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