The US bike market clamours for attention from the non racing crowd, and is finally putting an effort into making cool transportation bikes that are fun to look at, even more fun to ride, and aren't just frumpy hybrids.
While Shimano's Coast effort has spawned a few willing participants (Trek, Giant and Raleigh), an underlying theme of a slight eco design was apparent inside the Sands Convention Center during Interbike in Las Vegas September 26 - 28. It's easy to see the European influence coarsing through the US industry, which may come from the largely successful EuroBike show or the big push for US companies to open distribution in Europe the past 10 years.
Frankly, it also appears to reflect the "graying" of our product managers, those looking to return to the joyous days of simplicity, the ones weary of the highly competitive (and rather bland) tainted racer-boy scene. While my BikeRadar partners-in-crime ogled and cooed over the latest mountain and road bikes, I scoured the halls to bring you this report on transportation bikes:
Swobo added bikes to its brand in 2007, and for next year new models include the Dixon (9-speed internal utility), Del Norte (drop-bar road fixie with plenty of blood red componentry) and Novak (3-speed internal flat-bar commuter). The Dixon offers an integrated seatpost tail light, SRAM's I-Motion 9-speed internal hub, Avid front and rear disc brakes, and a step-through version. Price: US$899. Visit Swobo.
Schwinn Coffee & Cream
Schwinn has reached into its bag of retro goodies to bring out the old steel three speed, a far more practical bike than the Phantom. Full fenders, rear rack, swept back bars and internal 3-speed gearing from SRAM. The Coffee model has a horizontal top tube; the Cream has a step-through. Both models depart from their 26 x 1-3/8-inch wheel heritage and embrace the better 700c standard. Price: US$369. Visit Schwinn.
Giant Tran Send EX
Pricepoint kings Giant offer several transportation bikes, but the Tran Send EX stood out for its clean lines, smart spec (Shimano Alfine group) and 8-ply maple deck. The Ergon-inspired grips are also a constant theme throughout the industry. Price: US$799. Visit Giant.
Ever wonder what happened to that kid who chopped up his BMX bike back in the 1980s? He's probably riding something similar to the Felt Curbside, an urban singlespeed with Slipstream-inspired argyle saddle and top tube `nad pad. Superlite 7005 aluminum frame, carbon fork, dual-pivot longreach brake calipers, blingy gold hubs and a trick bottle boss-mounted spanner. One of the more "love it or hate it" products of 2008. Price: US$699. Visit Felt.
The Centrum range includes the Sport, Elite and Comp, running the gamut from US$550 - $1,100, upholding the trend toward high-end commuter fashion. As typical of Specialized, though, are the extras (and options) for the price: A1 Premium aluminum frameset, shaped like the popular Stumpjumper; a choice of Shimano Alfine, 3-speed internal or singlespeed drivetrain; and disc brakes regardless of the price. Visit Specialized.
A lugged-steel commuter, a rare sight in these TIG welded days. Like the Schwinn models above, the Cykel comes with 700c wheels and SRAM's 3-speed gearing. Beefy 700 x 35c Kenda EuroTour tires are ideal for rough roads and trails. The coil-sprung saddle and cantilever brakes add a nice retro touch, as does the sherwood green with cream panel paint job. A poor man's Rivendell, which ain't half bad. Price: US$449.
Hydrofomed aluminum tubing is prevalent on mountain bikes, but not many product managers have used it on transportation models. New brand Civia combines a sleek aluminum frame with carbon fork, disc brakes, sliding dropouts, matte finish and a menu of drivetrains, creating a high-end transportation platform for early 2008. Visit Civia.
© BikeRadar 2007