Why I love weird bikes and tech, and you should too

Let's celebrate the strange and original

Canyon Grail handlebar

Back in August, Ridley launched a new gravel bike, the Kanzo Fast, with a truly unique selling point in the form of its gearing, which combines a 1× drivetrain with a new 2-speed rear hub. 

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It’s a setup that claims to offer the advantages of a front derailleur without the downsides. It’s also weird as hell, and I love it. 

I like strange and original bikes. I’m glad they exist and I think designs that challenge accepted dogma about the right way to do things should be celebrated, even if ultimately the cycling world doesn’t buy into the idea. 

While there’s certainly considerable convergence over certain concepts in bike design – I’m looking at you, dropped seatstays – I don’t buy the idea that all road bikes look the same. If anything, there’s more diversity than ever these days.

Back in the days of steel, road bikes really did all look virtually identical to one another, the odd bit of fancy lugwork notwithstanding. 

Ti Raleigh 40th anniversary replica
Let’s be real, every road bike looked more or less like this for a good 40 years or more.
Raleigh

These days, advanced construction techniques with varied materials (carbon, aluminium, steel, titanium…), and ever-more impressive drivetrain and suspension tech let designers and engineers exercise their creativity far more – it really is possible to come up with something new. 

To give some examples, I applaud designs such as the Trek Domane and Specialized Roubaix for stretching the limits of what we consider a road bike, by using clever comfort-adding tech.

I thank Cannondale for blurring the line between mountain and gravel bikes with the unique Slate back in 2015, and doing it again with the Topstone Lefty in 2020.

I’m also so glad 3T launched the then-outlandish Exploro in 2016, introducing us to the idea of the aero gravel bike, and then went off-piste again the following year with the 1×-only, fat-tyred Strada aero bike.

3T Exploro gravel bike with Ekar
The 3T Exploro was downright unusual when it first launched, but seems less so now.
Campagnolo

Equally, I think it’s glorious that Surly flew in the face of industry trends and launched a bike with 26in wheels this year, that Basso made a ‘semi-suspension’ graveller with a carbon back-end and an aluminium front, that Lauf has seemingly made a success of its slightly wacky leaf-spring suspension forks, and that Canyon is somehow persisting with its frankly ridiculous double-decker handlebar.

On the component front, I was delighted to try out Rotor’s original and bonkers Uno hydraulic shifting groupset, while SRAM really deserves praise for making wireless electronic groupsets viable.

Of course, it’s easy to be blasé about the pitfalls of new tech when you don’t have skin in the game. 

Working in cycling media means I get to try out new things and marvel at weird tech without risking my own coin. 

It’s the early adopters who get burned when new ideas don’t succeed, whether that’s because the design itself turns out to be flawed or the brand goes belly-up and the product is orphaned

Aero road bike in autumnal scene
Remember this? Oh well.
Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media

When I’m covering new bikes and tech, I’m always conscious that I need to put myself in the shoes of the consumer and ask whether it really makes sense. 

Have a bike’s designers made something different because there’s a valid reason for taking a new approach or are they just trying to be different for difference’s sake? 

I am absolutely for technological innovation as long as it’s justified, but it’s fair to say that sometimes it doesn’t quite feel like it is. 

Anyway, I don’t know how good the Ridley Kanzo Fast and its unusual hub are yet, but I’m very glad both exist – cycling would be terribly dull if no one dared to be different.

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What are your favourite weird bikes and tech? Let us know in the comments.