I have a prediction of what’s going to happen within road cycling.
You see, as much as we love cycling, and the people within the cycling industry are in it for the passion, what really drives it is the bottom line – like in any industry. New things have to come out every few years to entice us into parting with another wad of cash to get the latest and greatest.
Carbon, touted as a complete wonder material (and it is, I guess) is perfect for this. It can advertise itself as being stiffer and stronger with an infinite fatigue life. Unless any of the threads get damaged (which they do), then you have to replace it for fear of critical failure. The cycling industry can advertise it as the best thing ever, and sell you a new one every few years because a certain fear starts to kick in that you’re going to plant your face into the tarmac when your head tube shears off.
Alongside this, to complement the fear package that is sold, it’s nice to have a new feature – something that will make your new bike better than the last, and to make you push your expenditure that little bit further. This needs to be an up-grade, not a down-grade or cross-grade.
Usually this is something that will give you more “stiffness”, be that in your head tube (tapered!), bottom bracket shell (BB30!), rear triangle, comfort, etc. (laterally stiff yet vertically compliant!). And of course backed up by the latest in graphics (colo(u)rway) and that’s what team “insert your favourite team here” are riding.
Stiffness can only be taken so far – road cycling needs something really new. That really new thing is disc brakes. It’s perfect and it is happening, you definitely need a new frame and fork for the disc mounts – they can’t just be welded onto that titanium frame you bought that “would last you a lifetime” due to the increased forces passing through the fork and stays and it’s a definite benefit in braking performance. It’s a great sell. (Though roadies may hold onto tradition a little more than mountain bikers).
Here’s prediction one – pretty much all road bikes will come with disc brakes within the next 5 years, that’s from the £700 ish “entry” level and up.
Now all that extra force travelling through the frame is going to be another “stiffness” sales feature and because of that here is prediction two:
Within around 5 years we will start to see bolt through axles on road bikes.
WHAT‽ You may be shouting into your mobile internet device. But have a think about it.
Firstly, they need something new to sell (and I don’t think the gear range or weight of internal gear hubs will drop enough within 5 years to see them on road bikes).
Secondly, there’s all those new braking forces I previously mentioned.
Thirdly, it actually makes sense. A slim 10mm (I guess) hollow axle will add stiffness and be easier and faster to put into the frame due to the nice guided dropouts (a la the Syntace X12 system) – in race situations when the support car pulls up and has to quickly change a wheel due to a flat tire that could save a few valuable seconds.
Fourthly – it’s a great new thing to sell. I realise I mentioned this already but because it’s such a significant change it requires a whole new frame and fork and wheels, again.
Mark my words.
P.S. This counts for mountain biking too, just add latest suspension, and an increased likelihood of damaging your carbon for plenty of replaceability salesmanship.