LAS VEGAS, Nev.—Sin City, Glitter Gulch, Lost Wages: all historical and well-appropriated nicknames for Las Vegas. It’s an amusing town with great food (if you know how to get yourself off the strip and into the right places) and, well, just about anything else large sums of money can buy. Vegas is all that. But it’s not a place most cyclists have on their list of top vacation spots. Despite the obvious disconnect, for the past 12 years the Gambling Capitol of the World has played host to the United States’ premier cycling trade show: Interbike
Despite constant grumbling from the troops and a precedent setting trend that a few major contenders (Trek, Cannondale, Tomac, and Yeti to name a few) chose only to display at the outdoor Dirt Demo or not at all, nearly everyone is there at some capacity from Sram, Shimano, Mavic, and Specialized all the way down to small marginalized inventors pushing products like carbon fiber flashing taillights or heat-moldable winter booties. The miscellany is what makes the show so interesting because it encompasses everything that is cycling with all its diversity from the wacky items to the latest technology and ideas.
This year, what we saw at Interbike was less ground-breaking invention but rather, subtle but meaningful refinements on the material and component designs of the last six years. As expected, carbon fiber has found it’s way into ever more products, suspension designs are only getting better, drivetrains are getting lighter and more functional (even Shimano’s electronic Di2 is no longer, pardon the pun, shocking). The best news is that most companies seem to be following a philosophy that lighter is only good if it’s also stronger. Many manufactures, with the help of lighter components form Sram and Shimano, are creating race ready full suspension 29ers that weigh 21lbs. That is down one to two pounds from 2010. Unless they are pushing the envelope to far, there are good things to come. Here’s a quick look at items, news, and trends that grabbed our attention at the show:
Suspension and Striving for Weightlessness
To drop one to two pounds from a bike, small weight cuts must come from every component of the bike, suspension included. Did I say lightweight was important? No matter what the application, whether it’s a downhill bike or a time trial bike, it must be light. As in years past this is the key component that has kept product developers and engineers on their toes. How can it be lighter and stronger at the same time? Each manufacturer seems to follow their own philosophy while pursuing the answers to the previous questions. For example, while at the Fox booth we came across a new prototype fork with a one-piece titanium crown/steerer setup. While over at Rock Shox carbon was the trend throughout their fork line up while air shocks are making their way into downhill bikes with their new Vivid Air. Though both companies play a huge role in the suspension industry, they are pushing in two very different directions.
|Rock Shox new line of rear shocks where air shocks are becoming bigger and better.||Vivid Air mounted up to Steve Peat's Santa Cruz V10 carbon.|
Another case can be made between the two big component manufacturers, Sram and Shimano. 10-speed mountain bike drivetrains are now all the rage for both companies. But while Sram boasts that 2x10 offers “The Right Gear” for most riders, meaning 2x10 drivetrains are versatile enough to be on anyones bike. But Shimano has a much different view believing that 2x10 is more for the race crowd than the general consumer, both pushing similar products but with very different philosophies on the application. Also we saw way more carbon on the Sram driverains than we did on Shimano's aluminum clad 2011 XT and XTR groups. It will be interesting to see what next year brings from all the big players.
Trail Bikes Continue to Get Lighter
As we have discussed through various reviews and our recent Downieville article, trail bikes are all the rage in the current mountain bike market. With weights of 6 and 7” travel bikes creeping below 25 pounds and suspension technology making them much more capable both uphill and down, it is no wonder these bikes are becoming so popular. Wondering around Outdoor demo, Ibis’s Mojo HD seemed to be one of the most popular bikes with show goers, or maybe it was just the Vitamin P paint job that made them stand out more… Either way, trail bikes are here to stay.
Quiznos Pro Challenge
In event related news, the Quiznos Pro Challenge Stage race built a lot of hype around a press conference to announce some big news on the event. While many of us anxiously awaited news regarding the route and stages of the race, we were told that the race has a new website and they will be announcing the race route soon, leaving us utterly disappointed.
Interbike back to Vegas
Overall, Interbike proved to be a great place to check out some new products, spread the Mountain Flyer vibe, catch up with old friends, and conduct a fair amount of business in a short time span. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of Vegas: its hot, expensive, and always busy but I do see the benefits it offers for the show. With the proposed location change to Anaheim for 2011, the Mountain Flyer crew had to make up for lost time while in Vegas this year.
It was great to get out and enjoy the local flavor in various ways, some maybe not the best decisions, but we were even able to sneak in some stellar dinners. One of our favorites was a Cuban restaurant called Havana Grill, offering a wide range of traditional Cuban cuisine at a reasonable price and the Mojitos weren’t too bad either.
But after a great trip we were all a little bummed the show was headed somewhere new, but it seems like there was a lot of disagreement about the change through the small cycling community. So Interbike will be back in Vegas for at least a couple more years…
While Las Vegas may not be an ideal setting for the cycling industry per se, it is a great reason to take a step away from everyday life and enjoy the company that the cycling culture offers. Plus the nightlife offers a huge change from what we are used to in out small Colorado town, getting out and seeing “the sights” adds greatly to the excitement of being in Vegas.