Interbike Expo: Sneak Peek on 2012 Cycling Gear

In the traffic-clogged, lights a’glimmering weirdness that is Las Vegas, each year in September the bike world converges to ogle custom frames, kick tires, and demo gear at the annual Interbike International Expo. Like a car show for the two-wheel set, Interbike offers a peek into the future of the industry, with whacky products, everyday cycling fare, and unobtainable “concept cars” included in the mix. GearJunkie correspondents are walking the long and gear-cluttered aisles in Vegas today. Here’s a sneak peek at a few items already standing out above the fray. —Stephen Regenold

Biker Belt Lock — The Hiplok is a hefty steel chain of a bike lock made to be worn as a belt. I have commuted for years wearing Kryptonite’s bulky New York Chain lock on my waist (often uncomfortably), so the made-to-wear Hiplok was immediately interesting. The U.K. company sells its Hiplock in multiple colors, and the product’s “belt” includes a hardened chain hidden inside a nylon sleeve that feels similar to a seatbelt.

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Hiplok gracing the waist of an ostensibly hip rider

The Hiplok’s padlock and chain system comes off and on easily — the waist size adjusts on the fly and you do not need to lock it with a key to wear the belt as you ride. At a stop, unhook the belt, cinch it on your bike and around a pole, and secure it with the D-ring padlock before you head on your way. It fits waists 26 inches to 44 inches, and the belt-lock weighs a beefy 4 pounds. £69 at www.hiplok.com.

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Belt-lock product is part tool, part bike-outfit accessory

Carbon-Fiber Wheels — Sleek, strong, and super lightweight, Crank Brothers unveiled carbon-fiber wheels made for mountain biking. They weigh about 3 pounds apiece, allowing for super fast spinning uphill and on long singletrack stretches. But the carbon radness will cost you — the wheels go at a wallet-crushing $2,200 a pair.

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Super fast! Carbon-fiber mountain biking wheel by Crank Brothers

Retro-Future Bike — SOLU International cites a mission to create “exquisite bicycles,” and with its Duke line of city bikes the company does not fall short. These bikes, which come in a few configurations, are unlike anything on the market, including a strange frame design, leather pieces, and a super upright geometry built for riding “luxuriously,” as the company suggests in its press materials. The Duke comes as a 700C bike with external seven-speed gearing as well as a model with 26- or 24-inch wheels. Internal hub options and an e-bike configuration are soon to be to market on this odd and extravagant city bike.

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Dandy ride: Unique frame and leather touches distinguish the Duke

Sit-Down Speed Demon — Recumbent bikes are rarely thought of as race cars you can pedal. But with its Sprint X-type recumbent trike England’s Inspired Cycle Engineering touts a sit-down bike that’s “optimized for speed.” The upgraded model offers a tighter turning radius, a big chainring for pushing speed limits, and disc brakes when you need to, reluctantly, slow down again.

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Low to the ground speed: Sprint X-type is like a go-cart for the cycling set

Big-Air Ellsworth — Made to take hits and land smooth with 180mm of travel, Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles offers a premium ride for the hucker set with its Method Freeride Bike. The company highlights a 30.9mm seat tube and a slack geometry that allows +/- 2.5 degrees head tube angle adjustability. Cheap it is not, as the bike fully built with SRAM X9 parts will cost a cold $5,195 when it rolls to shops later this fall.

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Deep suspension and “slack” geometry define the Method from Ellsworth

Gyroscopically Balanced Kid Bike! — First debuted in 2009, but highlighted again this year at Interbike, is the Gyrobike, a kid bike that eliminates the need for training wheels with its battery-power spinning disk mounted inside the bike’s front wheel. The gyro-wheel is said to “harness gyroscopic forces that help keep the bike upright while the newly minted cyclist learns to pedal, balance and steer.” (A neat aside: The invention was thought up by a group of engineering students at Dartmouth College and later brought to market by a graduate student from the college’s business school.) As for products, you can buy a complete bike ($249) or just the gyro-wheel ($115 and up) from the company now at thegyrobike.com.

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No training wheels needed: Gyro wheel has internal spinning disk to keep kids upright

TNF goes MTB Most people think “alpine” and “winter” with The North Face. But the company is into running, water sports, and it also has a line of products for mountain bikers, including shoes, shorts, jerseys, jackets, and packs. The Shifter shoe, new for 2012, is touted to be an “action sports sneaker” with a flat outsole and a protective PU-coated leather upper that fosters durability for the freeride set.

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The North Face Shifter shoe is made for freeride bikers looking to boost air

Titanium Jockey Wheels — In the “neurotic gram-counting” category of bike gear, we present the Titanium Jockey Wheels from Tiso. These tiny titanium chain-routers go in your rear derailleur, and the company promises “weight savings, lower drag and the sex-appeal of titanium” with the $250 product. That’s right, 250 big ones for something most riders likely do not need. They weigh just 23 grams and fit Shimano 10-speed and Campagnolo 10- and 11-speed setups. Ceramic bearings that “essentially remove all the drag from your drivetrain” are another bonus touted by the makers of the Titanium Jockey Wheels.

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Small titanium wheels cost $250

Coffee Dry Bags — Made in Seattle (where else?) these bike-friendly waterproof containers by Detours were designed to look like coffee bags. But instead of roasted beans, you put your phone, your lunch, or other can’t-get-wet goods inside. A roll-top closure seals them tight, and attachment points let you clip a coffee bag anywhere on your bike frame.

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Not for beans: Waterproof bike bags made to look like coffee shop purchase

Urban Rides from Novara — REI’s in-house bike brand has a pair of urban bikes worth inspection. The Novara Gotham Bike, $1,299, has a Gates belt-drive system (instead of a chain) and a NuVinci N360 internally-gear hub (actually called a “planetary drivetrain,” as per the company nomenclature). REI touts “the quietest ride on city streets” with this slick and low-profile setup. The Gotham has a steel frame and comes ready for urban commuting with cork grips, a chainguard, fenders, a rear rack, and lights built-in on the front and back.

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Gotham has NuVinci hub for gear-less shifting

The brand’s Novara Transfer One Bike, another intriguing urban offering, costs $499 and is touted as a “streamlined, single-speed roadster.” It has coaster brakes (push the pedals backwards to stop, just like when you were a kid!) and a rack included on the steel frame. It’s an ideal grocery-getter and all-around cruiser, Novara cites. We like its affordable price tag and simple design. Both Novara bikes will be in REI stores ready to ride in 2012.

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Minimal ride: No brakes levers, one speed, and little else on Transfer One city bike

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.

Posted by Chris - 09/14/2011 02:58 PM

is the weight right for the Crank Bros wheel? 3.4 pounds per wheel seems kinda heavy. Could see that for the set.

Posted by Plinko - 09/14/2011 05:55 PM

Do you leave your pants along with your bike when using the Hiplok?

Regarding REI Novara products, BEWARE. If anything goes wrong with these bikes, REI will claim zero responsibility and not even give you a refund (claiming that they’re only the seller, not the manufacturer and thereby dismissing any liability).

The case involved Monika Johnson, who (now deceased) purchased a REI/Novara branded carbon fiber front fork that failed catastrophically, resulting in significant personal injury, and permanent disability. REI issued a recall of the questionable units (using Monika Johnson’s photograph and never accrediting photo rights of compensation for such). Despite the recall, no liability was ever assumed, nor apology offered. She suffered damages which medical insurance would not cover, e.g., deductible, lost wages, loss associated with residual brain injury, dental and facial reconstructive surgery. ALL these costs were born by Monika Johnson individually. No disability was paid her.

This is absolutely disgusting. REI is showing itself to be a corporation that doesn’t care about the individual. If the same thing happened to REI’s CEO or one of her family members, I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t have been any appeals.

I just can’t get over the irony, that REI– the company that preaches 100% satisfaction guaranteed– left Monika high and dry. REI is all about branding to its members, creating that strong sense of value, community and reliability in their products. But when push comes to shove, when a member is seriously hurt through no fault of her own, this is their response. Shameful.

I’ve been an REI member for over 40 years.

Until this is resolved in a positive outcome, I will be proactively steering all business, mine and that of my friends, relatives, coworkers, and more to other more conscionable retailers.

Posted by gnarlydog - 09/14/2011 07:28 PM

Monika’s case is sad and unfortunate one.
It appears that REI might not have handled this ethically (even thou their lawyers might have handled it legally).
I now wonder what would be the case if that carbon fork would have been purchased from your local bike shop.
Would the bike shop cough up the money? Or would the claim be passed onto the manufacturer? Surely it’s not the first time that somebody got injured by a product failing but I don’t think the liability falls onto the retailer.
Even thou REI has their own label Novara I don’t think they are the manufacturer.
Just saying…

Posted by Doug - 09/16/2011 11:26 AM

Does anyone have any references to the Monika Johnson incident? If this is true I will be leaving REI also. I have been a member since ’86 and my parents longer.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 09/16/2011 12:17 PM

3.04 lb (1380gr), so yes a little lighter – nice catch. I held them in my hands and they are wildly light! Serious objects of desire.

Posted by Samuel - 09/16/2011 12:39 PM

I am deeply grieved over Monika’s case, however as a long time employee of REI, I can attest that the Coop has and will take care of any customer that walks through its doors. If there is proof of purchase, be it a membership history or receipt, REI will gladly refund any purchase. Defective or not… Novara makes a great product for the money. I’m certainly not impressed with everything they’ve produced, but the same goes for any manufacturer.

Besides, you won’t have to worry about either of these bikes. There isn’t a stitch of carbon in them. I encourage you to do your research and see the story from both sides. REI is far from a heartless, soulless corporation uninterested in the individual. The coop lives and breathes its mission to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure.

Posted by Editor - 09/16/2011 12:41 PM

Thx., made change to “about 3 pounds” per wheel in the Crank Bros. blurb.

Posted by Ben Wojcik - 09/18/2011 11:56 PM

Did you happen to pick me up a set of those Ti jockey wheels? My booth was right next to SOLU, missed you this year.

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