method is the ability to run continuous strands of fiber from the front of the bike to its back, a feature which aids load distribution.
Naturally, frame tube shapes are tuned for stiffness and compliance. The SuperX rear stays are thinned horizontally to aid bump compliance. The head tube is tapered 1-1/8th inch to 1-1/4-inch for an optimum blend of stiffness, light weight, and strength. The slender seat tube widens at the oversized BB30 bottom bracket shell. SuperX frame geometry remains identical to the CAAD9 from last season.
Cannondale will be offering two models of their new SuperX. The flagship version will have parts nearly identical to those used by the elite Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com team. At $7500, you’ll have to want it pretty badly, but the Rival-equipped version is more reasonable, at $3700. And for those that still prefer aluminum, the CAAD9 `crosser is now replaced with the CAADX, a bike with subtle re-tuning of the frame geometry for more all-around riding. Three CAADX models range from $2000 to $1200 in price.
Best of the rest
- I checked out the Focus booth and saw not only the familiar, high-end carbon fiber Mares CX, but two aluminum models as well. Focus partners with Rapha for the upcoming 2010 season in a unique brand blend that is sure to attract attention.
- In the Santa Cruz stand, more dirt riders clustered around the Nomad and Tallboy carbon fiber mountain bikes than ogled the aluminum Stigmata ‘crosser. But the gorgeously simple Easton aluminum bike is finished with nothing more than a clear coat over the raw metal, and it looks like it’s begging to be tossed over a barrier.
- Somewhat surprisingly, Fuji Bicycles put love into their Altamira carbon ‘cross bike. It’s packed with features including a tapered head tube, BB86 internal bottom bracket, and fairly massive tube profiles. I failed to score info as to pricing and availability in the USA, and naturally I couldn’t vouch for the ride quality. However, I’ll wager that it’s stout as hell and it visibly sports major mud clearance.
Check the photo gallery for details, and stay tuned for more from Eurobike 2010.