The world is spinning faster than ever before! As manufacturers proclaim new, apparently game-changing products and bikers marvel at them thinking “WOW – surely more isn’t possible,” the engineers carry on refining. The (mostly) healthy competitiveness between global giants and local workshops ensures continuous product improvement and innovation, which is sometimes meaningful and sometimes just pure marketing hype.
In stark contrast to this rapid pace of change, the monumental Annenberg Castle has resolutely stood high above the South Tyrolean town of Latsch for hundreds of years. Like a constant in the passing of time, it has defied wind and weather. Last November the castle found a new purpose as witness to the 2015 Design & Innovation Award. A hand-picked jury of experts, international journalists, and test riders gathered within the historic walls for ten days to extensively test and analyse over a hundred products from international brands. The best of these have been awarded the coveted Design & Innovation Award, and six ground-breaking products received the exclusive Gold Award. In addition, the castle was also the perfect forum for night-long discussions about future trends and technologies.
The sun-spoilt Alpine town of Latsch in the South Tyrol offered the best conditions to test products on demanding and varied trails. Olympic athletes, World Champions, and a Crankworx winner – some of the best racers in the world were amongst the test team, searching for the limits and giving qualified feedback at the highest level. No less exciting were the discussions with engineers and bike designers. Manufacturers sent in products that were still secrets to the market; this provides further proof of the global reach of the awards, and of course gave the testers an extra sparkle in their eyes. The insights and results of the tests were as varied as the product spectrum itself. Underdogs became high-flyers, and secret favourites disappointed on the harsh reality of the test tracks.
Electronic parts will become a staple part of many bikes during the coming season. They are already taking control of both shifting and suspension areas on some components. From a purely mechanically functioning bike, an intelligent high-tech product will evolve. This trend is currently just in its infancy: Shimano’s XTR Di2 shifting is currently not able to add a real increase in value due to the lack of any comprehensive networking with other components. In the future, however, we can expect a number of exciting new innovations: for example app-controlled adjustments which will simplify set-up of ever-more complex suspension units. Networks like this will lift the area of smart-simplicity to a completely new level.
After two years of confusion regarding where the 27.5” journey will go, who 29” wheels are for, and what will become of 26” wheels, the choice of wheel size seems to be finally be clear. Both new wheel sizes have found their logical areas of use… but again change is coming: having previously seen an evolution in terms of wheel circumference, now it’s the turn of wheel volume. Plus-sizes, especially 27.5”+, are currently being hotly discussed, and will be hitting the market by the middle of 2015. The continuing fat bike trend serves as a trailblazer, and has now been accepted as an extreme example of tyre volume. How 27.5” and 29” wheels with tyre widths of 3” ride can until now only be guessed at; time, however, will show what actual advantages they offer and what they really change.
In a fast-changing industry like the bike business, underdogs continue to step out of the shadows and excite with new, clever solutions. The on-line mail-order sector has provided immense developments: cliches concerning manufacturing quality, durability, or ride quality are long since obsolete. These days the higher price of a premium brand name is no guarantee for the best performance. This competition doesn’t just lead to an attractive price, but also inspires the spirit of innovation in other firms.
The biggest challenges against short product cycles, the widely spread cheaper-is-better mentality, and the poorly informed online purchase lie in orientation and advice. Not every fundamentally good (and cheap) product is always the best choice for everyone. As new categories come off the industry conveyer belt the ‘next big things’ are prophesied in order to differentiate from competitors, and those involved easily overlook the medium term damage: the different bike categories artificially pushed by the media and manufacturers don’t just confuse customers, retailers, and oneself, but also cause insecurity when buying a bike. The responsibility of dealers to do a good job thus becomes even greater in order to comprehensively and correctly inform the customer. And this shouldn’t just have a price these days, but should be something of value to the customer.
New interactive tools like the Winora Dealer Centre create clarity in this consumer confusion: using an interactive interface, the viewer can be informed, advised, and entertained during a shop visit and this transforms the shop floor into a virtual adventure. Retailers must maintain their businesses in the hotly contested market through increasing their portfolio of services. An important part of this is the individual fitting of bikes to the needs and anatomy of their riders. Tools like the Selle Italia ID Match System set new standards here.
Don’t be a Pro – be a Hero! Over many years products have been developed that do not always reflect the needs of consumers. Especially in the XC area, the rigid, uncomfortable bikes with race-orientated specifications are often too much for their pilots. A normal car driver wouldn’t have much fun in everyday traffic at the wheel of a Formula 1 race car: regardless of how cool you think that would be, some things just do not fit. Peak performance loads, suspension set-up, and the priorities of the engineering team are completely different between a race machine and an everyday car. Comfortable driving, safety, and good visibility might sound a lot like a VW Touran, but that’s actually what most drivers need.
These characteristics are embodied by a new generation of XC bikes, which with their well-executed allround concepts extend their range of use enormously. These bikes offer efficiency and propulsion at a more than acceptable level, but on the downhills offer the rider much more confidence and smoothness thanks to numerous improvements in spec, suspension, and geometry. The logical consequence of this is simply more riding fun!
We also have more fun when we look good. In other words, fashion has a bigger influence than we like to admit – even when biking. And it can help us to get more people excited about mountainbiking. Multi-coloured, retina-burning outfits, tight lycra shorts, or aggressive full-face helmets with skull stickers…you’d never go out wearing this stuff in ‘real-life,’ so we shouldn’t do it whilst practising our sport either. A friendly and pleasant appearance can help us reach a bigger lobby for more acceptance, more trails, and a better understanding with other trail users. To do this we all need to show our colours and start to actively influence the image of our sport. These days there’s a huge range of clothing which offers both function and style. As a general style guide, we recommend the classic rule: less is more. And that goes both for wild colour mixes and patterns. In this way you won’t just be well equipped on the trail, but will also cut a good figure and be a positive role model for our sport in the beer-garden, mountain hut, or city cafe after your ride.
Source with more infos and the winners