By Adam Newman
There’s not doubt we’re going to see a lot of "tweener" items at the show this year. Several bike brands including Norco, Rocky Mountain, KHS, Scott, and others have new models debuting. Both Fox and RockShox now have dedicated 650b forks and nearly ever major tire brand is expected to show new treads. In fact, the only real surprises might be what we don’t see. The Big 3 (Trek, Specialized, and Giant) are biding their time and slipping into the waters slowly.
Electronic suspension control
Fox has been racing its prototype electronic lockout — known as iCD — under World Cup racers all summer, and the production version should be ready for 2013. We’re looking out for it to be integrated into Fox’s Climb/Trail/Descend system soon, an electronic version of which would be a great cure for the overload of switches and cables currently crowding out cockpits.
RockShox’s e.i. electronic suspension is also debuting this year aboard Lapierre bikes. It works a bit differently in that it is controlled automatically by accelerometers in the fork that open or close the shock based on input. Hit a bump with the front wheel, it will open the shock for the rear wheel before it even gets to the obstacle.
We’re not expecting to see it at the show, but we’ll also be asking plenty of questions about when to expect a mountain bike version of Shimano’s electronic Dura-Ace drivetrain—an XTR version seems like a no-brainer.
Disc brakes for road and cyclocross
Even more-so than 650b, disc ‘cross bikes are the bandwagon item of the year. Every major brand is offering one or more models for 2013. We’ll have to wait and see how many top-level racers choose the new bikes over their traditional brakes, but for us normal folk who use our ‘cross bikes year-round, they’re well worth the small weight penalty.
Racing-style road bikes are also dipping their toes in the disc waters. At the Eurobike show we saw bikes from Colnago, Canyon, BMC, Look, and others. Even Specialized is getting in on the game, so we won’t be surprised to see quite a few new models in Vegas.
What we haven’t seen yet are more high-quality disc calipers designed for road bikes. SRAM stepped it up with a new, lighter version of the venerable BB7 brakes, but it was an incremental step. Shimano’s mechanical disc calipers are still not available, despite being shown last year. We’ll be looking for new players in the market now that demand is growing.