In German folklore, the most perfect place on earth is called Schlarrafenland. Fountains flow with wine, or beer, and the pigs frolicking about in the fields already have knives and forks thoughtfully stuck into them for convenience. In terms of trade shows and bicycles, the closest thing to this surely must also be found in Germany: Eurobike in Friedrichshafen on beautiful Lake Constance, where Germany, Switzerland and Austria meet.
This year the show ran from September 1-4. Unlike the Other Enormous Bicycle Trade Show held in the United States, Eurobike has its final day open to the public. Germans love trade shows and I was a bit apprehensive about trying to make my way through vast crowds of salivating bicycle enthusiasts and seeing enough to interest Tin Donkey readers. I had been told that two days would be necessary but I could not take advantage of this good advice due to my own time constraints, but I am glad that at least I took to heart the “wear comfortable shoes” suggestion.
|The Pride of Friedrichshafen
My clever plan was to move rapidly through each hall, up and down each aisle, and then return to points of particular interest. I also planned to limit my literature collecting to avoid dragging tons of paper along with me and concentrate on photos. The plan fell apart immediately as I entered the largest hall , A1, which had some many interesting things going on that I ended up spending three of my allotted nine hours at the shows there. However, to get to Hall A1, I first had to pass a demonstration area where merry participants were racing around on recumbents and tricycles in a wide variety of designs. Nearby were several different Human Powered Vehicles (HPVs) on display, including one that resembled the famous Vector that set speed records and was tipped to be the auto replacement of the future three decades ago. Although this never came to pass for various reasons, the Europeans have clearly not given up on the Velo-car idea entirely although human-powered air conditioning might be a prerequisite invention.
“Bike touring” tends to conjure images of sweaty adventurers on heavily-laden bicycles dragging all their worldly goods through the Kalahari or Tibet but many European regions have not only come to the realization that cyclists bring money but that they have to be proactive in attracting them. There are private companies offering tours, which are generally of a fairly sedate nature, but I was impressed by the number of regions that were notable for mountain biking that were now working to attract more serious road cyclists. Particularly strong pitches were coming from government agencies in Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Switzerland, Cypress and Austria. Spain was represented by Mallorca, which draws thousands of German cyclists every Spring and there were even tour offerings for Thailand and Africa. Literature included detailed routes–I particularly liked the fact that almost every ride featured in the Friuli Venezia Giulia booklet seems to take you over the unspeakable Monte Zoncolan! Also commendable was the booklet, “The Climbs of Champions,” from Piedmont, suggesting a route with six major climbs on it where you can “measure your strength with legendary champions to achieve your victory.” In addition, many regions also provide links to routes to load into your GPS unit before you arrive.
Already loaded with brochures, I was now confronted with the hundreds of stands of manufacturers that are the core of Eurobike. The majority of exhibitors in Hall A1 were Italian, with celebrated names including Campagnolo, De Rosa, Wilier and Santini. De Rosa’s stand, in particular, was most impressive, with each of the bicycles on display exhibited like artworks. Smaller manufacturers, without the same global presence, had much more modest displays. However, bicycles shown by Milani, Viner, Scapin and others did not appear to be of lesser quality, although the crowds were elsewhere. It was good to see that some of these builders had not given up on lugged steel frames. Milani not only offered a very fine racing model, but also a nicely-equipped touring bike.
The majority of offerings by the Italians are as modern as anyone else’s predominantly Taiwanese- or Chinese-sourced goods. There was a considerable presence of firms from Taiwan at the show and several of them showed carbon frames with no names that looked as if they could have been produced for several noted brands. There were many brands that are marketed primarily in Europe and unknown to me but the bikes looked very similar. There was even a line of carbon bikes named for Mario Cipollini and the stand featured a great video of the Lion King which was at least attracting more people than the bikes named after Marco Pantani. No sign of Jan Ullrich bikes at all, though.
On the non-retro end of things, another trend was builders to take a leaf out of the Cervelo book and emphasize the aerodynamic qualities of their road bikes. Scott showed its “Project F01,” with supposedly 20 percent less wind resistance than its Addict frame, while Canyon’s Aeroad CF claimed the same advantage over its Ultimate CF stablemate. However, one of the more interesting developments was Cannondale’s refound enthusiasm for aluminum as it introduced the new CAAD 10, which weighs in at 1150 grams in a 56 cm frame. The suggested retail price of the bicycle, outfitted with Dura-Ace components and boasting the BB30 bottom bracket, is 2599 Euros, which would make it highly competitive in the market. And Bavarian manufacturer Corratec is now outfitting some bicycles with its UBBS (Universal Bottom Bracket System), which lets you use an adapter to fit any kind of bottom bracket you like.
For those with an interest in classic bikes and gear, the show, which represents pretty much everything that is state-of-the-art in cycling, has a limited amount that is not here and now marketing driven. There were a few salutes to the past besides the two high-wheelers on display for people who believe pneumatic tires are a passing fad. For example, it seems that attempts are underway to reinvigorate Peugeot as a new lion logo has been developed and some crazy futuristic show bikes were on display, as well as a completely retro bike that looked like it could have been used for delivering newspapers in 1951 in Paris.
Another interesting retro stand was that for Cooper Bicycles, which is run by the son of famed racing driving John Cooper (think Mini Cooper) and produces what I first took to be steel fixed gear bikes but which in fact feature a Sturmey-Archer three speed hub. The models are named after race tracks where John Cooper had success, such as Spa. The bikes are understated and very attractive. The stand was located outside and it was quite noisy as BMX riders were jumping monstrous berms behind us to entertain the crowd, flying high into the air all day long.
Campagnolo had its Athena 11-speed groupset at the show, and its aluminum parts would look very good on a more traditional bike, although the brake/shifters are still carbon. And there was at least one competitor to Brooks in the luxury leather saddle market: Sella Montegrappa had some beautiful offerings, including a saddle and tool kit presented in a wooden case. Other more traditional offerings include some very nice retro gloves by Roeckl, the German glove specialist.
Of course, there are always fringe offerings at a show this size, and not only were there highwheelers but the ridiculous Pashley Guv’nor, a copy of a 1928 English path racer as well as bikes made of wood and bikes that are beyond any sign of good taste. The aforementioned PG Bikes not only had a huge stand of ugly bikes, but one of those was the world’s fastest e-bike, which will hit 100 km/h and retails for the hilarious amount of 59,000 Euros.
Staggering to the final hall, I was confronted by the ongoing bicycle fashion show, where energetic, not to mention photogenic, models jumped around in alternating choreographed routines and managed to get changed into the right clothing for the next fast-paced presentation in time. With my legs exhausted after eight hours of walking, this was more than I could take and I headed back to the beer tent to enjoy the end of the day in the best tradition of Germany, and of course Schlarrafenland.
|Arrividerci! The lovely Erica at the Nalini stand.