The Cycle Show at Birmingham’s NEC is Britain’s longest running, with 280 companies this year vying for your attention. As you would expect, the latest kit from big brands such as Trek, Bianchi and Pinarello will be on show, and since it’s September and getting fairly gloomy outside, a dazzling selection of lights, winter clothing and all-weather tires.
The Cycle Show’s scale means there is space for some of the more unusual brands in our sport to show us their wares. From the new technologies out to prove themselves to receptive cyclists, to unusual concepts exploring new ways of engaging with our hobby, we bring you our run-down of what to see at the Cycle Show 2015. At the bottom of the article we also give you a chance to win tickets.
Drops: Cycle Show Stand H41
Drops.cc, as a company, resonate with us. They have taken the thing they know, their expertise in printing, and their love for cycling, and found a way to marry the two into a successful passion project.
Working with some of the best sports photographers in the business, they have curated striking velo-themed photographs from the cobbled classics to the Col du Galibier, from which they create huge format prints for shops, exhibitions and very enthusiastic individuals. It’s worth checking out their site just for the gallery, but for a real impression of how striking they can be, you’ll need an up close view at the NEC.
At the London Bike show Drops proved a real crowd pleaser having courted cycling artist Ritch Mitchelson, who worked with Team Sky for their rider caricatures and us with for our Yellow Jersey Cycle Insurance animation, to produce a cycling themed wallpaper. Printed in black and white, Drops invited Cycling Show attendees to hang out and colour the images in as they passed through the exhibition. In a space with such a clear intention, selling bikes, to see a company take such a creative approach was incredibly refreshing. In the end Drops, who put together most of the displays for the big hitting brands, ended up eclipsing them all in social media attention. I’m looking forward to what they’ll have to show this year.
Altium i10: Cycle Show Stand G10A
There’s no shortage of travel companies exhibiting at the Cycle Show over the weekend, with trips aimed at every breed of cyclist to destinations all over the world. Epic cycling Spain (Stand D77) offer trips to the incredibly pretty Sierra Nevada National Park in Andalusia, boasting the highest paved road in Europe at over 10000 feet, and popular high altitude training spot for the pros. But what if there was another way to get your low oxygen fix? What if you could get a similar effect from the comfort of your own sofa?
Altium i10 promise just that with their ‘hypoxia re-breather’, a silver and blue tube through which a resting person breathes to simulate the reduced oxygen of high altitudes. Combined with an app to measure and regulate progress, and an SpO2 meter to measure the levels of oxygen dissolved in your blood, the Altium i10 promises fantastic boosts through ‘training and adapting the muscles’. In an admittedly fairly small trial, 13 club riders, they reported an average VO2max increase of 4%, and a lactate threshold increase of 11%. Potentially impressive results, but colour me a little sceptical.
Vittoria Graphene Wheels: Cycle Show Stand D23
Graphene was long theorised as something of a super material. The two dimensional graphite molecule is 207 times stronger than steel with incredible conductive properties, and after Andre Geim managed to isolate it at the University of Manchester by flexing a piece of Sellotape (winning his Nobel Prize in the process), the media exploded with reports of how it was going to change the world. Since then, we haven’t really seen it used in any practical context. The super material graphene is waiting for us to reach out and take it, if only we could work out how to use it. Vittoria, the fabled Italian wheel maker believe they have done just that.
By integrating flakes of graphene into the carbon composite they use to make their rims in a project they call G+, Vittoria are claiming ‘10 – 30% improved material properties’. They are reporting significantly improved lateral stiffness, increased spoke-hole strength and reduced temperature build up. Presumably the last point is a little bit of an aside with the steady uptake of disk brakes on road bikes, but as the technology develops, Vittoria expect the ‘potential for a future product weight reduction’ which could be the real kicker.
Outwardly, they look exactly like a normal carbon wheels; the graphene flakes being incredibly small and incorporated into the blackest of black carbon. But as you walk by their stand, you can gaze upon the wheels, knowing that you are looking into the future. Vittoria have also stated that they are working on another project, incorporating their G+ technology in tubeless tires, slated last year to be released this September. While unconfirmed, the Cycle Show may be our first opportunity to see some, presumably fairly pricy rubber.
Aftershockz Headphones: Cycle Show Stand L15
Who doesn’t like listing to music as they ride to work in the morning? We all know a good tune can give huge boosts to performance, and that same stretch of road to work each morning can leave even the keenest cyclist feeling uninspired. Well, me. cycling with headphones in on busy streets is a silly thing to do, and being overtaken by traffic can be nerve-wracking even when you can hear it coming.
Aftershockz believe they have solved exactly that problem. Using technology developed for the military, Aftershockz headphones bypass the eardrum, transmitting sound to the inner ear via vibrations through the skull and cheekbones, leaving the ear itself free to listen out for hazards on the road.
It seems like the perfect compromise, and certainly better than strapping a speaker to your handlebars, but with mixed reviews online, its clear I won’t know exactly what to think of them until I’ve had a chance to put them on and hear for myself. As something of a headphone nerd I wouldn’t buy a pair or regular headphones without having tried them first, and with something like this, that is doubly true. Whether they will revolutionise my training or be a curiosity I leave to others I will find out at the Cycle Show next weekend. I’m excited already.
The Cycle Show is open to the public from the 25th to the 27th of September, and Yellow Jersey will be exhibiting on Stand H43.