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Taichung report: What will 2017 bikes look like?

Published October 22, 2015

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (BRAIN) — Activity is brisk this week at Taichung Bike Week, where OE product managers pack in appointment after appointment, running between three hotels to finalize parts spec for 2017 model-year bikes and engaging in early talks about 2018.

For most U.S. product managers, there are no surprises. They've seen prototypes, samples and pricing earlier in the year during visits at their own offices, at the factories, or at earlier trade shows including Eurobike. Now it's down to price negotiations and quantities, which are finalized by end of October for most major bike brands, though smaller OEs could extend some last-minute spec decisions to January because of their lower volumes.

And while most of what bike brands are seeing is kept tightly under wraps, after two days of strolling the banquet rooms and suites of the Splendor, Tempus and Evergreen hotels, it's clear that plus-size wheels, road discs and e-bikes continue to be areas of expansion and focus for 2017. Here's more on 2017 plans and predictions:

Road disc gains more ground. Among those who are bullish about road disc's future even at the highest end of the road spectrum is René Wiertz of 3T. The Italian component brand showed a full range of road disc wheels in alloy and carbon profiles (priced at $600-$3,000 retail), and it addresses the problem of non-standardization of hubs and spacing with a parts kit of modular end caps.

Every aftermarket set of wheels comes with a kit to convert from QR or through-axle, in both 12 mm and 15 mm front, and 12x135 and 12x142 in the rear. Wiertz said 3T's Discus hub design was developed specifically to combat compatibility issues and the need for dealers to stock multiple wheelsets.

"Our wheels come with every axle and quick-release option in the box," he said. "On the OE side, we're getting spec we didn't have before because there are fewer options for disc-brake wheels on the market. And we can offer any combination.

"Three years from now, the majority of high-end road bikes will be disc-brake enabled," said Wiertz. "We're at a tipping point for road disc."

With the UCI's decision earlier this year to allow disc brakes on pro road races starting this year and into 2016, Campagnolo's Tom Kattus anticipates that road discs will make their way into the pro peloton in a bigger way. And for those keeping a close eye on the peloton, they will be able to grab a sneak peek at Campagnolo's upcoming hydraulic road disc offering.

The company is showing OEMs its long-anticipated hydraulic road disc brake behind closed doors here at TBW. Kattus couldn't offer any more details on the product, its availability or pricing. But he did say that four ProTour teams will be testing the brakes starting in January. Campagnolo hired an in-house team to develop the product over the past two years.

The adventure bike. The growth in "adventure"-type bikes is continuing to drive several changes on parts spec including new chainring options, a dizzying array of tire widths and treads, and fatter rims to match.

The adventure bike is a catch-all term that includes everything from a casual gravel bike to gravel racing to 'cross racing to endurance models — basically, any ride that includes dirt in addition to pavement is an adventure. Just what kind of dirt and how much of it is what's driving further segmentation in the dropbar road category.

"That's the big talk with bike makers here: adventure bikes, and it's driving chainring changes, tires and rim sizes," said Lance Bohlen, managing director of FSA.

Boost ... here to stay? The industry is still far from settling on a standard for front and rear axle spacing, for road or mountain. But off-road, suppliers are adopting Boost 110 and Boost 148 configuration for front and rear mountain forks and hubs, respectively, in a much bigger way in 2017.

Boost is SRAM's trademark for its wider-spaced drivetrain and front hubs, which Trek launched on some models two years ago. Shimano offers some compatible drivetrain components it calls "+3mm." The configuration is on the rise across fork, wheel and crankset makers, propelled by the growth of 27.5- and 29-inch wheels and their plus-size siblings.

E-bikes ... not just batteries and motors anymore. Aside from motor/battery systems from the likes of SR Suntour, Bosch, Brose and BionX that were on display, a growing number of parts brands are seeing the potential in this burgeoning category and showing an array of e-bike-specific chains, tires, wheelsets and forks to better handle the added torque, power and speed on these components.

For example, "We've qualified all our forks for e-bikes," said Joel Smith, general manager of X-Fusion. "We have special tuning for e-bike forks."

Topics associated with this article: Tradeshows and conferences, Taichung Bike Week

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