by Tim Langlais, photos by Lynette Wong
Each winter Quality Bicycle Products (QBP) hosts a trade show for customers at its facility in Bloomington, MN. As one of the largest bike product distributors in the US, QBP serves more than 5,000 independent retailers throughout the country and counts nearly every major component manufacturer among its providers. In addition to product presentations at the more than 100 booths, seminars ranging from “An Insider’s Guide to Running High-End Bike Shops” to “Reducing Risk Through Inventory Management” are available.
Despite the impending storm that promised to disrupt travel plans for many of the attendees, folks were still excited to talk about all things bike, and the Cyclocross Magazine pit crew was there to listen and dig up the cyclocross related goods.
While many of the new products for 2011 were already featured in our 2010 Interbike coverage, a few trends did emerge while speaking with manufacturers and vendors. First, despite the UCI’s ruling to allow disc brakes in cyclocross, few options are available, and none are really tailored toward the ’cross market. Brake manufacturers like Formula and Hayes are not thinking much about disc brakes in ’cross. Because the shifters and brakes are integrated on drop-bar ’cross bikes, they do not see a path for a marketable product without including the drivetrain – and they have no plans to go there [See our feature on one home-brew solution to this problem]. In other words, SRAM and Shimano need to lead the way. Second, most tire manufacturers are talking a lot about tubeless options, and some, like Kenda with their SCT line, have recognized that consumers will attempt tubeless conversions on non-UST tires whether it is officially sanctioned or not. Expect a lot more tubeless and tubeless-ready options in the near future.
Not all vendors had new items to show, but there were plenty of cyclocross goodies still worth a look. Gore Ride On Cables were at the show demonstrating the fully-sealed cable system many swear by for sloppy ’cross conditions. Salsa showed its Chili Con Crosso design from the 2010 season but hinted that a new design was coming for ’cross season this year. Long-time tubeless innovators Hutchinson were showing the company’s ’cross tires that include carbon beads for increased tubeless performance [See our review in Issue 10], while Cane Creek demonstrated a newly-branded lineup where the workhorse S-3 headset in now the 40.
But we know you’re psyched about new products, and Panaracer, maker of the ultralight Cross Blaster tire and burly Cinder-X tires (both reviewed in our cyclocross tire round-up in Issue 3), is coming out with a new 32mm ’cross tire, named after the famous downhiller, Cedric Gracia. They continue to look at tubeless-ready and tubular options.
The Hive/ eThirteen: eThirteen is planning to release a ’cross-specific version of the company’s 1x chain keeper in two to three months. The ’cross version will be sized for the seat tube/chainring offsets typical of ’cross frames. Unlike other designs, the eThirteen uses an eccentric bushing within the seat tube clamp that allows the user to dial in the exact location. The rather elegant design only requires one pinch bolt to secure the location of the guide and hold it fast.
Reynolds: The models in the Reynolds rim/wheel line-up remains much the same this year, but the company has made two significant changes. First, the braking surface on all of its rims has been upgraded. According to Reynolds, the new braking surface performs better in foul conditions and will also last longer – two distinct positives in the cyclocross world.
Reynolds also brought its Swirl Lip Generator (SLG) technology down from its top-end RAZR wheelset to the more reasonable 32mm, 46mm and 66mm UL wheelsets. The SLG is a ridge along the inside of the rim whose job is to smooth the airflow leaving the wheel, thus improving aerodynamics.
Ridley: The World Championship-winning X-Night, as ridden by Zdenek Stybar, remains largely the same this year, featuring a BB30 bottom bracket, tapered headtube and internal cable routing. The only significant change is the addition of angular contact bearings for the headset in place of radial contact bearings. However, this year, the X-Fire receives trickle-down technology from last year’s X-Night, including the BB30 bottom bracket and internal cable routing.
Crank Brothers: In addition to the company’s recent product expansion beyond its popular pedals, as we highlighted in our 2010 Sea Otter product news, Crank Brothers has revamped the Eggbeater line-up. Most significantly, the 3 and 11 models now use needle bearings instead of bushings for the inner bearing. The hardened spindle still acts as the inner race for the needle bearings just as it did for the bushings. The needle bearings provide a smoother feel and less friction. Though time will bear this out, the needle bearings should prove more reliable and require fewer rebuilds than the old bushings did. This will be a boon to those who use their Eggbeaters in less-than-ideal conditions.
Fulcrum: Fulcrum has two ’cross-specific wheels built with aluminum rims. The Racing 5CX and Racing 7CX, both of which have been redesigned for 2011, are different from their road counterparts in one important respect: Fulcrum adds extra seals on the hub bearings to keep out mud and grit. This year’s redesign led to a 100g weight savings for the Racing 7CX with more modest savings for the Racing 5CX.
ENVE (formerly EDGE): By most standards the composite components produced by ENVE (née EDGE) are simply some of the lightest available, including the company’s tubular rims as ridden by Jonathon Page. According to ENVE, the company has revamped the design of its rims to increase impact toughness and overall stiffness. What this means is an even more robust carbon rim for the rigors of cyclocross at a feathery 250g for the 25 tubular. Beyond wheels, ENVE also manufactures posts and stems that can be used for ’cross, as well as handlebars. In particular, ENVE is planning to add a short-and-shallow bar that sounds like it’s aimed squarely at the ’cross market.
Park Tools: When it comes to pit tools, Park is known for finding ways to keep your adult beverage close at hand. New for this year is a wall mount bottle cage and bottle opener, perfect for the home shop or the service course trailer!
3T: Though no samples were available, 3T has released new ’cross-specific handlebars and fork. Interestingly, the carbon fork with tapered steerer has post mounts for disc brakes, which are now allowed under UCI rules, but no mounts for cantis. In this regard, 3T appears to be ahead of the curve since ’cross-specific disc brakes have yet to be designed.
Kenda: The tire company has released two new cyclocross-specific tires: the new Happy Medium and the Slant 6 (pictured in our Interbike coverage), expanding an already impressive tire line-up that includes the Kommando, the Small Block 8 and the Kwicker clichers (all reviewed in issue 3). The Slant 6 is based on the mountain bike tire of the same name, which, in turn, is a slightly more aggressive version of the Small Block 8, with aggressive side knobs and a tightly-spaced center tread (we’ve been testing an early pair of the Kenda Slant 6 – stay tuned). Interestingly, Kenda has chosen to embrace the tubeless conversion of non-UST tires by adding an SCT (sealant Compatible) SKU for each of their tire offerings. SCT adds another layer between the inner and outer layer of rubber on the casing that all but eliminates the pesky pin-holes that can make tubeless conversions a real chore. In addition, for the SCT line, using sealant no longer voids the warranty on a tire.