Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The CC Interbike Report

Hey there Interwebbers. CC here, with a report from the 2008 Interbike convention in Las Vegas.

I arrived a day before the show in order to participate in the Outdoor Demo at Bootlegger's Canyon. Interbike has been doing this for a few years now so that shops get a chance to ride the bikes that they intend to stock in the store for next season.

I, along with two other Hubsters, got on the first shuttle bus out to the venue. Even though it was still quite early in the morning, the sun was already high in the sky, and from this Midwesterner's perspective, really hot.

Nearly ever domestic bike manufacturer was on hand with the latest and greatest. The focus, given the location, was obviously on off-road equipment and bikes, but there was also a sizable road loop set up to test ride road and commuter bikes.

We made a beeline for the Marin booth, and secured a number of their mountain bikes for our first test ride on one of the dusty loops.

I took out a Pine Mountain 29'er Single Speed. There have been some adjustments to the geometry based on feedback from last year's model and I have to say, this bike was awesome. It rode incredibly smooth, and the spec'd Reba fork handled the rocky terrain with ease. I also fell in love with the new model WTB saddle on this and the other bikes from Marin. I'm not fussy about saddles, but this was the best off-road saddle I've ever ridden.

Next up was the Nail Trail 29'er. Basically the aluminium, geared version of the Pine Mountain. Also a superb ride.

Then I tried to get on the Giant Anthem. but every bike in my size had already been check out. I went back a number of time to try to get a ride on one, but they were always checked out. I'll take this as a good review of the bike ("Chuff" rode one the day before and said it was a nimble bike that rode extremely well).

Since I was at the Giant booth, I took out one of their new pedal-assist bikes, The Freedom DX. There has been a lot of buzz about this, and pedal assist/electric bikes in general, and it was time to see if it lived up to the hype.

The bike has three settings that allow the rider to adjust the amount of power the battery provides to "assist" you as you pedal. I started in the middle setting, and rode out on the flat section of the road loop. The way this works is, the rider must pedal in order for the battery to engage it's "assist" mode. There is no throttle to help kick in power, the bike just intuitively provides power to the front wheel based on the effort being put into the standard drivetrain. Although it was difficult to gauge by feel just how much assistance the lithium/ion battery was providing on the flat section, I was keeping up with people on high-end road bikes on what is essentially a 50 pound hybrid bike. I'd say that's pretty good.

When I came to the long hill back to the venue, I clicked the battery into it's most powerful mode. It was here that it was obviously providing a great deal of assistance. Getting this bike of this weight up a hill would be very difficult under normal pedal power, but the pedal assist got me up with little effort.

Next up, a Surly "Big Dummy". I've had my eye one these for a while, but couldn't ride one until this day. The steel frame has a nice ride quality, essentially like a normal bike. The long wheel base gives confidence to a descent and rides smooth in the flats. The ride back up the hill was surprisingly like a regular bike. Yes, it's obviously heavier then a normal bike, but given it's carrying capacity, the perfect alternative to pulling a cargo trailer.

I rode a few other bikes as well, just to see what else was out there, but eventually the heat began to take it's toll, and I retreated back to my "quaint" downtown hotel to get ready for day two.

The next day was the first day of the actual "show". The size and scope of these things can be a bit overwhelming. Nearly every vendor from around the world wants to showcase their wares at Interbike; The Good, The Bad, and The Completely Ridiculous.

I'll sum it up briefly:

The new Bianchi bikes look outstanding
The 2009 Bianchi Dolomiti
(Lugged Steel Frame)
A New Pista
(Flat-Bar w/brakes)
hell yeah!

Also sweet was what will be offered by Knog, the company that brought us the extremely popular Frog light system.

If I told you all the cool stuff that they are bringing on next season, I'd have to kill you, but suffice to say, this stuff is DOPE.

Also look for new track/fixie bikes and gear coming to The Hub. There are awesome new things in the works for you fixed gear junkies (hint: it's all about matching anodized parts, and some really sweet wheel options, not to mention some new frame options as well. Stay Tuned).

But the highlight of the show this year was the Cyclocross race: CrossVegas.
Held at a soccer field in the foothills outside of town, this was sure to be blast.

They started with "Wheelers and Dealers" race, which our own SeanO participated in (after riding 6+ uphill miles to the event, in 98 degree heat, and nothing in him except for a couple beers consumed on the convention room floor).
SeanO suffered, but finished strong, doing The Hub proud.

But the big news was all about "Lance".

It had been rumored all day that the seven time TDF winner was going to be on hand to take place in his first ever cyclocross race, and sure enough he arrived just as the pro men were staging.

Cameras swarmed around him. The crowd surged to get a glimpse of him. It was quite a circus.

But once the race began it was all pro.
My best photo of the eventual winner: Ryan Trebon

Lance, being the consummate racer that he is, did his best to stay with the lead group, and to his credit, did so for most of the first lap.
Ten seconds after I took this picture, Mr. Armstrong took his first of two falls in the race.
This first time was a simple slip out caused by too much tire pressure, a common mistake made by roadies who try to race cross.

The second time Lance went down, I saw his face hit the pavement. When he went on Letterman a couple days later, you could see the bruise on his forehead. Glorious.

But despite these two hard falls, Lance never gave up, or even slowed down. He got right back on his bike both times and wound up finishing strong in the middle of the field.

The crowd went way crazier for him then they did for the actual winner, the same pro who won the race the previous year as well: Ryan Trebon.

But judging by this official video, no one really cared about anything but Lance.

Lance Armstrong Returns - Las Vegas Cyclocross from CYCLEFILM on Vimeo.

Well, that's all I've got. Stay tuned for more news of all things Hub

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