Friday, January 27, 2012

What to Look for in 2012

As the big ball drops on 2011, cyclists start licking their chops.  Looking forward to a year of miles and miles of spinning our legs, we often pine for any information regarding what could be in store for 2012.  The apocalypse aside, 2012 should be a great year.  These are the things we think will define the year of the dragon—the water dragon to be specific.   

Ultegra Di2 
In 2009, Shimano changed the game with the first successful electric group to come to market.  Now they are poised to put Campy and Sram even further in their rear view mirror with the introduction of the first affordable electronic group set.  Coming in at $2400 for the complete group, Dura Ace Di2’s little brother packs all the shifting performance, but without the wallet busting punch.  Several manufacturers already have bikes outfitted with Ultegra Di2 in their 2012 line—some of which are already on the floor at Cadence.  It’s hard to imagine how regular cable actuated systems will continue to find their way onto peoples rides if this trend continues….  

Fat Tires
Before you get too offended, I am not talking about the little off-season pooch you have been working on over the holidays.  These fat tires are much more fun and will be all the rage in 2012.  Mountain bikes are a great way to break up the monotony of any road heavy race season and even introduce a new type of intensity to your training.  Cadence has launched a new level of commitment to the dirtier side of cycling with the introduction of one of mountain biking’s most legendary brands, Yeti.  Look for expanded fat tire offerings from Cannondale—with the release of the new Scalpel 29’er—and Orbea, with the affordable Alma Aluminum at Cadence in the very near future.  Baggy shorts not required.

The Olympics
It’s likely that the summer Olympics will play a huge part in shaping the 2012 racing season.  Coming just a week after the Tour, riders who fancy the sprint friendly parcours will be forced to make some tricky fitness decisions to be fresh for the quadrennial event.  The midseason conundrum will be undoubtedly dramatic for favorites looking to win on their home soil.  Look for the Italian team to resort to unconventional uses of their frame pumps, only to lose in dramatic tortoise and hare fashion…errrr, maybe not.  

Sram Red 
I am thoroughly convinced you already know about the new Sram Red group and that you have probably spent countless hours trying to decipher what mysteries lay in the ominous shadows of the “leaked” 37 second teaser video.  Here is the thing: I’m actually convinced that the new group will be a bit of a letdown.  How could it not be?  Sram is certainly good at creating hype, but I think it could be problematic that the main innovation in their group is: (drum-roll)…. a redesigned hood shape, front derailleur, and slight weight savings on what is already the lightest group on the market! (crickets)….Sarcasm aside, the reason I included this group in our list is that it is roughly a half pound lighter than Sram’s current flagship group.  Grams seem to have a mystical power over cyclists.  I heard a physics professor once describe this phenomenon as Newton’s Law of Weight Weenies.  It says that for each gram subtracted from any cycling component or accessory, a cyclist’s desire for said component will increase three fold.  

The repairable spokes of Madfiber wheels
Madfiber wheels
Carbon fiber has been around for quite some time now—so has wheel builder and visionary Ric Hjertberg.  Why it took so long for the two of them to get together is a whole other question.  The good news for you is that they have gotten together and the result is quite impressive.  Madfiber wheels have just started to catch on and will continue to do so in 2012.  A sub 1100 gram wheel set (that’s right set, as in two wheels, not just one) for roughly half the price of their competitors is hard to imagine, but Madfiber has found a way to do it.  They have an impressive four year warranty and four year crash replacement policy that is unrivaled in the world of full carbon wheels.  Unlike other full carbon offerings, Madfiber wheels can be repaired without trashing the whole wheel, and have no rider weight limit.  They could be a great alternative to trying to lose that holiday fat tire.  

Cannondale's new Slice was ridden by some of Liquigas's top riders at some late season races. 
2012: The Year of the Tribike
If 2011 was the year of the road bike—with Cannondale’s release of the EVO and other rather incredible technical innovations in road specific technology—then 2012 will be the year of the Tribike.  Several manufacturers are set to release new flagship aero spaceships in 2012—including Cannondale and Orbea.  Look for these slippery bikes to start popping up at your local races with a vengeance.  Aero TT bikes have become rather stale in the last few years, with no real break out releases in recent memory.  Manufacturers are due and the market is ripe for someone to really smash it out of the park in 2012.  

Roadies Go Hydraulic
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Hold on a second!” you say, “I was all about my regular old cable system, and then you go and blow my mind with electric Di2.  Now you are telling me that there is yet another shifting innovation set to wreak havoc on our precious year of the water dragon!  When will you stop?!?”  

“Sit tight,” I say, “just relax.  Find your inner mountain biker and just ‘go with the flow.’” 

This might be the tech innovation that I find most exciting of all.  There have been rumors flying around that the hydraulic wizards at Magura and Acros have been collaborating on a fully hydraulic road group.  Here is why I am excited about this: If you really look closely at the facts, a hydraulic group set has more potential than an electric one.  It offers the same precision at a potentially lower cost and weight! What more could you ask for?  Hydraulic technology has been a staple of the mountain biking industry for a long time, so there just needs to be a little re-engineering done to apply the same ideas to road offerings.  Granted, this will probably take longer than the time 2012 has to offer, but I am still looking forward to learning about these new technologies.  

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