At least one thing was obvious: the world does not need this many high-end carbon-rimmed wheels, road or MTB. Who is going to buy all these $2000-$6000 wheels? And with dozens of offerings, who will keep making them years from now, given the relatively short replacement cycle for high-end wheels? I suspect that with few exceptions, this overabundance of choice will ultimately help sell more Mavic and Zipp wheels: the “safe” choices amid the chaos, with a very, very long tail of fashionable alternatives that are often not particularly any better.
I attended a carbon fiber seminar put on by Cervelo and FSA, and it was one of the better things I attended at interbike: non-partisan, non-brand bashing, and informative with lots of hands-on examples of what carbon is and what carbon fibers are, and why they’re different. They did a fine job, and one point they made that hit home is that carbon is a great rim material, but a terrible braking surface, and should not be used with rim-based brakes. So they concluded what I’ve been concluding for years: road bikes with disc brakes will hit the mainstream eventually: then we’ll actually have a technological revolution. Until then, ride alloy rims. If you can’t resist, at least get carbon rims with an alloy braking surface, like the Zipp 404′s I’m lusting after. I’ve seen carbon rims die from braking heat; it ain’t pretty and it ain’t worth the fashion or the weight.
Other Interbike notables: SRAM is kicking serious ass, particularly with the recent events surrounding Lance’s return and commitment to ride SRAM Red while riding for Astana. Hell, he even bought a stake in the company, so he’s pretty much in for a long play here folks. Shimano’s electronic shifting is cool, but it lacks the buzz (and availability, and price) of the stuff that the fastest guys in racing are using *right now*. And they’re using it to win races. Big ones.
A quiet entry, but probably an indicator of things to come: Euro brands are starting to head to the USA, despite the weakened US dollar. Stevens displayed at Interbike, and had vague and cagey comments about their North American plans. If they stick around, then watch for others like Cube, Canyon, and maybe even Mondraker and Steppenwolf to follow their lead and start showing up here over the next few years.
Lastly, and perhaps most interesting: the social event of the year was the Cyclocross race. With hundreds of racers, and thousands of spectators, it was a riotous good time that blended a grassy course with a layout that resembled a pile of dropped spaghetti. The early field was a cantankerous crew of cycling cretins, myself included, about 100 in total. This industry field was dominated by a top-10 of seasoned racing pros who manage full time bike industry jobs around their racing and training schedules. I finished 30th, which I was super happy with, but the mad props go to my colleague and desk-mate Erick Marcheschi, who busted out a 22nd place finish after having just ridden the 660 miles to Vegas from Morgan Hill, CA. After the Wheelers&Dealers industry race, then the madness began with the pro race, a field littered with cross pros like Trebon, the World MTB Champ (and Specialized rider) Christoph Sauser, a retiring Thomas Frischknecht, and an out-of-retirement Lance Armstrong. Hells yes.
Trebon won, with a finish line yawn rolling from his 122lb, 7’8″ elmo-ish profile (these numbers are approximate, based on my guess after a couple delicious Dale’s Pale Ales, the event’s title and most important sponsor – thanks Dale!!) But it was the excitement of the race, the camaraderie of the crowds, and the roaring cheers that had me take notice: this was IMPORTANT. and it was important to a LOT OF PEOPLE. And Lance racing had a lot to do with it, I’m certain.