Interbike Report

I just got back from a two day visit to Las Vegas for Interbike, and as promised here is a show report. I only go once every couple years or so, as for me there’s not enough changes to warrant going once a year. Sorry, I didn’t take a camera, so there’s no photos, but Dan had a camera and I’ll link to any photos that he might post.

Actually, the main reason I went this time was to see the rollout of a condensed version of the League of American Bicyclists’ Smart Cycling program, developed in conjunction with the National Bicycle Dealers Association, targeted towards bike shops and customers. Another key reason I made it out to Vegas was to meet and catch up with a few friends.

Back to the show – one noteworthy item was a large number of electric assist bikes, likely sparked by the higher gas prices and the potential interest in bike commuting. No noticable breakthoughs here, just the same concept of an electric assist motor powered by a rechargeable battery.

One of the areas where I would have expected rapid improvements in technology is bicycle headlights, due to the improvements in LED technology. I had purchased a Cateye HL-EL530 a few years ago, and a year later I found instructions on the internet to modify it to remove the old LED and replace it with a new one for increased brightness at no extra power consumption. I was disappointed to see that the exact same HL-EL530 that I bought a few years ago is still their flagship model for AA battery powered lights.

However, one interesting development is the use of a belt drive instead of a chain for singlespeed and fixed gear bikes. At first glance it is smoother, quieter, and certainly weighs less than a chain. The big downside is that the bicycle frame has to be designed to “break” at the rear dropout area in order to get the belt in. Some of the places where they decided to break the frame were better than others. Co-Motion was using the belt drive as the sync chain between the front and rear cranks on many of their tandems. That is a perfect application for the belt drive and requires no break in the frame. The downside is you need almost perfect chainline between the front and the rear cranks – without perfect chainline, a conventional chain is much more forgiving. We asked the folks at Co-Motion if the belt drive could be retrofitted to existing tandems, and for various reasons there’s about a 50% success rate.

An interesting development was a shaft driven bike, with the shaft incorporated into the right chainstay design and the frame designed and built around it. With a three speed or other internally geared rear hub, that would make a great bad weather bike, due to the absence of a chain. But at around $2000 for what would otherwise be a $700 bike, no thanks.

Jelly Belly is now entering the energy food market with “Sport Beans”. A one ounce pack has 100 calories and contains carbs, electrolytes, and Vitamins B and C. I better not let my son eat these instead of the regular Jelly Bellys! 🙂

I stopped by Speedplay to see if they had any resolution to my continuing frustration that they don’t have an adapter to turn their clipless Frog pedals into flat pedals. They did not, but they now have a mountain bike pedal that looks like an Eggbeater. Unlike their Frog pedals, the new pedals have float adjustment just like their road pedals. (Supposedly the new design will allow mud to more easily flow through, but I wouldn’t know myself, we don’t have to deal with mud in SoCal.) The cleat has a higher profile than the Frog cleat, a disadvantage for those of us who use the Frogs just to have walkable shoes on a road bike. Fortunately for us, they’re planning on keeping the Frog line around for that reason.

Another area of interest for me is folding bikes. Not too much new here, although we did see a new one that had a vertical split in the middle of the frame, so that the front and rear wheels lined up after folding, thereby making for a good mechanism to roll around the folded bike.

A couple of manufacturers have started making road bikes with full-sized frames and small 20″ wheels. The target market is urban commuters, who like the rapid acceleration and tight handling of small wheels normally found on folding bikes, but without the flimsiness (is that a word?) of a folding bike frame. The concept was also intriguing to Dan, as it gave him a possible option to be able to carry a bike inside his two seat sports car.

I noticed some manufacturers I’d seen in previous years absent this year. Notable (to me at least) was Southern California clothing manufacturer Kucharik, who has been at the show every year that I’ve been, but absent this year. Perhaps that is due to the economy. Too bad for me, as I was looking for a place that had matching adult/child jerseys off the shelf for me and my son.

Sorry, no updates on the big manufacturers, there’s plenty of other sites that have those updates. I didn’t visit Shimano, since with 9+ cogs in the back, I don’t have an interest in squeezing another one back there at the expense of a thinner chain. I heard rumors of electronic shifting, call me a retrogrouch but the manual shifting works fine for me, thanks.

All in all, a decent, but not outstanding show this year. I’ll probably go back again in a few years if I can make it.