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By Matt Pacocha
Thursday marked the opening of the Eurobike trade show for the 15th consecutive year The show takes place in Friedrichshafen a small village on the banks of Lake Constance in southern Germany, the home of the once-great Zeppelin airships.
There has been a quiet grumble over the past few years about the state of the cycling industry in Europe and the rest of the world; that it has been stale or even in some cases faltering. One couldn’t know it by the volume of exhibitors at Eurobike. Even more assuring was the amount of time and capital exhibitors were putting into their displays. The booths of Trek, Scott, Stevens, Focus and Shimano, among many others, were staggering in size and glitz.
As you can guess, carbon is still at the forefront of every serious manufacturer’s line. But many manufacturers sounded almost scripted in their answers about why their specific style was better. It was if you were playing “Mad Libs.” The line went something like this: “Everyone can do carbon fiber, but our _____ (insert technology) makes a bike _____ (insert attribute) because of the way we _____ (insert manufacturing process).”
Despite the predictable pitch, manufacturing experience in carbon is allowing engineers to push the limits. You might be a bit skeptical, but more manufacturers are adding confidence by offering lifetime warranties and generally standing behind their products.
We reported in VeloNews issue #16 on Campagnolo’s new Chorus Ultra Torque crank. The Chorus crank is made from carbon fiber wrapped around a dense foam core. Francesco Zenere, Campagnolo’s press manager, filled us in further on the entry of the Ultra Torque cranks to the market. Danilo di Luca was the first racer to test the cranks in competition. He started the Vuelta a España, last week, on the new Record Ultra Torque crankset. From the looks of it, it sure didn’t hurt.
In the very near future, as soon as the 177.5 length of the crank is complete, Campagnolo will equip Tom Boonen with the crank. This will, hopefully, be before the 2006 world championships. “He is the one we would like to have test it,” said Zenere.
In addition to the cranks, Campy’s components have undergone a whole series of upgrades. Starting with Centaur and moving down the range is the new Escape shifting mechanism. The new design is lighter and requires less maintenance, but only allows one downshift per click, instead of the ability to dump an entire cogset with one stroke. Chorus and Record, what Campy classifies as racing groups, will retain the old mechanism allowing multiple downshifts per stroke. While the sprinters appreciate the old mechanism, climbers may prefer the new Escape for its lighter weight.
“It’s like the movement of a clock,” said Zenere about the Escape design. “If you look at the bikes of Simoni and Di Luca they are not sprinters, they are more climbers and they already use the Escape system.”
Both riders have custom Record shifters retrofitted with the lighter Escape mechanism; it drops 40 grams from the standard shifters. On the highest performance consumer group with Escape, Centaur, the 2007 shifters drop 80 grams over the 2006 version.
It has been a waiting game, and it’s finally over. Hutchinson is set to have two tubeless road tires available for 2007. The tires are both considered top-shelf racing tires. One is modeled after the Fusion tube-type tire, appropriately called the Fusion road tubeless. The other takes the place of the Fusion Air Light as a special tire for smooth roads in time trial or hill climb competition.
Hutchinson’s tubeless road tires took over five years to develop and much of that time was spent trying to get the tire’s bead right. Hutchinson’s engineers originally started with Kevlar, common in the beads of most foldable tires, but found Kevlar is much too elastic and would consistently blow off the rim at 60-70 psi. Steel worked in prototypes but proved much too heavy for high performance tires. Hutchinson turned to – what else? – carbon fiber in developing a new bead. It’s the same high modulus stuff that frame manufacturers use. It can be kept thin, it’s extremely light, and it has no level of elasticity.
The Fusion road tubeless is a 295-gram 700x23c triple compound tire that is meant for use in all conditions. As a reference, Hutchinson is quick to point out that most tire/tube combinations quickly eclipse the 300-gram mark. Hutchinson estimates that Fusion tubeless has life of 4000 km depending on road conditions.
The second tire is the Atom, an ultra-light racing tire that weighs 250 grams. It only comes in a 700x21c size. This tire is meant for competition only, and puts light weight above most of its other features.
Both tires feature 127tpi casings and Hutchinson’s carbon bead technology.
Currently Shimano makes the only tubeless compatible road wheelset; it even ships the set with tubeless valve stems. Campagnolo has both carbon and aluminum prototypes in testing. Cormia is also working on a carbon fiber tubeless road wheelset.
“A leader is obligated to pioneer new proposals and new things,” says Fulvio Acquati, Deda’s marketing manager.
That is why Deda’s new Zero 100 stem is made from aluminum not carbon fiber, a 2014 alloy to be exact. The new stem tips the scales at 100 grams in a 120mm length. Aquati considers his new aluminum stem “lighter, stiffer and safer” than carbon, though the 135 gram (120mm) Newton is still stiffer.
The most striking feature of the Zero 100 is its polished gunmetal anodized finish. The stem is 3D forged, but Deda uses a special lubricant in the mold during forging this allows them to make its walls ultra thin, the walls have a maximum thickness of 1.5mm and minimum of 1.1 millimeters.
Of course, the structure has been designed to put the material where it is needed for both strength and stiffness. The stem is finished with Ti bolts. The Newton 31.8 bar also gets a new finish to match the Zero 100.
20 years ago, in 1986, Look produced its first carbon frame and Greg LeMond promptly won the Tour de France on it. This year, Thor Hushovd took the final stage of the 2006 Tour de France on the new Look 595. That’s quite the anniversary present. But Look has something else up its sleeve, a new way of segmenting its line. Each top-end model has an Origin (base) model and an Ultra top-model that is made from VHM (very high modulus) carbon fiber.
The different fiber in the Ultra models makes the frame 15 percent stiffer than the origin model; everything else is the same, weight, geometry, and features. So the surprise is that Hushovd won on the Origin model of the top-level 595, only because the Ultra model wasn’t ready in time for the Tour. If anyone could use 15 percent more stiffness it would probably be Hushovd.
Both the Origin and Ultra models of the new 595 utilize Look’s new E-post, which is an integrated seat mast. Once cut the mast offers 4cm of adjustment in 1.25 mm increments through the use of spacers. Look has always offered plenty of fore/aft adjustment on its posts and this is no exception, it has a full 3 centimeters of adjustment. The front of the bike houses a proprietary fork, the HSC 6, which is molded as one-piece including its carbon fiber dropouts.
The 350-gram fork also uses a 1.125 upper headset diameter and 1.25 lower diameter for increased steering stiffness when sprinting or descending. At the other end of the bike Look uses a similar molding process to form the seatstays and chainstays. Each component has half of a dropout co-molded to it. The pieces, when assembled, lock together mechanically to connect the upper and lower stays. The two components also have a degree of rotation once mechanically locked, allowing Look to use the same seat and chainstay molds for all of its frame sizes. All of Look’s frames are made in a factory owned by Look. The factory is located in Tunisia.
Giro for your feet
John Nylander, Giro’s VP of international sales explained that the company put together a team with 25 years of footwear experience to pull this shoe project off. Members of the team came with experience garnered at respected brands like Puma, Nike, Adidas and Timberland.
Its goal was to take that experience and create a line of sport inspired fusion footwear that melds low profile athletic styles for the fashion savvy. Who the fledgling brand considers competition gives a better idea of its target audience – Puma, Diesel and Tsubo to name a few. Giro is also paying close attention to what consumers in this segment are looking for, and not all of the features can be found directly in each product.
Take its AfterSport sandal series. It can be considered an eco-friendly or green product. The sandals are EVA molded in Italy, but instead of traditional glue based assembly, the uppers and lowers snap together omitting the need for toxic adhesives.
The line is broken into three segments for a total of 15 different shoes. Each shoe has its own specifically designed sole, built to match the aesthetic and function of the shoe it’s intended to support. The three segments are the AfterSport sandals, which range in price from $50 to $60. The ActiveLife segment, which is possibly the most athletic and trendy of the group, it ranges from $100 to $130. Finally the Indie segment, they have a skate inspired feel, each shoe in this range is priced at $90.
What is Pro? This is a good question, and one that always comes up around Tour de France time. Likely because of the prevalence the brand currently has in the ProTour, and the TV time it receives in July. Yes, Pro makes wheels, but it’s not necessarily a wheel company. Aloys Hanekamp, one of Pro’s European Project managers based in Holland, explained that Pro started upwards of 12 years ago as a “value for money brand” to complete Shimano’s Bene-Lux distributor’s line.
While Pro has always been associated with a Shimano distributor, Shimano did not have a stake in Pro until recently. Two years ago Shimano Corporation realized the effort its distributors were making to turn Pro into an “A-brand” and at that point stepped in like a proud parent and took over. Since, the Pro components have had to pass Shimano Corporation’s strict testing protocols and guidelines, and Pro has become the A-brand it was striving to be in its fledgling years.
This past July you may have seen Pro products on any number of ProTour teams competing in the Tour including Gerolsteiner, Credit Agricole, T-Mobile and Rabobank. Come Interbike, Shimano America Corporation will introduce the brand to the U.S. for the first time and you too can get your hands on a Pro disc wheel or handlebar.
Speaking of Shimano, the manufacturer had its new Dura-Ace pedal, first spotted at the Tour, on display at Eurobike. The PD-7810 SPD-SL pedal features a larger platform than its predecessor. In addition, the cleat platform is now metal instead of plastic. The new pedal weighs 278 grams and its cleats weight 70 grams. Shimano claims that the redesigned platform has a noticeable advantage by promoting side-to-side foot stability.
To accompany the new pedals and the concept of foot stability, Shimano also released the SH-300 road shoe with thermo-form technology. The shoe’s upper as well as its antibacterial insole are heat moldable to a rider’s foot. Besides the moldable upper, the shoes have a monocoque molded Nanotec sole that is said to be 5 percent lighter than the SH-R215’s sole.
Two for the home team
Germany has plenty of its own bike manufacturers two these two come from very different ends of the spectrum. Rotwild is a small company that was founded by the ADP Engineering group 11 years ago, its first bike was a free ride rig, and it produces only about 2000 bikes per year. Focus on the other hand is part of Germany’s biggest manufacturer, Derby Cycle, when paired with partners Univega, Raleigh and Diamondback. The company builds and distributes Univega and Focus worldwide and only handles the distribution for Raleigh and Diamondback in Europe. The company sells over 500,000 bikes per year. Its flagship brand is Focus. Derby Cycle manufacturers the whole of Focus’s line in Germany. Neither of these brands is distributed in the U.S.
Rotwild Race R R2
A size medium R R2 weighs 1880 grams with a DT’s new carbon shock. Impressively light, especially considering Scott USA is touting similar numbers as the industry’s lightest. The rear end delivers 100mm of travel via linkage activated single pivot design. Rotwild uses a custom tube shape it has dubbed its channel race for the carbon tubes. Jes Wittrock, Rotwild’s marketing manager, explained that Rotwild uses shapes in carbon to extract ride characteristics from the bike, much like Rotwild does with its aluminum bikes. The pivots use bushings, not bearings, to keep the weight down.
Focus Cross Team
Hanka Kupfernagel won her last world championship title on an incarnation of this bike. She hopes to take it back on this one. The Euros know how to do ‘cross, and this bike comes equipped with SRAM Force, Easton Tempest 2 carbon wheels and Empella Frogglegs brakes.