Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interbike 2011: Like an Explosion of So, So Many Bicycles!


Bobbin Bicycles, the Birdie.
I wrote in my last Interbike 2011 post that this eagerly anticipated annual North American bicycle trade show is a huge event.  Two full convention floors of the Sands Convention Center, plus and Outdoor Demo and Advocacy Alley are dedicated to thousand of attendees.  If it is bicycles or even slightly bicycle related, it is at Interbike.  Interbike is the bicycle equivalent to the Detroit Auto Show.  Like that auto trade show, all major bike manufacturers and many, many up and comers present their newest models to the oohs and ahhs of retailers, other industry folks, journalists, bloggers like me and the die-hard bike consumers who are able to swing a admission pass.

For the cycle chic crowd, Interbike is our version of New York Fashion Week.  And, oh, the fashions!  I'd be hard pressed to say that the fashion forward pedaling on the stage and down the bike ramp (only the loveliest of bicycles, of course) at the Momentum Magazine's City Style Fashion Show wouldn't make almost anyone day-dream just a little about a commuter cyclist transformation.  Say what you will about the fashion industry, the City Style show featured models of every skin color and body shape in great clothes, much of which could be worn by anyone with some daring and they all made bicycling look cool, fun and functional.  Pretty big pulls in my book. 

A Gazelle, I believe.
Guys like to look good, too.  On a Linus w/ a Linus pannier.
The show was very well attended (I saw it twice) by both men and women so I was a bit surprised at the hum of debate about whether or not the connection between fashion and bicycles is a good thing for cycling or for women.  Fodder for an upcoming post.

Every kind of bike imaginable can be found at Interbike: mountain, triathlon, hybrid, recumbent, or even tricycle.  Naturally, the stylish, up-right, city bikes caught my eye.  To me, they spell romantic adventure, where the most routine trips send my mind propelling (yet still focused on the road) to some distance land of lively cafes, antique book shops and spectacular museums and far away from the horrors of reality TV and People magazine.  I couldn't have been more taken with the 2012 collection from Bobbin Bicycles, which included baskets, pannier and other bike bags.  Very smart and old-school British in spirit.    Swept back handlebars, fenders, and chain guards.  To think, just a few years ago these features had to be purchased separately or were simply impossible to find at most bike shops.  Now all can be found on the entry level models by Giant, Specialized and Trek.  Bike racks are even integrated into the frame.

More Birdies by Bobbin Bicycles.

The Linus logo is a great example of "less is more".



And then there were the Linus bikes, which I've heard great things about.  I was a little disappointed that the saddles on most of the models did not live up to the elegance of the bicycle frames and accessories but the Linus rep explained to me that the bike shops prefer to up-sell higher end saddles to their customers rather than having them pre-equipped.

The Breezer Uptown Infinity LS.

The Nuvinci Variable Twist Grip Shifter on the Breezer Infinity.
Of course I had to see the newest version of the Breezer Uptown 8, my favorite ride.  The Breezer Infinity seems to be a repackaged Uptown 8 as it has the enclosed chaincase and now comes with the new Nuvinci N360 Continuously Variable Planetary Transmission and Variable Twist Grip Shifter.  The Uptown 8 has downgraded back to the open chaincase.  Sadly, the rudy red version is no longer available.  I really miss the old colors. 

Breezer Downtown 8
I also wanted to check out the new Breezer Downtown series of Town bikes, which have steel fenders (I like).  Breezer seems to have expanded their line of Town bikes, with the Downtown series consisting of diamond and unisex frames.  The saddles appear to be leather, although I couldn't be certain.  Regardless, I thought the new saddles were quite attractive and if they are as comfortable as the one I have on my 2008 Uptown 8 I wouldn't feel any great temptation to upgrade to a Brooks.

Tern LinkD
The range of folding bikes on the market, or soon-to-be, truly surprised me, since I don't see that many where I live. At Interbike, folding bikes were everywhere.  Without a doubt, though, the folding bike buzz was all about the breakup in which Dahon USA, is now Tern and the old company is now Dahon China. From what I gather the split was the result of supposed differences in opinion among family members about company direction.  I won't get in to the details because it is all rather vague, although you can read Josh Hon's statement about the split by following this link but as the happy owner of a Dahon Eco3, I wish both companies the best.  I'm mostly interested in finding out who I turn to when or if I want to make any upgrades to my Eco3 but I couldn't get an answer to that question primarily because the of the language barrier between me and the rep I spoke with at the Dahon exhibit.  The Tern exhibit was entirely to busy for me to even attempt to speak with anyone.  Unfortunately, the Dahon exhibit, featuring their new products, was closed to photograpy but I can report that Dahon China appears to have changed the fold on their new models.

New from Dahon; note the new hinge!
Photo ban or not, I did get a few shot of the newest offerings by Dahon at the fashion show.

Tern Verge1
Tern, on the other hand, allowed photograpy and their bikes, including the fold, seem to be very much in keeping with the more sporty looking Dahons of past years. They even have bike luggage similar to Dahon's Airporter.

A Brompton w/ "M" style handlebar.
Speaking of Dahon, I couldn't help but be amused by my new found insights into the strong feelings folding bike enthusiasts have about merits of Brompton versus Dahon, also known as The Poor Man's Brompton. Two people I chatted with over dinner (including Ted of Commute by Bike) feel that Dahon delivers the superior ride, while offering greater affordability. 

Brompton.  It's all in the fold.
On the other side, a passionate Brompton owner insisted that Brompton is the better bike because of its engineering and tight, compact fold.  I have to admit, as much as I love my Dahon, I am enthrawled by the fold, so neat and tidy that it fits in the smallest of spaces.  Just as amazing is how easily the Brompton can be wheeled around by the handlebars when folded.  The Dahon only folds into a V-shape so wheeling it into a building by the handlebars is slightly awkward.  I didn't get to test ride the Brompton but I suspect that if I lived in a large city and used the train or bus a lot, I'd have to become a Brompton girl, perhaps to the exclusion of any other bicycle.


Anthony at Prodeco will convince you that electric motors will turn non-cyclists into cyclists.
Even more shocking to me than the volume of folding bikes on display at Interbike was that many of the folders were electric!  Though I admit to having initial reservations about electric bikes, having ridden one in windy, hilly Flagstaff early this spring  am more than sold on them and their potential to increase the number of cyclists on the road.  One still has to pedal but the electric motor provides the cyclist with a helpful boost in strong wind and on hills.   A daily, 10-mile bike ride to work is tough sell for a lot of on-the-fence bike commuters but the electric assist makes the longer distance much more managable. 

The battery for this e-folder prototype is under the bike rack and panniers.
An e-folder makes even more sense to me, especially when I fantasize about living in a large, urban area where car ownership is both prohibitively expensive and often impractical.  A person living in a small apartment, with little room for bike storage, such as in New York City or San Francisco, could much more easily manage car-free living if they were able to combine the an e-folder with public transit.

Bianchi love.  Will I ever be worthy?
Of course, I cannot omit a few words about the time I spent gawking at bicycles of which I am in awe but would never have the nerve actually to ride.  These would be the Italian bikes, which for some reason I perceive to be in a class far beyond what I could ever aspire.  Brought to Interbike by the Italian Trade Commission. the Italia exhibits radiated beauty and sexiness second to none. 


No lightning bolts or glittery graphics on the Italian bikes, be they racing bikes or commuter.   Sleek, classic, minimalist markings decorated the Italian bicycles; clearly meant for riders who begin each day with only a strong espresso in a white demi-tass.  Feeling unworthy, I could only hope to ever achieve that level of style and grace. . . perhaps when I am 80?



Now you might wonder at my show of humility when confronted by Italian bicycles, but had you seen me back by suddenly large ass into a group of Montante commuter bikes and single handedly knock them all over you would understand.  Luckily, it the show was closing for the day and nobody was nearby to observer by clumbsy, unworthiness, which was probably all due to the fact that I was overcome by their angelic beauty.

Umbrella holder or wine carrier?
But really, who but an Italian bike maker would have understood how essential is a white, leather umbrella carrier to a properly turned out city cyclist?  I went back to see the Montante bikes a second time and when I was inspecting the umbrella carrier more closely (as I originally thought it was a wine holder) a group of gentlemen asked me if I thought anyone would actually use such a feature.  After some split second consideration I said that while I probably wouldn't in Flagstaff, where we don't get a lot of rain, that if I was a bike commuter in Seattle, Portland or Louisville where it rains quite a bit that I would probably quickly learn to use use an umbrella while I pedaled and definitely value it.

I've still more to report on Interbike, including more beautiful bicycles, cute helmets, and every manner of bike bag and pannier.  I'm also going to do at least one post, alluded to in an earlier paragraph, about the bike/fashion debate.  I almost hesitate in even discussing it because issue seems tired and done into the ground.  As I noted in my last Interbike post, the question kept popping up about who speaks for women cyclists, and I'd like to add my two cents to the discussion.  This writer can only speak for herself and perhaps the handfull of women who identify with her.  But that's a later post that is still turning over in my head.  I'll look forward to your thoughts as well.




 


5 comments:

JD said...

I hadn't thought of the Dahon warranty and/or upgrade problem after the company split. Which 'branch' made the Eco, Tern or Dahon China?

SuperKat said...

I would be broke walking out of there!! those linus bikes are sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet

Ted Johnson said...

Nice write-up, Karen.

You not only did a photo dump (like I did), but took the time to add narrative.

I'm still coming to terms with cycling and fashion. I'm not sure whether knowing you is helping me or setting me back.

She Rides a Bike said...

Gee-whiz Ted! Do you mean I am not fashionable enough for the cycle chic movement or too chic for Flagstaff? ;)

JD, I am wondering that same thing! Where to go for my upgraded handlebars and double pronged kickstand?

SKat, Linus has some really nice looking panniers for the lady biker set and I'll be doing a very special bike bag post in the next week or so.

inspiredcyclist said...

I would have been like a kid in a candy store with all these lovely bicycles. I am drawn to the dreamy pastel colors and vintage looks.