Traveling

Road, Tradeshows & Events 19

A few people have asked me if I was planning to attend Interbike next week. I wish I could be there, but I am flying to China this weekend for a product development trip. Since I will be on the other side of the world for a couple of weeks, I will have to follow the developments at Interbike from afar. I know that Fritz will be in Vegas covering the show for Cyclelicious and for Commute by Bike. The Hugger crew will be there as well, so I plan to check that site for updates (by the way, the Mobile Social that they are co-sponsoring sounds like a great time). Needless to say I will also be checking in with the Interbike Times blog to get the “official” scoop on what’s happening at the show. I will also be checking Interbike TV when I can; I am especially looking forward to another episode of the Spokesmen podcast live from Interbike next Wednesday. If any of you readers will be at the show next week, I would appreciate any tips and/or photos of interesting designs that you can send my way.

As has been the case with my past trips, posting will probably be light while I am away. I will be working long hours and my access to the internet may be inconsistent. Before I leave though, I want to pass along a few thoughts about subjects that caught my attention this week.

I probably shouldn’t open up this can of worms right before I go, but I will. So far on the blog I have only mentioned the reissue of the Campagnolo Super Record group briefly. I haven’t ridden the new group so I can’t speak to its performance, but aesthetically the group just doesn’t appeal to me at all. Yeah, I know that there are some really loyal Campy fans out there who probably will say they love it, but honestly can anyone tell me that these components look good? I know it has a bunch of carbon bits, but the rear derailleur has to be the clunkiest looking one that I have ever seen. As I have mentioned before, I used to be a Campy fan in the late 80s and early 90s, but I have been using Dura-Ace on my road bikes for many years now because I just like Shimano’s design better. Campy makes great components and I would love to give them a chance again, but they need to step up their industrial design efforts to win me back as a customer. I mean, old Super Record and C-record components were really nice, even elegant, products… so what happened? Maybe it is just me though; am I not being fair to Campagnolo? If any of you disagree about the decline in Campy’s design strength over the last ten years or so, I trust you will leave a comment to let me know. By the way, these photos are from Erik K, who has several more shots of Super Record parts on his blog.

Robb of Mountain Biking by 198 recently recorded an interview with Dave Turner of Turner Bikes. You have to sign up for the blog’s newsletter to hear the interview, but I think it is worth doing so. I like Turner bikes and I really enjoyed the interview, but I want to play devil’s advocate and take issue with something that Dave Turner said. Aesthetics are no doubt subjective and he pointed out that he does not like “stylized swoopy tubes” that are curved just for looks. OK, I get that; I don’t like over-designed bikes either and I believe it is usually better to keep things simple. Sure, I happen to really like some mountain bikes that he might consider curved just for looks- the Ibis Mojo and the Specialized Epic carbon are two that first come to mind- but I understand where he is coming from. He goes on to say that he considers a bike to be a tool not a product that needs to be “styled” like a hairdryer or kitchen appliance. Yeah, I agree that bikes are tools. Then again, hair dryers, kitchen appliances, and really any other object that people use to accomplish a task can be considered tools as well. Automobiles are just tools for getting around, but very few people would argue that “styling” is irrelevant in that industry. I would not defend the practice of compromising a product’s functionality based on a styling decision, but I do believe that design is the most important differentiator between products when other factors are viewed as equal. The best consumer products are usually the result of close collaboration between industrial designers and engineers. Whether we are talking about bikes or anything else, people want products that do the job they are intended to do, are simple and straightforward to use, and are visually appealing. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

OK, back to work for me so I can be ready for my trip. Stay tuned for posts from China sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Related Posts

19 Comments

  1. Frenchy aka Bike Boy September 18, 2008 at 1:37 pm -  Reply

    Great post:
    I have alway admired the way Campy products have looked…up until the latest version that is. Plain ugly. And as much as I like Turner bikes, I think he is off base on the aesthetics comment: bikes need a certain amount of style in order to catch the consumers eye.

  2. -p September 18, 2008 at 2:06 pm -  Reply

    The super-tech carbon aesthetic is a bit of a turn off. The nicely rounded forms of an aluminum forging seem to really make a derailler a nifty piece of gadgetry. With a forging (or carbon monocoque frame) curved features come for free. With aluminum tubing, you have to spend extra money to create that. I would take issue with adding swoopiness and cost for pure aesthetic sake, but if the aesthetics don’t cost any extra, why not? Turner has a point though – there’s nothing to dislike about a totally utilitarian design (like the original jeep or a well made hand tool).

  3. light-bikes.net September 18, 2008 at 2:57 pm -  Reply

    well, i don´t think the engineers from ducaty think their engines must be beautiful, they just have to be the most powerful or better performer, just like campy. of course you don´t need all that carbon, not even to win le tour the france, but it´s very aside from aestethic. and i find it pretty cooler that any shimano deraulier. campy looks more hadcrafted, more proto, more unique, just more like “we wanna be the best not the prettier… “, and then that becomes the prettier in industrial design…

  4. Ron September 18, 2008 at 3:34 pm -  Reply

    Its a personal choice. Frankly, I like the hard clicking feel and the aluminum polish of the dura ace. However, you can rebuild Campy, which would be one of the few real advantages I see over Shimano.

    Lately however, people have been talking about how Shimano has been a implementor of designs from other companies. Their new model gets all the wires and stuff under the handlebars, the shifting is butter smooth equivalent to Campy and they’ve been paying attention to ergonomics as well. However, I don’t see how they missed making the setup rebuildable like Campy’s. Do we really have to wait for another issue of duraace in 2010 for that?? I guess if companies make things all perfect in one year, they’d never figure out how to make money in the next :)

  5. jimmythefly September 18, 2008 at 3:37 pm -  Reply

    “Visual appeal is a function. If a detail of your designs has no other purpose than to delight the viewer, that is enough. Beauty is useful.”

    I posted this response someplace else around 2 months ago when the topic of form and function came up.

  6. Dobovedo September 18, 2008 at 10:58 pm -  Reply

    I’m a Campy fan mostly because that’s what was on the first used road bike I bought when getting back into riding five years ago. I can’t speak knowledgeably about Shimamno or SRAM. All I know is I like what I have on three bikes now. I’ve used Centaur, Chorus and Record in various bits and pieces.

    As for the Super Record’s appearance… I will be the contrary vote and say that I am salivating over the gruppo, as much on aesthetics as anything. And I can’t honestly say why. Agreed.. that rear derailleur is clunky and odd looking. But I like it.

    I have found that the statement “yeah, but you can rebuild Campy” in order to defend the steep prices is quite often a fallacy. The cost of individual pieces-parts, not to mention the tools to install them with, still adds up to a lot of money. $24 for a single Torx nut and bolt for a Record Carbon crankset? Crazy.

  7. Sasko September 19, 2008 at 2:29 am -  Reply

    Super Record is just beautiful!!!

  8. peter September 19, 2008 at 3:26 am -  Reply

    “I would take issue with adding swoopiness and cost for pure aesthetic sake, but if the aesthetics don’t cost any extra, why not?”

    and

    “Visual appeal is a function. If a detail of your designs has no other purpose than to delight the viewer, that is enough. Beauty is useful.”

    But there is a cost! There has to be, and I would hope all bicycle designers understand this as fundamental to their job. How can there not be a cost???

    On a bicycle that cost is weight. If any part of the structure has any extra curve or embellishment beyond what is structurally required, it will be heavier.

    Of course the difference may be very small, so superbly functional designs can also look great when skilfully designed, at very little weight penalty. And many purely functional designs are also very appealing.

    I suspect Turner has no problem with well designed bicycles as such, just with ones which sacrifice function (i.e. low weight, structural efficiency) for curves etc whose benefit is a rather subjective matter.

    And of course it’s perfectly valid to design a bike which looks good as one of its main design criteria, with absolute functionality and weight less high up the priority list.

    But I guess that’s just not Turner’s cup of tea.

  9. Anonymous September 19, 2008 at 9:02 am -  Reply

    Campy lost me when they started painting their parts black. It’s not the color I don’t like – black is fine when the parts are carbon. But alloy parts should be polished silver, at least when you charge Campy prices for them! I do prefer the feel of Campy Ergo hoods over Shimano STI hoods. They just fit my hand so much better. Also prefer the aesthetics of Campy cranks over the current Shimano design.

  10. Anonymous September 20, 2008 at 6:28 pm -  Reply

    I like what light-bikes.net said. I’m a big fan of handcrafted, detailed, proto stuff, which is why I admire Ducati and Campagnolo. Perhaps the designs feel more purposeful and stripped-down to me. Like a Stratocaster?

    It’s great that I can repair/rebuild myself, tho usually there’s a bit of sticker-shock associated with rebuilding.

  11. James September 21, 2008 at 8:01 am -  Reply

    Great comments everyone; I like to see the discussion.

    light bikes, I don’t know about the Ducati example. Sure the engineers work on the engine with pure function in mind, but you can bet that industrial designers have a big hand of the overall motorcycle design.

    jimmythefly, great quote. I don’t like it when people discount beauty in man made objects as superficial. I would elaborate (if I weren’t about to get on a plane) but that attitude is the reason we have a landscape in the US full of junk architecture. Aesthetics do matter.

    peter (and others), good points and well said.

  12. Kokomannen September 21, 2008 at 10:32 am -  Reply

    The Campagnolo components used to have a have a classic and very beautiful design, up until they went all crazy with the carbon fiber and black.

    It all started going fast down hill when they re-designed the hubs to be all black and chunky instead of the polished and smooth looking old variety.

    Then they dropped alloy cranks from the Record group and went all carbon (it’s not that the carbon cranks are really bad looking, they’re just another example of the exaggerated love of carbon fiber parts), before now making the rear derailleur look like a black chunk sitting at the drops. Also the new look of the Ergos is a great step back.

    From what I have seen in tests of the new groups they have also made the shifting mechanism smoother with less pronounced clicks. In my opinion this is also a leap in the wrong direction.

  13. Hank September 22, 2008 at 8:30 am -  Reply

    Campagnolo should make a new corsa-record gruppo in polished alloy with engraved logos. Not retro reproductions but a clean modern design similar in spirit to the now much sought after C-record components.

    Probably be a huge hit with those with custom built or vintage lugged steel bikes.

  14. C September 22, 2008 at 1:35 pm -  Reply

    I’m with Hank. I’d love to see Campy make an Argento group. Wouldn’t even have to be Record level. Some of the recently discontinued Centaur parts would be great. Bonus points if they would bring back their down tube shifters.

    I’m reserving judgment on the new Ergo levers. I’m not crazy about the looks and I find it hard to believe they could improve the comfort of the current Ergo levers. However, that’s exactly what I said last time they changed the shape of Ergo so you never know.

    I get the whole carbon thing for Record. It’s a racing group first and foremost so stiffness and weight savings will always come first. However, the vast majority of Campy customers never race and many of us have fond memories of shiny silver Campy parts.

  15. bikesgonewild September 23, 2008 at 2:06 pm -  Reply

    …i'm sitting here looking at my ti/carbon road bike equipped w/ '07 campagnolo record, making mental comparisons as i ponder this interesting discussion…

    …in it's day, nothing came near campagnolo…record, nuovo record, super record, the 50th anniversary gruppo, back to record, all had an amazing elegance (you're quite correct to use that term, james) not found in anyone else's product line…

    …shimano's road products have always functioned very well, no doubt about it, but i personally still don't think they've achieved as pleasing a look as campagnolo…

    …that being said, the tables are turning in the sense that while shimano is going for a more stylized look, campagnolo's new 11-speed ergo has a less elegant yet highly functional "race" look to it…

    …i certainly have no need to switch out parts as mine will function great for years to come but i find campagnolo's new look to already be growing on me (despite that rear derailler)…

    …i would like to try the new ergo levers, as i tend to ride from the hoods a lot & i'd like to know if they are as comfortably ergonomic as they look…

    …i will say this…those derailler pulley wheels couldn't have been designed to be harder to clean if they tried, especially considering how inaccessible they are w/out taking the rear cage apart…

    …reader 'hank' has a great idea if it could be economically feasible…cater to the hand built, old school, lugged frame bike crowd w/ a specifically designed, high end 'elegant' alloy gruppo…wonderful thought…

  16. Hank September 23, 2008 at 4:51 pm -  Reply

    Since Campagnolo seems to be retreating to the high end it really can’t afford to leave out the upmarket Rando/Brevet, Touring, Retro and Fancy City bike crowd. The sort that will order a Sacha White or Weigle frame or manufacturers like Bianchi and Colnago doing reduxes of 70’s steel frames. They would snap an elegant alloy gruppo up.

    However they will need a normal reach brake (and or maybe a nicely sculpted forged canti) for fenders and wider tires and a crank based on Campy’s new compact BSD so 48/36 and 46/30 chain ring combos can be had.

  17. bikesgonewild September 24, 2008 at 2:30 am -  Reply

    …hank…richard storino, campagnolo's american capo di capo should have the forethought to see the wisdom of your idea & directly appeal to valentino campagnolo for just what you suggested…

    …the hand-built lugged frameset market w/ it's old school nuances has been religiously growing over the years & it's not going to go away…the success of the north american handbuilt bike show has exponentially fueled the market w/ it's popularity…

    …the other side of the coin is that campagnolo is the only large component company w/ the panache to really cater to it…they'll either "get it" or they'll drop the ball & someone else will pick up on it & not do as good a job as needs to be done…

    …of course, someone like chris king would do a creditable job if he chose to go in that direction…

    …just thinkin'…

  18. C October 6, 2008 at 1:27 pm -  Reply

    Looks like Hank and I might get our wish. Just looked at the ’09 Campy catalog and it looks like Centaur will be offered in an all alloy version. Nice shiny Ergo levers, cranks, brakes, and derailleurs. Only item they’re missing is a seatpost.

    Not sure I’m entirely sold on the new Ergo levers but I’ll be open minded and try them out first.

  19. Folding Bike November 25, 2008 at 4:28 am -  Reply

    Folding BikesTo experience the various facets of folding bikes like disk brakes Black, Skin Wall, Reflective Stripe Alloy, Cold Forged SS, Rear Hub Freewheel in your folding bike or strida, Just order your folding bike today on http://www.myfoldingbike.com/

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

   
 
 
 
Bicycle Design Merchandise=  
Competitive Cyclist - Santa Cruz