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Going Backwards to Move Forwards

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Photographs: Guy Andrews

In almost two decades the Eurobike show has grown exponentially. Each year it’s got a new hall, a new car park and a new restaurant, it seems that Eurobike built the Messe at Friedrichshafen because it’s pretty certain that the bike industry’s visit is the only fair that could fill the place – and it’s immense.
The constant struggle to launch ‘new’ product has, I think it’s fair to say, ground to a halt. Okay, maybe not a complete halt, but a simmer at least. Engineers will tell you that technology can only be refined so much: after a while, change is for change’s sake and then the industry becomes all about fashion and marketing, rather than function. But brands will always tell you that they need a story. No changes to report is not a story anyone wants to hear.
Once the UCI has made up it’s mind on disc brakes things will certainly speed up again. Most seem well prepared for it and for ‘cross I suspect it will be accepted across the board for this season’s racing. For the road, though, the idea of having to buy a completely new frame and wheels to facilitate discs may not be the best news, especially if you’ve only just ordered a new one for electronic.
That is not to say that there haven’t been any improvements, but we’ve properly arrived at the thin end of a huge wedge here. Appraisals of existing designs will always be, but the next step for bicycle design isn’t going to be huge. Gone are the days of massive improvements to things – so where next?
I believe bike product ranges could definitely do with being trimmed down and my hope is that quality could then improve. That would be really good for the consumer.
It’s not to say that the bike industry isn’t in rude health, because it is. It’s just that new ideas for improving our lot are pretty thin on the ground. For example, Specialized and De Rosa had new bikes made from – guess what? – aluminium, that wonder material that was discarded like a shitty stick by most the minute carbon landed in the bike world. So just as they have discovered a way to recycle the black stuff, maybe we’re heading back towards metal again…

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