Eurobike 2011: Lighter, New Decals & Screw Bikes for Normal Folks

Eurobike 2011-298
Workcycles’ Tom Resink really does take much better pictures than I can.

Wow, I see it’s been almost three months since my last post here at BEM. I guess time just flies when you’ve two little kids running around, not to mention 15 employees, a few dozen suppliers, several thousand customers and a fleet of your own bikes begging for regular exercise. Somehow my blogging hobby just gets pushed to the back burner. I can’t even blame good weather and fun outdoor activities for my lack of writing activity, since the sun has mostly hidden behind a cold shield of clouds and rain since May. Heck, we had to go to the south of France for three weeks to find some decent weather!

But yes, we did make the annual pilgrimage to Eurobike in the famous Zeppelin City of Friedrichshafen, Germany again. And being approximately my gazillionth trade show visit I wasn’t surprised by much. Finding some cool stuff in the first few trade shows one visits is no great trick. That is, of course, assuming you’re actually at an expo for a topic you care about rather than, say, me going to the Office Furniture Expo. But that would be silly because I’m a bike nerd and not an office furniture geek, and though I have ideas for other businesses none of them have anything to do with office furniture aside from needing a place to sit and put my stuff.

But I digress. We went to Eurobike and despite searching quite thoroughly we didn’t find much that seemed “newsworthy”. In all fairness making headlines isn’t the primary goal of our visit. We go there because suppliers, dealers and other industry insiders from all over the world are also there. You get a better understanding of the people you do business with when you talk face to face. We explained to the owner of the Italian centerstand company that all of their new stands broke and he showed us improvements and asked to get some examples back. We exchanged business cards and then he ignored my emails. Over at Sun Race / Sturmey Archer we politely told them how a certain new shifter they’re selling is absolutely horrible, which we’ve since been in regular contact about and exchanging samples and vintage parts for inspiration. And sometimes your friend at A-Bikes connects you to somebody he knows at B-Bikes who knows a guy at C-Bikes who might be good to make the left-hand threaded, eleven speed spokes you need.

Actually we still haven’t found those special spokes but we did find these new Michelin Protek Max inner tubes:

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They even won one of the prestigious but apparently affordable Eurobike Awards. As evident from the name this is one of those ingenious multifunction products you wish you’d thought up yourself. On the one hand it’s a perfectly good, if somewhat heavy, inner tube to keep compressed air inside your bike’s tires. But cut it open and tie off one end and it’s also a condom long enough for the best endowed men on earth. Ribbed for his and her pleasure! So if you’re riding along and just happen to meet Miss or Mr. Right Now you’ll be prepared.

I’m sure our astute readers can think up some other handy, dual purpose bike parts: Seat post pumps, rear dropout beer bottle openers, tire lever quick release levers, handlebar U locks…?

We did of course see a few things we weren’t really expecting, though their contribution to society might be questionable. Below a few examples spearheaded by the carbon fiber Italian city bike. The combination of crabon fiber and cast iron fork crown and componentry might well have been the most novel idea in the 17 halls of bike goodness. By the way you can click each photo to see it in higher resolution and often to see more examples not shown here. Just a hint.

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Actually the Italians had their fancy, quasi-traditional city bikes out in force. This one only had carbon fiber in the many leather accessories but at least it was also gold plated. I guess there’s no crime in Italy since such a bling-bling “City” bike would get ripped off within milliseconds in Amsterdam, Paris, New York or any other city I’ve spent bike time in. Or maybe these bikes are intended for those Italian men whom mere thieves steer a wide berth around, lest they find themselves part of the Meadowlands stadium foundation.

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Usually we see a clear theme or two at each expo. Just two or three years ago you couldn’t throw a free water bottle without hitting an outrageous chopper at Eurobike. The longer, lower, fatter and more contorted the better. Scantily clad and heavily made up females paraded them all through the halls. Choppers might still be popular on the street (though not here in Amsterdam) but have disappeared from the bike industry’s consciousness. Only the undisputed king of the fat bikes stuck around for another showing:

eurobike-workcycles-2011 30
The King of Choppers from reknowned German firm Bitte Nicht Beruhren!

And I suppose if I went to the trouble and expense of building something like that I’d do my own best to get as much mileage out of it as possible… and that isn’t going to happen by racking up the kilometers at a wobbly, walking pace.

So without further ado, here are some “themes” (or is it “memes” now?) we detect, in the form of a picture show and tell.

Lightweight
For whatever reason the bike industry has been obsessed with light weight for decades but in the last years it’s been reaching a frenzy. Friends in the US tell me how no self respecting, middle-aged, spare tire equipped weekend warrior would even bother showing up for the evening group ride without a 7kg Cervelo. My friend Gary, a long-time cyclist and regular on Palo Alto’s twice weekly morning ride told me a funny story recently. While cooling off after the rolling 30km loop on his trusty 80’s era Merckx (with modern parts) another rider congratulated him for being able to “keep up” on such a dinosaur of a bike. Now don’t get me wrong; I like equipment as much as the next guy and have spent many an hour designing and building my own fast bikes. But I also understand that it doesn’t actually make that much of a difference until the margin of winning or losing races is measured in seconds or even fractions of a second. Toward the end of my competition career I missed getting a bronze medal in the US national pursuit championships by 0.09 seconds. In fact the silver medal was only about 2 seconds faster. It’s a fair bet that some time in a wind tunnel to improve my position and choice of gear would have netted me at least the bronze. Probably even the “blind” purchase of whatever was reported to be the latest, greatest pursuit frame could have done the same.

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This bike weighed less than Tom’s eyeglasses but it also had squishy, creaky brakes (and probably lots more). Yuck! Who wants to ride a bike that feels like that?

But to ride with the group around “the loop”? I’d even go so far as to venture that for this type of recreational cycling the advantages of modern road racing bikes (stiffness, lighter weight, more gears) are to a great extent offset by several disadvantages (giant frames and parts with the aerodynamics of a cinder block, higher bearing friction and cranks as wide as a horse). In any case it’s hard to comprehend that another cyclist could be so deluded by the marketing hype that he’d actually believe that Gary would be meaningfully handicapped by riding a bike similar to those ridden to victory in most professional races as late as the early 90’s.

Henry's 1980ish DeRosa
This isn’t Gary’s Merckx. It’s my own, similar 1980ish DeRosa. Just for the record: I don’t feel hamstrung by this 30 year old bike.

Getting back to Eurobike the only really obvious trend was for Lightweight. I don’t mean just “light weight” but actually the company called Lightweight and the very light weight wheels they make. I’ve been told they’re “good” wheels and they damn well ought to be for about €3000 and up. It is a little bit of a bummer though that a broken spoke thanks to the airline or somebody’s pedal poking means the death of the wheel. Ping. Oops there goes €1500.

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Whatever. Though I object to the concept I don’t really care much about disposable €3000 wheels. That is, I wouldn’t care if they were just an exotic piece of sports equipment used by serious athletes to win events. What’s strange though is that Lightweight wheels were absolutely everywhere at Eurobike. They had a big, fancy stand stocked with earnest men explaining the wheels’ benefits and their spoke insurance program. We saw an entire group ride shod with Lightweights. Dozens of stands featured them in most of their bikes. Even “city bikes” wore Lightweight wheels:

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Please name something more stupid than this €10,000 “city bike”. Then consider that it won a Eurobike award.

Meanwhile one had to search far and wide to find a quality, comfortable, stylish bike for a regular guy to ride his kid to school on. I suppose this observation says all we really need to know about the bike industry or at least where Eurobike is going: Cycling is a sport and the more extreme the better. End of story.

Well I’m running out of writing steam and time here so you’ll just have to wait a few days (or more) for the next Eurobike meme: Inventors’ Stupid Drivetrains. Other bike industry themes also coming soon: Co-branding, Protection and Utilitarian Bikes? Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalalal I can’t hear you!.

Sneak preview of the next post, just to get your nerdy minds salivating with anticipation:

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22 Responses to “Eurobike 2011: Lighter, New Decals & Screw Bikes for Normal Folks”

  1. nicolas Says:

    Oh boy oh boy the stringbike!
    I have to say, i think those Italian bikes are straight-up gangsta. If I were a mob boss (and I already have the three-piece suit), I’d ride around with one of those, collecting protection money and doing some loan-sharking. Like solid-gold faucets in a bathroom, they make no sense but they’re endearing. So tacky.

    The thing I hate the most about Lightweight is their typography. Their brand belongs on a €50 purple late-90s Chinese-made something. Same as Zipps, they make any bike tacky and ugly.
    The crabon “city bike” with Lightweight wheels looks like a design-school project from Bicycle Design that shockingly found VC money.

    The hubless chopper qualifies as a recumbent, right?

  2. ben Says:

    Yay, raise the handicap of those bikes so we can pedelec the hell out of them! Thanks for your post-Eurobike post, I almost thought you’d break with tradition this time around. Here’s to a successful 2012 and expansion into the neighboring territories, I want to see many more of your beautiful bikes around Cologne!

  3. Jim Says:

    From what I understand Interbike reversed its tech-first trend this year by introducing many more transpo bikes. Must have something to do with the econ/culture here.

  4. Marion Says:

    *lol* Especially those idiots who think that you need the lightest of the lightest bike to cycle fast. I get so annoyed when I read reactions on some blog by some bloke who is against cycle-infrastructure because ‘cyclepaths are good for housewives and old folks but it would only slow them, the Real Cyclists, down’.

    I bet that any of them would be pwned by any Dutch postie, like Michael Boogerd was on the Cauberg:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgU1CY4-sjU

  5. henry Says:

    Nicolas,
    I’ll get to to the string bike later. It was the worst case I’ve seen yet of an inventor so wrapped up in his invention that he can’t see that it’s a bad idea.

  6. henry Says:

    Marion,
    I agree with parts one and two, that you don’t need fancy equipment to cycle pretty fast and the ridiculous elitism of cyclists who argue against bike infrastructure on the basis that it’ll slow them down.

    But that any Dutch postie could kick a real racer’s butt?… Nope. I’ve seen that video and it just demonstrates that a fit rider can indeed ride a loaded city bike up a hill at a reasonable pace. I do the same with two kids aboard. See for example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/henryinamsterdam/6055117789/in/set-72157627436933980

    But I also raced for 15 years and know just how absurdly fast a pro can ride. No disrespect to a very tough postie but Boogert and his training mates were just gliding along up the Cauberg, and quite likely in the middle of a long day in the saddle with no breaks. The postie also rides for several hours but actually only covers a small distance in short pieces.

  7. rob Says:

    Marion, your video only makes sense if you are suggesting that quinces boost performance….hence the title, quince and pedelers….that was it wasn’t it?

  8. Marion Says:

    Yes, Henry, I know. I’m a Dutch postie (be it part-time and only on saturdays) and I couldn’t keep up with you or anyone on a racingbike, especially on the Cauberg – nor would I want to.

    There used to be a certain type of Ugly American Tourist. You know, the fat one in the loud Hawaian shirt and sunhat and -glasses, with three expensive cameras round his neck. The type who only shouts louder at the ‘ignorant natives’ when they indicate that they don’t know what Ugly Tourist wants. The ones who ‘do Europe in a week’.

    If I say that there used to be (and perhaps still is) a certain type of Ugly American Tourist, I don’t mean that ALL Americans, or ALL American tourist for that matter, are Ugly and uncouth. Or even that this type of behaviour is only displayed by Americans (although Ugly German Tourists tend to be more obnoxious in a Lets Hog All The Best Spots On The Beach And Around The Hotel’s Pool, if my sun-loving friends are to be believed) It’s just that this type of behaviour sticks out like a sore thumb. All the nice, open and unassuming American tourists go unnoticed *because* they are nice, open and unassuming.

    Well, just as there are Ugly Tourists, there are Ugly Cyclists. They tend to think that Speed and Having The Right Outfit matters most. They look down on ‘normal people’ on ‘sit-up-and-beg’ bikes (what a name!) because these Are Not REAL Cyclists in their eyes. They are vehenemently against cycle infrastructure because this would, they think, Slow Them Down.
    Some of them ride daily, but most of them only ride when weather permits. It’s Speed, after all, that matters to them, and snow and slush would only Slow Them Down.

    You know the type.

    Well, these fellows tend to go for the lightest bike they can get. They will spend fortunes on these latest lightweight flimsy, ask only “how much does it weigh” whenever in a blog there is mention of a ‘Dutch bike’ and scoff at anything that isn’t made of fiberglass.

    You know, Loud and Ignorant people.

    People who will scoff at a 30 yo Merckx.

    Now, I’m sure you, Henry, could out-ride any postie (although I’m pretty sure that if you were to try delivering mail for a couple of weeks, say in december, you would be so dead, it wouldn’t be funny) but then, YOU are not the one who scoffs at 30 yo Merckx’s, are you? YOU are the one who, in fact, just made fun of the ignorant Cyclists who were amazed that someone on a heavier Merckx could ‘keep up’ with the latest must-have carbon crowd.

    I still stand by my words. Give any postie worth his salt a Merckx and they will outride any of these hollow vats*.

    *Because the Dutch proverb states that ‘hollow vats make the most noise’.

  9. Frits B Says:

    Marion should read today’s post at Lovely Bicycle (lovelybike.blogspot.com): The Weight Sneaks Up On You.

  10. Ross Shafer Says:

    Hi Henry,

    Thanks for the rational Eurobike review. I was at the recent Padova bike show and came away with many of the same impressions. While I don’t completely despise the sculptural aspects and technical potential of carbon bike construction….all the swoopy molded carbon stuff begins to look the same very quickly….6 halls filled with more or less generic chinese carbon bikes differentiated from one another by way too many graphics just doesn’t get me very excited….the fact that at a bike show in Italy there was hardly anything actually made in Italy to be seen was just plain depressing to an old bike nerd like me. A pal had an interesting carbon frame in his booth that had some pleasing lines. I commented on the nice looks and my pal went into a long promo on what a talent the graphic artist was who designed the frame…..oy vey! At least I was in Italy and eating well for a week!

  11. henry Says:

    Hey Ross,
    Didn’t know you were reading too. It’s a dark day when even the Italians aren’t making their own stuff.

    I’m also not anti-carbon; It’s certainly a handy material that gives the designer a good deal of freedom to make cool stuff with properties tuned for the task at hand. My 1992 Kestrel 200SCi (w custom steel stem by you!) was absolutely the best riding racing bike I ever had. But now with the focus so laser guided on either weight savings or aerodynamics and with such undifferentiated design language most of the bikes are really boring. Only a handful of production manufacturers have the balls to make truly cool looking carbon bikes. BMC with their funky rectangular tubes and interesting joints comes to mind and a couple of the top model Felts are really slick.

  12. Peter Says:

    Great post Henry. The lightweight/speed obsession of the bike industry really annoys and baffles me I have to say. Sure, going fast is fun, but isn’t a major aim of any endurance sport (such as cycling) to get fitter? If you’re a serious cyclist, why then drift around town (in major cities there isn’t much scope to legally or safely get up to high speed for long) on a featherweight bike, hunched over the handlebars and dressed in lycra when cycling on a roadster will (according to some estimates) take twice as much energy than your road bike? Wouldn’t it be better to build up your quads and conditioning by cycling on a heavy roadster during the week and then using that power and endurance to blow away all-comers on a lightweight road bike on the weekends? I actually speak from some experience here – I row on the weekends, and am sure that the stronger quads and endurance I’ve developed by cycling everywhere in London on my 25 kg WorkCycles bike (plus 5 kg luggage) has helped enormously on the indoor rowers and on the water. It’s even made me wonder if it could be 0.1% of the reason why the Netherlands is one of the rowing forces on the world stage.

    Even the speed thing baffles me. I mean, if you really want to go fast with less effort, recumbents are clearly the way to go, what with 80% of effort going into overcoming wind resistance at higher speeds. Recumbents dramatically cut this wind resistance. I used to cycle on one – a 20 kg heavy-duty tourer – and never encountered a roadie I couldn’t go faster than.

  13. kids scooters Says:

    Kids scooters are becoming an outdoor craze nowadays. It develops independence and confidence over self. It can be used for any outdoor activity.

  14. henry Says:

    kids scooters,
    Thanks for your spammy message. I’ve left it for all to read your words of wisdom but deleted the advertising link.

  15. henry Says:

    Peter,
    My friends and I figured out long, long ago that there’s little correlation between the price of your equipment and the fun you can have on it. Even as junior racers we spent much of our time “training” on beater bikes built from the scrap heaps of the shops we worked in. Typical was a 60’s Raleigh pattern city bike stripped of all but the parts needed to scream around in the woods. Often our “death rides” would extend from morning till night, only ending either when it got too dark to see or somebody or their bike was too broken too continue.

    Sometimes these trail bikes wouldn’t survive more than a few weeks, or even one ride but boy did we learn how to ride (and wrench)! Unencumbered by concerns of breaking our expensive racing equipment we would absolutely thrash ourselves and each other on those bikes. Then on the weekend we were totally comfortable bumping elbow and hips while drifting and sliding through the greasy, wet streets of dozens of east coast towns.

    These days I spend most of my cycling time on bikes that weigh 20-40kg plus 25kg of kids plus gear… and I still enjoy it immensely. And yes, as you note, it does feel great to get on the racing bike or even better my track bike when I’ve time.

  16. pit Says:

    Hello Henry,

    As usual wonderful and funny coverage of the trade show, sad that you don’t have time to write more, it’s always a pleasure to read you. I visited your shop with my GF some time ago and we both loved it. So I am sad I ‘missed’ you when you were in Brussels. Yes it’s a bad city to bike in, never understood how much difference there was in 2 regions of what is until now 1 country. I would have loved if you had a coverage of the Orange Bike Days and cycling in Brussels in general…
    Next time you are in town, just let us know and we’ll show you good places and you could even sing rickshaw-karaoke (see website)!
    p

  17. henry Says:

    Hi pit,
    Thanks. I’ll try to put up a little piece about our Orange Bike Days rides. We had a fun weekend, partially from the adventure of traveling with the train, two bikes and two little kids. As you’d figure Antwerp was a piece of cake while Brussels was more challenging. You see these differences everywhere, not just on the streets but also even in the lifts (or lack thereof) in the train stations.

  18. Rog Mason Says:

    Hi,
    I hope you can help me? I have been browsing Modia bicycles and seenm to come up with a Swiss made sport/road cycle?

    I have two green, Mondia ‘traditional’ (sit up and beg) bicycles and I am trying to determine their origin and value. Each (men’s and ladies’) have 3 speed Sturmey Archer rear hub gears, a SA wheel rim dynamo and hub brakes. I think they were purchase in the 1980’s in Holland.

    They each have decals on the frame, on the down tube under the saddle, that states;
    Made in Belgum,
    N.V. Marcel Geurts Ind
    3630 Maasmechelen
    FrameNo. 287920 (men’s bike) and
    285362 (ladie’s bike)

    Any help you can give me will be appreciated. Thank you.
    Rog Mason

    Thank you

  19. henry Says:

    Hi Rog,
    I believe Mondia is a Belgian make. We never see them in the Netherlands though it’s possible they were actually made in the Netherlands. Most likely it’s worth riding and enjoying and nothing more.

  20. Frits B Says:

    Rog,
    Why not write Marcel Geurts? According to a Google search his company data are:
    Nv Marcel Geurts Industry
    Oude Bunders 2030
    B-3630 Maasmechelen
    t: 0032 89770442
    Website – None
    E-mail – None

    but as he has neither website nor e-mail chances are it’s a dead company.

  21. Rog Mason Says:

    Frits,
    What a sensible suggestion, thank you. One becomes locked into the ‘Google’ way of thinking these days. Of course, ‘snail mail’ 🙂

    I’m increasingly getting the feeling that you are right and that it is a dead company. Strange that a Belgian bicycle company would market bikes under the same name as a neighbouring and famous Swiss road racer company? Maybe that is the reason they may no longer exist? Infringement? Not the sort of behavior one would expect from a European company though?

    I shall try writing as you suggest Frits, thanks.

    Rog

  22. henry Says:

    I doubt there were any exciting reasons for Mondia’s disappearance in the world of city bikes. Tons of city bike brands are just decal jobs, often famous old bike and car names stuck on generic bikes. It’s been like this since about the 1960’s and 70’s when the major bike companies swallowed up almost all of the smaller players.

    But seriously, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that your pair of Mondias are anything special or have value beyond simply being nice, practical bikes. Perhaps I’m just jaded but I would leave it at that.

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