This was my first Interbike. Prior to the trip everyone warned me it can be overwhelming. Well, they were right! During my 2-1/2 days there I didn't even put a dent into visiting half of the 1,400 booths. Just had to pick and choose, as well as do a bit of aimless wandering.
From my perspective there wasn't a "Best In Show" that really knocked my socks off. But I felt there were some key industry trends afoot, so my focus is on sharing those with you today.
Wearable and Integrated Technology
Interbike was filled with vendors moving toward wearable and integrated technology. From helmets to apparel to GPS systems, technology is being integrated at a rapid pace.
High-Vis Commuter and other Apparel
High-visibility apparel continues to be a hot industry trend, from head to toe – and from everyday road riding apparel to commuter gear. We saw helmets, gloves, clothing, socks and shoes all designed with high-vis in mind. Screaming florescent yellow jackets are still around. But now high-vis is built into apparel design in more subtle yet effective ways using reflective elements on the arms, back and legs for visibility in low light. Showers Pass's new Map print, used on their jackets, comes in either black on white or white on black. Once a light hits the fabric, it glows brightly.
Pearl Izumi (BioViz), Garneau and others continue to expand the designs of their apparel with high visibility in mind across their lines. There was a lot of commuter wear shown, including jackets with built-in lighting, ramped-up high-vis elements and a move toward offering "commuter fashion" while retaining those high-vis elements.
VisiJax’ jacket has 23 integrated high-intensity LEDs. They use standard vehicle lighting codes – white for front, red for back and amber for turn signals. Controlled by motion sensors on the arms of the jacket, lights are automatically activated by simply raising your arm as you'd normally do to signal a turn. The jacket (left), along with the LEDs, is completely machine washable once the battery pack is removed. $82.99. www.visijax.com
Showers Pass introduced a line of windproof, waterproof, breathable commuter and cycling jackets that include a bit a stretch – also with built-in lights and other visibility elements. The Hi-Vis Elite jacket (right) is waterproof and breathable and uses three methods to keep the rider visible on the road. The main body of the jacket is neon green (daytime visibility), side panels use a reflective MapReflect print and 4 integrated LED beacon lights (nighttime visibility) with different flash modes and 200 hours of battery life. As with the VisiJax jacket, the Elite is machine washable once the beacon lights are removed. Showers Pass has also introduced a more "urban" – as the CEO dubbed it – black jacket with all the same features to up the "fashion" quotient. Elite: $279. www.showerspass.com
SealSkinz introduced their Halo line. The waterproof helmet cover has an integrated rear LED light, the gloves use triple LED lights on the back of the hand, and the overshoe incorporates a flashing light in the back heal. For the shoe cover, the combination of the red flashing light and the motion of pedaling quickly communicates to a driver they are approaching a cyclist. $65 – Neoprene Halo Overshoe. $80 – Halo All Weather Cycle Glove. $50 – Halo Helmet Cover. www.SealSkinz.com
Now companies are adding everything but the kitchen sink into a helmet. We saw helmets that incorporate an action camera, Bluetooth with built-in microphone for phone calls and walkie-talkie-like communicaitons with fellow riders, speakers for music, a heart rate monitor, rear- and forward-facing lights, as well as turn signals.
Sena offers a smart helmet that is truly technology on steroids. This helmet is equipped with an integrated Bluetooth communication system and QHD camera, allowing the rider to connect with their smartphone and communicate with up to three riding companions through a built-in intercom system. You can also listen to music, make phone calls and receive fitness data through the helmet’s built-in speakers, which sit directly above the ears. Control buttons are on both sides of the helmet. $349 with camera; $199 without camera. www.sena.com
Coros LINX helmet eliminates traditional speakers by using bone-conduction technology to enjoy audio wirelessly from a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. (The speakers are small orbs fixed to the helmet straps that rest on your cheekbones and "conduct" the audio through your bones – effectively keeping your ears open and free to hear ambient sound.) The accompanying mobile app manages GPS details, stats, routes, voice navigation and voice data. An emergency alert system is triggered when a built-in sensor detects significant impact, which texts an alert with GPS coordinates to a designated person. $200; $135 on Kickstarter if still available. www.coros.com
Lumos features integrated lights, brake and turn signals in their helmet. Using more than 50 built-in LEDs, the helmet provides 360-degree visibility. The helmet detects when the rider is slowing down and automatically displays a brake light in the rear of the helmet. $149. www.lumoshelmet.co
Today's Question of the Week: What Do You Think of the Trend Toward 'Smart' Helmets?
It seems that just providing GPS and some performance metrics is not enough anymore for bike computers or head units.
Now companies like COBI are taking your smart phone, mounting it to your bike and giving the rider a "car-like experience for the bike": GPS maps and navigation, phone calls, music, weather, mount that charges the phone, lights (front/rear) with collision avoidance, and an anti-theft device. Oh, and a basic fitness program through the app. There's a Bluetooth remote that fits on the handlebar, and you can also sync with any ANT+ device. It's sort of like ApplePlay for a bike. $249 for the Sport version (hub, mount, no lights); $299 including front light; $339 including front and rear lights. www.cobi.bike
MiniWing’s Camile (right) integrates a GPS head unit with a full HD camera, WiFi and Bluetooth. $170. www.miniwing.com
Power Meters Broadening Scope
It also seems that simply measuring power and other performance metrics and transmitting those to existing computers and analytics apps isn't quite enough anymore for power meter makers.
Stages Cycling has introduced its new Dash head unit and Link analytics software. Bundling the power meter, head unit and software into an integrated suite, according to Stages, simplifies and improves the user experience. The workout mode on Dash, utilizing the subscription-based "coaching" software, lets a rider complete a specified workout as prescribed, insuring intensity and duration. Visual and audible cues are used to designate next interval, duration, etc. When uploaded to Link, a workout graph is displayed, comparing the actual workout vs. what was prescribed. Coming spring 2017. Dash head unit: $399. Link pricing: TBD. Existing Stages power meter owners will receive certain discounts, etc. www.stagescycling.com/us/
Apparel Fabrics and Construction Going Higher Tech
Manufacturers are taking high performance to a new level when designing cycling apparel, using unique fabrics, seamless construction and graduated compression to design a higher functioning garment.
Coldblack® fabric is used in much of the higher-end apparel. Dark colors are commonly used for cycling kits, but they are known to heat up in direct sunlight more than light colors. This is because they absorb both visible and invisible elements of the sun’s rays. Coldblack is a special finishing technology by Schoeller that reduces heat build-up on dark fabrics. Thus, it provides a minimum UV protection of UPF 30 when applied to any textile.
Many of the vendors hyped breathability and better ventilation. A unique waffle cutout fabric is now used on bib straps and at the bottom rear hem of jerseys to provide better air flow.
Waterproof fabrics have been taken to the next level and now have a bit of stretch to them (Showers Pass is one example), where in the past they were rigid and plastic-feeling. Garneau uses this tech in some of their new jackets.
When riding, muscles and tendons are exposed to vibration, a major cause of muscle fatigue, soreness and damage. Compression aligns and holds muscles in place to reduce muscle oscillation. There is an increased trend toward incorporating graduated or zone compression in bibs and shorts.
For example, both Pearl Izumi (www.PearlIzumi.com) and Louis Garneau (www.garneau.com) now use zones of compression fabric, applying more compression around the thigh/quad and less compression as you move up toward the torso. Fabrics manufacturing has advanced to enable graduated compression to be woven directly into the fabric, which allows for fewer seams and a cleaner look.
Chamois were also a big topic of improvement in many manufacturers’ shorts and bibs. New designs included “floating” chamois (Pearl Izumi), seamless chamois, split chamois (Garneau), as well as a variety of padding materials and skiving (Pearl), or cuttiing a beveled edge in the foam of the chamois to create a smoother transition and seam.
The trend away from “shrink it and pink it” for the female lines is refreshing. Understanding the female anatomy by manufacturers like 7mesh (www.7meshinc.com) has enabled them to design a better winter jacket. Since men tend to run hotter than women, a different amount of insulation is used, as well as the placement of that insulation being different. Many company’s jerseys are increasingly better designed for women’s body and curves. And attention to women’s bib design for easy on/off when nature calls is a welcome trend.
Overall, I was very inspired by the continued product improvement, especially in the apparel area. In the 25 years I’ve been a serious roadie, I’ve seen an evolution in what’s available to road cyclists – especially women. We found a lot of progressively innovative and interesting products at Interbike and in the coming months we will review a number of them.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio.