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Design & Innovation Award 2018: Road- and Gravel Bike Trends

Road bikes are breaking away from the professional peloton. Electric road-bikes, gravel bikes and “upsizing” are the hot topics of the 2018 season. While bespoke builds are playing an increasingly important role in the ultimate search for exclusivity, road bikes are becoming cheaper by the day. Our Design & Innovation Award Team challenged and analysed the trends and developments of the future.

Faster safely!

The development of most road bikes no longer focuses on the demands of professional racers but on the needs of everyday riders. Safety is the hot topic of the 2018 season and its application ranges from aero-racing to adventure bikes. To put it simply, safer products make you ride faster. This is because a safer product inspires confidence and allows you to push your limits. The more you can trust your bike the better you can focus on your performance and enjoy the riding experience.

While disc brakes are still fiercely debated in the professional racing circuit an increasing number of road bike mortals understand their advantages. Nine out of ten award-winning bikes feature disc brakes.

When referring to safety, “upsizing” is the new buzzword. The best example for this is the SCOTT Foil Premium Disc which provides better grip and control thanks to its 28 mm wide-tires – and that’s on an aero-bike. Thanks to technological advances the bikes that not long ago were considered absolute specialists have now become much safer and more versatile.

Searching for the right balance

The aero-hype of the past years continues. But, aero is nothing without control. That’s why companies like Zipp and DT Swiss don’t focus exclusively on factors such as aerodynamics when developing their aero wheels but also invest a great deal of time working on handling-characteristics, striving to find the right balance between aerodynamics and handling qualities. An optimal balance can improve both confidence and speed.

Speedtrain: If you want to ride faster you’ll need more than just a light bike.

Weight-weenies adieu!

If you’re constantly obsessing over the weight of your bike and trying to optimise it wherever you can, just go for it! We can’t stop you, but don’t be surprised if you get overtaken by someone riding a much heavier bike that offers better control and inspires more confidence to ride faster on speedy descents. Modern aero-wheels feel well-balanced, hardly pick up crosswinds and ultimately allow you to focus more on the road instead of wasting your energy trying to keep on course; powerful disc brakes on the other hand allow you to brake at a later stage and make you effectively faster for an extended amount of time.

A new definition of comfort

For some ambitious riders and hardcore traditionalists the concept of “comfort” still has a negative connotation. A re-definition of this term is long overdue: “Smoother equals faster”… and the Americans know what we are talking about. The bikes of 2018 will feature even more comfort-providing components and suspension elements to help minimizing the impact of road imperfections and reduce fatigue and stress on riders. And even amongst the pros – as with the Merida Reacto Team – “fast comfort” is an already unmistakable concept.

The Discussion Lounge of the Design & Innovation Award 2018 is every cyclists’ dream – here the most exciting and innovative products of the 2018 season can not only be seen and touched, but also taken out to be tested to the limit.

Hot price-tags

While bikes are generally getting more expensive, good bikes are actually getting cheaper! Affordable components are constantly improving simply because they’re inheriting and implementing cutting-edge technologies of the high-end versions from previous seasons. As a result, performance gaps are noticeably shrinking. A comparison between the new Shimano Ultegra and the Shimano Dura Ace offers one great example. Whilst price differences are steadily increasing, the performance gap is reducing and the technical advantages of expensive gear are no longer substantial; high-end-bling is becoming sheer status-symbol.

Are you gravel yet?

Gravel is so much more than just wide tires. And it’s also more than just comfort or offroad-adventure. And it’s definitely NOT cyclocross. Gravel is the new undefined bike discipline that leaves no room for rules. It’s the manifesto for a growing two-wheeled movement which doesn’t like being restricted to a strip of black tarmac. It’s a matter of freedom, versatility and spontaneity since this segment of the market is so freely interpretable and affords an ample spectrum of innovation opportunities: chunky 650B tires, mountain bike inspired geometries, variable frames and geometries, suspension elements and dropper-posts will provide for endless riding fun and fascinating technology highlights in the 2018 season.

Craftsmanship – are you unique?

In this world of fast-moving, mass-produced goods even classic luxury is no longer exclusive enough. Off-the-shelf products aren’t an attractive option anymore, so it’s no surprise that bespoke is gaining popularity day after day. A growing number of people are seeking timelessness, craftsmanship and uniqueness, regardless of the pricetag. Small bike-manufacturers and steel frames are experiencing a revival; One-off geometries, custom paintworks and tailor made solutions are providing the right answers to this huge demand. Even major corporate companies such as Trek or clothing specialist Rapha are jumping on the wagon reinforcing the trend with their custom programs. For many companies the “individualism-trend” is both a chance and a challenge; and yet manufacturers such as Speedvagen and Co. must find the right balance between the logistical madness and a reasonable scalability without slipping into the mainstream.

Digitising vs. electrifying – the revolution

Road cyclists measure, analyse, instagram, share and compare. We’ve long entered the digital era. Huge developments in connectivity facilitate a fusion of the real world with the digital reality – to meet like-minded people, compete with them and have fun even from the darkness of your basement on the turbo trainer.

On the Focus Project Y the battery and motor are located in the downtube as a removable unit.

Electric road bikes are the big trend of 2018. They will radically revolutionise road cycling, at least for some target groups. In the same way it happened with the introduction of electric mountain bikes, there will be a huge initial scepticism and reluctance until the public will eventually understand the products and their possibilities.

Electric road bikes open a whole new world of possibilities for both the pros and newbies; allowing us to reinvent road cycling: taking your basic training units to the mountains? Riding with your much fitter mates? An easy discovery tour? Or simply saving some energy before a huge climb? Getting to the office without the dreaded sweat patches on your shirt? Electrocuting the lazy bastard that lurks inside you?

The Orbea Gain electric-road-bike comes with an App which allows you to fine-tune the motor and read out the most important data.

Electric road bikes open new scenarios for different target groups. Handling, safety, integration and efficiency are the big challenges all bike manufacturers are faced with. 2018 will be exciting!

Text: Robin Schmitt / Bilder: DI.A Team

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