The bike commuter market keeps becoming more important to the bike industry, as Christine Mattheis reports in her latest column at Bicycling Magazine. And the offerings at Interbike 2009 were a great indication of that fact.
So, what sorts of things stood out to Christine among the literally thousands of new products at the yearly trade show?
How about belt drives? One of the frequent complaints of commuters is that most bikes sold in the US don't have chain guards, which would go a long way to keeping pant legs clean as we make our way around town. Belt drives help solve that problem by removing the chain and replacing it with a polyurethane belt that never needs any sort of lubrication. Ergo: no grease! The belts are smooth and strong as a chain with no discernible difference in performance, and were seen on bikes from Trek, Spot, Co-Motion, Civia, and Specialized.
Another particularly exciting trend is the increase in the number of clothing lines made especially for the bike commuter. In the past, we've seen such products as Cordarounds Bike-To-Work Pants which combine safety for commuters with everyday style, and now it seems that other companies are jumping on the bandwagon to present offerings for the cycling set. Sugoi is working on normal button-up shirts made of wicking fabric (among other things), and Shebeest is releasing slacks with a higher-than-normal waist for added modesty for cyclists bent over their handlebars. As with anything, it's the small details that really make a difference and it seems that clothing companies are really taking the challenge on head-on.
The final trend that was making the rounds at Interbike was the electric bike. More than just another scooter, this is an actual bike with electric assist to help on hills and to help avoid getting overly sweaty on your ride. As clean-up upon reaching our destinations is listed as a primary reason many people don't bike commute, this could be a game changer. Christine wasn't impressed with the range or charge time of the bikes, though - 40 miles and 8 hours for a full charge. But as the Interbike TV interview with Gary Fisher shows, her concerns aren't felt by everyone. And reports I've heard from overseas about the growing popularity of electric bikes could mean that they're not far away from being regular sights on our shores, too.
People, not speed.