Every September bicycle dealers from across the country make the annual pilgrimage to their "Mecca", Anaheim, California. Anaheim is the setting for the annual Interbike trade show where manufacturers showcase their upcoming product line.
Envision five convention halls, each the size of a football field, packed with booths of the newest bicycles, products and accessories that the industry has to offer. Imagine that every booth is trying to engage you with their free posters, pins, food and product samples. Throw in a few cycling luminaries signing autographs and you can begin to picture the carnival-like atmosphere of the Interbike trade show. Of course, business is conducted too, and the show offers dealers a chance to spot trends which will shape their purchasing decisions for the year. Add a few dealer seminars and an opening night concert by the Fabulous Thunderbirds and you have, as Ed Sullivan would say, "a really big SHOW!"
One of the most talked about trends in the industry is the so called "Freeride" category of bikes. Freeride, which is a trademark of Cannondale, defines a bike that is strictly built for riding enjoyment. Manufacturers realize that most mountain bikes are not raced and that cyclists are more focused on comfort and durability than light weight. The concept is about riding for pure pleasure. Typically, the "Freeride" bikes feature dual-suspension, riser handlebars, and double-clamp front suspension fork. I had a chance to ride Cannondale's Freeride bike when I arrived at the Dirt Demo day held on September 3rd. Held at the Irvine Regional park, a few miles from the Anaheim convention center, over forty manufacturers displayed their latest bicycles and had them available for test rides on the roads and trails surrounding the park.
In my first hour at the Dirt Demo, I rode three mountain bikes which would have cost me over $16,000 to own! How often does one have an opportunity like that! All of the bikes I rode that day were dual-suspension mountain bikes. My favorites were the Ibis "BowTi", the Moots Cycles "Mootaineer" and Cannondale's Freeride. After a while, the bikes felt very similar to one another and I realized that my position on each bike really determined my opinion of the ride. Next year, I will bring my own allen wrench so I can dial in seat height, stem height, etc.
Not all dual-suspension mountain bikes require a second mortgage! K2 Bike, formerly known as Pro-Flex, offers a dual-suspension mountain bike for under $1000. The Pro-Flex 1000 features a Rock Shox Indy front suspension fork with two inches of travel and the rear shock is a Noleen NR 1 which offers up to 3.5 inches of travel. The bike is equipped with Shimano STX RC components.
Another new product that caught my eye was Waterford's newest frame the "Diva". The Diva is a silver brazed mixte styled frame designed specifically for women. Richard Schwinn, the president of Waterford, describes the Diva as "a true ladies frame."
Terry Precision Bicycles, usually associated with women's bikes and cycling products, unveiled a new saddle aimed at the male population. Recently, Bicycling magazine ran an article about bicycle saddles causing male impotency. Terry Precision Bicycles received many calls from men requesting a men's saddle similar to Terry's Liberator saddle. The Liberator is a women's saddle with a hole carved out of the nose to relieve pressure on certain sensitive areas. The newly designed Liberator for men features a complete cut out section that will relieve pressure on a vital artery in the groin region.
With most manufacturers offering a titanium bike, why would several Merlin employees want to start their own titanium bike company? Simple. They want to produce the finest titanium bike in the world. Seven Cycles unveiled their 2-pound frame, the Odonata, which features carbon fiber seat stays and a carbon fiber seat tube bonded to titanium tubes.
Rob Vandermark, Seven Cycles' president, stated that "the original goal of utilizing carbon fiber was to simply reduce weight. Once that was achieved, we found we could strategically orient the filament wound fibers in the seat tube to maximize torsional stiffness, while the orientation of the seat stay fibers maximizes vertical compliance."
The end result is a gorgeous ultra-light frame which at $2975 will certainly lighten your wallet. Seven Cycles offers a complete line of titanium and steel frames to include an original design dual-suspension mountain bike, a tandem and a cyclocross frame. Check out their complete line of bikes on their web page at www.sevencycles.com.
Cyclocross riders now have a few more choices as Cannondale, Kona, and Haro are offering cyclocross bikes as part of their 1998 line. Cannondale has two entries into the cross market and both Shimano 105-equipped. Cannondale's cyclocross XS800 is unique because it offers over one inch of travel in the form of it's proprietary HeadShok front suspension. The HeadShok equipped XS800 retails for $1,735.
When I wasn't checking out the latest and greatest products for 1998, I was star-gazing at cycling's champions of the past and the present. Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong and Rebecca Twigg could be found signing autographs at the show. While racing legends Bob Roll, Davis Phinney and John Tomac were seen strolling through the various halls of the convention center.
Cycling's stars weren't the only ones that stopped traffic. The Team Saeco-Cannondale bikes of super-sprinter Mario Cipollini and Tour of Italy winner, Ivan Gotti, were on display. The ever flamboyant Mario Cipollini won numerous stages in this years Tour de France and doing so landed him in the race leader's yellow jersey. Always the showman, Mario showed up for the next days stage on a yellow Cannondale bike wearing his yellow jersey along with matching yellow shorts and gloves! Exact replicas of the Team Saeco-Cannondale bikes will be available for consumers soon.
The Interbike show is truly a spectacular showcase of the bicycle industry, which has only been open to dealers. Yet, there is talk that next year's show will include a consumer day which will allow the public to walk the halls and view the future of cycling. This is an event that any addicted cyclist should not miss, better start planning that trip now! Copyright by Russell W. Howe, 1997.