1. Ultegra Di2.
No doubt about it, Shimano owns electronic shifting and they are going to keep it that way for 2012 and beyond as they introduce Di2 technology to its second-in-command groupset, Ultegra. The guys at BikeRumor.com have a very detailed review of the new groupset so I won’t bother with too much detail here. The most pleasing aspect of the new groupset is that Shimano has managed to deliver Di2 to a cheaper price-point as well as refining its design. For example, setup and diagnosis of Ultegra Di2 is now taken care of by a service-checker that is driven by software rather than the glorified charge-meter developed for Dura Ace Di2. They’ve also changed the design of the lead plugs to make them smaller and water resistant (no more shrink-wrap required). We’ll know more about retail prices once the groupset is released later this year, but expect Ultegra Di2 to sell at about the half the price of Dura Ace Di2. Or put another way, you’ll be able to buy an Ultegra Di2 groupset for about the same price as mechanical Dura Ace.
2. Bikes with Ultegra Di2.
It looks like every major manufacturer will offer a road model with Ultegra Di2 in 2012 and these models will attract a lot of attention from new road bike buyers even though they will be priced like Dura Ace-equipped bikes. In the past, a lot of buyers couldn’t see the value in a Dura Ace-equipped bike since Ultegra offered virtually the same shifting performance. However, electronic shifting is a tangible and appealing upgrade. In addition, the new models will raise general awareness of electronic shifting. Ultegra Di2-equipped bikes will still occupy the higher end of the market, but more shops will be able to afford to stock road bikes equipped with Di2 and it won’t be long before C-graders are racing on this gear.
3. Fast bikes
Aerodynamics continues to drive new variations on bike design. Ridley was showing the latest iteration of its Noah platform at Eurobike and I can’t stop marvelling at its highly integrated brake calipers. Wilier unveiled its new twin-foil time-trial bike, Canyon offered a peek at their next sleek offering, and BMC showed off its Time Machine. Meanwhile, Cervelo has started transferring elements of the P5 time trial bike to its road range to give us the new S5 frameset.
4. Disk brakes for road bikes (well almost)
There’s no denying it, disk brakes are coming for road bikes and at least one manufacturer has dedicated itself to developing road bikes with disk brakes. You may also be aware that disk brakes are now UCI-approved for cyclocross, and this has added to interest in disk brakes for riders on skinny wheels and drop bars. So now it’s time to contend with the shortcomings of cable-activated disk brakes. Sure, they work fine, but if you’re going to go to the trouble of switching to disk brakes, you deserve the power and modulation of hydraulic brakes. Unfortunately, Shimano and SRAM have yet to provide a hydraulic option for their road shifters, so Hope, TRP, and Trickstuff have developed new devices that convert cable power to hydraulic power. They all look a little makeshift to my eye, but they represent the next step in the evolution of braking for road bikes.
5. Look frames
Look has joined the growing number of companies (eg. Trek, Pinarello, Ridley, and most recently, Neil Pryde) that offer custom finishes for their road frames. Look’s Premium Collection allows you to purchase a 586, 596, or 695 frameset in custom colours fashioned after your country’s flag, plus, they can add your name or signature to the top tube. I’ve seen Flag Editions for France, Great Britain, Brazil, USA, and Canada, so it makes me wonder what they will do with the Aussie Flag. Look also unveiled a limited edition 695 stealth bike to honour Greg Lemond’s success at the TdF, where he was the first rider to win the race on a carbon bike. They will be offering 695 of the anniversary bikes.
6. Castelli SpeedSuit
When I look at this combined jersey/bibshort, I wonder if this was how the previous generation felt when they first saw lycra bibshorts. Castelli claims that the SpeedSuit has aerodynamic advantages and can provide you with data from their wind-tunnel tests but I was more interested to read that they may offer a new level of comfort on the bike. Is this the next step in the evolution in cycling clothing? The SpeedSuit will retail for about the same price as a high quality pair of bibshorts and jersey, so there is no premium for the new technology, and it will be available for all to buy next year.
7. Sidi x Speedplay
8. Gold plated bars
Here’s the bling: Schmolke has committed to making 10 sets of its carbon TLO road bars with gold plating. Price? If you have to ask, then you can’t afford it…
Thank goodness for Park Tools. In this instance, they have come up with a tool to remove Campagnolo’s Power-Torque cranks well before Campagnolo, plus, they’re offering it as an adaptor for their Campag bearing-puller rather than as a whole new tool. Park’s other new offerings include burly metal tire levers that won’t harm your rims and a spoke wrench to suit the next iteration of Mavic wheels.
Elsewhere, Lezyne unveiled some nifty gear: my fave is a 3-way tool where the bits can be replaced and each tool comes with a set of spare bits. It’s also worth noting that Lezyne makes a very affordable 11-speed chain-breaker.
10. SRAM pART project.
Okay, this hasn’t got much to do with bikes per se, but after you have a look at these sculptures, I’m sure you’ll be impressed (plus, it may change the way you look at small bike parts). SRAM sent 46 artists a box of 100 of its small parts and they had to use at least 25 to make a sculpture. The results were on display at Interbike and you can see them all on their website. SRAM will be auctioning the sculptures next month and the proceeds will go to World Bicycle Relief.
That’s our roundup, feel free to tell us about your favorites and things we missed.