5 Cycling Trends to Look Out for in 2015

CHARLES LEE | 22nd Jan 2015 | NEWS

5 Cycling Trends to Look Out for in 2015

In the world of cycling, 2014 had been an exciting one, with a year choke-full of products that promised increased performance and power.  In the realm of mountain biking, the geometry of cross-country and trail bikes alike had been given a revamp in a bid to improve riders’ confidence.  As a result, slacker head angles, shorter stems and wider handlebars have become the standards of mountain bikes today.  Many bike manufacturers had trended the mass market with bike designs that incorporate 27.5” or 29” wheel-sets.  The wheel-diameter shift from the previously-unchallenged 26” wheel design was largely based on the belief that larger-diameter wheels perform better in terms of traction, rolling resistance and lowered centre of gravity (due to lowered bottom-bracket heights when compared to wheel axles’ height).

In the road bike scene, 11-speed cassettes became mainstream after Campagnolo debuted the first 11-speed cassette in 2009.  Helmet cameras started becoming commonplace after cyclists realised their usefulness when hard evidence in the form of video recording is the only thing that can determine who is right and who is wrong in a traffic dispute.

“Saving Gaia” seemed to strike a chord with many cyclists, who found that electric bicycles (or electric scooters or electric bikes) not only reduce carbon footprints, they bring the cyclists further and faster when compared to using raw pedalling power.  Whilst there is no statistical data on the actual number of electric bicycles in each year, observations along the park connectors suggest that 15% to 20% of cyclists are zipping around on electric bicycles (gosh…are they even exercising??)

So, what trends are we expecting in 2015?  We have scoured from all sources (including playing cops and getting information from our snitches) to bring you 5 foreseeable cycling trends in this year.

Trend No. 1 – FAT Bikes

(Fat Bikes – Pictures taken from www.konaworld.com and www.specialized.com respectively)

They may look ludicrous at first sight.  Many have scoffed at them and wondered, “are these bikes heavy?”.  Some find them distasteful and even nicknamed them as the Monster Trucks of the bicycles.  Love it or hate it, Fat Bikes have reached our shores and they are here to stay!  In fact, we are seeing more Fat Bikes on the roads and we are expecting even more in 2015.

Fat bikes originated as specific-purpose bicycles that were used on snowy terrains.  The incorporation of thick tyres, which gave rise to the name “Fat Bike” was, at that time, not design-driven.  Rather, it is the functional aspect of allowing the bicycle to tread on snow without any wash-out that sees the birth of this genre of bicycles.  Not long after, Fat Bikes were used on sandy terrains and trails as patrol rigs by enforcement authorities and emergency services.  They proved to be very useful.  Bike manufacturer Surly saw the potential of Fat Bikes in the consumer market and began mass-producing the Pugsley.  At the start of the Fat Bike revolution, 3.8 inch was the only tyre width.  Today, with more bike makers jumping on the bandwagon, we are seeing a varieties of tyre widths from as “low-fat” as 3.0 inch to as “obese” as 4.8 inch.

Trend No. 2 – Wider Tyres for Road Bikes

Road bike tyres are supposed to be wafer-thin.  Or is it so?  Well, it turns out that an increasing number of road bikes are up-sizing their tyres.

Wider road bike tyres will be a trend in 2015.  But roadies do not change to wider tyres simply because it is trendy to have wider tyres.  As far as the facts go, wider tyres are proven to perform better than thinner tyres in terms of rolling resistance at the same air pressure.  Some may wonder, “isn’t thinner tyres better as they have less contact with the road?”  The fact is, thinner tyres have more contact with the road!  Interestingly, at the same air pressure, a wider tyre (say, 28mm) has a shorter contact patch than a thinner tyre (say, 23mm).  As rolling resistance relates closely to the energy spent on deforming the tyre when it is pressed against the road, the deforming of thinner tyres is greater than wider tyres (at the same air pressure).  The energy that is needed to deform the tyre is the rolling resistance.

Confused by the explanation?  For ease of understanding the logic behind the science of rolling resistance, we have put up a simple technical sketch of the relationship between tyre width and rolling resistance.

Rolling resistance is not the only reason behind the revolution to switch to thicker tyres.  Thicker tyres are more comfortable to ride on.  They are less prone to punctures and reduce the severity of rim damages.  To accommodate the thicker tyres, component-makers such as Shimano have re-designed their products.  In Shimano’s case, the entire product range of brake-sets (from the 105 5800 Series to the Dura-Ace Series) have the flexibility to host tyres as thick as 28mm.

As far as we know, more 28mm-wide tyres are flying off the shelves and we are expecting 28mm-wide tyres to monopolise the market in 2015.

Trend No. 3 – Disc Brakes on Road Bikes

Rolling resistance is not the only reason behind the revolution to switch to thicker tyres.  Thicker tyres are more comfortable to ride on.  They are less prone to punctures and reduce the severity of rim damages.  To accommodate the thicker tyres, component-makers such as Shimano have re-designed their products.  In Shimano’s case, the entire product range of brake-sets (from the 105 5800 Series to the Dura-Ace Series) have the flexibility to host tyres as thick as 28mm.

As far as we know, more 28mm-wide tyres are flying off the shelves and we are expecting 28mm-wide tyres to monopolise the market in 2015.

Disc brakes on road bikes is not something new.  Some of Cannondale’s CAAD10 and Polygon’s 2015 Helios Endurance-Series road bikes are already fitted with disc brakes since early 2014.  However, they are still a rare breed in yesteryear’s context.  Thanks to the transfer of knowledge and expertise from the field of mountain biking, there is little barrier to fitting road bikes with disc brakes and component-makers like Shimano and SRAM have introduced a slew of disc brakes for roadies to choose from.

While some may resist the idea of converting their rim brakes to disc brakes for fear of adding excess weight on their speed demons, disc brake technology is set to revolutionise road biking as it offers more control than rim brakes.  According to Wayne Lumpkin, the founder of Avid Brakes, the relatively smaller-diameter disc rotor (as compared to a road bike rim) works on the basis of counterintuitive physics and because it takes more effort to slow down or stop a smaller-diameter track, the counter-effect is that riders will gain increased modulation (a rider can squeeze the brake lever with the level of effort that corresponds to how slow he wants the bike to go).  In contrast, with rim brakes, varying levels of efforts in squeezing the level are likely to achieve similar braking effects (there is no modulation).

Disc Brake

Rim Brake

Modulation

Riders can control level of braking by fine-squeezing the brake levers proportionally.

Riders are less likely to control the level of braking as hard braking is likely to lead to the locking of wheels.

Misalignment of Wheels

Disc brakes are not affected by misaligned wheels.

Misaligned wheels will result in the repeated brushing of the brakes.

Rim wear

No rim wear

Rim integrity may be compromised after prolonged heavy braking (Note:  Modern carbon rims are not able to distribute heat evenly.  Prolonged heavy braking may cause hot spots to appear which, in turn, may compromise the rim structure.)

Brake-pad wear

Less brake-pad wear

Significant brake-pad wear

Weight

(SRAM Force is used as a comparison)

471g per wheel

(comprising Lever, Calliper, Hose and 160mm Centerline rotor)

280g per wheel

(comprising the Calliper only)

There was a lot of apprehension when disc brakes first appeared on mountain bikes.  Many challenged its perceived advantages and the majority, at that time, was adamant that disc brakes would not work on a bicycle.  Today, it will be hard to find a decent mountain bike that is fitted with v-brakes.  This year, with the aggressive marketing campaigns of disc brakes for road bikes by brake-makers, we are likely to re-live the same phenomenon.  Who knows?  Rim brakes may be a thing of the past by the end of the year.

Trend No. 4 – XC / Road Helmets with Extra Coverage

Several cycling incidents that took the lives of fellow cyclists in recent times have prompted roadies and mountain bikers to relook at the level of protection that their helmets can provide for them.  Traditional helmets are designed and shaped to protect the top part of our skulls.  However, many (including the helmet manufacturers) realised that the lower back of the head is the area which is likely to be struck hard when a cyclist gets into an accident.  With this awareness, helmet makers such as Bontrager and Giro have introduced a slew of “L-Shaped” helmets that boast additional protection for the most important part of our body.  Since late last year, we are seeing a growing number of riders using L-Shaped helmets.  We are expecting to see more L-Shaped helmets on the roads and trails this year.

(GIRO Feather MIP Helmet – Picture taken from www.giro.com)

Whatever the design of the helmet is, our advice to all cyclist is this – Ride safe and avoid a crash.  This approach is way better than the best helmet in the world.

Trend No. 5 – Integrated Bikes and Components

Integrating components into a single system is something that Cannondale has been doing for some time.  Its One Piece Integration (OPI) system, which utilises its 3D patented forging process to create single-piece components that were previously placed together by multiple smaller components, has seen the birth of the OPI one-piece stem / steerer and the OPI Lefty fork.

(Cannondale OPI – Picture taken from www.cannondale.com)

Some may ask, “why integrate?”  The rationale – By integrating components, excess materials (such as bolts and nuts) are eliminated, which shaved off redundant weight.  The bike becomes lighter as a result.  Smaller components which previously had to be fastened or bolted together by bolts and screws are now simply one-piece-components created by the forging process.  One-piece-components tend to be stronger because they are grain-aligned and have no joints as weak links.  The durability of the component will thus be prolonged, leading to savings in repairs in the long run.

Cannondale is not the only bike maker that sees the integration of components as a potential selling point.  In the road bike industry, we have been using the the integrated brake-shift lever technology for so long such that many of us are not even aware that the brake-shift lever combination was once hailed as the road bike’s first-ever integration revolution!

On a more obvious front, the Podium line of cross-country bikes from lesser-known bike manufacturer Mondraker have been introduced with integrated stem technology last year.

Integration at this level is no longer something in the science fiction books.  They are happening and in fact, the Podium line of bikes can be purchased from Mondraker.  We believe there is much more to integration technology in 2015 and we look forward to bringing more updates to you.