To many, 30 June marks the so-called EOFY. That’s how it is for the finance types but in the road bike trade, the end of June is the new halcyon time for product releases.
Not so long ago, the arrangement was a fairly logical one: new-season releases were unveiled… ah, in time for the new season. In other words, the tradeshows that were once such a feature of the end of the year had once been when bike brands showed off their wares for the following year.
Modern commerce demands modern thinking and a few years ago the traditional bike release dates for many brands started to change.
‘Hey,’ the thinking seems to be, ‘the Tour de France is a big race… let’s use that to market the new line-up!’
Bingo. It makes sense. This is the time when cycling gets the most exposure, so it’s logical to show off new products in July when the best riders are in focus and technological improvements can be shown off and, as they like to say, get the appropriate “leverage”. The bike market is big business and, for high end products, it’s particularly active in Australia where cycling has more of a white collar demographic that other places in the world, France included.
What is it about cycling and golf? You know the saying – although there’s no need to perpetuate it any longer… as that’s so five years ago. The point is: people have come to cycling in their droves in recent years. And, as with golf, there is a sense of status on offer (if you buy into the hype).
In 2017 it’s happening again. Consider the bikes at the Tour: there are 20 brands represented. Here are just some of the new bikes that have been unveiled in advance of the 104th Tour:
The BMC RoadMachine
The Merida Reacto
The Trek Emonda
The Specialized Tarmac
There is impressive tech on display. Bikes are lighter, stiffer, more compliant, more aero, more integrated and - of course - come in an array of exciting colours.
Last but not least, many of these new bikes come with disc brakes.
The debate about disc brakes will continue to rage on ad nauseam and, for the UCI it is proving to be a difficult topic – so much so that the best option seems to be to try and placate both parties. Approve them, then ban them; that’s how it’s been for a few years now. Those who want them, love them; those who don’t believe in the benefits will argue until they’re blue in the face that they are unnecessary.
There is merit in the tech ‘advancements’ (if you see it that way) but perhaps the biggest hurdle relates to serviceability during the race. Yes, you can effect fast wheel changes with both systems but there’s already a huge amount of equipment that needs to be hauled around in team trucks – adding a disc brake option is only going to exacerbate this.
The consumer, though, can buy a fantastic bike with disc brakes but, for the moment, they just cannot race them. This is where the reality of the cycling market comes into effect: there are far more people watching the Tour de France, or riding their bikes regularly, than there are people who race (this is essentially the same, of course, with every sport – so it’s no indictment on the administrators of cycling per se).
Indeed, it is possible to get a bike that’s better than what they race in the Tour de France – not only lighter but also with, arguably, better technology that makes the cycling experience more enjoyable and manageable.
In the coming weeks, you’ll see a lot of racing with a peloton of riders on luxurious bikes. And many of the items on display in July 2017 will have recently been launched because of the exposure that one event conjures. However, while the bikes are amazing, it's not all about the bike. It’s the riders who make the show, earn the publicity and turn the Tour into much more than just another bike race.