Thursday, March 27, 2014

NAHBS and after - 2014+ wish list

This year's NAHBS is long over and while I didn't attend the show, it made me think about a few innovations we have seen during the recent years and share some thoughts on the direction the bicycle industry should, in my opinion, follow in the nearest future:
1) We desperately need a new road groupset(s) from the Big Three (Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo) designed for "normal" road bicycles, that is, those used by "normal" people - not racers. It should offer a 44/28T or 46/30T crankset with a 12-30T or 11-32T, 10-speed cassettes and be paired with standard 2x10 speed integrated shifters. These combinations make just much more sense for everyday use than those 50/34T cranksets and 11-28T cassettes found on today's road bikes.
2) I would also like to see a SRAM XX1 drivetrain designed for a road bike. The XX1 is a unique, fully integrated drivetrain that uses a single 28T or 38T chainring and a very wide range, 11-speed cassette: 10-42T (!). It is designed for mountain bikes only, but a simpler and cheaper version with a 10 or 11-speed cassette could be introduced to road bikes as well. A single 37T chainring paired with a 10-36T cassette offers a very useful range of 100-28 gear inches of development (with 700c wheels) and this would work very well for most "normal" road cyclists. The drivetrain is simplified and lighter - no need for a second shifter, chainring and a front derailleur.

3) But since this is supposed to be a wish list, let's take SRAM's idea a bit further. For decades, bicycles have had 2 derailleurs and SRAM wants us to give up on the front one. But I would really like to see a complete solution where all gearing is placed right where it is supposed to be - in the crankset (or the bottom bracket - the be precise). Picture a bicycle that has a single cog on the rear hub and a single chainring in the crankset and all gears are internal, hidden inside the bottom bracket. Something like a 11-speed Alfine or 14-speed Rohloff hub but moved away from the rear wheel. Sure, this would require a special frame and a crankset and it's not a solution for everyone. But theoretically, we could benefit from a better weight distribution, a stronger, symmetrically-dished rear wheel, a stronger, wider chain or belt and a nearly maintenance-free gearbox.

4) City bicycles (and others too) with fully integrated electric assist motors. I touched this subject here, already.

5) Wide 700c forks. I know this makes you think "huh?" but let me explain. A few things happened in the cycling world during the last few years and two of them were: gravel bikes (1), whatever they really are, and 27.5" or 650B tires (2). The gravel bikes are supposed to be pretty much cyclocross bicycles but perhaps with a little less sporty geometry, disc brakes and even wider, than cyclocross, tires. We routinely see 40mm tires on "dedicated" gravel rigs. What I would like to see is a gravel bicycle that features a frame with enough tire clearance to fit either a 40-45mm 700c tire or a 2.0" one on 27.5" wheel. This can be done even using narrower, 68mm bottom brackets. In worst case the frame would need sliding rear dropouts to increase tire clearance when 27.5" wheels are used. But there is still the unresolved problem with forks. There are virtually no forks designed for cyclocross or gravel bikes with 700c wheels that would clear a wider 2.0" tire on a smaller wheel. Currently the only solution to this problem is to use a rigid 29er as a gravel bike. However, that's more like a mountain bike, not a "road" bicycle. I think it would be nice to have more options.

6) The handlebar of the future -  the crowbar!
Just kidding...

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