Last week we took the night train down to Friedrichshafen, near the Swiss border and famous for just one thing: Zeppelins. Though zeppelins are cool WorkCycles doesn’t have much to do with them. No, we went for the Eurobike 2008 expo, some 17 or so zeppelin hangers full of bike industry geeks and bike porn… or at least its bike porn if you get excited by millions of molded carbon fiber racing bikes, full suspension mountain bikes in more shades of use categories that I can shake a stick at (freeslide, 49’er, XTC, downhell, northwhore, mud…), and dozens of bike brands with cookie cutter bikes at every €50 “price point”. I guess after 30 years in and out of the bike industry it has ceased to knock my socks off.
Now we go to the bike expos looking for very specific, mundane things such as:
And to shake some familiar hands, meet a few new people, and see what the ridiculous new products of of the year are. More about that later.
Every other cycling site and magazine will show you the same competition bred, carbon fiber, disk-brake, metal matrix unobtanium, chinese made but european labelled bling-bling so I’ll focus here on some off the beaten path gems and non-gems. Enjoy and flame away if I’ve trashed your baby and gotten your panties in a bunch!
The most memorable thing I saw at Eurobike 2008 was the flatland freestyle BMX show – or whatever they call it. This was an informal affair with a DJ and a handful of riders in the outdoor area between the expo halls. I don’t think these guys were “pros” or anything or at least there wasn’t much obvious sponsorship going on. But they were awesome. What a demonstration of balance and creativity! Thanks, you made my day in an otherwise boring event!
We arrived a little bit too early so we had to mill about before being allowed to view all the bike goodness inside. Near the entrance was a display of award winning “designs” or something like that. I confess to not reading the signs.
At least three of the bikes displayed here featured a new toothed belt drive system by Gates called “Carbon Drive”. See? Even the belts have carbon in them, though its probably just carbon black in the rubber… which was incidentally a big selling point over at the Continental Tires stand last year, even though its as ordinary as dirt in the woods. Its like advertising “iron enhanced steel” or “new, water with Hydrogen atoms!”. I guess when there’s nothing new under the sun you just have to make something up.
In any case the toothed belt drive is back for another try on bikes as it ought to be. In contrast to previous belt drive systems for bikes this one looks very robust and is adaptable to various types of bikes. The main challenges are:
In larger scale production the price and availability should be improved so we’ll keep our eyes open for these.
Nick Lobnitz of Carry Freedom trailer fame was showing off prototypes of his new “Paper Bike”. No its not actually made of paper, or even bamboo though Nick has done that before. There is however carbon black in the tires.
The Paper Bike is a clean looking and practical utility bike aimed primarily at bike rental and share systems. The frame loops around the drivetrain effectively protecting it from damage and weather. Simultaneously the resulting surface(s) offer copious space for branding and/or personalization.
Pathetically enough the images above show every new load carrying bike I could find amongst the 17 halls at Eurobike. At least there’s one cool piece among them. Clockwise beginning in the upper left:
Upper left and middle:
Larry vs. Harry (a.k.a. Hans and Lars) of Copenhagen showed off their new Bullitt transport bicycle. Its sort of a Long John on high tech steriods, half aluminium urban racing bike and half I don’t know what. The Bullitt is kitted out with high-zoot parts such as a Shimano Alfine drivetrain and hydraulic disk brakes. The rider’s position is aggressively sporty, there’s no chain guard or lights and the concessions to daily use are minimal. It’s dangerously, uncompromisingly cool. I’ve no idea who’ll buy them but I do want one for myself! We’re curious enough to put a couple in the showrooms at WorkCycles.
Richard and I each rode the Bullitt a couple times with and without loads. It’s as stiff as a log and the seating position wasn’t as extreme as it looked ( at least not for this ape-armed ex-racer who already has his city bike handlebars lower than the saddle). What wasn’t so convincing was the steering geometry. We both ride long-wheelbase transport bikes regularly and we each noted that the Bullitt is notably less stable and secure handling than the Bakfiets Cargobike or Fietsfabriek 995. The bike still needs some front end geometry tweaking and we hope that Harry and Larry are listening.
Bernds in Germany showed a couple prototypes of this Bakfiets Cargobike like child transporter. We weren’t sure whether to take it seriously as the box was just hastily made from plywood and the steering linkage wasn’t even functional; the front wheel could only be turned a few degrees in one direction.
A Dutch-Israeli firm called Taga displayed this multifunctional child carrier that can be converted between tricycle and stroller. Unlike the similar sounding TrioBike (which I’ve previously maligned for various reasons – see here and here) and Zigo, the Taga approaches its tasks very differently: “Continuity” is the operative word for the Taga, meaning that no parts of the bike/stroller need to be left behind. The entire machine converts (rather ambitiously I’ll add) between the two basic modes. The stroller mode was particularly slick.
Richard and I rode the Taga (in trike mode obviously) and at least at slow speeds around the exhibit halls it felt unfamiliar but handled well. It remains to be seen how it’ll feel at higher speeds and under the more varied conditions of the real world roads. The conversion mechanism appeared straightforward and solid. The people I talked to mentioned a number of other issues that are being worked on and all in all it appears a very professional outfit.
Oh, gimme a break people!
The most serious recent entry into the transport bicycle market is the Accell Group with their Accell Pro division. Accell is the owner of such brands as Batavus, Sparta, Winora, Hercules, Koga Miyata, Redline and Lapierre. They sell approximately 950,000 bicycles per year with a turnover of just under €500 million. Accell will focus on Postal Delivery (taking over where the recently imploded Biria left off), Cargo, Rental and Corporate bicycles. I guess Accell must have been jealous of WorkCycles’ success in this area.
And the winner of the “I can’t believe anybody would be so stupid as to invest so much R&D and promotion into such a worthless concept as this” award goes to the Body Buddy. Not only did these people have huge stand with dozens of these things, they had also an entire team of pretty girls merrily stepping their way around the expo halls in impossibly short bodybuddytm yellow miniskirts.
From the bodybuddy website the following prose:
“The greatest ideas, the ideas that rewrite history, almost always come from people who originate from rural areas…”
“nevertheless, the “bodybuddy” will change today’s streetscape quite a bit”
“Why work out on the spot when it is possible to convert this energy into movement?”
What a novel idea, converting human energy into movement! Yes, let’s invent a crazy machine that does this and then introduce it at the world’s biggest bicycle expo! Brilliant.